Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A girl with a phone in her hand stands outside thinking what is ADHD?

The Mix looks into Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD and ADHD), what they are and how they can affect your life.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The main symptoms of the condition include:

  • Having difficulty concentrating and inattentiveness.
  • Hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour.

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

ADHD is often referred to as ADD but this is actually a subtype of ADHD which involves trouble focusing but not hyperactivity.

Diagnosis of ADHD

ADHD is normally diagnosed in childhood, there is no medical test for it, it’s usually identified based on observations from parents and teachers. Sometimes it can go unnoticed, meaning some young people and adults are diagnosed with it later in life.

Symptoms of ADHD

Children and adults with ADHD experience symptoms such as:

  • Carelessness.
  • Constantly starting new things without finishing them.
  • Bad organisation.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Difficulty focusing on one thing.
  • Getting bored easily.
  • Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
  • Interrupting people.
  • Mood swings.
  • Stress.
  • Impatience.
  • Taking lots of risks.

Everyone is like this sometimes, but if you have ADHD these symptoms will have a serious effect on your everyday life, work and relationships.

If you think you have ADHD, tell your GP how you think you’ve shown these symptoms. They’ll ask you how long you have been like this because, technically, you can only be diagnosed with ADHD if you have shown symptoms from childhood.

Treatment for ADHD

ADHD can’t be cured, but there is treatment to help you deal with it. Your GP will refer you to a psychiatrist who will recommend medication or talking treatment, or both. Find out more about the various different types of therapy here.

ADHD medications work by helping you concentrate, be less impulsive and feel calmer. They have to be carefully monitored by your doctor though, as there are some side-effects.

Does diet affect ADHD?

Some people find certain foods make their ADHD symptoms worse, like sugar or caffeine. Keep track of what you eat and how it affects your mood. Then chat to your GP about whether you should change your diet.

Having regular exercise is also important for people with ADHD, as it can make you feel more relaxed and focused.

Will my ADHD affect my work or studying?

ADHD can have a big effect on work and study, but it doesn’t have to hold you back.

“I excel in subjects I enjoy because I can focus more easily” says Lucy* a 25 year old with ADHD, “but I find it really hard to concentrate in other classes and have to constantly doodle or make notes to stay alert.”

Try different things to make work easier:

  • Tell your boss, teacher or personal tutor about your ADHD so you get the right support, especially when it comes to exams.
  • Check and double check your work to avoid mistakes.
  • Stick to a routine.
  • Set reminders on your phone to help you remember things.
  • Use to-do lists.
  • Break work into chunks so that it seems less overwhelming
  • Work out how long you can concentrate for and take regular breaks before you lose focus.
  • If someone sends you a message at work, leave it five minutes so that your reply is careful, not impulsive.
  • Remember everything you’ve achieved already to stay positive.

When you’re choosing a career, think about your strengths and weaknesses. For example, people with ADHD are often creative and willing to take risks, which would make you ideal for lots of jobs.

Will ADHD affect my relationships?

ADHD affects all people and all relationships differently.

If you’re forgetful, or find it hard to listen, this can create problems in your romantic relationships. The right person will accept your ADHD and support you. Be honest from the beginning about how your ADHD affects you. And remind your partner that if you offend them it’s not personal, often it’ll be a result of ADHD.

ADHD can make you more impulsive, so you might have one night stands or jump into relationships. In these situations it’s really important you have safe sex. Learn about the different types of contraception here.

You may also blurt out the wrong thing in social situations. Lucy says: “I once said to a teacher her nails reminded me of a prostitute’s in a TV show!”

This can be awkward, or it can be hilarious.

It’s not all bad though, people with ADHD are often fun to be around and have plenty of friends.

Lucy says: “The main thing with ADHD is that you have to own it, and not let your ADHD own you. Then it will have a positive knock on effect in all areas of your life.”

Find out more about learning disabilities and syndromes here.


Next Steps

  • are a website which offer advice to people with ADHD and ADD who are studying. The have lots of tips and a community where people can chat about studying with ADHD.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Ally Thomas

Updated on 09-Nov-2022