What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with everyday functioning or development.

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
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July 12, 2021
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Key takeaways

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with everyday functioning or development. 

People with ADHD usually have trouble getting organized, staying focused on a single task, sitting still for long periods, making realistic plans, and thinking before acting. They may also be fidgety, interruptive, and unable to adapt to changing situations. 

This brain disorder impacts approximately 11% of children and almost 5% of adults in the U.S. ADHD is frequently diagnosed during childhood and can last into adulthood, but can be diagnosed in adults, too. Unfortunately, all too often, ADHD goes undiagnosed and untreated. As a result, nearly 75% of adults who have ADHD are unaware they have this condition, which can have significant impact on their daily functioning. Adults with undiagnosed ADHD may suffer from poor academic performance, difficulties at work, or troubled relationships. In addition, they may have made adjustments in both their personal and professional life to compensate for their untreated symptoms.

If you or your child experiences symptoms of ADHD, you should speak with a mental health specialist so that a proper diagnosis and treatment can be made.


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Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Mental health professionals diagnose ADHD using the criteria listed in the DSM-5 and classify it into three types: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or combined inattentive/hyperactive.

Inattentive type

  • Lack of attention to detail or making careless mistakes while performing school work or work duties
  • Unable to focus during tasks, lectures, conversations, or intensive study
  • Doesn't seem to listen when spoken to
  • Doesn't follow through on instructions or complete schoolwork, chores, or job duties
  • Has problems organizing tasks and work
  • Frequently loses items needed for daily tasks, such as school papers, books, keys, wallet, eyeglasses, and cell phone
  • Easily distracted by thoughts or stimuli

Hyperactive type

  • Tends to fidget with hands or feet or squirm while seated
  • Unable to stay seated 
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate places 
  • Unable to play quietly or participate in leisure activities 
  • Constantly "on the go," as if driven by a motor
  • Talks too much

Symptoms of ADHD can emerge as early as 3 to 6 years old and persist into adolescence and adulthood, although symptoms may improve with age for some. These symptoms can be mistaken for emotional or behavioral problems or missed altogether in quiet, well-behaved children, resulting in a delay in diagnosis. 

Related: What's the difference between ADHD and OCD?

Treatment for ADHD

Among the most common treatments for ADHD are medication management, behavior therapy, counseling, and education. However, these treatments can only reduce or help manage symptoms of ADHD, as ADHD cannot be cured. 

How Talkiatry treats ADHD

Medication management

Our psychiatrists at Talkiatry who specialize in treating ADHD may choose to prescribe medications that reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity while improving people's ability to concentrate, learn, and work. Currently, stimulant medicines (or psychostimulants) are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. Stimulants act by temporarily altering brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and effectively treating inattention and hyperactivity within a short timeframe. However, stimulants aren't appropriate for every patient, which is why you must work with a knowledgeable psychiatrist who can identify your individual needs and provide alternative medication options if needed.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is frequently recommended in conjunction with meditation and mindfulness classes as an additional form of psychotherapy since concentration and focus require one to be aware of their thoughts and feelings. Treatment for ADHD may include teaching patients to think before they act, avoid unnecessary risks, and implementing strategies to sustain focus. In addition, our psychiatrists provide emotional support to our patients to help them cope with the changes that come with treatment.

Next steps with Talkiatry

Talkiatry provides outpatient mental healthcare services including diagnosis, psychotherapy, and medication management to people with ADHD.

At Talkiatry, we are dedicated to providing you with accessible and affordable mental health care solutions. We provide customized treatment plans focused on helping you feel better, faster. We also offer flexible telemedicine and in-office appointment options to match our therapeutic and modern approach to psychiatric care.

If you believe you have ADHD, we highly recommend you start by taking our free and easy assessment to receive a preliminary diagnosis so you can better understand your current symptoms. We'll then match you with a Talkiatry psychiatrist who can assist you in managing your ADHD symptoms. 

Take the assessment today to get started.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
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  • Compsych

Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

About
Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.



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