What is ADHD? How Does it Co-Occur with Addiction?

The mental health disorder ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is defined by the inability to pay attention, trouble organizing tasks, and following-through. ADHD also involves difficulty sitting still and being impulsive. 

But, ADHD education for parents can help children develop schedules and find ways to cope with ADHD. Consequently, when ADHD becomes overwhelming, some people use drugs and alcohol to manage. But, dual diagnosis treatment can treat both disorders. 

History of the Mental Health Disorder ADHD

The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders first mentioned ADHD in 1968. However, people reported symptoms all the way back in the late 1700s. Furthermore, back then, it was known as a hyperkinetic reaction of childhood. 

In 1980, the third edition of the DSM changed the name to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). In 1987 however, the diagnostic name was again changed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This change was due to new research findings. 

Today the correct term is still ADHD. But, in 2013, the DSM 5th edition added three sub-specifications. The clinical names are predominantly inattentive presentation, predominantly hyperactive impulse presentation, and combined presentation. 

ADHD disrupts the lives of children, teens, and adults.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a mental health disorder defined mainly by its symptoms. But, the brain’s structure and function play a part in ADHD. For instance, a child with severe ADHD has a smaller frontal lobe than a child without ADHD. 

This is important because the frontal lobe controls concentration, impulse control, inhibition, and motor activity. Likewise, symptoms of ADHD include poor concentration, behavioral issues, overactivity, and fidgeting. Additionally, a person with ADHD may have brain pathways that lead to trouble controlling behavior, paying attention, and curbing impulses. 

Types of ADHD

To make diagnosing ADHD more consistent, there are three categories of ADHD. Even though ADHD is a mental health disorder, it affects people differently. The differences in ADHD is also important in therapies and pharmacotherapy. Additionally, a correct diagnosis helps in ADHD education for parents. For someone to be diagnosed with ADHD, they must have at least 6 symptoms lasting 6 months or more. 

Predominantly Inattentive ADHD

Just like the name says, this type of ADHD affects a person’s ability to focus, follow instructions, and finish tasks. This mental health disorder, ADHD, however, is often left undiagnosed. For example, this type of ADHD is often seen in girls, and they aren’t typically disruptive.

Symptoms of predominantly inattentive ADHD include:

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

For people with this type of ADHD are primarily hyperactive and impulsive. As a result, they can’t wait for their turn and often interrupt others. However, this ADHD mental health disorder generally doesn’t cause inattention. 

mental health disorder adhd

Symptoms of predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD include:

Combined Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive ADHD

This type of ADHD is the most common. This type of ADHD causes people to have both hyperactive and inattentive symptoms. These symptoms include high activity and energy levels, being impulsive, and an inability to pay attention. 

ADHD Symptoms

ADHD affects people of all ages. At the same time, symptoms are different at different ages. Later we will discuss symptoms by age. However, there are three main symptoms of ADHD, inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. 


Many people don’t notice this symptom of ADHD until the child enters school. But, in adults, it can be seen in their work and social situations. A person with ADHD might procrastinate or jump from one activity to the next. 


Hyperactivity varies with age. However, it might be noticeable in preschoolers. But, it always is noticeable by middle school. Hyperactivity causes people to have a hard time doing things while sitting. 


Impulsivity can cause a person to interrupt others. People also lack patience. It can lead to people knocking things over or running into people. However, children will often put themselves in danger. For instance, they may climb the stair railing or jump off something high. 

Facts and Statistics about ADHD a Mental Health Disorder

For all age groups, mental health disorder ADHD symptoms are impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. However, not everyone displays the symptoms the same. Above all, the way these symptoms show will change as a person ages. So, let’s take a look at the facts, stats, and symptoms of different ages. 

Children and Mental Health Disorder: ADHD

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder in children. Although it’s normal for children ages 2 to 5 to struggle to pay attention and behave, those with ADHD don’t outgrow these behaviors. The mental health disorder ADHD can become severe. It can also cause issues at school and with friends. However, the lack of ADHD education for parents can leave them feeling helpless. 

