ADHD is better understood now, but misconceptions still persist – InForum

ADHD is better understood now, but misconceptions still persist – InForum

Years ago, when Jane Indergaard’s son was in second grade, she and her husband began noticing some academic and behavioral problems, but they weren’t sure what to do. Her teacher suggested that she get tested for

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“We were totally shocked (by his diagnosis),” he recalled. “At the time, there just wasn’t a lot of information available or interest in it.”

Indergaard found resources to turn to and a treatment plan that made sense for her son, but then, years later, Indergaard, a former critical care trauma nurse who made the first flight of a lifetime from then-St. Luke’s Hospital at Fargo: He became a teacher at Concordia and eventually began teaching others about ADHD.

She is also the leader of the Red River Valley Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD) Satellite, which recently began hosting events again last month, which also happened to be ADHD Awareness Month.

What is the biggest misconception about ADHD that you would like to clear up?

ADHD is real. It is medically classified as a neurodevelopmental condition because it is based on the brain. This means that there are known biological differences (in structure, function, and chemistry) in the brains of people with ADHD, resulting in alterations that lead to insufficient activation of areas that affect self-regulation.

As a result, ADHD involves varying degrees of impaired self-regulation of attention, impulses, activity levels, emotions, and is associated with

Executive function deficit.

Although there is a wide range of symptoms and presentations, ADHD is classified into three types:

  1. predominantly inattentive – difficulties initiating, maintaining, and shifting focused attention and filtering out distractions
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive Impulsive – difficulties regulating activity levels and impulses
  3. Combined type – the person has significant features of the two previous types.

ADHD is also a lifelong disorder, meaning that it can and commonly does persist into adulthood and, if left untreated, can cause significant physical, professional, and social problems.
We also typically see ADHD diagnosed with other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities. In fact, only 30% of the time a person is diagnosed with ADHD alone. Therefore, a thorough evaluation and placement of a management (treatment) program is essential.

If a parent is concerned that their child may have ADHD, what do you recommend that they do?

Start with your primary care provider and request an evaluation, including a physical exam and detailed history (clinical interview), to determine if your child’s (or an adult’s) symptoms meet diagnostic criteria and, if so, thus, how much they affect day by day. function. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD.

A physical exam is necessary because the symptoms could be related to something else, such as a thyroid or sleep disorder. A comprehensive history (often used with behavior checklists to document parent and teacher observations of behaviors) will help a provider establish a profile of symptoms and the degree of what is known as clinically significant impairment, which which means that the symptoms are not an occasional annoyance or problem. they create marked challenges, impairment, and distress in everyday life and are prevalent throughout the day, week, or month in more than one setting.

People can be referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or neurologist, but you can always start with your primary care provider when seeking evaluation for ADHD.

Can you talk about the hidden signs of ADHD in girls and women?

ADHD in girls and women can present differently than in men. Girls often have inattentive-type symptoms, which may go unnoticed. If they are hyperactive, their behaviors may be more hyperverbal or relational, rather than the classic “bouncing off walls” image.

Indergaard, Jane 20191120143915 - Copy.jpg

Jane E Indergaard is an Associate Professor of Nursing at Concordia College.

Lindsay Arbach / Special photo for On the Minds of Moms

We also know that girls are better at masking their symptoms through behaviors like perfectionism, people-pleasing, and overcompensation. It may seem that everything is fine on the outside, but they are the ones who are putting in the effort during the day, which is exhausting. They tend to internalize stress, shame, and pressure, resulting in higher levels of anxiety and depression.

These factors associated with women may mean that the diagnosis of ADHD is missed. As a result, girls and women with ADHD are known to be more often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or diagnosed much later than men.

This allows more time for the stress-related issues of ADHD to take their toll, putting girls and women at higher risk for other mental health disorders (anxiety and depression), as well as self-harm or self-medication behaviors.

Is ADHD more prevalent now than in the past?

No. We now have much better knowledge and diagnostic criteria thanks to pioneers in

ADHD Research

I like it

Dr. Russell Barkley

and Dr. Stephen Faraone. Research like yours has helped refine diagnostic criteria, so we’re detecting symptoms and problems better than in the past, though more work remains to be done.

It is estimated that nearly 10% of the US child population has been diagnosed with ADHD, and Barkley highlights the significant problems associated with not receiving proper diagnosis or treatment; equates it to a public health concern because of evidence supporting potential long-term effects, such as loss of income, increased substance use disorders, and instability in completing education, keeping jobs, relationships, and more .

While not everyone with ADHD will experience these results, if left untreated, ADHD can have a significant impact on quality of life and goal achievement. It is not just an annoying disorder. The good news is that treatment works, and with the right medication, various evidence-based therapies, support, and structure, people can thrive and achieve success while living with ADHD.

What is the best treatment option for ADHD?

Treatment for ADHD involves what we call a three-pronged approach. These include: medications, therapy, and accommodations.

Medications help because they increase arousal levels in the affected brain. Taking stimulant medication for ADHD does not give someone a performance advantage; the drugs simply normalize arousal levels to those of a neurotypical brain. We call that “leveling the playing field” so that affected individuals can function and perform in their unique capacity.

When my son was diagnosed, the medical providers wanted to medicate him and at first I didn’t want that. Once we realized how much better he could function daily on medication, we followed that treatment plan.

It is a personal choice to medicate a child with ADHD, but it is very important that parents educate themselves first. These drugs have been studied since the 1930s, are safe, and are 70-90% effective. That said, every child is different, and getting the right medication can involve some trial and error regarding dosage, as well as the right time to administer the medication. They work well, but getting it right can take time. When administered effectively by an expert provider, these medications provide optimal effects with the fewest side effects.

Therapy can help people with ADHD (and their families) manage emotions, process associated trauma, stress, and self-esteem issues, as well as develop important skills and strategies to improve problem areas in executive functioning.

ADHD training, parenting training, and school accommodations are nonmedical approaches that, when combined with effective medication treatment, help with daily management and promote success in school, work, and relationships.

What local resources can parents and educators turn to?

CHADD was started in the 1980s by a group of Florida parents as a way to provide education and advocacy for their children with ADHD. It has grown into a leading national organization with a clearinghouse of best practices and evidence-based information, and more than 200 local chapters.

Local friend and educator Stephanie Kautzman and I launched the

Red River Valley CHADD

in 2009. We have provided conferences, presentations, support groups, teacher and parent training over the years. Red River Valley CHADD is run solely by volunteers. A few years ago we suspended the activities of the chapter to attend to family and work responsibilities. We have started again and will continue to provide monthly programming throughout the year.

We want people to know that there is hope and help for ADHD and that they can thrive with the right treatment and management plan. We are all becoming more informed about ADHD, so no one should fear a diagnosis.

Don’t Fight Alone: ​​There are wonderful resources and treatment providers throughout our community that can help you through challenges, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, spouse, or person with ADHD. To quote ADHD author Ned Hallowell, “There is power in community and connection.” If you think you or a loved one may have ADHD, get diagnosed and get diagnosed now. If you have ADHD, get treatment and get treatment now.

For more information about Red River Valley CHADD, visit

or find them at

Facebook as CHADD Red River Valley

. The theme for the November session will be “ADHD and Executive Function: What Does It Give?” Interested participants should check Facebook and website for schedule updates or contact the organization at


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