Attention Deficit Disorder affects roughly 11 million people in the US and is a brain condition that affects the “executive functioning skills” that control concentration, as well as memory formation, the ability to learn from experiences, social skill development, and hyperactivity. ADD is also referred to as the Inattentive Subtype of ADHD, since the hyperactivity element isn’t present in those with ADD. Those with this disorder have an inability to focus, and may experience difficulty in learning new things.
Most people consider ADD to be a childhood condition, though the structural brain differences are present in both children and adults. Most children who display traits of ADD do not outgrow it, though there are ways to successfully manage this condition.
Symptoms of ADD can include forgetfulness, being easily distracted, and being unable to finish tasks that require mental effort for a longer period of time, such as homework or reading a book. Those with ADD may not seem to be paying attention when spoken to directly, may stop one activity before being finished to move on to another, and have poor organizational skills.
This disorder can disrupt a person’s life, making it difficult to maintain friendships, remain in a career, or study a new skill. Sometimes those with ADD can have concurrent mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, but there is no clear link between them.
The causes of attention deficit disorders are primarily structural and chemical, meaning the brain is formed in a slightly different way than a neurotypical individual, or there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters which communicate between the neurons of the brain. There are some studies that ADD may be linked to certain genetic variants, and some anecdotal evidence suggests certain dietary elements may play a role.
ADD is a complex mental disorder, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing this condition. One of the first steps in the treatment plan is usually medication, and this can help bring symptoms to a more manageable level, while working to maintain a person’s sense of self. Therapies that are often helpful to those with ADD include mindfulness techniques, commitment therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The ideal combination of these and other techniques is highly individualized, and doctors aim to help those who are diagnosed to find the coping strategies that are best.