The list of terms below are commonly used when discussing ADHD*:
ADHD: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, the official name for this disorder. It is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (version 5) of Mental Disorders as ‘a persistent condition that impairs functioning or development, and characterized by chronic inattention, hyperactivity, and often impulsivity’. It isn’t a very useful name.
ADHD Coach: A professional trained in both the fields of coaching and ADHD, who works primarily with adults with ADHD to get past obstacles and reach their goals, especially organisational and executive functioning challenges.
Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Anxiety commonly co-exists with ADHD.
ASRS: Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) is a checklist of questions designed to stimulate dialogue between you and your doctor and to help confirm if you may have ADHD.
Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder is a group of mental health conditions that affect your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. It used to be known as manic depression.
Clinical Trial: A type of research study, a clinical trial is designed to test an intervention, treatment, or new approach in a population of patients.
Co-Existing Conditions: When two or more (usually long-term) health conditions are present in the same individual, they are said to be co-existing. For example, ADHD commonly co-exists with anxiety or mood disorders like bipolar.
Comorbidity: Two or more disorders occurring in an individual at the same time. This is another word for Co-Existing Condition.
Depression: Depression is a constant feeling of sadness and low mood, which can stop you doing your normal activities. Several different types of depression exist, with symptoms ranging from relatively minor to severe.
Dopamine: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has several important roles in the brain and body, including internal reward. Dopamine action is usually reduced in ADHD but the exact link is not fully understood.
Dysthymia: Persistent but minor form of depression.
DSM-V Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Written by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-V describes how mental health disorders are classified, including how they are diagnosed.
Executive Function: Mental skills that allow us to control and coordinate other mental functions and abilities, such as planning or task completion. The fundamental skills related to executive function include adaptable thinking, planning, self-monitoring, self-control, working memory, time management, and organisation. A deficit in executive function is common in adults with ADHD.
Hyperactivity: Having increased movement, impulsive actions, and/or a shorter attention span. A hyperactive person can have constant activity and may be easily distracted and impulsive. Other characteristics of hyperactive behaviour also include the inability to concentrate and aggressiveness.
Hyperfocus: Intense mental concentration fixated on an activity, specific event or topic often without control or choice.
Impulsivity: Acting with little or no thought of the consequences or reacting rapidly without considering the negative consequences of the reaction.
Inattention: Failure to pay attention to a specified object or task.
Neurobehavioural: Related to the relationship between the brain and our behaviour.
Neurologist: A health care professional trained to diagnose and manage brain disorders.
Neuropsychologist: A type of psychologist trained in how the brain and the rest of the nervous system affect a person’s behaviour and cognition. They can administer neuropsychological testing which can identify any challenges to full brain functioning.
Neurotransmitter: A chemical in the brain that functions as a chemical messenger to transmit impulses between nerve cells (neurons) within the nervous system. Examples include dopamine and noradrenaline.
Non-stimulant Medication: A medication that has been approved to treat ADHD—generally considered second-line medication—prescribed to those for whom stimulants are inappropriate (example, atomoxetine).
Noradrenaline: Noradrenaline is a neurotransmitter that has several important roles in the brain and body. Noradrenaline action is believed to be reduced in ADHD.
Object invisibility: Often incorrectly called ‘object impermanence’, object invisibility is the lack of ability to remember items when they are no longer immediately at the forefront of consciousness.
Occupational Therapist: A licensed health care professional who provides therapy centred on ADHD.
Pomodoro Technique: A method for maintaining focus that breaks tasks down into 25-minute chunks with breaks between.
Psychiatrist: A doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
Psychoeducation: The process of providing education and information to those seeking or receiving mental health services and their family members.
Prefrontal Cortex (PFC): The outer front part of the frontal lobe in the brain that plays a role in controlling attention, behaviour, judgment, and emotion.
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD): Extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticised.
Stimulant Medication: Medications that stimulate activity in the central nervous system, including the production and activity of neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline. First-line medications approved for the treatment of ADHD are stimulant medications. Ritalin is a common example.
Time blindness: The inability to accurately perceive the passing of time or estimate the time needed to complete a task. Thought to be specific to ADHD.
Titration: Titration is a word used to describe the process of finding the right dose of a medication. Normally done by a nurse in the UK, titration starts with a low dose, and gradually increases the dose until the patient reaches maximum symptom relief with minimum side effects.
Working Memory: A system in the brain that temporarily stores and processes the information needed for much more complex tasks such as reasoning, comprehension, and learning. Increasingly used to describe very short-term memory, rather than short-term memory over hours and days.
*Our glossary is not a clinical definition, rather an attempt to clarify what we mean when using them. Other definitions are definitely available.