ADHD’s Effects Stretch Beyond Childhood

October 02, 2020

Every one of us have misplaced something, like our keys. We’ve been fidgety, distracted, and procrastinated by focusing on things we find more engaging or entertaining than whatever task demands our attention. That’s normal.

But when this happens consistently and it begins to affect learning, work, or relationships, they might be symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with ADHD can be inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive. They can exhibit one, two, or all three of these behaviors depending on which type of ADHD they have. Their behavior can also change over time.

Most people think about ADHD as it relates to children. Kids with ADHD are prone to:

  • Daydreaming
  • Talking too much
  • Not sharing
  • Moving from their seats
  • Indulging in temptations
  • Fidgeting and squirming more than typical
  • Leaving lessons incomplete

The symptoms can appear in children as young as three years old and continue into adulthood. These behaviors have been mistaken for emotional or disciplinary problems according to the National Institute for Mental Health. But even quiet, well-behaved children can have ADHD, since one type only affects their ability to focus and doesn’t make them impulsive or hyperactive.

 

ADHD in Adults

Section 1More than 10 million Americans have ADHD. As they move into adulthood from adolescence, they may lose some of the hyperactivity. Struggles with impulsiveness, restlessness, and focus could remain as no one grows out of ADHD. Left undiagnosed and untreated it can lead to unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, low self-esteem, and other problems.

Psychological or developmental disorders can occur with ADHD, making treatment even more challenging. Adults with ADHD can have depression or bipolar disorder. These are not caused by ADHD but result from repeated failures and frustrations. Anxiety can be amplified by these same setbacks.

Adults with ADHD face a greater risk of personality disorders, substance use disorders, and occasional explosive behavior. They may also score lower on academic tests than their peers and have difficulty understanding and communicating.

It’s still unclear what causes ADHD, though the popular myths of too much sugar, too much screen time, and unstable environments have been ruled out. Scientists are studying genetic factors as well as risk factors including:

  • Brain injury
  • Early exposure to things like lead
  • Alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy
  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight

 

One Adult’s Struggle

Pilar was diagnosed with ADHD a few months before her 22nd birthday. It is common for women to be diagnosed after childhood since ADHD often manifests differently in girls than it does in boys. Instead of being fidgety, constantly tapping her feet, or drumming fingers on a desk, Pilar was unfocused. She had problems starting tasks, or she would misplace things within minutes of setting them down. But who doesn’t? She assumed what she was experiencing was normal, given the demands of her academic life.

“I was high-functioning,” says Pilar, a straight-A college student. “I just thought I needed better habits.”

Pilar developed a strong fear of rejection. She said she was continually worried that her mistakes would lead to harsh judgments or people thinking less of her. It sometimes kept her from developing friendships.

By her junior year of college, she was burning out. Pilar was constantly anxious about her ability to get work done and becoming increasingly worried about holding down a job. It all felt like too much to be normal, and Pilar sought medical attention. “A psychiatrist had me take a series of tests, and the results showed I have ADHD.”

Pilar was prescribed Concerta and Ritalin, the most common ADHD treatments. Both stimulate the central nervous system. Concerta lasts for 12 hours while Ritalin lasts for four to six. The Ritalin provides a “boost” for when she needs to focus into the evening.

“I wish I had known sooner that I had ADHD,” she said.

 

Multiple Approaches to Treatment

Section 2Safe, effective treatment is available to help those with ADHD. For children under the age of six, the first line of treatment is behavior management – which includes training for caregivers to help them look for and manage certain behaviors. Children older than six may benefit from a program that includes both behavior training and medication. Prescription medications like Adderall and Ritalin have been successfully used for decades: in fact, they’re so effective, they work for 70% - 80% of patients. However, like many potent drugs, ADHD drugs can be abused so patients should strictly follow prescription orders.

For patients who aren’t diagnosed until they’re adults, it may also be beneficial to seek counseling for anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues related to undiagnosed ADHD. Adults can also get skills training (e.g., time management, organization, communication) to help them better cope or manage their condition.

