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What is ADHD?

Millions of Americans suffer from ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and countless more go undiagnosed every year. It’s a complex, challenging condition that can disrupt nearly every area of your life. Fortunately, treatment works.
If you have ADHD or are concerned you might, the first step is to see a qualified mental healthcare professional, like a psychiatrist, who can evaluate your symptoms and help determine the most appropriate treatment plan. While it may feel tempting to want to manage your ADHD symptoms on your own, getting professional support can make a huge difference in your quality of life.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how the brain functions, and it’s common in children and adults. People with this condition face challenges with attention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity that can affect their academic success, careers, and relationships.
Although ADHD develops in childhood, it is sometimes not recognized or diagnosed until adulthood. Even then, it can be hard to get a proper ADHD diagnosis. Many adults with undiagnosed ADHD have learned to hide their symptoms. It’s one of the reasons the condition can’t be diagnosed based on a quick conversation or observation—it requires a thorough evaluation from a qualified professional, who will also rule out other mental health conditions such as learning disabilities or mood disorders.
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What are the symptoms of ADHD?

A thorough diagnosis will also include your particular type of ADHD, which will affect your treatment options. There are three main types of ADHD:
  • Inattentive: People with this type of ADHD have trouble focusing their attention or staying on task. They may not seem to listen when spoken to, and may make careless errors with school or workplace tasks. They may struggle to stay organized and regularly forget daily tasks or chores.
Symptoms of inattentive ADHD include:
  • Trouble paying attention to details in work or school tasks
  • Difficulty staying focused during longer tasks like reading, conversations, or lectures
  • Easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Forgetfulness, like of daily tasks or chores
  • Poor organizational skills
  • May not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Often misplaces things like keys, glasses, phone, or assignments
  • Difficulty finishing or following through with tasks after starting
  • Reluctance to engage in tasks that require a lot of effort
  • Hyperactive/impulsive: People with this type of ADHD struggle with impulsive and hyperactive behavior—they may fidget excessively, interrupt others, and have trouble sitting still and being quiet. They may rush through tasks, find it hard to wait, or have emotional reactions that seem too intense for the situations they’re in.
Symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive ADHD include:
  • Constant fidgeting or squirming
  • Inability to stay seated or still
  • Feeling restless often
  • Feeling constantly “on the go"
  • Inability to engage in quiet activities
  • Overly talkative
  • Often interrupting others
  • Often blurting out answers or completes others sentences
  • Difficulty waiting their turn
  • Combined: People with this type show symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD.
It’s important to note that nearly everyone experiences some of these symptoms from time to time. There are many things that can affect your focus or behavior, including stress, lifestyle changes, relationship issues, and physical problems (like lack of sleep). Experiencing periodic inattentive or hyperactive behaviors doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADHD.
In people with ADHD, these symptoms are chronic, meaning they’ve been going on for years, and can be traced back to early childhood. (For many, symptoms first appear between the ages of 3 and 6). In addition, they’re severe enough to cause ongoing problems in a person’s career, academic, and/or social life.
Only a qualified healthcare provider can diagnose ADHD. If you think you or a loved one might have it, it’s important to seek out appropriate care. Treatment works, and can make a huge difference in your symptoms and quality of life.
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What’s the difference between ADHD and ADD?

There’s no difference between ADHD and ADD. Although ADD used to be the term used to describe the condition, it’s considered outdated by modern terms. Today, anyone who meets the diagnostic criteria is said to have ADHD, regardless of type.
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What causes ADHD?

Researchers have not yet isolated the specific causes of ADHD, but both genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a part. No specific gene has been identified as the cause of the condition, however research indicates that relatives of people with ADHD are more likely to have it.
Environmental factors that are thought to increase your risk for ADHD include:
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Exposure to toxins before birth, like tobacco, alcohol, or lead
In general, men are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than women, and women are more likely to be diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD.
People with ADHD often have other conditions as well (comorbidities), including:
  • Learning disabilities
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse disorders
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How does Talkiatry treat ADHD?

