Successful Treatment of ADHD Kids may require Treating Parents
Children with ADHD may not respond to therapy unless their ADHD parents are treated at the same time.
It’s true…no matter how many drugs a child with ADHD takes, no matter how many counseling sessions he or she attends, no matter how many promises or threats a parent makes; sometimes the only way ADHD kids will respond to treatment is to treat their parent for ADHD.
ADHD experts estimate 50% to 70% of all ADHD teenagers will still have one or more elements of their ADHD persisting into adulthood. Likewise, we’ve found 70% of all children and teenagers with ADHD will have one or both parents who are ADHD or had the core symptoms of ADHD during childhood.
It is indeed very difficult to effectively diagnose and treat ADHD in a child when his or her mother or father have undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or untreated ADHD. Most adults who fall into one of these three groups deny the existence of their ADHD, think they have “out-grown” their ADHD, or have serious subconscious doubts about whether ADHD is real or not.
Denial of ADHD symptoms and doubts about whether ADHD is real or not; actually causes parents to:
- Passively or actively delay seeking medical help when the signs and symptoms of ADHD rear their ugly heads
- With-hold or down-play information needed to make an accurate ADHD diagnosis in their child or themselves (A grandmother once told me her grandson was a perfect angel when he was with her and she couldn’t understand why everyone else thought he was ADHD. Three months later, when she and he ran into my wife and me at a local restaurant, she slipped and called him a hyperactive little devil and fussed at him for interrupting our conversation so many times.)
- Blame ADHD behavior on everything but ADHD (one of the most common excuses…I think he’s just a rambunctious little normal boy, not really hyperactive)
- Bias the ADHD doctor’s opinion in advance of making the correct diagnosis by insisting another disorder is responsible for the child’s behavior (E.g. She’s wired all the time because all she does is eat sweets…maybe she’s diabetic)
- Decline ADHD medications when indicated (Many parents of course are worried about ADHD drugs being addicting and causing brain damage. Research thus far has not supported either one of these problems when an accurate diagnosis of ADHD was made.)
The symptoms of ADHD in adults are not all that different from those in children and teenagers, but by the time a teen has reached adulthood several things might have happened that make ADHD harder to spot. These changes include:
- The parent has developed ways or coping mechanisms that help them suppress, deal with, or hide their ADHD behavior
- The adult has grown out of the tendency to be hyperactive and openly impulsive
- They have found non-prescription medications, illegally obtained prescription drugs or illicit-illegal street drugs that help alleviate their symptoms
- The ADHD parent has been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires medications that just so happen to also treat ADHD behavior (For example, Provigil used to treat narcolepsy and clonidine for high blood pressure can both be used to treat core symptoms of ADHD.)
The signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults include:
- Difficulty staying on task or completing chores and assignments at home and work
- Jumping from one profession or job to another without establishing tenure. Many ADHD adults will have 5 different jobs over a ten year period.
- Loses interest in hobbies and self-improvement activities easily-rapidly
- Tendency to engage in high risk behaviors such as sky diving, scuba diving, big game safaris, excessive tattooing, and experimental sex
- Problems with social interactions in some or most situations-has few close friends and a hard time making friends
- Legal problems, including speeding tickets, parking tickets, stealing at work and shoplifting
- Greater tendency for drug and alcohol abuse
- Higher divorce and separation rates
- Increased risk for low self-esteem and depression or panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder
- Problems learning from mistakes
Obviously, if you really want your behavior disordered ADHD child to be evaluated and treated successfully, then you must start by being honest with yourself. If you, the parent, are really ADHD or have been denying or hiding your diagnosis of ADHD then you are doing a great disservice to your spouse and child. You, the parent are the most potent and important source of therapy for your ADHD child or teen. No medication…no type of behavior therapy will be successful in treating your child’s ADHD behavior if you are not an effective parent model.
Frank Barnhill, MD
P.S. You might want to take a look at these previous articles…
19 Signs Your ADHD-labeled Child May Not Be ADHD or Was Misdiagnosed
The Ten Most Common Reasons Professionals Misdiagnose ADHD
Diagnosis ADHD In Adults – Are My Parents ADHD?