The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD. Some experts, though, says ADHD may occurs in 8% to 10% of school age children. Experts also question whether kids really outgrow ADHD. What that means is that this disorder may be more common in adults than previously thought.
Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can't seem to follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive, not stopping to think before they act. These behaviors are generally common in children. But they occur more often than usual and are more severe in a child with ADHD.
The behaviors that are common with ADHD interfere with a child's ability to function at school and at home.
Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with time management, organizational skills, goal setting, and employment. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addictions.
What are ADHD symptoms in children?
Symptoms of ADHD in children are generally grouped into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
Inattention -- A child with ADHD:
Hyperactivity -- A child with ADHD:
Impulsivity -- A child with ADHD:
For in depth information, see WebMD's ADHD in Children.
What are ADHD symptoms in adults?
Adult ADHD symptoms may be different than the symptoms in children. In addition, they may stem directly from ADHD or may be the result of behavioral issues. Symptoms include:
The exact cause of ADHD is not known, although researchers continue to study the brain for clues. They suspect that there are several factors that may contribute to the condition, including:
The following are other factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD or that may trigger symptoms:
Eating too much sugar does not cause a child to develop ADHD. A proper diet is essential, though, for normal development in children. ADHD is also not caused by watching too much TV, a poor home life, poor schools, or food allergies.
How common is ADHD?
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children and is more common in boys than in girls. It most often is discovered during the early school years, when a child begins to have problems paying attention. ADHD can continue into the teen years and on into adulthood.
How is ADHD diagnosed?
If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by taking a complete medical history and doing a physical examination. There are no laboratory tests for ADHD. The doctor, though, may use various tests -- such as X-rays and blood tests -- to determine if there is a physical disorder or other problem causing the symptoms.
Certain mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders, have some symptoms that are similar to those of ADHD. For that reason, a complete psychiatric assessment is needed to accurately diagnosis ADHD.
If no physical disorder is found, the child may be referred to a specialist in childhood development disorders. That may be a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist, a pediatric neurologist, a developmental pediatrician, or another health professional. It should be someone specially trained to diagnose and treat ADHD. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the child's symptoms and behavior. The doctor may ask for input from the child's parents, teachers, and other adults who are familiar with the child's symptoms.
Researchers all agree that ADHD is not an adult-onset disorder. To be ADHD, it must be verified as being present from childhood. Adults who are thought to have ADHD will be asked questions about their childhood. In particular, they will be asked about such things as:
The answers will help the doctor make an accurate ADHD diagnosis.
ADHD cannot be cured. But many of the symptoms that interfere with functioning and cause distress can be controlled. Treatment for ADHD often includes a combination of medication and various psychosocial therapies.
Psychosocial therapies: These are treatment approaches that focus on the behavioral, psychological, social, and work/school problems associated with the illness. Psychosocial therapies that may be used for ADHD include:
It is very important for children and adults with symptoms of ADHD to seek professional care. Without treatment, ADHD can interfere with a child's performance in school as well as the child's ability to make and keep friends. This can have a negative impact on the child's self-esteem.
In addition, children with ADHD are at risk for developing conduct disorder, depression, or an anxiety disorder. They are also more likely to have a learning disorder. Teens with ADHD are at greater risk for car accidents, early pregnancy, and tobacco and alcohol use. Adults with ADHD have difficulty with time management, employment, and relationships.
But, when treated, most people with ADHD -- between 70% and 80% -- experience at least some relief of symptoms. Many of the symptoms of ADHD diminish by early adulthood. However, up to 50% of people with ADHD as children continue to have problems as adults.
ADHD cannot be prevented or cured. However, early identification and diagnosis, as well as a carefully designed treatment and education plan, can help a child or adult with ADHD adjust to the disorder. Many people with ADHD learn to focus their attention, develop their personal strengths, minimize disruptive behavior, and become productive and successful.
Article By Dr. Amal Chakraburtty, MD And Contributions from Daniel Emojevwe