WHAT IS ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a neurological condition that involves inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsivity, or a combination of all. The type of ADHD where one primarily has difficulty focusing and being attentive, rather than the hyperactivity and impulsivity, is called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). ADD is one of the most common disorders in children, which can continue into adolescence and adulthood.1
Recent studies have shown an increase in the prevalence of ADHD over the past decade. It is estimated that 10 percent of children between ages of 4 and 17 are reported by their parents as being diagnosed with ADHD (2,3,4).
Persons with ADHD are hyperactive and struggle with impatience. They are always on the go, seem to be full of energy, and struggle to wait. They have difficulties concentrating on their work in school and even at home.5 They act before they think things through. They don’t consider the consequences of their actions, which for many gets them into trouble. Due to their difficulty with inattention, they often miss what people are saying to them. Their mind easily slips out of focus; they are distracted, and this leads to them to be inconsistent or struggle to follow through with tasks. These are some of the reasons why so many with ADHD have low grades in school or poor performance at work.
Their actions are dependent on what their brain may pick up. In many cases, someone may be talking to them but their brain is pulled to some other distraction, and they miss what was said to them. Often, there may be a task that one day they just can’t complete but given to them the next day they can complete it just fine. In some cases, persons with ADHD are restless, always talking and acting on impulse. Not all persons with ADHD have all these symptoms as the degree and intensity of problematic behaviors vary from person to person. These actions are unintentional and often feel out of the individual’s control. It can feel quite frustrating for these individuals.
Persons with ADHD tend to be able to concentrate if it is something that is of great interest or is highly stimulating to them. This ability to focus in particular situations can often send the wrong message to untrained observers. Naturally, observers may feel that if they can focus on the things they enjoy and they can hold their attention, then they should be able to focus on tasks at work or school. That for many with ADHD is not the case. The various ways that ADHD can manifest in an individual can be confused with the natural process of growing up, making it difficult even for mental health professionals to identify ADHD accurately without careful observation and testing.
WHAT has CAUSES ADHD?
Several myths surround what causes ADHD. Many of these myths can lead to confusion, blame, and shame for individuals and their families. Some of the myths are that ADHD is caused by poor parenting, too much sugar, or vaccines. None of which are true. When it comes to determining and identifying the exact causes of ADHD in children, more research is needed. At this point, the cause and origin of ADHD are just as baffling to medical professionals as it is for everyone else.
ADHD is believed to have biological roots that aren’t clearly understood yet as no single cause has been identified. Researchers are continuing to explore possible genetic and environmental links. From recent studies, it was known that many children with ADHD have a close relative who also has the disorder validating the genetic factor. Twin studies have shown that ADHD is highly heritable, but genetic studies have not been conclusive so far (7). Problems with the central nervous system during significant moments in development, as well as, certain environmental factors can also increase risk. Research on brain imaging studies has demonstrated that the brain maturity of kids who have ADHD are almost three years delayed compared to their peers. The delay was most prominent in prefrontal regions necessary for control of cognitive processes including attention and motor planning (6).
Studies also demonstrated that cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy can also be a factor for the offspring to acquire ADHD. As a precaution, it is best for expectant mothers to refrain from consuming cigarettes and alcohol during pregnancy(8). Another environmental factor that may cause ADHD is the presence of high levels of lead in the bodies of children. Hong and colleagues demonstrated that environmental lead exposure was selectively associated with impulsivity among the clinical features of ADHD in South Korean school-aged children (9).
WHY DO WE NEED TO TREAT ADHD?
Children or adults with untreated ADHD can have serious difficulties in managing everyday life situations. Children with ADHD have difficulties in their academic, social, interpersonal, and family lives. Children with untreated ADHD have more emergency room visits and are more likely to have self-inflicted injuries than those treated for the disorder. Without appropriate treatment teenagers with ADHD are more apt to engage in risky behaviors, including drinking, using drugs, and reckless driving. People with untreated ADHD have twice as many motor vehicle accidents as those with treated ADHD (10). Treatment is available and significant for those managing ADHD. It can help improve the management of day to day living, as well as provide children and adults with strategies to overcome barriers and enable them to live normal and healthy lives.