What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder diagnosed in roughly 10 percent of school-aged children and adolescents. There are three main subgroups of ADHD:

Predominantly inattentive ADHD: inattention is the main characteristic, daydreaming is common
Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive ADHD: hyperactivity and impulsiveness predominate
Combined ADHD: all three behaviors (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness) are present.

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?
Each person varies in the severity and frequency of their symptoms. Originally it was thought that ADHD was more common in boys; however, experts believe girls are more likely to present with inattentive characteristics and are more likely overlooked. ADHD occurs across all races and socioeconomic groups.

Symptoms can be grouped depending on the predominant behavior.

Examples of inattentive behavior include:

Being easily distracted
Daydreaming
Disorganization
Making silly mistakes
Often late
Short attention span.

Examples of hyperactive behavior include:

Constantly moving
Fidgeting
High energy levels
Restlessness
Trouble sitting still
Trouble switching off/sleeping.

Examples of impulsive behavior include:

Acting without thinking
Blurting out answers/secrets
Interrupting
Prone to accidents.

Other symptoms that are common to people with ADHD include:

Creativity
High Intelligence
Delayed social maturity
Enthusiasm
Sensitivity.

What Causes ADHD?
The causes of ADHD are not fully known, but research is actively ongoing. There does appear to be a link between a family history of ADHD (genetics) with over 25% of relatives of families with a child with ADHD who also had the condition. There is also an 82% chance that identical twins will both have ADHD if at least one of them has the condition compared to a 38% chance among fraternal twins.

Other factors that have been identified as possibly contributing to ADHD include:

Brain injury from a traumatic event (eg, stroke, head trauma, tumor)
Exposure to lead after birth
Low birth weight
Fetal exposure to alcohol or cigarette smoke
Herbicides
Pesticides.

There is no evidence that poor parenting, certain foods, sugar, or vaccinations cause ADHD.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
If your child has symptoms suggestive of ADHD then talk with your doctor or pediatrician. They will talk with you, your child, and possibly your child’s school and ask questions that focus on:

Ability to control emotions
Attentiveness
Focus
Home and school relationships
Hyperactivity.

They will ask if your family has any other family members with ADHD. Most cases of ADHD are diagnosed at age 7 or 8, but symptoms may begin sooner. ADHD usually still persists into adulthood; however, some people have learned how to manage their symptoms better so it may not be as noticeable.
How is ADHD Treated?
Behavioral education should be considered as first-line treatment for any case of ADHD, particularly in children aged less than 6 years of age, with mild symptoms, or if the family prefers this option over drug therapy.

Pharmacological treatments for ADHD include:

Atomoxetine
Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts
Methylphenidate
Other treatments, such as clonidine or guanfacine.