Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, or ADHD disorder, is a behavioral condition that generally starts in childhood and affects about three to seven percent of school-aged children. In the United States, it is estimated that 4.5 million children under the age of 17, have been diagnosed with ADHD disorder as of 2006. Approximately 60% of the children who have been diagnosed with ADHD continue to have symptoms of the disorder into adulthood. It is believed that four percent of the adult population of the United States, or approximately eight million people, has adult ADHD.
Individuals with ADHD disorder generally fall into one of three categories. The first category includes those who are predominantly inattentive. These individuals may have difficulty concentrating, focusing, paying attention, and listening attentively. Forgetfulness, lack of organization, and the tendency to lose or misplace things are also symptoms of those who fall into this first category.
The second category of ADHD disorder includes those who are primarily hyperactive and impulsive. Individuals in this second category may have trouble sitting still without moving or fidgeting, can seem restless, have less control over their words and actions and engage in more impulsive behavior than someone without ADHD. The third category of ADHD includes individuals who exhibit both inattentive and hyperactivity-impulsive symptoms equally.
While it is not known what exactly causes ADHD disorder, it is believed that genetics plays a large role. It is estimated that one in four children who have been diagnosed with ADHD has a close relative with ADHD. Research has also found differences in brain size and activity in those diagnosed with ADHD. In addition, smoking, drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, exposure to toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and lead can increase a child’s risk in developing the disorder.
It should be noted that current research does not seem to indicate that factors such as excessive sugar consumption, watching too much television, or socio-economic factors such as poverty or family dysfunction cause ADHD. However, there is still plenty of debate in this area and certain organizations recommend that children should not watch any form of television until they reach the age of two.
Diagnosing ADHD, especially in children, can be difficult as many of the signs and symptoms of ADHD are indicative of children in general. It is therefore important for parents who suspect their children may have ADHD, to consult with their doctor or health care professional. A doctor will try to rule out any conditions that may be causing temporary behaviors and symptoms that are similar to ADHD. Many doctors will also enlist the help of a behavioral specialist to determine whether or not a patient has ADHD.
There is currently no known cure for ADHD. However, the condition can be managed successfully. Research has shown that the most effective treatments combine behavioral therapy along with medication. Medication can help alleviate the symptoms of the disorder while behavioral therapy can help patients learn how to effectively work with the effects of ADHD.