What Is ADHD and What Are the Symptoms?

What is ADHD? What are the symptoms of ADHD? How do you know if you have it? Dr Faiz Md Tahir, a psychiatrist from Alaminda tells us all about this mental health disorder.

I’m sure many of you have come across the term ‘ADHD’ as you scroll through your FYP on TIktok and after listening or reading the symptoms, you may even have thought to yourself, “This sounds like me. Do I have ADHD?” Well to find out and avoid misdiagnosis, we’d advise you to personally seek a professional for this!

But, what is ADHD, can ADHD be treated, and do you really have it? We speak with a professional, Dr Faiz Md Tahir, a psychiatrist at Alaminda, a healthcare centre to spell out what ADHD is all about.

Q1: Briefly, can you explain to a regular person what ADHD is?

Sure. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic and debilitating disorder and is known to impact the individual in many aspects of their life including daily functioning, interpersonal relationships, and also academic and professional achievements. 

It’s one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. The symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to stay focused), hyperactivity (excess movement not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hurried acts that occur in the moment without thought).

Adult ADHD which we frequently hear about of late, is a mental health disorder that combines persistent problems similar to the ones seen in children with ADHD (as mentioned).

Q2: Can you elaborate on the common symptoms of adult ADHD that you've seen?

With regards to adult ADHD, common symptoms that I’ve personally seen are the inability to focus or prioritise, poor organisational skills, and inability to deal with stress.

Though it's called adult ADHD, symptoms start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. In some cases, during childhood, the symptoms of ADHD aren’t recognised or diagnosed until the person reaches adulthood. This isn’t uncommon as low level of awareness and existing stigma with regards to mental health conditions contributes to loss in opportunities to screen, diagnose, and treat.

However, adult ADHD symptoms may not be as obvious as those in children. We probably don’t see adults being hyperactive, but they do struggle with persistent restlessness, impulsiveness, and difficulty in paying attention. Someone with adult ADHD may find it hard to stay focused and maintain relationships with others. They also experience frustrations, have low self-esteem, anxiety and/or depressive symptoms, substance abuse, and academic or work related issues.

Q3: How can someone find out for sure if they have ADHD or not? 

With regards to adult ADHD, it’s more difficult because of disagreements between mental health professionals about the diagnostic criteria. And in some countries, to be diagnosed with adult ADHD, you’re required to have symptoms or a diagnosis of ADHD during your childhood.

The diagnosis of adult ADHD requires a thorough evaluation of the symptoms to make a diagnosis. If the symptoms are recent and didn’t occur regularly in the past, it’s unlikely to be adult ADHD. The impact of the symptoms also area seen in different areas of the individual’s life, such as difficulty making or keeping friends, difficulty in relationships with partners, underachieving at work or in education and reckless driving

In short, an evaluation of a mental healthcare professional is mandatory in order to receive an accurate diagnosis of adult ADHD.

Q4: Is there a way for us to prevent getting ADHD and is there a cure for ADHD?

As far as current understanding of this disorder is concerned, there’s no particular way to prevent ADHD and there isn’t a particular cure. However, there are standard treatments which include medication and/or psychotherapy to help relieve the symptoms of ADHD and improve the quality of life of the individuals.

Q5: What do you think people, especially the youths, should know about ADHD that many aren't aware of?

In Malaysia, the estimated prevalence of ADHD ranges from 1.6% to 4.6%. Boys are 3-4 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Those affected have a higher risk of poorly managing academic challenges, social difficulties and problems at home. As they grow into adults, there’s a higher risk for lower educational attainment, greater difficulties securing jobs and experiencing social issues.

However, it’s unfair not to mention that there are many teens who’re diagnosed with ADHD continue to become successful and productive adults. The key to a higher chance of success is to provide continued awareness and an effective treatment plan.

 Another important aspect worth mentioning is to ensure that they’re guided well in order to avoid certain thinking and behaviour patterns that carry harmful risks so that they get the opportunity, like everyone should, to fulfil their potential in life.

We’re certainly appreciative of Dr Faiz for the incredible elaboration about ADHD. All that said, don’t be disheartened if you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD. Like he said, with proper diagnosis and treatment, you’re still capable of success just like everyone else. 

And if you’re suffering from any form of mental health issues, remember you’re not alone and it’s vital that you seek treatment and care. 

PS: Our Taylor’s Counselling Service offers a service which is free, confidential, and available to all students to provide you with the emotional and psychological support

Writer’s bio: 

This article is written in collaboration with Alaminda, a mental healthcare centre, with Dr Faiz Md Tahir who’s currently a psychiatrist at Alaminda.