Category Archives: ADHD

Causes of ADHD

Causes of ADHD according to cdc.gov

kids playing on balls

Scientists are studying cause(s) and risk factors in an effort to find better ways to manage and reduce the chances of a person having ADHD. The cause(s) and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but current research shows that genetics plays an important role. Recent studies of twins link genes with ADHD.1

In addition to genetics, scientists are studying other possible causes and risk factors including:

  • Brain injury
  • Exposure to environmental (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
  • Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight

Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD.

For more information about cause(s) and risk factors, visit the National Resource Center on ADHD.

Donating

Americans are very generous and donate much and often. I put some lists up on Facebook about good and poor donations. I then started thinking it might be beneficial to share how we processed our donating.

My husband and I set up our Vision, Mission, Value and Goals for our family and business. We run all of our decisions through that filter before we give.

We began with keeping people alive: starving, getting clean water, medications, etc. So as we looked at where to donate to assist with that mind frame, we found that all donations are not created equal which is why you should research places to best donate and those to avoid.

When we couldn’t figure out where our donations really ended up, we decided to work closer to home. We started feeding people ourselves. We started with a small church group. Then my husband decided he wanted to show up alone and make sandwiches for the hungry. What we found then was people abusing that system, not really hungry but just wanting to see what they could get for free.  (We saw this pattern more than once in our hands-on giving which was very disheartening. Made us more concerned about where donations go.)

We then turned to the homeless in our area. Instead of getting involved with others, my husband and son found people on the streets and provided them with sleeping bags. We have learned over time that some homeless people choose not to live in a home. They want to live how they live, they just appreciated the warmth during cold nights.  It was a great way to help others.

Ensuing my passion of teaching, I wanted to assist teachers. Reaching students is the greatest gift a teacher can have in this world. After many years in the classroom, I felt that I had much to offer others in streamlining their workload.  My goal was to help others keep their fire in teaching.

I  wanted to help teachers with the basics of mathematics via workshops on hands-on tools for teaching mathematics. Helping others discover best teaching practices in mathematics was very beneficial to teachers as well as teachers. Sharing the importance of utilizing manipulatives for concrete to representational to abstract interaction to create better student understanding and putting it into long-term memory was the foundation of this work.

As we watched my son struggle as an high-functioning-ADHD student in the public school system, we next set up ADHD conferences along with a psychologist for teachers and parents separately. This turned into an incredible long-term relationship with those in attendance. Parents and teachers alike loved what they learned about this Learning Disability that affects so many. Understanding how to deal with ADHD allows teachers to differentiate instruction to enhance universal learning.

Following, I set up a conference for teachers that wanted to THRIVE and not merely SURVIVE the classroom. This is  where I shared my 28 years of classroom experience to assist teachers with making the best use of time. Classroom management simplified leads to more time to create and work with students.

Next was an ADHD preparation for students called “Starting Off on the Right Foot.  We helped students and their parents prepare for the school year.  We shared what worked in the past and what each had to do to be responsible for their success in the classroom.  We set them up with folders, ways to take notes, using their phone, pencils, pens and more. Parents understood more about what teachers expected in the classroom and what they could do to support their children in the classroom.

All conferences went wonderfully and given at no profit.  I knew exactly where the donations were going and was thrilled with the outcomes.  This is a way to donate hands-on.

Further on, I opened a not-for-profit online school that offered courses for high school students. This morphed into an avenue for highly-motivated students to take courses not offered by their school and courses that allowed students to accomplish school-offered courses in order to take more courses throughout their school years.  It was exciting to be working with students again.

We donate to Christian Radio Stations as we appreciate all the ears that fall upon this music and messages.  We donate to people that directly affect our lives in a positive fashion. We donate to schools where friends and family work or attend. We donate to the cancer society directly through those affected by cancer. We tithe and donate to all of our churches. All of this COULD save lives which gets us back to our hearts desire.

After many trials, we narrowed donating money where it best meet the needs we want to see fulfilled. Currently we donate to leaders in and out of education that we personally know will do what is best. Leaders that follow our vision and mission. Leaders that share with us how others benefitted from the donation. This is how we suggest all to donate.

When you donate to a large organization, you have no idea where that money goes.  If you give a dollar or two at the check-out of a store, where does it go? It’s easy to drop a check into an pre-addressed envelope, but where does it go? Are you helping those in need or is it going into someone’s pocket?

