What Is ADHD?
By Dr. Emily Kensington
As a doctor who treats Attention Deficit, I am often asked "What is ADHD?"
As the mother of a son with ADHD, I am very familiar, both personally and clinically, with the symptoms, testing, and various treatment options.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADD/ADHD, is the name of a group of behaviors found in millions (4% to 12%) of school-age children and 4.4% of US adults (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, 2006).
What is ADHD's affect on children and adults? Those suffering with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder often experience poor school and work performance, poor social relationships, run an increased risk of mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and generally suffer from overall negative health outcomes compared to the general population.
It is a chronic condition that often continues into adulthood.
ADHD symptoms are typically classified as inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, or combined.
ADHD Symptoms: Inattentive Type
Symptoms of inattention include difficulty following instructions, difficulty maintaining attention on work or play activities, and frequently losing things.
In addition, common traits of ADHD also include not paying attention to details, appearing not to listen, difficulty tasks that require planning ahead, forgetting things, and being easily distracted.
Additional symptoms of inattention include problems organizing tasks and activities, failing to finish schoolwork or chores, repeating reminding child of responsibilities, and avoiding tasks that require mental focus and mental effort.
ADHD Symptoms: Hyperactive Type
In perhaps what is ADHD's most defining symptom, symptoms of hyperactivity include fidgeting, squirming, running or climbing excessively or inappropriately, difficulty playing quietly, inability to remain seated, talking too much, always on the go, and displaying trouble waiting his or her turn.
Other symptoms include often leaving his or her seat in the classroom or in other situations when remaining seated is expected, constantly feeling restless, and talking excessively.
ADHD Symptoms: Impulsive Type
Impulsive symptoms include blurting out answers to questions, frequently has difficulty waiting for his or her turn, often interrupts or intrudes on others' conversations or games, and engaging in risky behavior.
Take this ADHD Diagnostic Test to see if you or a loved one is suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
ADHD In Boys Versus Girls
What is ADHD's prevalence in boys and girls? It affects boys at three times the rate of girls, but it may be underdiagnosed in girls.
Also, ADHD typically manifests differently in boys than girls. Boys are more likely to be hyperactive, whereas girls tend to be inattentive. Girls who have trouble paying attention often daydream, but inattentive boys are more likely to play or fiddle aimlessly. Boys tend to be less compliant with teachers and other adults, so their behavior is often more conspicuous (Johns Hopkins, 2006).
According to the Centers For Disease Control (2006):
-Parents report that children with a history of ADHD are almost 10 times as likely to have difficulties that interfere with friendships (20.6% vs. 2.0%).
-Children with ADHD were more likely to have major injuries, hospital inpatient visits, hospital outpatient visits, and emergency department admissions.
-Young people with high levels of attentional difficulties are at greater risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash, drinking and driving, and traffic violations.
-What is ADHD's overall cost to society? It is estimated to be between $36 and $52 billion, in 2005 dollars.
-What is ADHD's affect on work productivity? Across 10 countries, it was projected that ADHD was associated with 143.8 million lost days of productivity each year. Most of this loss can be attributed to ADHD and not co-occurring conditions.
What is ADHD's etiology? While the exact causes of ADHD remain a mystery, researchers have identified several factors that may play a role.
Studies show that ADHD tends to run in families. About one in four children with ADHD have at least one relative with the disorder (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007). In addition, recent studies of twins link genes with the onset of ADHD.
Maternal Exposure To Toxins: Smoking, Drug Use and Other Toxins
Pregnant women who smoke are at increased risk of having children with ADHD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008.)
In addition, alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy may reduce activity of the neurons that produce neurotransmitters. Pregnant women who are or were exposed to environmental poisons such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) may be more likely to have children with symptoms of ADHD. (PCBs are industrial chemicals that were widely used up until the 1970s.)
Childhood Exposure To Environmental Toxins
Preschool children exposed to environmental hazards and toxins are at increased risk of developmental and behavioral problems. Exposure to lead, which is found mainly in paint and pipes in older buildings, has been linked to disruptive behavior, violent behavior, and shortened attention spans.
In addition, exposure to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in infancy may also increase a child's risk of developing ADHD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008.)
What Does Not Cause ADHD
Research does not support popularly held myths that ADHD is caused by consuming too much sugar, watching too much television, poor parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family upheaval.
In my personal and clinical experience, the Total Focus Program is the most effective treatment for children. For adults, the Conquer ADD is the most comprehensive treatment program available.
Be sure to check out my review of all of the popular ADHD medications, ADHD diets, and ADD natural remedies.
Also, check out these helpful guides to learn how to calm hyperactive children and how to create a calm home for children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
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