Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by a number of persistent problems such as hyperactivity, trouble paying attention, impulsive behavior, appearing to not be listening, and hyperactivity. Individuals who suffer from adult ADHD have problems developing stable relationships, difficulty performing well at work and at school; and generally suffer from low self-esteem.

Those who suffer from ADHD also have trouble maintaining focus, completing tasks, being organized, often talk, fidget, and tap in excess; act spontaneously without first thinking things through, suffer from severe restlessness and crave immediate satisfaction.

What are the Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty staying focused, inclination to make careless mistakes, regularly switching from one project to another, inability to complete or hand in homework assignments, forgetfulness and constantly losing things, easily bored, easily confused, daydreaming, problems following instructions, hard time understanding minute details, appear to not be paying attention when spoken to, problems processing information accurately and quickly, extreme difficulty with following directions, and tendency to move slowly.

A person with ADHD may squirm and fidget when sitting down and have problems engaging in quiet activities or play.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Causes

Scientists remain uncertain of the exact nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. However, there are certain causes of the disorder, as well as risk factors which determine one individual to be more susceptible to the condition than another. Like many other similar conditions, genes play a significant role in a child’s development of ADHD. Genetic research and various family studies have shown that a child is much more likely to develop ADHD if a close family member has it. Additionally, two dopamine genes, DAT1 and DRD4, have been connected to the development of ADHD.

Another proven cause of ADHD is exposure to toxic substances during pregnancy. A child is much more likely to develop ADHD if the mother is exposed to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and drugs during the pregnancy. Environmental toxins – such as large amounts of lead – can also be a cause of ADHD. Such vulnerability to environmental toxins and pollutants continues into early childhood; studies have shown that young children exposed to lead may develop ADHD later on in their lives. Even so, such exposure usually makes the most difference in a child which is predisposed or genetically susceptible to developing ADHD.

Less commonly, a brain injury may result in symptoms which are diagnosed as ADHD. These symptoms are not necessarily always ADHD, and this is not a frequent occurrence.

Other risk factors which have been less heavily studied include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Gender (most children with ADHD are males)

How is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Treated?

Treatment can involve environmental restructuring and behavioral therapy along with medication. The most effective treatment option, however, appears to involve giving the patient stimulants starting with small doses and increasing the dose until significant progress is noted.

In children, behavior treatment is the first form of therapy which has to be attempted before prescribing medications.  Early diagnosis and treatment are essential and therefore, physicians are recommended to evaluate preschool-aged children who present symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity for ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Prevention

Because the greatest cause of ADHD is hereditary, prevention of the disorder isn’t always possible. However, there are certain ways to decrease a child’s likelihood – even a child that is genetically susceptible – of developing ADHD. A healthy pregnancy – refraining from exposure to nicotine, drugs, or alcohol – can greatly help to prevent any chances of a child developing ADHD. Additionally, there are many methods of preventing symptoms and signs of ADHD. Although a poor diet and a dysfunctional, chaotic family environment are not direct causes of ADHD, they do serve to exacerbate symptoms of the disorder in children.

If and when possible, make sure that your child eats a balanced diet, free of sugar and caffeine. Try to maintain a relatively calm and emotionally stable home life. Limit screen time and encourage children with ADHD to engage in physical, kinesthetic activities which can help them alleviate nervous energy. These tactics can be useful in not only mitigating the symptoms of ADHD, but the presence of other disorders – like anxiety – which tend to be co-morbid with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
June 13, 2018
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