ADHD symptoms, concerns increase during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:26 AM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 13:11:23-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Homes have transformed into work and school spaces, and there's a new concern on how it's impacting children.

A lack of focus could be a sign of ADHD. According to the nonprofit CHADD, which supports adults and children with ADHD, there was a 62% increase in the number of calls they received on their help line since the pandemic started.

What used to be the distraction of other students, could now be distractions of a pet or younger siblings at home.

41 Action News anchor Rae Daniel spoke with Dr. Sasha Hamdani with the Psychiatry Associates of Kansas City. She said her practice has seen a huge surge in ADHD symptoms.

"It's partially because kids have been moved from this in-person, structured learning environment into this hybrid or fully remote learning environment," Hamdani said. "And that's hard. It's hard for adults, it's hard for kids, it's hard for teachers. It's genuinely hard all around."

According to CHADD, here are the symptoms of ADHD: Inattentiveness:

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Does not appear to listen
  • Struggles to follow through with instructions
  • Has difficulty with organization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort • Loses things
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

Symptoms of ADHD, hyperactive-impulsive presentation, can include:

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs about or climbs excessively in children; extreme restlessness in adults
  • Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor; adults will often feel inside as if they are driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others

Hamdani said instead of children being in this classroom where they're in a controlled environment, they're now at home where they typically relax. She said it's important to incorporate an organized daily schedule during school hours.

"One of the biggest things I tell parents is [to] make your home environment as similar to the school environment," Hamdani said. "And do a low stimulus, low distraction of not having the phone available, maybe having parental controls on the internet, maybe having gaming consoles away for those periods of time that we're in school, sitting at the same desk everyday, and then having that dedicated learning environment."

Hamdani said while many may feel as though they're losing focus, it's important to note how dysfunctional that inattentiveness may be.

"I think everybody could struggle with some sort of variation on the focus spectrum, but how dysfunctional is it?" Hamdani asked. "It might be dysfunctional only at school, but not really at home, because at home you're not really being challenged. But if it's causing a huge problem at school that you can't attend, you can't focus in the moment, that's worth looking into."

For a lot of students who are growing and developing, Hamdani said this is an issue that needs to be addressed because some backsliding could occur in the future.

She also spoke about people who are experiencing depression and anxiety. She talked about transcranial magnetic stimulation, also known as TMS, for those who are looking for help without medication.

"If you've tried behavioral modification, if you've you looked into therapy as well, medication may be appropriate and that theory kind of bleeds into anxiety and depression," she said. "But if you see your symptoms are difficult to control with behavioral modification and with therapy, you might need either a medication or a non-medication option."

She said for people who are struggling with treatment resistant depression, TMS maps out the area of the brain, figures out that underactive area and then hyper stimulates that area with a magnetic paddle to get the neurotransmitters to fire.

"It's kind of like rebooting and restarting the brain," Hamdani said. "I think it's a wonderful treatment modality for people who may feel very helpless and hopeless about this medication trajectory."

If you are concerned about your child's inattentiveness, anxiety or depression, it's encouraged to seek out a psychiatrist and have them screened to learn more.