 

It Starts with Diagnosis

section 3It’s time to seek help when the behaviors listed affect the educational and social development of your child or directly disrupt your life as an adult. A medical doctor or psychiatrist can help determine if ADHD is the issue and provide viable solutions to help cope.

AltaMed has medical and behavioral health specialists available to help with the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, whether the patient is a child or an adult. You can learn more about our services by calling (855) 425-1777.

 

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Bipolar Disorder Is Much More than Mood Swings

September 23, 2020

We’ve all been the victim of mood swings. We start the day feeling great, but circumstances or current events bring our good mood crashing down into something close to depression. It happens. For more than 5.8 million American adults, dramatic mood swings are symptoms of bipolar disorder.

This mental health condition was once called manic depression. It’s characterized by extreme mood swings that can take individuals from intense bursts of creativity and activity — called mania — into sadness and depression that can be crippling. Each episode can last for days. It is a lifelong condition that can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, but it requires constant vigilance to maintain control over these dramatic shifts in mood.

 

It Takes Several Shapes

Section 1Each form of bipolar disorder is marked by unpredictable changes in mood and behavior that can be distressing to family and friends, and disruptive to everyday living. The behavior ranges from mania or hypomania (less extreme) to depression. Almost 83% of those with bipolar disorder describe it as a “severe” impairment.

  • Bipolar I disorder — Symptoms include having at least one manic episode that comes before or is followed by hypomanic or depressive episodes. The mania can sometimes trigger a psychotic episode that detaches the person from reality.
  • Bipolar II disorder — Symptoms include at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode. People with bipolar II disorder have never had a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder — Symptoms include multiple periods of hypomania and multiple periods of depressive symptoms. The depressive symptoms are less severe than major depression. These have occurred for at least two years in adults or one year in children and teenagers.

 

The Cause Is Unknown

Section 2Bipolar and related disorders can be triggered by remarkable levels of stress, or the use of certain drugs or alcohol. They can also be the result of a medical condition like a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Cushing’s disease.

Yet the specific cause remains unknown. Researchers believe a number of factors — biological, environmental, psychological — play a role. Bipolar disorder typically runs in families. It’s most common when a parent or sibling has the disorder. Researchers have yet to identify the responsible gene.

 

It Affects Everyone

section 3In the spring of 2020, actress, singer, and producer Selena Gomez revealed she has bipolar disorder on an Instagram show with Miley Cyrus. Gomez is just one of hundreds of celebrities, performers, artists, and athletes who have spoken publicly about their condition.

The late actress Carrie Fisher — Princess Leia from “Star Wars” — wrote candidly about her battles with bipolar disorder in her memoir, “Wishful Drinking.” “Black-ish” star Jennifer Lewis also wrote about bipolar disorder in her 2017 book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood.”

Other celebrities include Mariah Carey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Francis Ford-Coppola, and Demi Lovato...it was even believed artist Frida Kahlo may have had bipolar disorder, too.

 

Treatment Can Help Patients Live a More Normal Life

Section 4The worst parts of bipolar disorder happen when it’s not treated. It can be disruptive enough to cause financial, legal, or relationship trouble, depending on the behavior during episodes. Unfortunately, people can go years without receiving a proper diagnosis because symptoms resemble so many other mental health conditions. The stigma around discussing mental health also prevents people from seeking treatment.

Receiving a proper diagnosis requires a psychiatric examination and a thorough medical history. Some doctors will also ask patients to keep a “mood chart” to help track episodes.

