Learning More about ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a lifelong disorder that affects millions of children in the United States. It is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder among children and young adults, and contrary to popular belief, it often lasts into adulthood. It is more prevalent in boys than in girls.
As the name suggests, ADHD makes it difficult to pay attention for a sustained period of time. Hyperactivity and impulsive behavior are also common. Kids who have ADHD are also likely to struggle from low self-esteem, poor organization, poor school performance, a lack of goals, and difficulties at home. Later on, they may struggle with addiction or have trouble holding down a job. Though ADHD symptoms may lessen with age, some people never outgrow their symptoms. Through treatment, though, they learn how to employ strategies for success.
ADHD is neither preventable nor curable, but medical and/or behavioral interventions are often effective in easing the impact of symptoms. Diagnosing ADHD early on can make a substantial difference in treatment outcomes.
Symptoms in Children
Most children have difficulty focusing, listening, or staying still at some point or another. It’s normal for children and even teenagers to have short attention spans, and some children are more likely to appear “hyper” than others. Comparing one child to another can make it easy to mistake individual differences in activity or attention span for ADHD.
If children get along with friends or at home but have problems at school, it’s usually a sign that the problem isn’t ADHD. And the same can be said about children who show symptoms at home but don’t have behavioral issues at school.
Symptoms of ADHD fall under three main categories:
- Becomes distracted easily
- Abandons tasks before finishing them
- Doesn’t follow instructions
- Stops listening
- Doesn’t pay attention or makes careless mistakes
- Forgets about planned activities
- Has difficulty organizing homework, chores, etc.
- Doesn’t like to sit still
- Daydreams often
- Loses possessions
- Can’t sit still
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Always moving—running, climbing, bouncing, etc.
- Talks excessively
- Appears to be always on the go
- Blurts out answers
- Interrupts others
- Has trouble waiting for his/her turn
If you suspect that your child might be showing signs of ADHD, you should see your family doctor. A medical evaluation can help you to identify the source of your child’s symptoms and eliminate any other possible disorders.
Children who are being treated for ADHD should see their doctor regularly until symptoms improve, and every few months once symptoms are stable. Medication can cause side effects such as difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and irritability, so it’s important to maintain open channels of communication with a health professional at all times.
Symptoms in Adults
With age, the symptoms of ADHD may change. In adults, some common symptoms include:
- Chronic lateness
- Low self-esteem
- Problems at work
- Difficulties managing anger
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Procrastinates often
- Becomes frustrated easily
- Chronic boredom
- Has trouble focusing while reading
- Mood swings
- Relationship problems
What Causes ADHD?
Doctors don’t know what causes ADHD. It appears to involve a combination of factors. The more risk factors apply to you, the more likely you are to have ADHD. They include:
- Family. ADHD runs in families. Having a sibling or parent with ADHD increases one’s likelihood of developing the disorder.
- Exposure to environmental toxins. Lead, which can be found in the pipes of old buildings, can affect brain development during childhood.
- Inadequate nutrition, infections, drug use, alcohol use, smoking, or exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy. These factors can affect fetal brain development.
- Premature delivery or low birth weight. Being born premature or with a low birth weight can increase a child’s risk of developing ADHD.
- Brain injuries and disorders. Damage to the frontal lobe can increase impulsivity and make emotions harder to control.
ADHD is not caused by sugar, watching too much TV, a poor school or home life, or food allergies—though all of these things can contribute to behavioral difficulties.
Having a child diagnosed with ADHD can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that symptoms can indeed be successfully managed through treatment. Often, treatment involves a combination of therapy and medication.
The goal of therapy is to help the child change his or her behavior. Some possible therapeutic treatments may include:
- Special education. Structure and routine can help children living with ADHD to thrive. Special education programs help to address individual needs, which are often left unaddressed in large classrooms.
- Behavior modification. This method helps children learn how to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. It may also involve skills training, which can help them understand how to express themselves appropriately in social settings.
- Parenting skills training. For parents, skills training is a way of understanding a child with ADHD and guiding behavior in the most productive way possible.
- Counseling or psychotherapy. Counselors and psychologists can help individuals with ADHD learn how to cope with their emotions and build self-esteem.
- Family therapy. Attending therapy as a family can help everyone involved to cope with the emotions related to living with someone who has ADHD.
- Support groups. This long-term form of treatment can help individuals to meet other people with ADHD and find support and acceptance. Groups are also a way of learning about the disease and sharing coping strategies. They may be helpful for parents of children with ADHD.
Medication can be used to help to control behavioral problems that lead to trouble at school, with friends, and at home. Finding the right type and dosage of medication can be a long process. There are two classes of drugs that are used to treat ADHD:
- Stimulants. The most widely-used medication, stimulants control hyperactive and impulsive behavior and improve attention span. Approximately 70-80 percent of children with ADHD respond positively to stimulants.
- Non-stimulants. Non-stimulants are a relatively new form of treatment which have fewer side effects than stimulants. They are prescribed for children over the age of six.
The most positive treatment outcomes occur when a variety of approaches are used. Improving the quality of life of a child with ADHD requires collaboration between parents, physicians, educators, therapists, and social workers.
No information on this website should be used to start the use of dietary supplements and vitamins, natural and herbal products, homeopathic medicine and other mentioned products prior to a consultation with a physician or certified healthcare provider.