Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that can affect children and adults, making it difficult for them to sit still and pay attention for longer periods of time. The condition is also associated with compulsive behavior. This can create a lot of problems for those who are going to school, as well as in the work field. For this reason, it is important for parents to learn how to identify potential ADHD in their children, as well as how to tell if they may suffer from the condition themselves. Once it is identified and treated, individuals are able to function in normal situations without much difficulty.
What Is ADHD?
In general, this condition is a neurobiological disorder that impacts the brain. Most people who have this condition have difficulty paying attention, particularly over longer periods of time, inappropriate impulsive behavior and hyperactivity, or an inability to sit still for any period of time. While many people suspect their child may suffer from this condition if they exhibit some of the symptoms, most children are simply acting like normal children. In fact, according to the CDC, only about 11 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD. Talking to your doctor about your concerns can help you determine if your child may have this condition or whether the behavior is normal.
Because this condition is life-long, it is important to seek treatment as early as possible. When left untreated and undiagnosed, it can post serious risks to adults. In fact, ADHD in adults may lead to difficulty acquiring a degree to further their career or even hold down a job because of a lack of interest or inappropriate behaviors. For this reason, it is necessary to pay attention and get evaluated as soon as possible.
What Are the Causes?
When talking about ADHD, many people first want to know what can cause this condition. In many cases, there is nothing a parent has or has not done that can give their child this issue. Studies have revealed several potential causes for this condition. Some of these causes include:
- Genetics — Scientists are currently trying to identify the genes that can cause a child to suffer from ADHD, but they have found proof that the condition runs in families, making a genetic cause possible. Once they are able to isolate the genes, they may be able to create more effective treatments.
- Environmental Factors — While more testing is necessary, studies have revealed potential links between this condition and exposure to smoke and alcohol during pregnancy. There have also been links between significant exposure to lead and the condition.
- Brain Injuries — Brain injuries aren’t incredibly common among children, but those who have suffered one were found to be more likely to develop ADHD.
- Sugar and Food Additives — Through various studies, scientists have come to the conclusion that the amount of sugar and other food additives children consume can be a contributing factor. In fact, for those who are diagnosed with this condition, eliminating sugar and certain food dyes from the diet can have a significant impact on the success of ADHD treatments.
While there is no way to determine exactly why one child develops ADHD and another doesn’t, understanding these potential causes can play a major role in its successful treatment. Doctors and scientists continue to conduct studies to help them identify causes and develop better treatments so people with this condition can continue to be contributing members of society.
Identify ADHD Symptoms
Because the symptoms of ADHD are so similar to normal behavior for children and even some adults, it can be difficult for parents to determine if their child has it. Therefore, it is important for parents to have an open and honest discussion with their pediatrician. This allows the doctor to look closely and determine whether further testing is necessary to make a final diagnosis.
There are actually three types of ADHD from which people can suffer. The symptoms of each type are different, helping doctors diagnose a patient with the proper type.
Inattentive ADHD primarily focuses on the inability to pay attention for longer periods of time. Some of the symptoms of this type include:
- Inability to pay attention, as well as making careless mistakes
- Difficulty participating in tasks and activities
- Trouble listening
- Lack of organizational skills
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty following instructions
- Likely to lose items
- Avoidance of tasks that require a lot of mental effort
Those who suffer from hyperactive, impulsive type of ADHD, the symptoms are likely to be different. These symptoms may include:
- Difficulty sitting still
- Fidgeting or squirming
- Always moving
- Talking too much
- Difficulty waiting in line
- Constant running and climbing
- Can’t play quietly
- Interrupting others
- Answering questions before hearing the whole question
The third type consists of a combination of symptoms from the first two types. These children often have more difficulty than those who suffer from just one type. Unfortunately, many children who have ADHD are labeled as “bad kids” and have difficulty getting the help they need. This is why it is so important to identify the type in order to determine the best treatment options.
Here is an infographic presented by Nebahealth to illustrate all information about ADHD:
Getting the Diagnosis
If you suspect your child is suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it is important to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. They will be able to guide you through the process and let you know which types of testing are necessary to make the diagnosis. There are no set tests to determine if a child has ADHD. Instead, the doctor will likely compare your child’s behavior to a list of symptoms to determine the type and whether intervention is necessary. Some of the criteria your doctor will look for include:
- Your child must exhibit symptoms from one of the three ADHD types before the age of seven.
- These behaviors must be worse than the average child of the same age.
- The behaviors must last for at least six months.
