ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the most common brain disorders among children, which can continue through adolescence and adulthood.1 ADHD is characterized by inattention and/or impulsivity (sometimes with hyperactivity), which significantly impacts many aspects of behavior and performance both at school and at home. 2
ADHD usually appears early in life (between ages 3-6).1 While many children can become distracted, act impulsively, struggle to concentrate and have high energy from time to time, those with ADHD are challenged daily to focus on everyday requests and routines.3
What are symptoms?
Some examples of symptoms that are commonly noticed in children with ADHD include:2
- Struggles to follow through on instructions
- Does not appear to listen
- Has difficulty sustaining attention
- Fails to give close attention to details and makes careless mistakes
- Has difficulty with organization
- Is very impatient
- Blurts out inappropriate comments and acts without regard for consequences
- Has difficulty waiting for things or taking turns
- Interrupts conversations or others’ activities
- Fidgets and squirms in their seat
- Has difficulty remaining seated
- Runs and climbs excessively
- Talks excessively
What causes ADHD?
The causes of ADHD are still under study, but scientists believe genes play a large role. Other factors currently being studied include environmental factors, fetal exposure and development, brain development, nutrition, and social environment, which may contribute to higher risk factors. Brain imaging studies have revealed delayed brain maturation and abnormal growth patterns in the structure of the brain of children with ADHD. Areas of the brain involved in thinking, paying attention, planning, and communication within the brain have been identified as abnormal compared to peers in those with ADHD.1
Currently the Centers for Disease Control reports the percent of children aged 3-17 years of age that have ever been diagnosed with ADHD as 9.5%, though girls are less likely than boys to be diagnosed with hyperactivity.3,4 Approximately 80% of children with ADHD have symptoms that persist into adolescence and adulthood, making treatment a long-term goal.5
What can be done to treat ADHD?
While there currently is no cure, best outcomes are often achieved through a comprehensive treatment plan which includes parent training, behavioral intervention strategies, an educational plan or program, education regarding the diagnosis, and medication, when necessary.2
Sometimes parents and children also struggle dealing with the behavioral problems associated with ADHD. Increased levels of stress, depression, and marital discord can occur within families.5 Seeking treatment for children with ADHD and their family members can lead to better understanding, coping, and education within families.
1 National Institute of Mental Health: What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
2 CHADD: Symptoms and Causes
3 American Psychological Association: Gender Differences in ADHD
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
5 The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: is it an American condition? Stephen Faraone, Joseph Sergeant, Christopher Gillberg, Joseph Biederman. World Psychiatry. 2003 June; 2(2): 104–113.