Do you find it hard to pay attention? Do you feel the need to move constantly during times when you shouldn’t? Do you find yourself constantly interrupting others? If these issues are ongoing and you feel that they are negatively impacting your daily life, it could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active.
Because they are overactive and impulsive, children with ADHD often find it difficult to fit in at school. They may also have problems getting on with other children. These difficulties can continue as they grow up, particularly if children and families do not get the help they need.
Being impulsive means acting without thinking about the consequences. Children with ADHD may be impulsive in many ways, such as saying or doing the first thing that occurs to them. They are also easily distracted by irrelevant things.
Children with ADHD have a short attention span. They find it hard to concentrate and therefore hard to learn new skills, both academic and practical. Research from the USA suggests that 90% of children with ADHD underachieve at school and 20% have reading difficulties.
Signs of inattention:
• Becoming easily distracted and jumping from activity to activity
• Becoming bored with a task quickly
• Difficulty focusing attention or completing a single task or activity
• Trouble completing or turning in homework assignments
• Losing things such as school supplies or toys
• Not listening or paying attention when spoken to
• Daydreaming or wandering with lack of motivation
• Difficulty processing information quickly
• Struggling to follow directions
Signs of hyperactivity:
• Fidgeting and squirming, having trouble sitting still
• Non-stop talking
• touching or playing with everything
• Difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities
Signs of impulsivity:
• Acting without regard for consequences, blurting things out
• Difficulty taking turns, waiting or sharing
• Interrupting others
There are several factors believed to contribute to ADHD:
• Genetics. Research shows that a person’s genetics may cause a high risk of developing ADHD which often runs in families and some trends in specific brain areas that contribute to attention.
• Environmental factors. Studies show a link between a mother’s cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy and children who have ADHD. Exposure to lead as a child has also been shown to increase the likelihood of ADHD in children.
Do children grow out of ADHD?
Some children do appear to grow out of ADHD although others have problems that continue into adolescence and beyond. Approximately two out of five children with ADHD continue to have difficulties at age 18.
The main symptoms of ADHD, such as attention difficulties, may improve as children get older, but behavioral problems such as disobedience or aggression may become worse if children do not receive help. In particular, research has found that boys who are hyperactive and aggressive tend to become unpopular with other children.
Although there is no cure for ADHD, currently available treatments may help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. ADHD is commonly treated with medication, education or training, therapy, or a combination of treatments. Commonly prescribed medications include both stimulants and non-stimulants.
While stimulants are usually the first choice for treating ADHD, antidepressants might be something a doctor suggests especially if someone is living with ADHD in addition to depression. If effective, medications can improve attention span, the ability to deal with frustration and ultimately lead to better relationships with teachers, family members and peers.
Complementary Health Approaches
• Elimination diets are based on the theory that people are sensitive to sugar and artificially added colors, flavors and preservatives, and that eliminating these substances from the diet could improve learning and behavioral problems.
• Nutritional supplements, such as omega-3s, are thought to help the deficiency of fatty acids that are sometimes associated with ADHD.
• Neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) teaches individuals how to increase arousal levels in the frontal areas of the brain. This is because people living with ADHD show low levels of arousal in these areas, which results in an impaired ability to focus.