Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
An overview

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is diagnosed usually in childhood. Although ADHD may begin in childhood, it can very well continue through adolescence and adulthood and hence is not just a childhood disorder. It is a condition that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control his/her impulsive behaviors. The persons suffering from ADHD remains restless and almost constantly active.

Many children go through brief phases where they're restless or inattentive, which is perfectly normal. However, children with ADHD remain hyperactive, have trouble paying attention and are unable control their impulses over a prolonged period of time. These behaviors start interfering with school and home life. ADHD has been noticed to be more common in boys than in girls. It’s usually discovered during the early school years, when a child begins to have problems paying attention. Most cases are diagnosed when children are 6 to 12 years old. Even though hyperactivity tends to waive of as the child becomes a teen but if left untreated, then problems with inattention, and poor impulse control often continue through the adulthood.

Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD can be categorized into two types of behavioral patterns: Inattention Symptoms -
  • Having a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Not following directions or finishing tasks
  • Appearing forgetful or losing things
  • Not liking things that require sitting still

  • Hyperactivity and Impulsivness Symptoms -
  • Being unable to stay seated
  • Excessive talking
  • Always moving, such as running or climbing on things
  • Acting without thinking
  • Interrupting conversations

  • These symptoms can cause significant problems in a child's life leading to poor social interaction with other children. Although not always the case, some children may also have signs of other problems or conditions alongside ADHD, such as anxiety, sleep issues or learning difficulties.
    Causes of ADHD

    The exact cause of ADHD isn’t known although current research suggests that ADHD may be caused by a combination of genetic and environment factors including -

  • Biological Factors - It is believed that a neurotransmitter (chemical messengers) called dopamine is a possible contributor to ADHD. Dopamine allows a person to regulate emotional responses and is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Scientists have observed that lower levels of dopamine are associated with symptoms of ADHD.

  • Heredity - It has been observed that ADHD tends to run in families.

  • Brain Changes - Area of the brain that control attention is seen to be less active in children with ADHD.

  • Other possible causes such as being born prematurely, low birth-weight, exposure to toxic lead.

  • Smoking, drinking, and/or substance abuse during pregnancy.
  • Types of ADHD

    When it comes to ADHD, no one diagnosis fits all. The American Psychiatric Association has identified three types of ADHD, each with different symptoms and treatments:
    1. Inattentive Type - A children with 'Inattentive Type' ADHD must have atleast 6 of these 9 symptoms, and very few of the symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive type:

  • Not paying attention to detail
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Not listening
  • Being unable to follow or understand instructions
  • Failing to pay attention
  • Being forgetful
  • Avoiding tasks that involve effort
  • Being distracted
  • Losing things that are needed to complete tasks
  • 2. Hyperactive-Impulsive Type - A children with 'Hyperactive-Impulsive Type' ADHD must have atleast 6 of these 9 symptoms, and very few of the symptoms of inattentive type:
  • Fidgeting
  • Getting up often when seated
  • Having trouble playing quietly
  • Running or climbing at inappropriate times
  • Talking too much
  • Often “on the go” as if “driven by a motor”
  • Squirming
  • Interrupting
  • 3. Combined Type - This is most common type of ADHD, children having this type of ADHD shows symptoms of both 'Hyperactive-Impulsive Type' and 'Inattentive Type'

    Diagnosing ADHD

    If you think that you or your child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you should consider meeting a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist for a formal assessment.

    There's no single test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, most good specialists rely on several things, including speaking to parents, personally observing the child, questionnaires, rating scales and psychological tests.

    It is critical for the doctor to find out how much a child’s symptoms are affecting his daily moods, productivity, behaviour and habits. To rule out other conditions, the doctor might ask for hearing/eyesight tests as well as blood test for lead levels.

    ADHD Treatment - ADHD can largely be managed using medication or therapy, though a combination of both is often most effective. Psychotherapy (counseling), on the other hand, can help kids with ADHD learn effective ways to handle their emotions, while improving their self-esteem. Medications called stimulants can help control hyperactive and impulsive behavior and increase attention span. In cases (kids above 6 years of age), where stimulant medications don’t work, non-stimulant medications may be prescribed.
    How Therapy Works
    How therapy helps in ADHD:
  • The counseling treatment focuses on changing behavior: Behavior modification imparts new methods to control bad behaviors.
  • Social skills training teaches good behaviors to make kids more socially adaptable.
  • Proper treatment can help relieve the symptoms and make ADHD a manageable problem in day-to-day life.
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