Attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause serious disruptions in people’s daily lives. Children are most often affected, with estimates that some form of ADD or ADHD affects millions of school children, keeping them from learning as effectively as they could. Here you’ll find the necessary information to understand and cope with the affects of ADD or ADHD.
What Is It?
ADHD is one of the most common childhood developmental disorders, and the affects can continue into adulthood. ADD and ADHD are essentially the same condition, although ADD doesn’t have the hyperactive component that ADHD does.
There are three subtypes of ADD/ADHD:
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulse
- Predominantly inattentive
- Combination hyperactive-impulse and inattentive
People with ADD or ADHD can have problems controlling their behavior and paying attention, leading to problems at school, home and work.
There are a few key symptoms of ADD or ADHD and while most children experience these symptoms, those with the disorder experience them with much more severity and for a much longer period of time. Children must exhibit these symptoms for six months or more to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD:
- Easily distracted
- Problems concentrating
- Easily bored
- Has trouble completing school work or other tasks on time
- Loses items frequently
- Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to
- Daydreams frequently
- Very impatient
- Interrupts others when speaking
- Difficulty in waiting
- Shows emotion without restraint
Hyperactivity (this is not present in the case of ADD)L
- Fidget or squirms in their seat
- Talks constantly
- Constantly in motion
- Plays with anything in their sight
Causes and Risk Factors
No one really knows what causes ADD or ADHD. It is thought that it is caused by a confluence of factors.
- Genetics and brain structure play a role in the development of ADD and ADHD. Research has found that there is a difference in the thickness of the walls of the brain in the area that scientists believe causes ADD or ADHD. The walls of the brain in that area are thinner in children with ADD or ADHD. However researchers have also found that the thickness reaches normal levels by adulthood and that ADD or ADHD symptoms resolve themselves in those patients. Brain injuries could also play a role as well.
- Environmental factors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy as well as lead exposure could also play a role in the development of ADD and ADHD, though more research is needed to pinpoint this exactly.
- Food additives like artificial colors and preservatives could play a role, but research is needed to confirm this.
- One theory is that sugar plays a role in increasing hyperactivity in children, but research has proven that this is not the case.
- Those whose parents exhibit some ADD or ADHD behaviors are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition themselves.
Diagnosis is done by a specialized health care provider. Rather than being diagnosed in a single visit as most medical conditions are, diagnosis of ADD or ADHD takes several visits and the doctor will collect information about the child’s symptoms, environment, and behavior at home and school. The doctor will then interact with the child and the family to determine if family dynamics plays a role in the problems the child is having. Children are typically diagnosed between 3 and 6 years old, though it isn’t uncommon for the child’s teacher to notice some of the first signs of a problem.
Treatment for ADD and ADHD are the same. It typically involves stimulant medications that are marketed under a variety of brand names. These medications typically work well and give the child the ability focus more on the tasks at hand. Medications come in several different forms to make it easier for the child to take. They come in pill form as well as in liquid form and skin patches.
However, there are some drawbacks to stimulants that parents need to be aware of. Stimulant medications can be very habit forming and are often sold as street drugs by teenage patients. There is a withdrawal period as well when the medication wears off and children can experience symptoms such as headaches, weight loss and problems sleeping. Because of this doctors will typically put children on the lowest dose of medication possible and usually only for school hours to prevent the child from becoming dependent upon the medication.
ADD and ADHD is not the end of the world and in fact many children outgrow the condition as they get older. Though some don’t and the condition sticks with them into adulthood. But with proper treatment to manage the symptoms people can go on to live normal, fulfilling, successful lives.