When you hear “attention deficit disorder”, what do you think of? For many of us, we probably think of the hyperactive, overly ecstatic “Tigger” from the Winnie the Pooh series. While this friendly cartoon character does embody many characteristics of attention deficit disorder, it makes us wonder: does he provide a comprehensive understanding of this disorder? In this article, we will discuss the cardinal symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in order to gain a thorough understanding of this neurodevelopmental disorder. Please note that this article is for informational purposes only; do not diagnose yourself and always seek a medical professional for psychiatric advice.
Attention deficit disorder… what is it?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized as repetitive patterns of inattention (i.e., always getting distracted, wandering off tasks, is always distracted) and impulsivity (i.e., always running around, excessively fidgeting, talking more than is appropriate) that begins during childhood. Some symptoms must be present before age 12. Furthermore, they must show symptoms that interfere with development in a number of settings, such as in school, at home, and in daycares. So, what are these symptoms?
To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must be display a certain number of symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity for at least six months, at a level that significantly impairs their development, in addition to the aforementioned age criteria.
A1. Inattention criteria
Children must display at least six of the symptoms within the “inattention criteria” for at least six months. A child over than 17 years old must display at least five of these symptoms. For brevity, we’ll discuss some of the more challenging symptoms here that illustrate the main idea of what inattention is. Please consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) for the full list of symptoms of this category.
One of the symptoms is the inability to pay attention to details (e.g., a child always misses details in their homework). Remember how Tigger from Winnie the Pooh was always so distracted? Well, turns out, the difficulty in focusing on tasks is yet another symptom that is a part of the inattention criteria. A third example of a symptom is constant interruption. Talking to a child that has ADHD may seem like you’re talking to the wind since they may seem obviously distracted. Constantly being distracted may cause the child to not be able to follow through on instructions, which is another symptom within the inattention criteria. Here, a child may not finish their schoolwork, chores, or duties because they get sidetracked easily.
The main idea here is that a person with ADHD is constantly distracted. How is all of this different from hyperactivity and impulsivity?
A2. Hyperactivity and impulsivity criteria
Similar to the inattention criteria, hyperactivity and impulsivity is characterized by a group of symptoms that were present for more than 6 months at a level that negatively impacts a child’s development. Unlike inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity concerns the excessive motor activity (movement) a child displays (e.g., such as running/climbing/fidgeting). Let’s take a look in more depth.
One of the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity is a child’s constant need to fidget. The next symptom is best portrayed by an image of Tigger jumping up and down… a child that has ADHD will often leave their seat in situations when they aren’t supposed to. For example, in picnic with Winnie the Pooh, we can see that Tigger is always too excited and bounces around even when everyone is sitting down. Similarly, a third characterization of hyperactivity is the constant need for a child to move: they are always acting as if they are “on the go” even when there is no need to do so. As an example, let’s use the image of Tigger bouncing up and down all the time. Other examples of hyperactivity and impulsivity include constantly interrupting others, talking excessively, consistently running/climbing things when it’s not appropriate.
B. Several of the aforementioned symptoms must be present before age 12.
C. These symptoms are present in two or more unique settings
Examples of unique settings include at home, daycare, their parents’ work environment, at a friend’s house, or with relatives.
D. Symptoms must significantly and negatively impact a child’s everyday life
This criteria is common in all DSM-V disorders. A disorder is not deemed as one unless it severely impedes a person’s ability to function in different contexts, such as in schools, work, or with relationships.
In summary: does Tigger from Winnie the Pooh have ADHD?
While our image of Tigger in our minds does show some truths to ADHD, it doesn’t fully explain some of the subtle aspects of ADHD. For instance, an ADHD diagnosis requires the child to be free from other psychotic disorders or mental disorders – something we cannot accurately conclude on the basis of what we see about Tigger on television. Another example is that the ADHD diagnosis necessitates specifiers – that is, the psychiatrist will note even more subtle details about a child’s ADHD diagnosis. One of these specifiers is the type of criteria he or she meets (e.g., inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity), another specifier is whether the child still experiences these symptoms (the remission specifier), and lastly, the severity.
There you have it – an informational piece about attention deficit disorder. Did you learn something new about how complex ADHD really is? Read my last article to learn more about skin picking disorder. Comment down below what you thought and which disorder you’d like to learn about next!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.