What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder that causes inattentiveness, impulsivity, over-activity or a combination thereof. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 6 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD from 2016-2019.
Though it’s commonly associated with school-age children, without proper treatment of ADHD, symptoms can reach in to adulthood. Many health care professionals also refer to the disorder as ADD (attention deficit disorder).
A diagnosis of ADHD should only be given by a knowledgeable physician or pediatrician who specializes in treating the specific symptoms associated with this disorder. Treatment consists of a combination of oral medication and behavioral therapy.
Currently the CDC recognizes three categories of ADHD:
Predominantly Inattentive – The person finds it difficult to follow directions or finish a task. They also have trouble following conversations.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive – This person finds it hard to be still, constantly fidgeting, talking, or in younger children behavior like running, jumping and climbing. They also have difficulty waiting their turn and often make swift decisions without thinking them through.
Combined – A person who displays considerable symptoms in both areas is considered to have a combined diagnosis.
Children are inherently busy and have boundless energy reserves, but a child diagnosed with ADHD will have significant and prolonged symptoms that go beyond the realm of what is considered normal for a child based on their age group.
Again, having the child tested by a professional is important because there is no single test for ADHD and other problems including learning disabilities, anger, aggression and bipolar disorder can have very similar symptoms.
Common ADHD symptoms:
- Chronic lack of attention
- Does not listen when spoken to directly
- Has difficulty organizing tasks or activities, even when trying hard to do so
- Child finds it hard to wait his/her turn or wait in line
- Constantly talking, humming, or making noise
- Trouble making friends or keeping them
- Avoids tasks that involve long stretches of mental focus including school work or homework
Adult ADHD symptoms are the same as those listed above for children. If left untreated in to adulthood, ADHD can also result in forgetfulness, losing important items such as wallets and car keys, trouble keeping a job due to difficulty completing tasks, trouble with law enforcement due to impulsivity, and drug or alcohol abuse.
Understand what can cause ADHD to help prevent this disorder.
There are a variety of reasons you or your child could have ADHD. The source for ADHD could be one of the following or a combination.
Genetics: While there is no single cause for ADHD, statistics show it can be hereditary. If a parent suffers from the disorder, there is a high probability their child/children may, as well. Boys are also more likely to be diagnosed than girls. This may be due to the fact that hyperactivity in boys is more noticeable than girls who often suffer quietly for many years with inattentiveness issues without being properly diagnosed.
Food Additives: Artificial coloring and food additives such as sodium benzoate (food preservative) do not cause ADHD but have been known to increase hyperactivity symptoms.
Maternal Smoking/Drugs/Alcohol: Pregnant women who smoke, drink heavily or use drugs have a higher chance of having children with ADHD.
Sugar: Though widely believed by parents to cause hyperactivity, there is no current scientific correlation to suggest that sugar causes nor exacerbates ADHD.
Environmental Toxins: Including but not limited to, cigarette smoke, industrial chemicals, lead paint (mostly older buildings) and agricultural chemicals.
Behavior therapy and prescription medication are common treatments for ADHD.
The two most common treatment methods for ADHD are oral medication and behavioral therapy. For many children and adults, the two must go hand in hand for successful management of their ADHD symptoms.
Stimulant medication is the most common way to treat ADHD symptoms. Though the word stimulant may seem counterproductive, it’s actually very helpful. Chemicals in the brain that control attention, decision making and organization may be lower in people with ADHD. Stimulant medication increases these chemicals, allowing the brain to function with more regularity.
ADHD cannot be cured, but once the right medication/behavior combination is reached, the symptoms can be controlled or managed.
- Focalin XR
- Strattera (non-stimulant)
- Intuniv (non-stimulant)
- Wellbutrin (anti-depressive)
- Keep a daily, structured schedule that includes chore time, homework time, play time, etc.
- Limit distractions, especially during homework
- Communicate with the child’s teacher and other influencers/caregivers regularly
- Provide the child with a healthy diet rich in nutrients from fruits, vegetables and lean protein
While there is no cure for ADHD, you can manage some environmental factors.
Unfortunately, at the current time, concrete prevention is unknown. We know ADHD can be caused in utero by mothers who smoke, drink or use drugs, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle while pregnant is paramount.
Research has shown ADHD can also be caused by environmental toxins so protect children from agricultural chemicals, industrial chemicals, cigarette smoke and lead paint. As well, a clean diet free from or limited in processed, chemical ingredients is helpful.
Where to look for ADHD support on the web.
CHADD – http://www.chadd.org/
Attention Deficit Disorder Association – http://www.add.org/
National Institute of Mental Health – http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml