Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD is commonly thought only to be diagnosed when a child is very talkative or unable to control their excitement or body movements. However, a child with ADHD might also be prone to daydreaming, forgetting or losing items, making careless mistakes, or even taking unnecessary risks. ADHD may also manifest in a way that makes it difficult for a child to resist temptation or impact getting along with others.
The CDC notes a child that has ADHD may:
- daydream a lot instead of focusing
- forget or lose things frequently
- squirm or fidget uncontrollably
- talk too much at inappropriate times
- make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
- have a hard time resisting temptation when presented
- have trouble taking turns with other children
- have difficulty getting along with others in school or home life
Types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
There are three types of ADHD:
1. Predominantly Inattentive. Predominantly Inattentive ADHD is defined by a child having trouble organizing or staying on task. This also includes paying attention to detail or following instructions or conversations from parents, teachers, or other authority figures in their life. They are often easily distracted by seemingly minor interruptions, causing them to lose focus on more important activities like schoolwork.
2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD is identified by a child fidgeting and talking excessively. A child with this type of ADHD will also have a hard time sitting still and is constantly moving. This comes from a feeling of constant restlessness which contributes to struggles with impulsivity. They are also prone to interrupting others, grabbing things from people, speaking at inappropriate times, or exhibiting an inability to wait for their turn in group settings.
3. Combined Presentation. Combined Presentation ADHD is when a child shares the first two types of ADHD symptoms equally.
ADHD is roughly twice as common in males as females, but the ratios vary by type. ADHD symptoms also present differently based on the gender of the individual impacted. Males have a tendency to be on the hyperactive side, which makes symptoms very hard to miss.
Females, however, do not exhibit the same signs of hyperactivity as often as males do. Instead, they are more frequently impacted by the inability to focus, often trying to cover it up. Parents usually identify this issue when their daughter spends extra time on basic schoolwork assignments or makes excuses to avoid school altogether.
Adults with ADHD
How ADHD Is Diagnosed & Treated
Diagnosing a child with ADHD takes several steps. There is no single test for the condition, and other developmental, medical, and mental health issues have similar symptoms. For example, if a child struggles to see or hear, it may cause problems focusing in school. Diagnosing ADHD usually includes rating ADHD symptoms and taking a history of the child from parents, teachers, and in some cases, the child.
Symptoms must be present for more than six months before age 12 to diagnose ADHD. In addition, they must be more pronounced than expected for the child’s developmental level, occur in at least two settings (such as home and school), and interfere with normal day-to-day functioning.
In most cases, treating ADHD with behavior therapy and medication is the most effective plan. For preschool-aged children (4-5 years of age) with ADHD, helping parents learn how to modify their children’s behavior before prescribing medication is the preferred approach. Complete treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making adjustments, if needed, along the way.
Healthy Habits Impact ADHD
Current research shows that genetics play an essential role in understanding the cause(s) of ADHD, which is still largely unknown. Recent studies focus on the role of dopamine, norepinephrine, and, most recently, serotonin neurotransmitters. Other possible causes are brain injury/head trauma, exposure to environmental agents (such as lead) or alcohol/tobacco in utero, premature delivery, or low birth weight.
It is important to note that research does not support the outdated view that ADHD is caused by overeating sugar or watching too much television. Additionally, ADHD cannot be caused by parenting techniques or social and environmental factors such as socioeconomic class.
However, healthy lifestyle habits do help a child manage ADHD symptoms. Developing these habits at a young age may lower the impact of ADHD. These habits include a nutritious diet, 60 minutes of physical activity every day, limited screen time, and the recommended amount of sleep.