Sometimes it is hard for parents and teachers to tell whether a child has ADHD or not - a condition that affects one in 20 children - and an estimated 1 million South African adults.
According to Dr Renata Schoeman, co-convenor of the ADHD Special Interest Group of the South African Society of Psychiatrists, the negative impact of ADHD on a person’s overall quality of life can be substantially improved with the correct diagnosis and effective, multimodal treatment which includes medication, behavioural therapy, and social and educational support.”
Schoeman said medication for ADHD plus psychotherapy were still the best ways to deal with the condition.
“Psychotherapy whether individual, family or group, and particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, has the most definitive evidence for its benefit to ADHD patients.
“Therapy provides support to the patient and their family, assists in developing acceptance of the disorder and coping skills and helps in treating other conditions that can accompany ADHD such as anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and substance abuse and benefits organisational and social skills.”
She also emphasised the importance of accurately diagnosing ADHD.
“A comprehensive clinical assessment should be conducted by a qualified healthcare professional such as a paediatrician, child psychiatrist or psychologist in line with internationally accepted diagnostic criteria.
“Rating scales provide useful screening measures and for monitoring the response to treatment, but cannot be relied on for a diagnosis on their own.
“In a process sometimes referred to as one of ‘skilful exclusion’, it is important to identify other possible physical, psychiatric or emotional causes of the typical ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness as well as any accompanying (co-morbid) conditions.
“Further testing for associated issues such as developmental, learning, speech, sight or hearing problems may also be needed as well as input from teachers and other educational professionals or therapists.”
Schoeman said although some children may appear to “outgrow” ADHD, the condition does continue into adolescence in most cases and it might just be that individuals are able to manage their symptoms.
“ADHD can continue to have a severe impact, with many affected adults going untreated for most of their lives while being at increased risk of other psychiatric conditions, substance abuse and work-related problems caused by their poor time management and organisational skills,” she pointed out.