fidget spinners

—Julieta, Boca Raton, Florida

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a common condition. It’s characterized by the inability to pay attention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. These issues don’t come and go. A person typically has a history of these problems that affect their daily functioning, though people may learn to compensate for those issues over time. Some people find that as their workload increases, their usual coping mechanisms are no longer effective; at this point, an assessment may be warranted.

To clear up some confusion: ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is an older term that’s no longer in clinical use, but was common until the late 1980s. The same condition is now known as ADHD, with sub-categories based on which traits are the most prominent.

Here’s what Student Health 101’s medical directors advise: If you’re concerned you may have ADHD, discuss it with a medical or psychological professional. Your primary care provider or school health center or nurse is a good place to start. They may be able to assess you, or may refer you to another local provider. A variety of health care professionals can make this diagnosis.

A health professional who evaluates you for ADHD will likely ask you to fill out some rating scales about your behavioral traits. The results will help determine whether the behaviors are a way of life or are just occasional.

If you’re diagnosed with ADHD, you may be prescribed medication to help manage your condition. A primary care physician may be comfortable handling your routine care. It can take some time, and even a few trials, to find the right medication and dosing to control your symptoms.

Common signs of inattention

  • Inability to stay focused, especially when a task may be long and boring
  • Failing to pay attention to details, leading to mistakes
  • Difficulty listening when someone is speaking to you
  • Being disorganized and losing things
  • Having difficulty following through on assignments and tasks

Signs of hyperactivity

  • Inability to sit still
  • Difficulty performing quiet, sedentary activities
  • Talking nonstop

Signs of impulsivity

  • Impatience or difficulty waiting
  • Talking or taking actions without thinking of the consequences
  • Interrupting others’ conversations

The main thing to remember is that these issues must have been happening for a significant amount of time. We all have times when we don’t pay attention, or we lose things, or we fidget; that doesn’t mean we have ADHD. But if these indicators have been a part of your life for months or years, you might want to check with your doctor.

Treatment for ADHD includes medication, environmental changes (such as creating a routine or limiting distractions), and academic accommodations. Accessing academic accommodations requires that you submit documentation of your initial evaluation.