ADHD is a biological disorder of the chemicals in the brain. People with ADHD have trouble paying attention, sitting still, or controlling their behavior. Everyone has some symptoms in common with ADHD, especially children. The difference with ADHD is that it’s a chronic (long lasting) condition that interferes with daily life. For example, children with ADHD often have trouble at school and with social relationships. As a result, a child may feel anxious, unsure of themselves, and depressed.
ADHD is a serious condition and affects up to 1 in 10 school children in Utah. Right now, there’s no cure for ADHD. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Most people with ADHD need treatment to succeed in daily life, enjoy better relationships and improve self-esteem.
There are many theories but scientists don’t know what causes ADHD. It’s important for parents to know that ADHD is NOT caused by child-rearing methods or the family environment. They do know that it runs in families. Many patients with ADHD have a relative with the disorder. ADHD can also be seen in patients who have had brain injuries or other kinds of harm to the brain.
ADHD symptoms are patterns of behavior that fall into 3 types of symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Children with inattention symptoms consistently have trouble paying attention. They are often distracted, and make mistakes. They have trouble focusing and organizing and have difficulty following through with tasks. They often forget and lose things.
Children who are hyperactive and impulsive are too active (hyperactive) and tend to act without thought or control (impulsive). They may fidget or squirm and seem or feel restless much of the time. A child may run about, climb too much, and seem “driven by a motor”. They may have trouble being quiet, interrupt others, and may blurt out answers before hearing the whole question. They may have trouble taking turns or waiting in line.
Most children have all of the symptoms above . Children with this type of ADHD show all the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. This type is the most common.
How is ADHD diagnosed?
There’s no blood test or body scan to find out if you have ADHD. Doctors diagnose ADHD by gathering different kinds of information and comparing it to an accepted medical definition. There are several tools used to diagnose ADHD. A medical history and physical exam will help rule out other medical problems. A questionnaire (form) is used to check for ADHD and other mental health problems. The questionnaires ask about symptoms in different settings. They also ask about stress levels and coping styles.
A doctor can diagnose ADHD if the following are true:
- The behaviors are not age-appropriate
- The symptoms generally were recognized by age 7
- The symptoms interfere with performance in two or more settings; for example, at school, home, work, or in personal relationships
- The symptoms have lasted more than 6 months
How is ADHD treated?
Studies show that ADHD is best treated with strategies that aim at reducing symptoms and helping the person with ADHD succeed in various settings and personal relationships. A primary care physician, behavior health specialist, school specialists, or occupational therapist may provide your child, you and your child’s teacher’s strategies to reduce symptoms.