Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental diversity. This means that the ADHD brain is different to the neurotypical brain and it develops or matures at a slower rate.
Research has shown that the ADHD brain is comparatively smaller in some areas, functions and operates differently and it’s chemical messenger or neurotransmitter system for dopamine is affected. Although ADHD does not influence intelligence, there is still much more research needed to fully understand these differences.
Areas of the brain that are affected by these differences are responsible for:
- Problem solving
- Impulse control
- Energy or Motor control
- Executive functioning – which includes your ability to plan and organise.
As a consequence, this neurodevelopmental delay makes automatically controlling and filtering attention, behaviours, emotion etc. more challenging. This means that the ADHD brain may have to work much harder to control aspects that come naturally to others and can result in the ADHD individual experiencing significant fatigue by the end of the school or working day.
When diagnosed, ADHD individuals usually fit into three groups or subtypes. This recognises the fact that even though there are some common factors with a diagnosis of ADHD, everyone is different and unique.
The ADHD subtypes are:
- Inattentive ADHD
- Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD
- Combined ADHD
Inattentive ADHD can cause individuals to make careless mistakes because they have difficulty maintaining attention, following detailed instructions and organising tasks and activities. They have a weaker working memory, are easily distracted and often lose things.
Although the main characteristics are a lack of control of attention, focus and concentration, some impulsivity, behavioural and emotional activity and executive dysfunction are often also experienced but to a much lesser degree.
This ADHD subtype used to be known as ADD and is more commonly diagnosed in girls, adults, those who have had a frontal lobe head injury and those who are autistic.
Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD
Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD causes individuals to feel the need to constantly move. They often fidget, squirm and struggle to stay seated. They may talk non-stop, interrupt others, blurt out answers and struggle with self-control.
Children can exhibit high activity levels such as running, climbing and moving around as well as impulse actions which can lead to social behavioural problems. As the brain matures in adolescence and adults, so does the ability to control and the hyperactivity turns from major movement to more minor restlessness and fidgeting.
The main characteristics include a lack of control of behaviour, increased activity levels and acting on impulse without thinking or control. Inattentiveness and executive dysfunction are often also present, though generally to a lesser extent.
This ADHD subtype is more recognisable and is more often diagnosed in children and men.
Combined ADHD is a combination of Inattentive ADHD and Hyperactivity and Impulsive ADHD. The main characteristics include a lack of control of attention, behaviour, activity and impulses. They are all present in fairly equal measures.
There are plenty of highly successful individuals with ADHD who direct their energies, enthusiasm and creativity to the advantage and benefit of society. Not every person with ADHD has the same personality traits and this means that despite some challenges, there can be many benefits and advantages unique to each individual.
These strengths may include high levels of intuition, creativity, energy, spontaneity, lateral thinking and the ability to hyper-focus on tasks and areas of interest.
This ability to hyper-focus can be extremely advantageous as it can allow the person to comprehensively concentrate on the task in hand, without even noticing what is going on in the world around them. This can lead to tasks being completed quickly and can also lead to expert level knowledge in an area of interest.
Their strong creativity, energy and intuition can mean that they can be good problem solvers, entrepreneurial and very insightful. They often have a great sense of humour and can be extremely empathetic, loyal, trusting, forgiving and tenacious.
ADHD can often coexist with other neurodiversity and affects 2-5% of all children.