What is ADHD?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), the essential feature of ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
Although many children may seem overly active, inattentive, and “out of control” at times, children with ADHD exhibit these symptoms to such an extent that their overall functioning is affected. It should be noted that “ADD” and “ADHD” are one in the same- the terminology has simply been changed in recent years to reflect variation in the disorder. What used to be ADD is now called ADHD, inattentive presentation.
When left untreated, ADHD can have a profound negative impact on a child’s functioning. The most obvious effect of ADHD is the impaired ability to learn in a classroom environment. Tasks such as sitting through a lesson or completing a homework assignment can be extremely challenging for children with this disorder. Children with undiagnosed ADHD are often mistakenly labeled “slow learners” or “trouble-makers”. They can also present as disorganized, forgetful, and frequently make careless mistakes, earning them the label of “lazy” or “unmotivated”.
Another difficulty associated with ADHD is impaired social functioning. Children who struggle with hyperactivity and impulsivity are often rejected by peers because their behaviors are experienced as extremely annoying to others. This becomes especially obvious as children become older and the ADHD child’s peers are less willing to tolerate seemingly immature behaviors. In many cases, social difficulties extend to relationships with parents and siblings.
Children who struggle with the hyperactive/impulsive symptoms of ADHD may also engage in behavior that puts them in physical danger. These children tend to “act without thinking” and engage in high-risk behaviors to a greater extent than children without ADHD.
Finally, untreated ADHD can lead to problems in adulthood, such as difficulty with relationships, inability to sustain employment, and problems with the legal system.