Successful treatment of bipolar disorder often requires a combination of approaches that include:

  • Medications — These can balance a patient’s moods. They can take several weeks to take effect so it’s important to keep taking it. Finding the right medicine can also involve some trial and error. Patients must ALWAYS take their medication, even when feeling better. Skipping treatment or stopping it altogether can be dangerous and result in major manic or depressive episodes.
  • Psychotherapy — This can help patients to develop healthier views about themselves and their environment. It can also assist in improving relationships and helps with the identification of stressors and coping mechanisms to deal with them.
  • Substance abuse treatment — Having a dependency problem makes managing bipolar disorder harder.
  • Hospitalization — Dangerous behavior, suicidal thoughts, or psychotic episodes can require a trip to the hospital to help stabilize a patient’s mood.
  • Self-care — Bipolar disorder can be incredibly disruptive until it’s under control. Eating nutritious foods, limited caffeine and sugar, and getting plenty of exercise won’t cure the disorder but staying healthy will enhance the ability to cope with the side effects of the medications. Those can include nausea, fatigue, and weight gain.

 

If any of this sounds familiar for you or a loved one, AltaMed Behavioral Health Services can help overcome the challenges of bipolar disorder. Call (855) 425-1777 for more information.

 

Anxiety Disorders: Know the Different Types and Symptoms

July 27, 2020

The past few months have been challenging. As a result, many of us, including children, parents, and seniors, are experiencing feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

Occasional anxiety over recent events, on top of additional personal stress, is normal. However, the feelings of anxiety caused by an anxiety disorder, do not go away and can worsen over time. These feelings of anxiety can interfere with your daily life and may be difficult to control.

Knowing the difference between normal fears or worries and anxiety disorders is important and can help you recognize them and seek treatment.

 

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

Worried manEach type of anxiety disorder has its own unique symptoms:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A person with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has frequent or constant feelings of worry and anxiety about issues, such as health, work, social interactions, or everyday situations. These feelings can cause problems in areas of your life such as school, work, and social interactions. In some cases, people with GAD have experienced these feelings since childhood or adolescence, while in other cases, they may have been triggered by temporary stress.

Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling irritable
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tense muscles
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are periods of intense fear that can occur suddenly. Over time, they can be triggered by certain situations. A person with panic disorder has repeated and unexpected panic attacks, and often worries about when the next attack will happen.

During a panic attack, some people may experience:

  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
  • Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking

Phobia-related Disorders

A phobia is an intense fear caused by a specific object or situation. Common phobias include flying and heights, but people can develop phobias regarding almost anything. People with phobias feel fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by that situation or object. People with a phobia may:

  • Experience an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
  • Endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety or dread
  • Experience immediate, intense anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation
  • Take steps to avoid the feared object or situation

 

Know the Risk Factors

handsThe risk factors for each type of anxiety disorder can vary, but some general risk factors for all types of anxiety disorders can include:

  • A family or genetic history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
  • Consumption of caffeine or medications (such as certain steroids or over-the-counter cold remedies) that can produce anxiety-like effects
  • Exposure to stressful and negative events in early childhood or adulthood
  • Health conditions, such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias

 

Actions You Can Take

Girl con videocallWhile you can’t predict what will cause anxiety disorders to develop, you can take the following steps to help reduce the impact of symptoms if you are anxious:

  • Avoid alcohol or drug use since it can cause or worsen anxiety.
  • Make it a priority to get a good night’s sleep, since poor sleep quality, insomnia, or sleep deprivation may increase your risks.
  • Our social interactions have been limited during the last few months but talking with friends over the phone and doing things that you enjoy while staying safe may help reduce your worries.
  • Seek help early if you are experiencing symptoms that don’t go away.

If you have an anxiety disorder, you should work with your doctor to choose the best treatment for you. In addition to psychotherapy or medication, there are other ways that you may benefit from when dealing with an anxiety disorder.

  • Support groups. A support group alone is not a substitute for therapy. But, in conjunction with other treatment, joining a support group and sharing your experiences with others could benefit you.
  • Meditation and techniques to manage stress. These can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and enhance the effects of therapy.

 

We Are Here to Support You

Doctor and patientYour mental health is important. If you are unsure whether you are experiencing occasional anxiety or an anxiety disorder, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at (855) 425-1777. We are here for you, and together we can find the answers you need.