Children with ADHD might:

Almost 400,000 children in the U.S. are struggling with a mental health disorder ADHD. This statistic is according to the CDC. In fact, about 13 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls are diagnosed. But, because girls often hide their symptoms, they are often not diagnosed. 

Adolescent and Mental Health Disorder: ADHD

There are over 4 million adolescents ages 6 to 11 struggling with ADHD. Generally, most children with ADHD are diagnosed by 7 years old. But, it’s not uncommon for children to be diagnosed by the age of 11. However, the symptoms of ADHD must be evident at 12 years old. 

Teens and Mental Health Disorder: ADHD

Almost 3 million children ages 12 to 17 also battle ADHD. However, ADHD symptoms are not typical in teens. Their symptoms depend on the type of ADHD, their environment, and how they adjust to having ADHD. 

What is ADHD? How Does it Co-Occur with Addiction?

Teens tend not to be hyperactive. But, they struggle in other areas. For instance, the school now has less structure and supervision. For teens with mental health disorder ADHD, this can leave them lost and confused. Additionally, teens face peer pressure that can increase risky behaviors. 

Adults and Mental Health Disorder: ADHD

ADHD also affects people in adulthood. Although it’s now called adult ADHD, it starts in early childhood. However, because little was known about the mental health disorder ADHD years ago, some people are diagnosed as adults. 

Symptoms of mental health disorder ADHD in adults include:

Risk Factors for ADHD

A risk factor for ADHD is something that increases a person’s risk of ADHD. A person can, however, develop the mental health disorder ADHD with or without the following risk factors. However, the more risk factors a person has, the greater chance of developing ADHD. 

Risk factors include:

Managing ADHD a Mental Health Disorder

Everyone with ADHD struggles with daily life. The challenges not only come in coping with the symptoms but also with the social struggles. Some people view mental health disorder ADHD as a positive thing. For instance, they believe it’s a different way of thinking. But, others link ADHD with substance use disorder (SUD), anti-social behaviors, and failure in school. 

It is vital to work closely with doctors to find the best treatment for mental health disorder ADHD. For some people, pharmacotherapy may help cope with the symptoms. But, all treatment plans for mental health disorder ADHD should include various therapies. However, if drugs or alcohol are being misused to cope with symptoms, then dual diagnosis treatment is needed. 

Turning to Drugs and Alcohol to Cope with ADHD

Although ADHD and substance use disorder doesn’t cause the other, they can co-occur. Some studies show children with mental health disorder ADHD are at higher risk of using drugs or alcohol as adults. 

Studies also show:

But, why are people with mental health disorder ADHD at a higher risk of SUD? For the most part, it’s because of the lack of impulse control and the behavior issues related to ADHD. For example, a teen with mental health disorder ADHD and behavior issues may skip school. While skipping school, the teen may hang with the wrong crowd. The teen’s poor impulse control may lead to using drugs or alcohol. 

Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

A person with ADHD may benefit from pharmacotherapy, such as Adderall or Ritalin. However, if a person is also struggling with SUD, they may misuse the medication. But, entering a treatment center like Discovery Institute that treats dual diagnosis minimizes the risk of misuse. 

Besides pharmacotherapy, there are a variety of therapies that can help with the mental health disorder ADHD. Above all, if a person is also struggling with SUD, entering a treatment program is vital. Therapies that treat ADHD similarly treat SUD. 

Therapies for treating ADHD and substance use disorder include:

ADHD Education for Parents

As more research is done on mental health disorder ADHD, parents’ more ADHD education is available. There isn’t a parent around who’s child has ADHD that isn’t lost at helping. However, the earlier a parent seeks to help, the better. 

Joining support groups helps with ADHD education for parents. Children with ADHD can leave parents feeling helpless and lost when trying to help their child. However, connecting with other parents in the same boat can help parents cope. Schools are great resources to connect with other parents.

There are two national support and advocacy groups, CHADD and the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. Above all, these groups sponsor networking and ADHD education for parents. The Learning Disabilities Association of America also offers local meetings. Locations and meeting times are available on their websites.  

Get Help Today at Discovery Institute

If you or your child struggles with mental health disorder ADHD and substance use disorder, we can help you regain control of your life. From your first call and continuing through your recovery journey, we are here for you. Contact us today and find out how we can help.