Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Child Mental Health, Psychology

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Introduction to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural syndrome characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural syndrome characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD is common, affecting between around 5-10% of children and young people in the UK. This is an important condition because those affected are more likely to develop personality disorders, experience social and personal problems and suffer from drug abuse and unemployment. The disorder is usually diagnosed in children and its course is often lifelong. However, therapy and brain maturation with age can often improve some of the symptoms associated with the condition. If you or your child is experiencing symptoms associated with ADHD, please see a paediatrician, psychiatrist or GP.

What causes ADHD?

The development of ADHD is a complex interaction between genes and environment. ADHD does seem to run in families and research has identified specific genetic variations that predispose you to developing ADHD. Sufferers of ADHD also appear to have differences in the size, activity and chemical make-up of certain regions of the brain. Other possible risk factors include being born prematurely, having a low birth weight and having a mother who drank alcohol or smoked during pregnancy.

ADHD

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD fall into two categories: inattentiveness and hyperactivity. In most cases, the individual will experience both types of symptoms, but sometimes the individual will experience just one without the other. Though ADHD may affect school performance, this is due to problems with concentration rather than intelligence, which is not affected by ADHD.

Inattentiveness is characterised by having a short attention span, being easily distracted, seeming forgetful, seeming unable to carry out instructions or listen, making careless mistakes in work and constantly changing tasks. Hyperactivity and impulsiveness are characterised by fidgeting, inability to concentrate, excessive talking, acting without thinking, interrupting conversations and having little sense of danger. Of course, many children can be hyperactive and inattentive. ADHD is therefore diagnosed based on the number of symptoms, the duration of the problem, the setting in which the problem appears (e.g. home and school) and other criteria.

How is ADHD treated?

There is no cure for ADHD, but there are several medications, therapies and lifestyle modification that may help you manage the problems associated with ADHD. Medications include stimulants (e.g. methylphenidate) and atomoxetine, which increases the amount of a chemical called noradrenaline in your brain. Other therapies include behavioural therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Furthermore, there are parent training and educational programmes available that can help parents to manage difficult behaviour.

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