- The behaviors must negatively impact at least two areas of your child’s life (typically school is one of them).
When checking behaviors against this criteria, the pediatrician is likely to ask a number of other questions to determine if there are other stresses that may contribute to these behaviors. For instance, if you have recently gotten divorced, your child may go through these behaviors as a natural part of the adjustment process.
Your doctor should also look for other conditions that could contribute to the behaviors. Some other conditions can mask themselves as ADHD, making it important to make sure there aren’t any other conditions that should be treated instead. Some of these conditions may even be present together with attention deficit disorder. Some of these include:
- Learning Disabilities — Sometimes your child is simply having trouble learning, which can make him or her seem inattentive.
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder — This disorder can lead to rebellious, difficult behavior that can be mistaken for attention deficit disorder.
- Conduct Disorder — This type of disorder is more severe than ODD and can lead to serious behavior problems, such as bullying, fighting, destroying property and carrying weapons.
- Anxiety and Depression — These disorders can lead to behavioral problems.
- Bipolar Disorder — This disorder is characterized by severe mood swings.
- Tourette Syndrome — This condition is rare and consists of repetitive actions and various tics. However, it is important to rule it out with an ADHD diagnosis.
Once these conditions have been ruled out, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnosis is more likely. After the diagnosis, it is important to talk to your doctor about potential treatment options. There are many choices you have when it comes to helping your child deal with the condition so he or she can do better in school.
What Treatments Are Available?
Working closely with your child’s doctor becomes important once you receive the diagnosis. Failure to treat this condition may not be life-threatening, but it can have serious negative effects on your child for the rest of his or her life. It is important to start working on a treatment plan as soon as possible because adjustments may be necessary before you find the right plan.
Behavioral therapy is one of the most useful tools in helping your child learn to cope with these difficulties and overcome them so they can succeed in school and at work in the future. Make sure you find a counselor who specializes in children with this condition because different methods may be needed to have the best impact. As part of this therapy, your counselor may suggest:
- Creating a routine
- Helping your child get organized
- Avoiding distractions
- Changing the way you interact
- Using effective discipline techniques
- Limiting choices to prevent meltdowns
- Using rewards to motivate your child
Medication is another important element in treating the symptoms. ADHD medications can have serious side effects, which is why it is so important for children to be monitored closely, especially upon starting a new medication. There are several types of medications that are used to treat this condition, including:
- Stimulants — These medications are the most common types prescribed to individuals who are diagnosed with this condition. These medications may result in reduced appetite, insomnia and some other potentially long-term side effects.
- Nonstimulants — Sometimes a stimulant isn’t enough to provide all the assistance a child needs to overcome symptoms. In these situations, a nonstimulant may be used in combination with a stimulant.
- Antidepressants — If your child suffers from depression, anxiety or another mental disorder at the same time as ADHD, an antidepressant may also be used to treat the child.
When your child is placed on medication, he or she is likely to be seen by a child psychiatrist as well for medication management. It is necessary to make sure your child keeps all these appointments for the best possible results in his or her treatment plan.
Alternative treatments may also be used to help your child cope with the symptoms. Special education options, such as occupational therapy and tutoring, may help your child do better in school and other areas of life. Vitamins, chiropractic treatments, dietary changes and other alternatives may also be used. Some parents attend training to assist them in helping their children. These options are typically preferred by those who don’t like to give their children medications that can have serious long-term effects.
ADHD often comes with a negative stigma many people have difficulty overcoming. This often leads parents to shy away from the diagnosis for fear of branding their child for life. Once people learn more about these misconceptions, they can better understand the condition and the people who suffer from them. Some of these myths include:
- The condition is not a real problem — The fact is, it is a mental disorder that require help.
- It only affects children — Adult ADHD is just as much of a problem as it is for children.
- Stimulant medications lead to addiction — There is no proof taking stimulant medications leads to addiction.
- The condition simply means someone doesn’t want to concentrate — The changes in the brain often mean individuals just can’t concentrate.
- Patients need to try harder — ADHD isn’t overcome by trying harder. It requires proper treatment.
In addition to helping parents understand these misconceptions to ensure they can help their children, it is also important to work with teachers to help them understand. This can give the child the assistance he or she needs to be successful.
People who suffer from ADHD face many challenges in their lives. Because of their symptoms, going to school and work can be particularly difficult. This is why it is so important for parents to learn more about the condition and its signs so they can identify the problem early. The earlier children receive help, the more successful they can be in their lives. However, it is also important to understand that some adults also suffer from the condition so everyone can get the right treatment.