References to ADD-type symptoms have been found in the medical literature for almost 100 years. In fact, this syndrome is one of the most widely researched of all childhood disorders. Scientific experts have long understood ADD as a disability that can and does cause serious lifelong problems, particularly when nothing is done to manage the difficulties associated with the disorder.
ADD is officially called Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), although most lay people, and even some professionals, still call it ADD (the name given in 1980). Of all children referred to mental health professionals about 35% are referred for ADHD, more than for any other condition. Those with ADHD often have problems in most areas of their life, including home, school, work, and in relationships. It is a condition in which a person has trouble paying attention and focusing on tasks. It may begin in early childhood and can continue into adulthood. Without treatment, ADHD can cause problems at home, school, work, and with relationships.
What Causes ADHD?
ADHD is a neurobiologically-based developmental disability estimated to affect between 3-5 percent of the school age population (Professional Group for Attention and Related Disorders, 1991). No one knows exactly what causes ADHD. Scientific evidence suggests that the disorder is genetically transmitted in many cases and results from a chemical imbalance or deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help the brain regulate behavior. In addition, a landmark study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that the rate at which the brain uses glucose, its main energy source, is lower in subjects with ADHD than in subjects without ADHD (Zametkin et al., 1990).
Even though the exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, we do know that ADHD is a neurologically-based medical problem. Parents and teachers do not cause ADHD. Still, there are many things that both can do to help a child manage his or her ADHD-related difficulties. Before we look at what needs to be done, however, let us look at what ADHD is and how it is diagnosed.
What is Happening in the Brain of a Person with ADHD?
The most recent models describing what is happening neurologically in the brains of people with ADHD suggest that several areas of the brain may be affected by the disorder.
- Frontal Lobes
- Inhibitory Mechanisms
of the Cortex
- Limbic System
- Reticular Activating System
Each of these areas of the brain is associated with various functions of the brain.
The shown graphic is a sample Q-EEGs of two Attention Deficit Disorder children compared to two non- ADD ADHD children.
The Attention Deficit Disorder children show excessive slow brainwave activity (theta and alpha ranges) compared to non- ADD ADHD activity. The slow brainwave activity indicates a lack of control in the cortex of the brain. Medications, EEG Biofeedback training, Attend Nutraceuticals, and some other interventions, seem to change this and normalize, at least temporarily.
What Are The Symptoms?
The three types of ADHD symptoms are:
- Short Attention - People with ADHD are easily distracted and have a hard time focusing on any one task, especially if they are not very interesting tasks.
- Hyperactivity - Children with ADHD may squirm, fidget, or run around at the wrong times. Teens and adults often feel restless and fidgety and are not able to enjoy reading or other quiet activities.
- Easily Bored - Unless the task is very stimulating, like a video game or TV program or outside playing, those with attention disorders are often easily bored by a task - especially bored by homework, math tests, balancing checkbooks, or doing taxes, and many of these tasks just never get done.
- Impulsivity - People with ADHD may talk too loud, laugh too loud, or become angrier than the situation calls for. Children may not be able to wait for their turn or to share. The condition will cause a lack of self-control. Impulsive behaviors, or choices, can cause havoc in relationships, work, school, or life.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
ADHD is often diagnosed when a child is between 6 and 12 years old. Teachers may notice symptoms in children in this age group. It is most commonly diagnosed in kids but can remain undiagnosed until adolescence, and even adulthood.
First, the child will have a physical exam to make sure that he or she does not have other problems such as learning disabilities, depression, or anxiety disorder. The doctor will use guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose ADHD. The doctor may also look at written reports about the child’s behavior. Parents, teachers, and others who have regular contact with the child prepare these reports.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder lag three years behind their peers when it comes to brain development, a new study suggests in 2007. The study is the first to quantify the differences in brain development between children with ADHD and their non-ADHD counterparts reports the National Institute of Mental Health.
How Is It Treated?
There is no cure for ADHD, but treatment may help control the symptoms. Doctors may use medicines in children. Parents and other adults need to closely watch children after they begin to take medicines for ADHD. The medicines may cause side effects such as loss of appetite, headaches or stomachaches, tics or twitches, and problems sleeping. Side effects usually get better after a few weeks. If they don't, the doctor can lower the dose.
Therapy focuses on changing certain thoughts and actions. Often, counseling and extra support at home and at school help children find success at school and feel better about themselves.
How Does ADHD Affect Adults?
Many adults don't realize that they have ADHD until their children are diagnosed. Then they begin to notice their own symptoms. Adults with ADHD may find it hard to focus, organize, and finish tasks. They often forget things. But they also often are very creative and curious. They love to ask questions and keep learning. Some adults with ADHD learn to manage their lives and find careers that let them use those strengths.
But many adults have trouble at home and work. As a group, adults with ADHD have higher divorce rates. They also are more likely to smoke and have more substance abuse problems than adults without ADHD. Fewer adults with ADHD enter college, and fewer graduate. Treatment with medicine, counseling, and behavior therapy can help adults with ADHD.
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