Childhood Traumatic Stress has been found to have several symptoms in common with ADHD, which can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment of the root problem. If you are reading this article concerned about a child you love, know that a professional evaluation is needed to make a determination. Getting help for your child is critical. You’ll need assistance in sorting this out and getting your child the help he or she needs.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that causes a person to have trouble focusing, sitting still, and exercising self-control. ADHD diagnoses have been steadily increasing and are usually made during childhood. The causes of ADHD are thought to primarily be neurological differences, specifically in higher-level areas of the brain that deal with executive functions. ADHD symptoms are grouped into three categories: behavioral, cognitive,
and mood. Behavioral characteristics of ADHD include impulsivity, fidgeting, and aggression; cognitive symptoms
involve absent-mindedness, short attention span, and forgetfulness; and mood traits contain anger, anxiety, and boredom.
Childhood traumas can range from one-time events, such as car accidents, to ongoing negative experiences like physical abuse. Symptoms such as being easily distracted, restless, and disorganized are a few of the characteristics shared between those with ADHD and children who are experiencing traumatic stress. Identifying differences between ADHD and trauma is imperative, not only to administer the proper treatment, but also to ensure that the trauma is not currently ongoing. Psychologists look for a few details to differentiate between ADHD and Childhood Traumatic Stress, such as the presence of fear or guilt, which may suggest trauma. Another behavior usually present in victims of childhood trauma but not in ADHD is avoidant behavior, meaning the child will attempt to stay away from reminders or triggers of their trauma.
An assessment for childhood trauma will usually include ruling out a range of potential traumatic experiences and the identification of specific symptoms through clinical interviews, standardized measures, and information gathering from those who know the child well. Once the therapist determines whether the issue is ADHD, childhood trauma, or both, an appropriate treatment plan can be utilized. ADHD is usually treated with educational programs for the child and the family, cognitive behavioral therapy, and sometimes a prescribed medication. Childhood traumatic stress is treated with therapy focusing on risk assessment and reduction, building safe routines, processing the traumatic event in an age appropriate fashion, developing emotional regulation skills, and teaching stress management.