Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) causes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, creating challenges in day-to-day function and development for patients that suffer from it. Science is gaining understanding about this condition. A new study discovered a link between heredity and pediatric ADHD, which could eventually lead to innovations in ADHD therapy.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a condition where symptoms cause patients to act without thinking, engage in excessive activity and struggle with focusing on details. Patients with ADHD have difficulties sitting still, waiting their turn, paying attention or concentrating on a task. A common brain disorder, ADHD affects as many as 10% of school-aged children. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than girls, with estimates at three times as likely.
While all children are guilty of this behavior at one time or another, it tends to occur in situations where they feel excited or nervous and over a short period in children without the condition. Children diagnosed with ADHD are symptomatic more of the time and in response to all types of situations.
Typical symptoms of ADHD include:
- Hyperactivity: The patient moves continuously, even in situations in which they should be still. It could also manifest as fidgeting, tapping or talking. Children with ADHD are often restless and wear out others with their constant action.
- Impulsive Behavior: Decisions are made quickly and without thinking, including decisions that could have dangerous or harmful consequences. Often impatient, patients and do not have the ability to participate in delayed gratification. They might also be socially awkward in that they intrude on other people’s lives and interrupt others frequently.
- Inability to Focus: Patients have difficulties staying on any one particular task. However, their behavior is not defiant nor is it due to a lack of understanding of what is expected of them. They also lack persistence and tend to be disorganized.
For a more detailed list of how these symptoms exhibit in affected patients, please read more at the National Institute of Mental Health on ADHD.
No one test can detect ADHD. To be diagnosed, the patient must undergo a thorough evaluation. Most children evaluated exhibit more severe symptoms than their peers, engage in behaviors lasting longer than six months, and suffer from the adverse effects of their behavior in school, at childcare or with friends. However, certain life events, such as moving, divorce or illness, can result in similar behavior. Children evaluated for ADHD are exhibiting symptoms independent of stresses at home.
The Achieve Wellness Group team can evaluate for ADHD. Contact us to learn more.
What Causes ADHD?
There is no clear-cut cause for ADHD, although researchers suspect biological and environmental links. However, science is closer to understanding connections between ADHD and heredity. A study from Norway published findings that ADHD might have a strong connection with maternal immune disease. From a large, population-based study of people born between 1967 and 2008, women with immune diseases or other inflammatory disorders appeared to have an elevated risk of having children with ADHD. The conditions showing a robust link include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, asthma, and hypothyroidism.
To read more about the particulars the study uncovered, please click here.
Treatment Options for ADHD
There is no cure for ADHD. However, you can do many things to manage the symptoms. Most therapies include medication and behavior therapy.
For medication, the patient’s doctor will prescribe drugs that could either be stimulants or nonstimulants.
Stimulants, while counterintuitive based on the hyperactivity symptom, are the most successful in treating ADHD. Experts assert that the stimulants help the brain produce two chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are relevant to cognitive processes and the patient’s ability to focus and finish tasks. The stimulants also tend to decrease symptoms of hyperactivity, interrupting, and fidgeting. Many patients taking stimulants also see improvement in their relationships. However, they can have side effects, such as headache, upset stomach, higher blood pressure, appetite and weight loss, nervousness, insomnia and tics.
Nonstimulants are another option for treating ADHD. While they take longer to help the patient’s problems with thinking and paying attention, they do not have as many side effects as stimulant medications do. Specifically, nonstimulants are not likely to cause agitation, insomnia, or loss of appetite. Typically, a doctor will prescribe nonstimulants to patients struggling with side effects from other drugs. The risk of abuse or addiction is less than with stimulants.
Other treatments for ADHD include Behavioral therapy. The goal of behavioral therapy is to change behavior, including teaching children how to organize tasks. Most importantly, it shows the patient how to monitor his or her conduct, as well as recognizing and rewarding good self-management techniques, such as controlling one’s temper or thinking before acting.
Experts also recommend that those close to the patient be mindful of the feedback they give. They should have clear rules, clear expectations and a lot of structure to help their children succeed in their efforts to manage symptoms. Also, when ADHD patients manage one of their behaviors, they should be praised.
Therapists will also often help with teaching essential social skills. These skills include taking turns, sharing, the appropriate way to ask for help, and how best to respond to teasing. In addition, the therapist might help teach other social skills like reading the tone and facial expressions of others and how to respond in an appropriate way.
In some cases, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) might be used. In this method, the counselor helps the patient be mindful. It will teach patients to be aware of their thinking patterns and the related emotions to improve their ability to focus and concentrate on tasks. The therapist will also help them learn to think before they act and how to resist the impulse to take an unnecessary risk. The advantage of CBT is that the patients can learn and practice new skills, and then apply them to situations in their lives to work toward success in school, work, and relationships.
For an excellent list of suggestions for managing children with ADHD, please read this list from KidsHealth.org.
Dr. Jeffrey Walden has over a decade of experience in neuropsychological assessment and treatment of adults and children. He has extensive experience in the evaluation and treatment of chronic and acute mental and behavioral health concerns. Dr. Walden provides neuropsychological assessment, psychological testing, and psychotherapeutic services at Achieve Wellness Group. He is presently accepting new patients.
“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” www.nimh.nih.gov. Web. 13 June 2016. <https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml>.
“Pediatric ADHD News: Maternal immune disease and ADHD.” www.medpagetoday.com. 2 June 2016. Web. 13 June 2016. < https://www.medpagetoday.com/resource-center/Pediatric-ADHD/News/a/56391?xid=NL_MPT_ADHD_2016-06-02&eun=g780967d0r.>