|What is ADHD?||Hyper-Impulsive Behavior|
|It’s All in a Name||What About Adults?|
|How Can I Be Sure My Child Has It?||What Causes It?|
|Inattention||How Is ADHD Treated?|
What Is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of chronic disorders that begin in childhood and in some cases, last through adulthood. It is one of the most common childhood conditions, affecting anywhere from 4 to 12 percent of school-aged children, boys three times more often than girls.
Children and adults with ADHD have difficulty sitting still, controlling impulsive behavior, paying attention, and concentrating. Nearly every aspect of life can be affected not only for the sufferer but also for those around them. Children and adults with ADHD often have low self-esteem, perform poorly at work and in school, and experience troubled personal relationships.
If you are confused about the terms that have been used over the years to describe this disorder, you are not alone. ADHD has also been called attention-deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity, and even minimal brain dysfunction. Nowadays, experts refer to it simply as ADHD because this term more accurately describes the full range of the condition.
You may have also encountered some people, even within the medical community, who dismiss the condition and chalk up the behavior to normal kid stuff. Even experts have disagreed on how ADHD should be diagnosed and whether it is real. In 1998, however, The National Institute of Mental Health concluded it was a legitimate condition. The challenge lies in accurately diagnosing ADHD. Not only is there no one definitive diagnosis, but also many of its symptoms and behaviors, when not done to excess, are normal for active, healthy children. Children who are bright, quick learners share some of the same restless behaviors with ADHD children. Likewise, children with adjustment problems who withdrawal may also be misdiagnosed with ADHD.
Consistency is the key.
At times, nearly all-young children seem to be out of control. They may race from room to room, crash into furniture, shriek, and refuse to listen to parents or teachers. Other times they may drift off into their own world, forgetting to finish a project or appearing not to hear you when you call their name. This does not mean your child has ADHD.
An accurate diagnosis of ADHD requires that your child experience the symptoms for a full six months and in a variety of settings, not just at school or at home. This way, a clinical social worker or doctor can be certain that the behavior is not simply an issue with the teacher or a classmate, or with the parents or a sibling. Likewise, the symptoms must be severe enough to affect your child’s ability to function in these settings.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of ADHD:
- Often loses things, has difficulty organizing self
- Is easily distracted
- Often has trouble sustaining attention during tasks or play
- Often does not follow through on instruction
- Often does not appear to be listening when directly spoken to
- Often avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as homework
- Often makes careless mistakes in school or with other activities
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others’ conversations or games
- Often has trouble waiting his or her turn
- Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Often gets up and leaves seat in class or chair at dinner table when it’s not appropriate
- Often talks excessively
- Often climbs or runs excessively when it’s not appropriate
Children with ADHD can also be especially sensitive to outside stimuli such as sights, sounds, and touch. When over stimulated, they can easily become out of control, giddy, aggressive or even physically or verbally abusive.
If you find yourself dozing off during a lecture or daydreaming when you should be focused on the task at hand or restless in a traffic jam, you may not necessarily have ADHD. But if you exhibit at least two of the three core symptoms – inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior, you may meet the criteria for diagnosis.
Bear in mind that ADHD always begins in childhood and may not continue into adulthood.
Adults with ADHD may also have mood swings, a low stress tolerance and problems with relationships.
No one is entirely certain. While scientists continue to research the exact cause, they do know that these factors play a role in the disorder:
- Altered brain function – In children with ADHD, the part of the brain that regulates attention, planning and motor control seem to be less active. Also, low levels of the brain chemical dopamine may be to blame.
- Heredity – Most children with ADHD have at least one relative with the disorder, while almost one-third of all men with ADHD have children who are also diagnosed.
- Maternal exposure to toxins, smoking and drug use – Alcohol or drug use by pregnant women may reduce the activity of nerve cells that produce dopamine. Likewise, pregnant women exposed to environmental poisons such as dioxins run a greater risk of having a child with ADHD.
While ADHD can’t necessarily be cured, a combination of treatment strategies can help a sufferer effectively manage the symptoms. A clinical social worker or primary care doctor can help you to come up with a long-term treatment plan that will work best for you.
A combination of medication and therapy are most frequently used. These include psychotherapy, behavior therapy, social skills training, support groups and family therapy.
The most commonly prescribed medicines for treating ADHD are psycho stimulants (e.g. Ritalin). For those who don’t respond to this approach, doctors will often prescribe antidepressants.
If a more severe form of ADHD is left untreated in children, dire consequences may result. A child may develop serious, lifelong problems such as poor grades, failed relationships and inability to keep a job.
Remember, it’s no shame to admit that you need help, whether it’s for your child, your spouse, a friend or yourself.