Understanding ADHD and ADD

ADHD stands for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and is one of the most common psychiatric disorders afflicting children. ADHD, formerly known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), becomes apparent in children of preschool and early school ages, but can carry on into adulthood. ADHD has symptoms and signs of both attention deficit and hyperactivity-impulsiveness. They have difficulty controlling their behavior and pay attention. This disease affects millions of children, and even some adults.

Causes of Attention Deficit Disorder

Inherited genetic factors are likely responsible for the development of ADHD, with research focused on identifying genes that cause ADHD. Research findings have shown possible links between ADHD disorder and brain structure. Other links have been found with the function of regulatory brain chemicals associated with attention and activity, and differences in function with regards to areas of the brain that affect attention and impulse control in individuals with ADHD.

In addition, a mother’s use of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs during pregnancy increases the risk of ADHD in the child. Exposure to lead may also be linked to the development of ADHD symptoms. On the other hand, sugar and food additives (commonly thought to increase hyperactivity in children) have not been shown to cause ADHD. In fact, restrictive diets have been shown to help only about 5 percent of children with ADHD, and in most cases these children suffered from food allergies.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD in children

Although it is normal to be a little absent-minded, restless, fidgety, or impulsive from time to time, individuals with ADHD exhibit these behaviors far more often. In these individuals, this type of behavior is the rule and not the exception. Individuals with ADHD have difficulty focusing their mind on one thing.

Organizing and completing a task is difficult, characterized by becoming bored easily and bouncing from one task to another without any completion. Alternately, individuals with ADHD may be able to give undivided attention to activities and topics that they enjoy. People with ADHD typically have trouble learning new skills or concepts. In effect ADHD sufferers can pay attention, but the problem lies in what they are paying attention to, the circumstances under which they are doing so, and for how long. Hyperactivity and inattention are normal childhood behaviors at particular stages of childhood.

As a result, it is the impulse behavior that often stands out in very young children with ADHD. Most children become more selectively attentive and less active by the age of 5, making it easier to recognize cases of ADHD in children who still maintain inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive behaviors at this age.

ADHD Diagnosis

There is still no biological test that can identify ADHD. A series of evaluations must be done in order to make an accurate diagnosis of the condition.

Firstly, a complete physical exam is necessary to rule out any problems with hearing, vision, allergies, eczema, or epilepsy, as all can cause symptoms similar to ADHD. The child’s medical history will also be considered to determine if any childhood disease or injury, or prenatal exposure to harmful substance may have caused ADHD. It is not uncommon for the child to be examined by a psychologist or a neurologist.

ADHD Treatment

There is no single treatment for a particular child, and can include any combination of social skills training, behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or medication. A child may develop undesirable side effects to a medication, which make that course of treatment unacceptable. It is imperative to consider a child’s needs and personal history in developing a treatment plan. Medications have been used to treat ADHD symptoms for decades, and may be helpful in helping children focus and be more successful at school, home, and play. Stimulants seem to be the most effective class of drug to treat ADHD. Some examples include Adderall and Ritalin.

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