Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children1 . However, while it is thought of as a condition that primarily influences children, it lasts into adulthood. People with ADHD have different brain development that affect self-control, attention, and their ability to focus. ADHD affects people at home, school, work, and in their friendships.
ADHD is more common in men than women. Women with ADHD are more likely to initially have inattention signs and symptoms. Those with ADHD often have some other conditions, such as anxiety disorder, learning disabilities, depression, conduct disorder, and substance abuse. An estimated 2.5% of adults and 8.4% of children are suffering from ADHD2. Normally it is first diagnosed in school-going children when they disrupt the classroom or struggle while doing their schoolwork.
Causes of ADHD
Scientists are studying the risk factors for ADHD in order to find better ways to improve the health of people with ADHD or reduce the chances of people having ADHD. The causes and risk factors for ADHD are still unknown, but current studies show that it is mostly inherited.
Recent research links genetic factors with ADHD1. However, the experts have not yet identified the specific cause2. It is revealed that 75% of children with ADHD have a relative who has ADHD too.
In addition to genetics, scientists are studying more possible causes and risk factors for ADHD, such as:
- Low birth weight
- Premature delivery
- Brain injury
- Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
- Exposure to environmental risks at a young age or during pregnancy
Research and studies don’t support the commonly held views that ADHD is caused by too much screen time, eating too much sugar, bad parenting, or social and environmental factors such as family chaos or poverty. But decreasing some of these same factors may assist with managing some symptoms of ADHD. However, the evidence does not hold much strength that they are the main factors of ADHD.
ADHD is a process with many steps. Unlike many other diseases, a single test is not enough to diagnose ADHD. Many other problems like depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and some types of learning disabilities, have similar symptoms.
In order to diagnose ADHD, doctors ask about a child’s behavior, health, and activities from their parents and teachers. The diagnosis process also includes having a medical examination, such as vision and hearing tests, to screen out other problems having similar symptoms as ADHD. The process of diagnosing ADHD normally includes a checklist for rating ADHD symptoms and recording a history of the child from parents, teachers, and the child as well.
After getting all the required information, doctors diagnose ADHD, if:
- A health check rules out another health or learning issue causing the problem
- The behaviors affect the person at home and school
- A person faces trouble with hyperactivity, paying attention, or impulsivity that goes beyond what is usual for their age.
- Many children with ADHD also have learning problems, oppositional or defiant behaviors, or mood and anxiety problems. These can be treated alongside ADHD, if recognized.
- For those who are older: The child was behaving in the same way when they were he/she was young
Signs and Symptoms
Children with ADHD normally have trouble focusing and behaving at some times, but they don’t grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms can be severe and can lead to difficulty at home, at school, or with friends.
A child with ADHD can:
- Forget to complete tasks or lose things a lot
- Daydream a lot
- Squirm or fidget, and can be much talkative
- Have a hard time resisting temptations
- Make careless mistakes or take avoidable risks
- Have difficulty getting along with others
- Get easily distracted by small occurrences around them
- Have trouble taking turns, or sitting still
- Having trouble focusing or concentrating on tasks
- Find it hard to wait their turn
- Interrupt others in playing, in their speech, or carrying out a task
ADHD has three different types, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in a child:
Predominantly inattentive presentation
It is difficult for the individual to complete the task or pay adequate attention to details, or follow instructions or conversations. These individuals get distracted easily and forget minor details of their daily routine.
These children with the inattentive type of ADHD, don’t tend to disrupt the classroom and because of that, they may not receive an early diagnosis.
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation
In this type of ADHD, the individual fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard for them to sit still for a long time (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Younger children, with ADHD, may run, jump, or climb constantly. The patient feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Those who are impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from others, or speak at improper times. It is hard for them to wait their turn or listen to directions. Those with impulsiveness may face more accidents and injuries than other people. People with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD can find it hard to focus on tasks.
A combined type of ADHD is the most common type. People with this type of ADHD show both hyperactive and inattentive symptoms. These symptoms include a tendency toward impulsiveness, an inability to focus attention, and higher levels of activity and energy.
A combination of medication and behavior therapy is considered the best treatment for ADHD. For children aged four to five years, behavior therapy, especially parental training is recommended as the first step of treatment before any medication is started. It is of the utmost importance for the child and parents. Ideal treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making changes, if required, during the treatment.
Taking care of health is important for all children, especially for those with ADHD. Behavioral therapy paired with a healthy lifestyle and medication can make it easier for a child and family to deal with ADHD symptoms. Some healthy behaviors may include:
- Getting the recommended amount of sleep every night based on age
- Daily physical activity based on age
- Developing healthy eating habits, such as eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and choosing fewer protein sources.
- Limiting the daily time of screen time from TV, Computers, phones, and other electronic devices.