By: Antoinette Stafford Cloete (Health Systems Trust Communications Manager)
October is Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness month globally. The theme for 2021 is, 'Reframing ADHD: Discovering New Perspectives' and seeks to increase awareness around the recognised medical disorder with information on what it is, steps for diagnosis and further support with a focus on relationships and communication, treatment plans, ADHD parenting and conditions that co-occur with it.
Recent studies claim that ADHD globally, barring cultural interpretations, makes out approximately 5.29% of the population and, considering the high rate of under-diagnosis, begs attention.
What is ADHD? It is a brain disorder that affects how you pay attention, sit still, and control your behaviour. It happens in children and teens and can continue into adulthood.
What are the symptoms?
Untreated ADHD can cause problems throughout life. People with ADHD tend to be impulsive and have short attention spans, which can make it harder to succeed in school, at work, in relationships, and in other aspects of life.
Lisa Fields, the author of a WebMD on the risks of untreated ADHD, lists what they are per age grouping:
During childhood: Difficulties paying attention in class can result in not learning everything they are taught, causing them to fall behind. Socially they may struggle with controlling their emotions, and knowing how to share and play with others. Their impulsiveness may also lead to more physical injuries.
With teenagers: Unaddressed ADHD will have long-term effects on learning. Teens with ADHD may also struggle with relationships at a time when many start dating. Their ability to make and keep friends may also be affected. Untreated ADHD at this developmental stage may graduate to serious issues with substance abuse (drinking, smoking and doing drugs) and early sexual debut involving risky sexual behaviour. Eating disorders are also not uncommon.
Amongst adults: people often forget that ADHD can be managed but not necessarily outgrown. For this reason, many adults remain undiagnosed. Increasingly, however, more adults, especially women, are being correctly diagnosed as having ADHD. See this BBC News video for some insights on this development.
Fields argues that although symptoms may fade with age, ADHD can be a lifelong challenge resulting in the inability to cope with work, decreasing your chances of being employable, keeping appointments and deadlines, staying focused and organised, getting along with co-workers, etc. If this sounds like you or someone you know speak to your doctor about being assessed for ADHD.
In South Africa you can also contact the following ADHD support organisations:
Register to attend the 2021 Virtual International Conference on ADHD.
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