What is attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder?

Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) happens when people can't control behaviors. They have trouble focusing on a task. This condition can cause behaviors that impact everyday life, especially at school and work. This is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in children. Adults with ADHD may have difficulty in their relationships. They can be likely to develop substance abuse addiction. The disease cannot be prevented or cured.

Causes of ADHD

Researchers don't know the exact causes of ADHD. But, certain things can play a role in whether someone gets it. The disorder does tend to run in families. It's also more likely in children whose mothers had poor nutrition and infections during pregnancy. Factors that contribute to ADHD include:

  • Genetics
  • Brain injury or disorder
  • Gender (boys are more likely to develop ADHD than girls)

Risk factors for ADHD

Smoking, drinking or using drugs while pregnant increases a mother's risk of having a child who develops ADHD. Some mothers are exposed to lead during pregnancy. This, too, is a risk factor for ADHD. Imbalanced brain chemistry, or damage to the frontal lobe, is also associated with the condition. Sugar, food allergies or a troubled home life don't cause ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD

Trouble paying attention is the main symptom. It happens along with hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. This means that people with this condition have trouble holding conversations. They might not follow through on assigned tasks. They're often distracted and have trouble organizing.

Other symptoms include:

  • Nonstop talking
  • Easily distracted
  • Frequent fidgeting in their seat
  • Forgetful and often losing things
  • Running around when inappropriate

Diagnosis of ADHD

To diagnose the condition, a child should meet with a pediatrician or psychologist who has expertise in this condition. The symptoms must be chronic. That means they last for more than a short time. The symptoms should also impact the person's ability to do things that are normal for their age group. Most diagnoses happen during elementary school years. The diagnosis requires that symptoms show before age 12. Doctors also do a physical exam. This helps them make sure the symptoms aren't happening because of another medical condition.

Treatments for ADHD

There's no cure for ADHD. Treatment is designed to reduce the symptoms. It can make it easier for someone to function normally in everyday life. Kids with ADHD benefit when their parents receive education and skills. These help parents understand ADHD behaviors. Parents can also learn new stress-management techniques. They can calmly help their children.

Medication is one of the most common ways to treat ADHD. Some medicines stimulate brain chemicals. These chemicals encourage thinking and attention. Other medicines can help calm people down. Sometimes a mix of the different medications works best.

Behavioral therapy is a common addition to medication treatment. Kids and adults can meet with therapists. These professionals teach new ways to respond to behaviors. Support groups can also help parents or partners of people with ADHD. You're able to work through challenges, talk with experts and create new strategies to help your loved one during treatment.

It can be overwhelming to parent children and teens with ADHD. Treating the symptoms of the child or young adult is just as important as strengthening parenting skills. This can reduce the amount of stress your family may feel.

Recovery from ADHD

Medication, therapy and education can all help manage ADHD. Change can take time and dedication. Parents can create routines and schedules. These help kids stay on track. Use organizers for school and home items. Set and enforce clear and consistent rules. This can make each day smoother.

Adults may need to work for an extended time with a counselor or a therapist to address long-standing patterns of behavior. They can learn tools and routines to have success in their lives, too.