ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is one of the most common neurobiological conditions affecting children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD affects roughly 388,000 children aged 2–5 years; and 2.4 million children aged 6–11 years.
ADHD is also the most extensively researched pediatric mental health condition, yet there has been an enduring controversy regarding its diagnosis and treatment — feeding the general perception that ADHD is merely a socially constructed disorder.
Read on to get a better understanding of ADHD, particularly its symptoms, causes, and how it’s diagnosed and treated.
The Primary Characteristics of ADHD
Outlined below are the three main features of ADHD: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattentiveness. While these characteristics can be evident in many children, they are more pronounced in children with ADHD. Typically, most people with ADHD have a combination of the three traits, although hyperactivity is often the most noticeable one.
Hyperactivity refers to physical and mental restlessness. Children who show a pattern of hyperactivity tend to fidget, squirm, run around, talk too much, and have difficulty engaging in quiet activities.
Impulsivity is the inability to self-regulate thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can include acting and speaking without thinking, impatience, difficulty waiting for one’s turn, failing to consider consequences, blurting out answers, and interrupting others.
Inattention manifests as distractibility, disengagement, and forgetfulness, and thus, it is sometimes mistaken for a learning disorder. Children who exhibit pattern of inattention usually make careless mistakes, have difficulty organizing things, get easily distracted, and dislike activities that require ongoing mental effort.
Children with ADHD also often have difficulty getting along with their siblings or making friends with children in school. They may also be viewed as immature and poorly behaved. According to experts, this is because children with ADHD experience developmental delays of up to three years in certain areas of their brain.
What Causes ADHD?
Studies have shown that ADHD may have a number of potential causes, namely:
- Brain anatomy and function
- Genetics- ADHD tends to run in families.
- Premature birth
- Prenatal exposure to alcohol and nicotine
- Significant head injuries
There’s no evidence that ADHD is caused by food additives, immunizations, poor parenting, significant life events, or poor diet, albeit these may contribute to how severely a child gets affected by the condition.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed and Treated?
It is important to understand that it is normal for children to exhibit ADHD symptoms sometimes, due to boredom, or as their way of reacting to stress in school or at home.
If, however, your child is presenting symptoms of ADHD on a regular basis and for more than six months, you should discuss your concerns with your pediatrician, who will confirm a diagnosis based on the standard guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Your pediatrician will assess the symptoms and perform a physical, neurological, (to screen for other conditions), and behavioral health evaluation.
ADHD is a lifelong disorder, but with timely intervention, most children will go on to live happy, healthy, and successful lives right through adulthood. The condition can be effectively managed with medications combined with any of the following approaches:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Daily exercise
- Educative training programs
- Executive functioning skills training (to help with planning and organizing)
- Family therapy
- Healthy nutrition
- Parent training programs (to support your child effectively)
- Sleep training
- Social skills training
- Stress management
Comprehensive Pediatric Care in The Woodlands and Spring, TX
If you are concerned that your child may have ADHD, visit us here at Northwoods Pediatric Center. As part of our commitment to delivering comprehensive pediatric care, our board-certified pediatricians provide behavioral health evaluations and take great pleasure in fully educating you about the condition. We can collaborate with a mental health professional, so your child can receive the specialized care that they need.