What is ADD/ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common disorder of children, affecting approximately 2-16% of them at school age. ADHD is diagnosed more often in boys than girls, though some studies show this might be due to a bias in those reporting the appearance of symptoms.

Children and teens with ADHD, especially when untreated, are more likely to take risks, fail in school, and have difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Teens with ADHD are up to four times a likely to be involved in a driving accident, and get three times as many speeding tickets. Despite controversy in the media about ADHD in children, the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, National Institute of Mental Health, and many practicing psychiatrists, verify that ADHD is a very real and potentially life-disrupting disorder.

Children with untreated ADHD are more likely to be obese, smoke, suffer from major depression, and attempt suicide than the general population. If your child has symptoms suggesting ADHD the best way to proceed would be to ask for a psychiatric consult.

Causes of ADHD

There is no single cause of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, though there are many possible causes that have been shown to increase the likelihood that symptoms will arise. Several environmental and lifestyle factors are linked to ADHD, such as smoking during pregnancy, an imbalanced diet, or exposure to lead. Food additives, such as artificial coloring and preservatives have also shown a link to ADHD. Sugar, particularly refined sugar, is a popular belief concerning worsening of ADHD symptoms. Recent research shows that ADHD may also be genetic.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

Many children can be difficult to handle, easily excitable, or inattentive in school. However, there is a specific set of ADHD symptoms that a child must display before a diagnosis can be made. These symptoms must be present for six months or more, to a higher degree than other children around the same age. Additionally, these symptoms must be observed in two or more settings. A child who is hyperactive in the classroom, but nowhere else, likely does not have ADHD.

There are three types of ADHD: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and combined. These subtypes are identified and diagnosed by the number of symptoms in each category.

The symptoms of hyperactivity include:
Continual fidgeting or squirming, difficulty sitting still
Talking excessively
Constantly in motion – playing, touching, or moving about the room
Difficulty doing quiet activities

Symptoms of impulsivity include:
Highly impatient
Acting without regard for consequences
Expressing high emotion without restraint
Continually interrupting conversations and others’ activities

Symptoms of inattentive ADHD include:
Easily distracted, difficulty focusing on one thing
Frequently forgetful of instructions and responsibilities
Daydreaming often
Not seeming to listen when spoken to
Avoids tasks that require extended mental effort, such as schoolwork
Often loses objects, such as toys, assignments, or tools
Slow to process information, easily confused

Children with inattentive-ADHD may be missed as having ADHD at all. They may sit quietly, but are often not paying attention to what they’re doing. Additionally, they have a tendency to get along better with other children as opposed to the other two subtypes, but still may develop the same learning disorders and risks later in life.

Another problem of ADHD is the possibility of comorbid, or co-existing, conditions. Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, depression, or anxiety disorders may be also present, or in fact responsible for the appearance of ADHD. Self diagnosis or self tests for ADHD may not account for these possibilities, so it is always better to see a psychiatrist for an accurate diagnosis of your child.

Treatment for ADHD

The main treatment component for diagnosed ADHD is medication. Medication, including, among others Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta may be accompanied by side effects, such as decreased appetite, sleep problems, development of tics, or personality changes. See a psychiatrist immediately if any of these side effects occur. Properly directed by a psychiatrist, ADHD medication may be the best option for your child, and should be part of an overall treatment plan.

Therapy for ADHD often includes behavioral therapy for both parents and the child. Frustration may have built up in the home prior to diagnosis, and your psychiatrist, by helping you overcome these feelings will help create a constructive, encouraging atmosphere in the home. Strategies for staying organized and creating an effective rewards system are also part of effective treatment of ADHD.

Untreated, childhood ADHD will likely produce a serious impairment in various life activities in adulthood. Unfortunately there is no cure for ADHD, but controlling the symptoms and creating coping mechanisms is feasible and prevents many of those potential problems. Your psychiatrist can discuss with you possible lifestyle changes, coping techniques and possible dietary interventions for better controlling your child’s ADHD.

If your child has ADHD, call Dr. Ghelber in Fort Worth, TX at 817-659-7344 to make an appointment today, and help your child overcome and succeed.

More information on ADHD:
National Institute of Medical Health
National Library of Medicine

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