Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a hereditary neurological disorder. It is common in children and the symptoms usually progresses into adulthood interfering with the normal functioning of an individual. The disease is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty in controlling behavior. The symptoms must be persistent for a period of six months for one to be declared to have ADHD. 9% of children between 13 and 18 years have ADHD in America, with 1.8% of these having severe symptoms. 4.1% of American adults have been diagnosed with ADHD, with 41.3% of the cases being severe. The disease incidence has been increasing in the United States, for example, there was a 22% increase of the cases between 2003 and 2007 (The National Institute of Mental Health, 2014).
ADHD has three subtypes, which are determined by the number of observable symptoms in the child. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is characterized by six or more symptoms mainly impulsiveness, inattention and hyperactivity. Children aged sixteen years and below fall in this category of ADHD. A child will be diagnosed with inattention if he or she presents six or more of the following symptoms. Being too talkative, impatience, interrupts others while talking, jumpy and always on the move, can hardly remain seated or calm, fidgets and squirms in the seat, and can hardly participate in leisure activities quietly. The other ADHD subtype is predominantly inattentive presentation, which is also characterized by six or more symptoms. Children with this type of ADHD may go unnoticed because they sit quietly without being so active; thus, their teachers or parents may not notice the problem promptly. Major symptoms include being forgetful in everyday activities, getting distracted easily, making careless mistakes, not paying close attention to many activities including school work, loss of focus, being disorganized, laziness, failure to follow instructions, and disinterest. Combined presentation is the other ADHD subtype, where an individual displays both symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity, and inattention. An individual must exhibit six or more of the symptoms in each category for over six months to be diagnosed with ADHD (Kinman, 2012).
What causes ADHD is unclear, but scientists believe that the disease is hereditary, and certain factors such as the environment, diet, brain injuries, and social environment also contribute to ADHD. Children with genes linked to attention in the brain often inherit them from their parents. The children often have thinner brain tissue than normal in the region, which is thought to cause ADHD. However, the situation is not permanent since the tissue increases in thickness as the child develops, and the ADHD symptoms seem to subside with age. Exposure to cigarettes and alcohol during pregnancy may cause the birth of children with ADHD. Additionally, exposure to lead from paint in ancient buildings and plumbing fixtures may also lead to ADHD. It is also thought that children who suffer brain injury when young often develop ADHD symptoms. Other beliefs about the cause of ADHD that have not been scientifically proven include consumption of sugar and sugary foods, food additives, and colorants. Further research is ongoing on the possible causes of ADHD. The areas of interest include the regions of the brain that control human behavior, planning, problem solving and restraining impulses. These activities are associated with the frontal lobes of the brain, into which researchers are investigating. An experiment carried out in 2002 showed that the brain of children with ADHD was smaller than that of healthy children. Brain experts discovered a distinct difference in the white matter of children with ADHD and not on any medication; their matter was smaller in volume that of the brain of healthy children. However, ADHD children who were on constant medication had the same volume of the brain as the unaffected children (Kinman, 2012).
Adults with ADHD often grow up with the symptoms from childhood, which may not have been detected in the early life. However, the symptoms greatly vary between adults and children because of the maturity levels. The symptoms are often discovered in relationships or at work where an individual behaves differently from the expectation. Some of the main ADHD symptoms observed in adults include frequent mood swings, disorganization, self-esteem problems, restlessness, boredom, impatience, worrying needlessly, and addiction tendencies among others.
Diagnosis often involves historical examination of the individual since there are no laboratory tests for the disorder. Physicians will often discuss the patient’s problems at length, and in the case of children, they talk to their parents. They will observe an individual’s behavior and inquire about similar behavior in the family history among other causes. Diagnosing the problem in children is easy at an early age because they display unusual behavior even before they start school. For example, a child may be disinterested to play with other children or watch TV, or may be jumpy and running around uncontrollably. Teachers or nannies often identify the problem in a child because they can tell when a child is not behaving in the typical behavior. Specialists will normally use the elimination method to diagnose an individual with ADHD. They will pay close attention to the child’s behavior in unstructured environments such as parties to determine if the child is unusually chaotic or stressed. The specialist then compiles the observed traits and talks to teachers for assessment. The teachers then fill out standard evaluation forms used to rate the child’s behavior. The specialists use the behavior rating scales to judge if the child’s behavior deviates from what is considered normal (The National Institute of Mental Health, 2014). Interviews are also conducted with the guardians and other adults who have adequate knowledge of the child to assess the child’s behavior in different settings. Other tests such as intelligence, learning achievement, mental health, and social judgment are also necessary for the diagnosis. The child can then be diagnosed with ADHD when more than six of the symptoms have been persistent for more than six months.
Licensed mental health professionals usually evaluate suspected individuals for ADHD. The specialist looks out for more symptoms in adults because they vary from that of children and may not be clear-cut. The specialist will examine the patient’s childhood history by interviewing the individual and close relatives and friends since the symptoms must have been present in childhood. Psychological and physical exams are also conducted to fully evaluate if the adult qualifies to be diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD diagnosis in adults is often relieving to most individuals because it enables them accept their condition and deal with their problems appropriately.
The treatment of ADHD focuses on relieving the symptoms and improving an individual’s functionality. Treatment methods include psychotherapy interventions, medications, education, and training. Stimulants are the most common medications prescribed for ADHD, which could be in the form of skin patches, pills, liquids, or capsules. The drugs have a calming effect on the children, improve learning, focusing, physical coordination, and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity. Specialists should be cautious with the medications because different children react differently to the medications. Behavioral therapy enables a child to improve their behavior and attitude towards certain activities. For example, it helps one to gain organizational skills, control anger, complete schoolwork, and critically think before acting (Grohol, 2014). The children also gain essential social skills, for example, how to be patient, share, respond to others, and ask for help when in need. Parents play a significant role in the therapy because they help the children cope with the condition, and teach them how to socially associate with other children. The treatment options in adults are similar to those of children with emphasis on learning to cope with the effects of the treatment and adjust their self-image (Grohol, 2014).
ADHD is a common neurological disorder in the United States that mainly affects children and symptoms could progress to adulthood. It is essential to conduct early diagnosis in order to determine severe symptoms in the child for effective treatment. The diagnostic technique of ADHD requires one to display at least six of the common symptoms in their life that have been persistent for about six months. Normal child development could be mistaken for ADHD; thus, the need to carefully observe the behavior for at least six months prior to diagnosing them with ADHD. Although ADHD has no cure, treatment options target reducing the disease symptoms and improving the lifestyle of the affected individual. ADHD patients on medication lead a quality life as compared to individuals not on medication. Thus, treatment helps improve the functioning and lifestyle of the affected people.
Grohol, J. M. (2014). Attention Deficit Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on 19 April 2014 from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/adhd/
Kinman, T. (2012). ADHD and ADD: Differences, types, symptoms, and severity. Health Line. Retrieved on 19 April 2014 from http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/difference-between-add-and-adhd#1
The National Institute of Mental Health. (2014). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Retrieved on 19 April 2014 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
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