How to Recognize Attention Deficit Disorder
Having trouble sitting still, paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior can cause major problems at home, in school and at work. Symptoms continue into adulthood in more than three-quarters of cases.
A person shows this presentation when he or she displays six or more inattention symptoms and also six or more hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms. For example, they often lose things needed for tasks and activities or forget about appointments or errands.
1. Difficulty Paying Attention
Everyone has trouble paying attention sometimes, but when it’s a frequent problem, that can be a sign of an attention disorder. If you notice that your child often loses track of the teacher’s remarks or seems to have a hard time staying focused at school, it might be worth taking them to see a psychiatrist or psychologist for an evaluation.
Difficulty with concentration can be a sign of many disorders, including depression and anxiety. Children who have been through trauma may exhibit difficulties with attention and concentration. For example, if a child is constantly looking everywhere but at the pages of their book in class, it could be a sign that they are anxious or having difficulty learning because they have witnessed violence or other disturbing experiences.
In addition to being difficult to pay attention, people with an ADHD tend to have a hard time keeping their focus in activities and work. They have trouble completing tasks and make careless mistakes. They have problems with working memory and executive function, which is the brain’s ability to organize thoughts and plan ahead. They might have trouble remembering appointments or frequently forget their keys, for example.
When inattention is accompanied by other symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity or impulsivity, it is officially diagnosed as ADHD of the hyperactive/impulsive type. However, a provider will likely simply diagnose ADD if a person has only difficulty with attention and no other symptoms of the condition. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition Text Revision (DSM-5) lists the 9 symptoms that providers use to determine whether someone has ADD.
2. Easily Distracted
Many people who struggle with ADHD report that they’re easily distracted. This can make it difficult to stay focused on tasks at work, school and home. It’s important to recognize that being easily distracted can be a sign of ADHD, but it doesn’t mean you are lazy, have a poor work ethic or are being rude.
A child with inattentive ADHD may run around or climb in situations where it’s not appropriate or feel restless even when sitting down. Adults with this presentation often seem “on the go” acting as if they’re driven by a motor, blurt out answers before questions are finished and have trouble waiting their turn.
Children, teens and adults with inattentive ADHD have difficulty following through on instructions and finishing schoolwork or chores or duties at work (they tend to lose focus or get side-tracked). They also forget daily tasks such as paying bills or returning phone calls. They might fidget with or tap their hands and feet, squirm in the seat, leave their seat when it is not necessary or forget to take medication or food. They often misplace things needed for everyday life like keys, wallets, eyeglasses and cell phones.
Getting distracted by media can make it hard to concentrate at work or school. That doesn’t mean you have ADHD, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re frequently interrupted by IMs or constantly checking your email. There are strategies to help you manage these distractions and improve your productivity. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, can help you learn to identify automatic or irrational thoughts that lead to distracting behaviors. It can also teach you ways to control your behavior and emotions to achieve goals.
3. Forgetting Details
If you’re forgetting things that are important to you or your child, it might be a sign of ADHD. This can include forgetting school or work assignments, missing appointments and forgetting personal details like birthdays. This symptom can also cause stress, which might impair memory even further.
People with ADHD often have trouble storing information in their brains because they’re always thinking about something else. This makes it hard to remember what they’ve learned and can result in mistakes or incomplete work. You may also forget where you put your keys, and you might not remember a simple task, like whether you’ve done laundry or not.
Some researchers propose that forgetting is a result of competition between two memories, or a set of memories. Proactive interference is when the new memory interferes with the old one, and retroactive interference is when the new memory is introduced after the old one. Interference theory is a popular explanation for forgetting, but there are problems with this model. First, most research into it is done using lists of words, which don’t reflect the real-world situations that might occur in everyday life.
Other theories of attention deficit disorder and memory include the notion that people with ADHD learn less efficiently, which means they absorb fewer details when they’re given information. This can lead to a more general and abstract understanding of what was learned, as opposed to specific, factual details. Forgetting details can also be caused by poor listening skills, and the tendency to lose focus when bored. For instance, if someone talks too quickly or doesn’t give you enough time to write down their instructions, it can be difficult to keep track of what they are saying.
Most of us daydream at one point or another, but when this activity becomes compulsive and interferes with your life, it may be a sign of a mental health condition. Maladaptive daydreaming can take place in a variety of situations, but it typically happens when you are preparing for a task or when you’re trying to work on something important. It isn’t a widely recognized condition, but it can be very troublesome for those who suffer from it.
The researchers behind one study suggest that it’s possible to separate maladaptive daydreaming from ADHD, saying that although the two conditions share symptoms, people who have maladaptive daydreaming don’t always respond to typical ADHD medications. While many of the same brain regions are active during both activities, those with maladaptive daydreaming tend to have more trouble keeping their attention focused on their surroundings.
They also find it difficult to stop thinking about the daydreaming, and they often feel guilty about doing so. These feelings of shame and guilt can further impair their lives, making them unable to function as they should. Maladaptive daydreaming can be especially harmful for people who are preparing for an exam, a speech or any other type of performance. In these cases, it’s best to avoid these types of thoughts and focus on studying and practice.
However, it’s not a good idea to try to completely cut out daydreaming. It can actually be beneficial in certain instances, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. If you’re concerned about your daydreaming habits, it’s helpful to keep a diary or calendar of when you’ll dedicate time for mind-wandering and how intense and frequent those times will be. This self-awareness can help you recognize when your daydreaming is interfering with your life and might indicate a need for professional care.
5. Ignoring Others
People often try to ignore others when they are angry, disappointed, or frustrated. This is a way to punish them, but it hurts them as much as it does the person they are ignoring. When someone feels ignored, they feel unimportant and that they don’t matter. This can make them question themselves and second-guess themselves, which can further exacerbate the negative feelings that caused their anger or frustration in the first place.
Ignoring others may be a sign of attention deficit disorder, especially when it is paired with other symptoms. For example, someone with ADD may also have difficulty paying attention to tasks that require prolonged mental effort or staying organized. They may also have impulsive behaviors such as excessive fidgeting, tapping or talking too much. These behaviors can interfere with daily life, cause problems at work or school and affect relationships.
When an ignoring person wants to downplay their behavior, they can use nonverbal cues such as keeping their hands in their pockets, not smiling or moving around, or giving minimal responses. They may even keep files or other items piled up to block their line of sight or look engrossed in work to avoid looking at them.
However, ignoring someone is not the same as the silent treatment and should never be used as a punishment. If you find yourself avoiding a person because they are pushing your buttons, try to remain calm and use a different approach to deal with the situation. Talking with the person and explaining your actions will be beneficial to both of you. If you are unable to talk with the person, seek professional help. It can help you learn healthier ways to handle the situation and prevent it from escalating into an unhealthy relationship.