Neurodevelopmental Disorders - A Brief Survey of Abnormal Psychology - Definitions

Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World - Andrea Bonior 2016

Neurodevelopmental Disorders
A Brief Survey of Abnormal Psychology


US prevalence 5 percent among children; 2.5 percent among adults


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) encompasses two main clusters of challenges. The first involves an overly high level of distractibility, with inability to focus and concentrate, and the second is physical overactivity, usually manifesting as hyperactivity and inability to sit still and often accompanied by impulsivity. Also associated with ADHD are forgetfulness, disorganization, inability to follow through with tasks, and inability to wait for one’s turn to speak or act. Sometimes adults are diagnosed only with attention deficit disorder (ADD) rather than with ADHD, since their childhood hyperactivity has worked its way out of their systems. No matter when ADHD is diagnosed, there has to be evidence that the symptoms existed in childhood, before age 12. This is an important (if often ignored) criterion, since ADHD is a developmental disorder, which means that the brain of a person with the disorder has a way of processing things that is qualitatively different from the way things are processed by the brain of someone who doesn’t suffer from the disorder. ADHD is not something that develops suddenly, in the wake of stress or lifestyle changes, but stress and lifestyle changes can certainly cause symptoms that mimic ADHD, as can depression, anxiety, and conduct problems.


US prevalence 1 percent among adults and children


The main symptomology of autism spectrum disorder involves atypical or ritualized behavior as well as deficits in communication skills and social skills. (Having autism disorder is often referred to as being “on the spectrum.”) Autism is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis, and it encompasses a large range of gradations of functioning. In fact, there are few other disorders in which variance is so great. Some children on the spectrum have never so much as made eye contact with their parents, whereas others grow up to be engineers or professors whose difficulties appear mainly in social interactions. Asperger’s disorder, formerly listed in the DSM as a disorder in its own right, is now categorized as falling on the autism spectrum, although Asperger’s disorder can still be diagnosed by physicians and others who use a classification system other than the DSM-5. Asperger’s disorder is essentially high-functioning autism, with the main challenges being social in nature. It is not shyness and does not come from a place of anxiety; rather, it’s indicated by lack of interest in social interaction and by the inability to interact in social settings in typical ways. As is true of the autism spectrum in general, in Asperger’s disorder there is frequently an inability to process other people’s emotional experience. Children on the autism spectrum show unusual repetitive behaviors, such as arm flapping, lining up toys over and over again, rocking, or even slapping themselves. Such actions, which appear over and over again, typically don’t seem to serve an outward purpose, but they probably serve a self-soothing or even self-stimulating function for the child. Also in this category of behavior is a tunnel-like restriction of interests, one that can look obsessive. Some children on the autism spectrum may be particularly sensitive to sensory stimuli like heat, light, and noise and even to the texture of clothing, and they may have severe difficulty with changes in routine or with times of transition throughout the day.