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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder that has the ability to continue into adulthood. Those with ADHD will have a hard time staying focused or paying attention, have difficulty controlling their behavior, and may be over active at times. All of these symptoms make it hard for a child and adolescent to be successful in school, get along with their peers, and complete responsibilities at home. Those with ADHD also tend to suffer from low self-esteem and troubled relationships. Some symptoms of ADHD will lessen as a child ages, however there are individuals that will never outgrow them.
While there is currently no cure for this disorder, the use of proper treatment can make controlling the many symptoms of ADHD possible. Additionally, with treatment most individuals with ADHD are able to excel in school and lead productive lives.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a common disorder that affects about 8 to 10% of school aged children, with boys being about 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with it than girls. According to the American Psychiatric Association, population surveys show that approximately 5% of children and 2.5% of adults have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Causes and Risk Factors
To this day, scientists are still not sure what the exact cause for the development of ADHD is, although there have been many studies conducted that indicate that genes play a major part. Additionally, like many other mental illnesses, ADHD is most likely the result of a combination of different factors working together that lead to the development of this disorder. Some of these factors include:
Genetic: Results from twin studies have indicated that ADHD runs in families. Additionally, numerous studies have been conducted looking at a variety of genes that may make individuals more susceptible for developing this disorder. Those who carry a specific version of a certain gene have thinner brain tissue in the areas of the brain associated with attention, which could be a cause for the development of ADHD.
Physical: Another common believe is that ADHD is caused as a result of an imbalance in the chemical composition of the brain. There are certain areas of the brain that work together in order to properly regulate behaviors and when there is a chemical imbalance in this management system, the regulation of the behaviors is interrupted. In turn, this dysregulation can ultimately lead to the onset of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Additionally, children who have suffered a brain injuries may develop some symptoms of ADHD.
Environment: Some professionals in the field believe that there is a link between cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy and ADHD in children. Additionally, children who were exposed to high levels of lead have a higher risk of developing ADHD.
- Being male
- Brain trauma
- Family history of mental illness
- Prenatal exposure to toxins
- Premature birth
- Presence of other mental health conditions
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of ADHD will depend upon each individual child and the subtype of this disorder that they are struggling with. The following symptoms are broken down into three subtypes and their distinct pattern of behaviors:
- Is unable to pay attention to details or has a tendency to make careless mistakes
- Has difficulty maintaining attention during tasks or playtime activities
- Problems with organization
- Appears to have problems listening
- Has a difficult time following directions
- Dislikes or avoids tasks that require mental effort
- Is easily distracted
- Has a tendency to lose things
- Has a hard time staying seated
- Is constantly fidgeting or squirming
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Often runs around and/or climbs things
- Seems to always be on the go
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out answers
- Has a hard time waiting their turn
Combined type: is the most common form of ADHD and involves a combination of symptoms from both inattentive type and hyperactive-impulsive type.
Effects of ADHD
If not properly managed the long term effects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can make life extremely difficult. Some examples of these negative effects can include:
- Academic failure
- Being judged by other children and adults
- Have more accidents and injuries
- Relationship difficulties
- Poor self-esteem
- Difficulty interacting and being accepted by peers
- Problems at home
- Increased risk for substance abuse
Many children and adolescents with ADHD also have another mental health condition or illness. In fact, individuals with ADHD are six times more likely to have another psychiatric condition or learning disorder. The most common disorders that occur alongside ADHD include:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Learning disabilities
- Bipolar disorder
- Conduct disorder (in adolescents)
- Oppositional defiant disorder (in children)
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Substance abuse