Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common mental health problem in children. Children with ADHD often have problems paying attention, are unable to sit still, and do things without thinking first. You may also hear it called attention deficit disorder (ADD).
The disorder begins in the preschool years and may last into adulthood. About half of children with ADHD also have learning problems such as a reading disability. About half of ADHD children and teenagers have behavior problems. This may include breaking rules, talking back, and hitting other children.
ADHD is more common in boys than girls. Girls are more likely to have trouble paying attention. Boys are more likely to be hyperactive.
The exact cause of ADHD is not known. ADHD seems to run in families. If a parent, uncle, or grandparent has ADHD, other family members may also develop it. People with ADHD have several small differences in the brain. These differences are in the front part of the brain (an area involved in self-control) and in some parts in the center of the brain.
Much research has looked at whether ADHD is caused by sugar or things added to foods such as preservatives and coloring. The evidence has not connected these with ADHD. Allergies are not a common factor in causing ADHD either.
The symptoms of ADHD, especially hyperactivity, usually appear by age 2 or 3 and by first grade at the latest. There are 3 main symptoms of ADHD: being easily distracted, being impulsive, and being hyperactive.
Children and teens with ADHD:
There are 3 forms of ADHD:
Your healthcare provider will ask about the symptoms and will observe your child's behavior for signs of ADHD. Parents and teachers may be asked questions about ADHD symptoms. Your child may need to see a mental health professional for tests of attention and self-control. There are no useful physical tests such as blood tests or brain scans for diagnosing ADHD.
To diagnose ADHD, it must be clear that the symptoms persist and interfere in a major way with daily life.
The treatment of ADHD may involve 3 types of treatment:
Claims have been made that certain herbal and dietary products help control ADHD symptoms. Omega fatty acid supplements and certain vitamins and minerals may help symptoms of ADHD. No herb or dietary supplement has been proven to consistently or completely relieve symptoms of ADHD. Supplements are not tested or standardized and may vary in strength and effects. They may have side effects and are not always safe.
Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and psychotherapy.
About half of people with ADHD seem to "grow out of it" by their early twenties. The other half show a slight change or no change in symptoms as they grow into adulthood. Being more patient and better able to sit still are the most common improvements between late childhood and young adulthood.
There are many ways to help manage ADHD:
For more information, contact:
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
8181 Professional Place, Suite 150,
Landover, MD 20785
Telephone: (800) 233-4050
Web site: http://www.chadd.org/