Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neuro-developmental, brain disorder that affects how you pay attention, sit still, and control your behavior.
It happens in children and teens and can continue into adulthood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood.
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children. Boys are more likely to have it than girls. It’s usually spotted during the early school years, when a child begins to have problems paying attention.
ADHD can’t be prevented or cured. But spotting it early, plus having a good treatment and education plan, can help a child or adult with ADHD manage their symptoms.
It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviours. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.
Causes of ADHD
Scientists are studying cause(s) and risk factors in an effort to find better ways to manage and reduce the chances of a person having ADHD. The cause(s) and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but current research shows that genetics plays an important role. Recent studies of twins, link genes with ADHD.
Other possible causes and risk factors include:
Exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
Low birth weight
Genes: ADHD tends to run in families.
Chemicals: Brain chemicals in people with ADHD may be out of balance.
Brain changes: Areas of the brain that control attention are less active in children with ADHD.
Poor nutrition, infections, smoking, drinking, and substance abuse during pregnancy. These things can affect a baby’s brain development.
A brain injury or a brain disorder. Damage to the front of the brain, called the frontal lobe, can cause problems controlling impulses and emotions.
Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD.
There are three different types of ADHD, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual:
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organise or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
Predominantly Hyperactive: Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.
Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.
A child with ADHD might:
Daydream a lot
Forget or loses things a lot
Squirm or fidget
Talk too much
Make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
Have a hard time resisting temptation
Have difficulty getting along with others
Be easily distracted
Not follow directions or finish tasks
Not seem to be listening
Not pay attention and makes careless mis takes
Forget about daily activities
Have problems organizing daily tasks
Not like to do things that require sitting still
Often lose things
Symptoms in adults
Symptoms of ADHD may change as a person gets older. They include:
Often being late or forgetting things
Problems at work
Trouble controlling anger
Substance misuse or addiction
Trouble staying organised
Trouble concentrating when reading
It can be hard to diagnose ADHD, especially in children. No one test will spot it. Deciding if a child has ADHD is a process with several steps. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems, like anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms.
One step of the process involves having a medical exam, including hearing and vision tests, to rule out other problems with symptoms like ADHD. Diagnosing ADHD usually includes a checklist for rating ADHD symptoms and taking a history of the child from parents, teachers, and sometimes, the child.
Your primary care doctor might refer you to a specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist.
Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy
Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with ADHD. In addition to behavioral therapy and medication, having a healthy lifestyle can make it easier for your child to deal with ADHD symptoms. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:
Developing healthy eating habits such as eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and choosing lean protein sources
Participating in daily physical activity based on age
Limiting the amount of daily screen time from TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics
Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age
ADHD doesn’t cause other psychological or developmental problems. However, children with ADHD are more likely than others to also have conditions such as:
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), generally defined as a pattern of negative, defiant and hostile behaviour toward authority figures
Conduct disorder, marked by antisocial behaviour such as stealing, fighting, destroying property, and harming people or animals
Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, characterised by irritability and problems tolerating frustration
Learning disabilities, including problems with reading, writing, understanding and communicating
Substance use disorders, including drugs, alcohol and smoking
Anxiety disorders, which may cause overwhelming worry and nervousness, and include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, which includes depression as well as manic behaviour
Autism spectrum disorder, a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socialises with others
Tic disorder or Tourette syndrome, disorders that involve repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that can’t be easily controlled
To help reduce your child’s risk of ADHD:
During pregnancy, avoid anything that could harm fetal development. For example, don’t drink alcohol, use recreational drugs or smoke cigarettes.
Protect your child from exposure to pollutants and toxins, including cigarette smoke and lead paint.
Limit screen time. Although still unproved, it may be prudent for children to avoid excessive exposure to TV and video games in the first five years of life.
“Despite what the words ‘attention deficit’ imply, ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but rather a challenge of regulating it at will or on demand.” Jenara Nerenberg
SOURCE: Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You