ADHD Symptoms & Treatments

Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder, known commonly as ADHD, is a disorder than can affect both children and adults. While signs and symptoms almost always appear first in childhood, many adults also suffer because they were never properly diagnosed or treated when they were young. Most patients with the disorder have a hard time concentrating and controlling impulse behaviors in addition to being restless and almost constantly active.

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What Causes Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

Many factors can come into play when one is diagnosed with ADHD. First, it is known that there are some genetic factors involved. A child born to a parent with the disorder has a 50 percent chance of also having it. A child with a sibling with the disorder has a 30 percent chance of having the same. Nonetheless, there are many patients who have no family history of the disorder.

Other factors can include environmental elements. For example, children whose mothers smoked, drank alcohol, or used certain drugs during pregnancy may be more likely to develop symptoms. In addition, some children may have been exposed to environmental toxins, such as high levels of lead, PCBs or pesticides, when they were young, and these can cause the problems. Finally, babies born to mothers who had difficult pregnancies, babies born at low birth weights, or those who have had brain injuries to the front of the head may also be more likely to suffer from the disorder than their peers who did not.

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

While the main symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder revolve around three main characteristics, it may look different in different people. The three main symptoms that are almost always present in patients with the disorder are inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Inattention

More than simply not listening to a teacher or parent, inattentiveness can manifest itself in a number of different ways. For one, a child who is inattentive may be disorganized. Their desk may be messy, and they may have trouble finding items that they need to get a job done, such as a homework assignment or even a sharpened pencil. Moreover, they may also lack focus and have a hard time paying attention to details such as may be given on a school assignment. Their work may look sloppy, and they may be easily distracted by trivial noises. For example, a child may have a hard time working independently in a classroom where many different activities are happening at the same time. Such a child may also have trouble staying on topic when talking and may appear not to be listening when others speak to them. Finally, they may be forgetful about things such as their daily schedule and what they need on certain days. The child who forgets to bring his musical instrument each week on band day or even forgets to bring their lunch to school frequently are prime examples.


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The same inattentiveness can also be displayed in adults. Adults may have problems maintaining focus on tasks such as long lectures or readings for a job. They may also find themselves starting projects or jobs and failing to follow through on all the instructions to complete the task. This leads to adults who may drift from job to job because of an inability to complete tasks. These adults may also lose things needed to do a job, or they may find themselves distracted by unrelated thoughts while attempting to finish basic chores or duties related to their jobs.

Hyperactivity

Toddlers and preschoolers who show signs of hyperactivity are the type of children that appear to be in constant motion. They will run and climb when it may not be appropriate to do so. By elementary school age, these children may show signs of hyperactivity when required to sit quietly in a classroom setting as they are constantly fidgeting and squirming in their chairs. Moreover, it is likely that they will get out of their seats often to walk or run around. These children typically talk a lot and have a hard time playing quietly.

While younger children are more likely to show signs of hyperactivity than teenagers and adults, this symptom may still be present. Hyperactivity in the older set may present itself as a type of restlessness where these individuals have a hard time settling into doing a task, particularly those that require long periods of sitting still. This symptom may also interfere with school and jobs in adults and teens as they may find it difficult to settle on one task at a time.

Impulsivity

Impulse control is easily seen in both children and adults with ADHD. These people tend to be very impatient with everything, rushing to complete tasks. Work may appear sloppy or may be incomplete or off-topic because of their rush. They may start up conversations at inappropriate times in their hurry to say what is on their mind. Both children and adults who are impulsive also tend to interrupt a person who is talking, attempting to answer questions often before the full question is even asked. Since they have trouble waiting for their turn, they may blurt out answers or interrupt so often that it interferes with social or work interactions.

Treatment for ADHD

There are both medical and non-medical methods for treating ADHD. Depending on many factors, including the age of the patient and the severity of the condition, different treatments may be tried. Typically, the less medication a patient has to take, the better, but that does not mean that medical treatments are bad. It simply depends on the individual and their reactions to various protocols.


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Non-Medical Treatments

Behavior modification is a typical first choice for young children. In fact, medication is rarely given to a child for ADHD before the age of six years old. Behavior modification requires parents and teachers to work together to provide obtainable goals for the child to reach each day. Working towards those goals in small increments is key. For example, a child may work to stay in their seat for ten minutes at a time to start, getting rewarded with extra recess for each successful attempt.

In addition to behavior modification, making sure that the child gets the appropriate amount of sleep on a consistent schedule each night is very important. Exercise each day, perhaps several times per day, is also crucial to the success of a child. Other therapies such as music therapy or a visit to the chiropractor may be helpful to some children and adults. More research is needed to prove the effectiveness of these therapies.

Finally, non-medical treatments include proper diet and some will include vitamins and supplements. While a low sugar diet has not been proven to actually decrease ADHD symptoms, an excess of refined sugars will likely make a child more active. Other diets over the years have eliminated such things as artificial colors and processed foods. None of these have been proven to be overly effective. While a variety of supplements have been suggested to help with this disorder, the only one that shows real promise is omega-3 fatty acids. These have been linked to more attentiveness and better brain function in many who suffer from this problem.

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Medical Treatments for ADHD

A variety of medications are available to help treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Some classes include stimulants, non-stimulants, and anti-depressants. Frequent dosing is required to maintain the optimal dose for each individual. In addition, many of these medications have unwanted side-effects including loss of appetite, weight loss, and difficulty sleeping. These must be taken into consideration when choosing to use these medications. Still, many medications have been proven to be very helpful when properly prescribed to the right individual.

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