The first step in treating ADHD is getting a proper diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional, like a psychiatrist. With Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist from the comfort of your home and you can schedule your first appointment in a matter of days.
Here’s what to expect in your first visit:
Evaluation: During your first visit with a Talkiatry psychiatrist, you’ll get to meet each other and answer questions about your current symptoms, personal history, medical history, and mental health goals. Your psychiatrist will listen to what you're going through and make sure that virtual care at Talkiatry is the best fit for you.
Diagnosis: Based on the information you’ve shared, your psychiatrist will be able to provide a diagnosis of your condition, if you have one. Getting a diagnosis can feel scary, but it can also feel validating to finally put a name to what you've been experiencing. Your psychiatrist will help you navigate any emotions that come up and work with you on a path to move forward.
Treatment plan: You’ll collaborate with your psychiatrist on the best way to manage your symptoms. If medication is appropriate, you’ll discuss your options, including the benefits and potential side effects of each medication. Your psychiatrist will provide supportive therapy throughout your session, and may also recommend working with one of our therapists. Our therapists partner with our psychiatrists to provide collaborative care.
To get started, take our free online assessment, to see if Talkiatry is right for you and get matched with a psychiatrist.  
Medication management
Depending on your symptoms and needs, your psychiatrist may recommend medication as part of your treatment plan. Stimulant medications (or psychostimulants) are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. These medications can reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity while improving your ability to concentrate.
Stimulants work by increasing certain brain chemicals which are important for thinking and paying attention. They usually start working very quickly to manage symptoms within a short time frame. Stimulants have been widely studied for their ability to control ADHD symptoms, and with proper medical supervision, they are well tolerated and effective.
However, stimulants aren’t right for everyone with ADHD, which is why it’s important to work with a psychiatrist who understands your exact needs and situation. Non-stimulant medications can also be prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms—either on their own, or in combination with stimulants.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy technique that’s been shown to successfully help treat the symptoms of ADHD. This short-term, goal-oriented type of talk therapy can help people with ADHD train themselves to think before they act, avoid unnecessary risks, and implement specific strategies to improve focus.
CBT can also help disrupt negative patterns of thinking common in people with ADHD. Unfortunately, it’s common for people with ADHD to suffer from low self-esteem and negative outlook on life. For many, a lifetime of small mistakes, missed deadlines, and poor motivation can be extremely demoralizing. They may also falsely feel like these behaviors are “their fault,” which can lead to unhealthy self-beliefs. CBT can interrupt these patterns of thought, leading to higher self-esteem, productivity, and happiness.
At Talkiatry, we schedule 60 minutes for your initial visit and 30 minutes for follow-up visits, which allows us to incorporate supportive therapy into your psychiatry appointments. If you and your psychiatrist feel you’d benefit from additional therapy, you can also work with a psychiatrist-therapist team in a collaborative care model.
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How to get started

If you have or think you might have ADHD, Talkiatry can help. Here’s how to get started:
In patients with anxiety, a treatment plan at Talkiatry may look like this:
Tip #2
If Talkiatry is a fit for your needs, complete your first visit.
Expect to hear a bit about your psychiatrist’s background, and then to share exactly what brought you in. You may be asked about your medical history, day-to-day life, and goals and expectations for treatment. If you’re nervous about a particular element of treatment—say, taking stimulants for ADHD—we want to hear about that, too! Your Talkiatry psychiatrist knows that the best treatment plan is the one you’ll stick to, so they’ll work with you to make sure Talkiatry is the best fit for you and come up with a plan you're comfortable with.
Tip #3
Receive your personalized treatment plan, which may include a combination of medication and supportive therapy.
Tip #4
Continuous care will include adjusting your ADHD treatment plan as needed.
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About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care. Co-founded by a patient and a triple-board-certified psychiatrist, Talkiatry has over 300 doctors, 100 insurance partners, and first visits available in days. We treat patients with a range of mental health conditions, including ADHD. Get started with a short online assessment.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. 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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