Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), previously known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a common mental condition characterized by poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsiveness that are inappropriate for the child's age. It affects between 3 and 5% of American children and is usually diagnosed in childhood, although roughly 60% of the cases continue into the adult years.
Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD can be broken down into 3 different subtypes: a predominantly inattentive subtype, a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype and a combined subtype.
Symptoms of the inattentive subtype of ADHD include the following:
* difficulty keeping the mind on any one thing
* skipping over details
* getting bored with a task before it’s completed
* making careless mistakes
* being easily distracted from a task, lesson, or conversation
* difficulty listening when directly addressed
* disorganization and forgetfulness
* difficulty following instructions or finishing tasks
Children experiencing the hyperactive/impulsive
form of ADHD may:
* have difficulty with quiet, sedentary activities
* fidget or have trouble staying in their seat
* talk excessively
* blurt out answers before questions are completed
* speak tactlessly or inappropriately
* exhibit difficulty waiting
* move around constantly, often running or climbing inappropriately
* interrupt or intrude on others
The combined subtype applies when a child shows symptoms of both the inattentive and hyperactivity/impulsivity type of ADHD. Children diagnosed with ADHD will exhibit persistent symptom in a variety of settings, including at home, in school and during extracurricular activities.
Causes of ADHD
While the cause of ADHD remains unknown, studies show that the brains of children with ADHD may function differently than those of other children, suggesting an imbalance of chemicals that help regulate behavior. Research also indicates that genetics play a significant role in the development of ADHD, contributing to about three quarters of the total ADHD population. However, roughly 1/5 of all ADHD cases are thought to be acquired after conception due to brain injury caused by substance abuse or physical trauma prenatally or postnatally.
Will my child outgrow ADHD?
While ADHD is considered a chronic disorder, symptoms often get better as children grow older and learn to adjust. Hyperactivity usually stops in the late teenage years, but about half the children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to be easily distracted, have mood swings, hot tempers and are unable to complete tasks. However, parenting plays an important role in helping a child with ADHD. Children with loving, supportive parents who work together with school staff, mental health workers and their doctor have the best chance of becoming well-adjusted adults.
Treatments for ADHD
Although there is no cure for ADHD, a child’s symptoms can be controlled with a combination of behavioral management, counseling and medication.
Behavioral management can help you and your child identify unwanted behaviors and replace them with more positive ones.
Counseling may include psychotherapy, social skills training or parental training, and it can often help a child deal with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and stubborn behaviors.
Medication is most effective when it is combined with behavioral management or counseling. While there are many different types of ADHD medication, stimulants are the most common. By affecting the brain’s chemistry, it can help reduce overactivity and increase a child’s attention span.
If you think your child may have ADHA, talk to your doctor
to learn what you can do to help.