What is ADHD? This behavioral disorder is common in children and in some adults.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common behavioral disorders in children. ADHD affects around 10% of children and about 4% of adults. Boys are more likely to suffer from ADHD than girls, but it can affect people of every age and socio-economic background.
Studies involving brain images show that in children with ADHD the brain matures in a normal way, but development is delayed about three years. The delayed development is most significant in areas involved in planning, paying attention and thinking.
In children with ADHD, the maturation of the cortex − the outermost layer of the brain— is also delayed. Studies reveal an abnormal growth pattern in the structure that’s important for communication between the two halves of the brain.
There are 3 types of ADHD
Based on a range of symptoms, the American Psychiatric Association defines three subcategories of ADHD:
- Predominantly inattentive – Children diagnosed as predominately inattentive display 6 or more symptoms in the inattention category and fewer than 6 hyperactivity symptoms. Children with this form of ADHD may display fewer behavioral problems and are likely to get along with other children without too much difficulty. However, they will find it hard to pay attention. For this reason, parents and teachers may not be aware that the child is suffering from ADHD.
- Predominantly hyperactive – In this case, 6 or more of the symptoms will be from the hyperactive category, with fewer than 6 from the inattentive category.
- Combined hyperactive and inattentive – This is the most common form of ADHD. Sufferers will exhibit 6 or more symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive categories.
What causes ADHD?
While the exact causes of ADHD are not known, scientists do know that genetic factors play a part, particularly the genes relating to neurotransmitters in the brain.
What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD?
It’s important to note that the signs and symptoms of ADHD vary. Symptoms depend on the age of the sufferer, how long the patient has had the disorder and the type of ADHD.
Inattention symptoms include:
- Frequently making mistakes
- Inability to stay on task
- Inability to pay attention to detail
- Difficulty listening
- Difficulty following directions
- Becoming easily distracted or forgetful
- Losing things such as books, pencils, etc.
- Reluctance to perform tasks that require effort
Hyperactivity symptoms include:
- Inability to remain seated
- Running around at inappropriate times
- Excessive talking
What is the treatment for children and adults with ADHD?
For children who have mild ADHD, environmental adjustments such as keeping to a regular routine, putting them in a smaller classroom and reducing stimulation can often help. For children with moderate to severe ADHD, most mental health professionals recommend parent-led behavioral therapy. Using strategic parenting techniques, parents can learn to modify their child’s negative behavior at home.
Mental health professionals are able to diagnosis ADHD in children as young as 5 years old. (Note that the most common medications prescribed for this disorder – Ritalin and Concerta – are not approved by the FDA for children under 6 years old.)
At HPA/LiveWell, we team with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is customized to the patient’s needs and directly addresses the severity of the symptoms.