The First 48 Hours With ADHD

By Eileen Bailey

A diagnosis of ADHD is confusing for the patient, but it is also confusing for family members.  Was the ADHD caused by something they did?  Where did it come from?  How did this happen?  What did they do wrong?  In addition to the questions about the causes, a diagnosis of ADHD brings many different emotions.  Family members may be relieved to finally know what has been causing poor behavior or poor grades in school or they may deny the existence of ADHD, feeling that proper parenting and discipline are all that is needed.

Taking the time to understand ADHD not only helps the patient, it helps the entire family to move forward, find solutions and work together to create a better life for everyone.  Understanding behaviors and reasons for behaviors does not mean excusing behaviors.  No family member should excuse unacceptable behaviors or believe that the people can’t help themselves when they act a certain way.  “They have ADHD” is not an excuse, but rather an explanation.  Undesirable behaviors can be changed with proper assistance.  Learning about ADHD is the first step toward helping your loved one cope with the everyday symptoms.

Some things to keep in mind about Attention Deficit Disorder:


  1. ADHD cannot be cured.  Although the exact cause of ADHD is still unknown, it is considered to be a biological disorder, resulting from a chemical difference in the brain.  Some people will find ways to manage symptoms of ADHD on a daily basis, such as using a daily planner to compensate for disorganization or adjusting their work schedule to fit the times they are most able to focus.  Medication helps many people by reducing the symptoms of ADHD, but it does not provide a cure.

  2. ADHD is not caused by “bad parenting.”  Most doctors now believe that ADHD is hereditary.  Environmental factors do not cause ADHD, nor is it a result of poor parenting skills or broken homes.  There may be times when outside influences can result in symptoms that mimic ADHD, but the guidelines for diagnosing ADHD take this into account by controls such as the requirement that symptoms must be present in two or more areas of life and must have existed from an early age.

  3. Bad behaviors should never be acceptable.  ADHD can sometimes help to explain why children do certain things.  Impulsiveness, one of the major symptoms of ADHD, can explain why a child rushes into actions without thinking first, or says something mean to someone without thinking of how it could hurt them.  Hyperactivity can explain why some children can’t stop talking or are constantly getting out of their seat at school.  These are explanations, however, and should not be accepted as excuses.  Children with ADHD can learn proper behaviors.  Behavior modification programs are often very successful in helping children learn how to manage the symptoms of ADHD.

  4. ADHD is often accompanied by other conditions and disorders.  Depression, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder and substance abuse are considered to be common co-existing conditions.  As a general rule of thumb, treatment should begin with the condition that is causing the most problems for the child, once that condition is manageable; the second condition should be treated. 

  5. “If it was important to you, you would have remembered.”  This statement has been heard over and over by individuals with ADHD, and yet even the most important of events seem to slip away from them.  Memory can be severely impacted, and rather than constantly put someone down for their inability to remember things, helping them find ways to compensate would be more useful. For example, many adults with ADHD have found PDAs or the alarms on their cell phones to be useful in keeping track of appointments.  Some parents will program their children’s cell phone to have the alarm go off fifteen minutes before they are to be home as a reminder.  Finding solutions is much more effective than relying on the short-term memory of an individual with ADHD. 

  6. ADHD does not go away.  Hyperactivity, one of the major symptoms of ADHD, often lessens in adulthood.  This previously led to the belief that ADHD was a childhood disorder, although this is now known not to be true.  As more children were diagnosed with ADHD, the adults in their lives saw the same pattern of behaviors as they exhibited in childhood.  This led to more adults being diagnosed with ADHD.  Symptoms may manifest themselves differently, impulsiveness may become risk-taking or spontaneity, hyperactivity may show itself in constant fidgeting or an inability to sit still for long periods.

  7. There are three main symptoms of ADHD: hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattention.  In addition, there are a number of characteristics that are often seen in individuals with ADHD that are not considered symptoms but may manifest because of the symptoms or in addition to the main symptoms:  procrastination, low self-esteem, not completing tasks, lack of communication skills, emotional immaturity and poor social skills.  Sometimes, these additional characteristics improve with medication and sometimes they are helped with various behavior modification techniques.  Counseling and therapy are also helpful for some people.

  8. Intelligence is not affected by ADHD.  Many people with ADHD are highly intelligent and are gifted in the fine arts and are extremely creative.  People with ADHD can be found in all walks of life.  There are doctors, scientists, authors, actors, and every other occupation full of people with ADHD.

  9. The most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and behavior modification.  Behavior modification commonly uses a system of rewarding desirable behaviors and providing consequences for undesirable behaviors.  Stimulant medication is used most often, although there is a non-stimulant medication, Strattera that has also been approved for ADHD.  These medications help to lessen symptoms of ADHD and help patients improve focus and concentration.

  10. It is important to accept where a person is in their life, rather than measuring them based on where you believe they should be.  As parents, this is difficult to do, especially when friends and relatives may be discussing their child’s successes and you feel as if your child doesn’t “measure up.”  However, it is much more beneficial to your child’s well being to look at their own successes.  Maybe they remembered to do their homework (and hand it in) for an entire week.  While this may not be a success to other children, for children with ADHD this may be a large success.  Celebrate all of their victories, no matter how small.



 "The Disorder Named AD/HD." National Resource center on ADHD. 2004. CHADD. <>.

Strock, Margaret. "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." 2006. National Institute of Mental Health. <>.

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