It may take a little time to figure out what your passions are, but make your dollars count for those with needs. Your church is best place to donate above tithing.  Listen for the needs and then match it to your passion. Next, look at the teacher of your children or grandchildren. Look at the places these children are involved.  All of these things will directly effect people you love.

So, before you write that next check, consider if you know exactly where this money goes and whom it will assist.

Happy giving!

~Sandy

7 Things You Don’t Know About ADD That Can Hurt You

7 Things You Don’t Know About ADD That Can Hurt You

8x4-addADD is the most common learning and behavior problem in children. But the issue doesn’t end there: It is also one of the most common problems in adults, and has been associated with serious problems in school, relationships, work, and families. Despite its prevalence, many myths and misconceptions about ADD abound in our society. Here are just a few of them:

MYTH: ADD is a flavor-of-the-month illness, a fad diagnosis. It’s just an excuse for bad behavior.

FACT: ADD has been described in the medical literature for about one hundred years. In 1902, pediatrician George Still described a group of children who were hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand that ADD is a medical disorder and labeled these children as “morally defective.”

 

MYTH #2: ADD is overdiagnosed. Every child who acts up a bit, or adult who is lazy, gets placed on Ritalin or Adderall.

FACT: Less than half of those with ADD are being treated.

 

MYTH#3: ADD is only a disorder of hyperactive boys.

FACT: Many people with ADD are never hyperactive. The non- hyperactive or “inattentive” ADD folks are often ignored because they do not bring enough negative attention to themselves. Many of these children, teenagers, or adults earn the unjust labels “willful,” “lazy,” “unmotivated,” or “not that smart.” Females, in our experience, tend to have inattentive ADD, and it often devastates their lives.

 

MYTH #4: ADD is only a minor problem. People make too much of a fuss over it.

FACT: Left untreated or ineffectively treated, ADD is a very serious societal problem! Although previous research has demonstrated that ADD is associated with problems like job failures, relationship breakups, drug abuse, and obesity, recently published research in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatryconducted a systematic review of all the available evidence and confirmed the link between ADD and a wide range of health and psychosocial problems. The study demonstrates the importance of properly treating ADD early in life in order to potentially prevent these future adverse outcomes.

 

MYTH #5: ADD is an American invention, made up by a society seeking simple solutions to complex social problems.

FACT: ADD is found in every country where it has been studied. I once had a patient from Ethiopia who had been expelled from his tribe for being so easily distracted and impulsive.

 

MYTH #6: People with ADD should just try harder.

FACT: Often the harder people with ADD try, the worse things get for them. Brain-imaging studies show that when people with ADD try to concentrate, the parts of their brains involved with concentration, focus, and follow-through (prefrontal cortex and cerebellum) actually shuts down—just when they need them to turn on.

 

MYTH #7: Everyone who has ADD will get better if they just take stimulant medication.

FACT: ADD, like many other conditions, is not just a single and simple disorder; therefore, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. With more than 120,000 brain scans in our database, we have identified 7 types of ADD. And each type requires a different treatment plan because of the diverse brain systems involved.

Amen Clinics has helped tens of thousands of people with ADD from all over the world and can help you, too. To learn more or schedule a comprehensive evaluation, contact the Amen Clinics Care Center today at 855-698-5108 orhttps://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

Dr. Daniel Amen with Brain Spects

Brain Spects helped us know what was going on with our son.  If you don’t know, you don’t understand.  If you don’t understand, you don’t know how to help them.  If you don’t know how to help a child, they are lost to the world.  Take time to learn and understand.

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MORE ON ADHD

The five major symptoms of ADHD in children are inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, difficulty with social skills and difficulty managing emotions, especially anger. Often, people are described as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) when they struggle with attention but not hyperactive and impulsive behavior. While the terms might be used interchangeably, ADHD is the official name of the disorder used by the American Psychiatric Association. In order for a correct diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms must be inappropriate for the person’s age and present for at least six months.

Major ADHD symptoms include inattention, meaning a child is easily distracted, doesn’t follow directions or finish tasks, is forgetful about daily activities, doesn’t seem to listen, makes careless mistakes, tends to daydream, has trouble organizing daily tasks, often loses things and dislikes activities that mean they must sit still or tasks that require a sustained effort.

Hyperactivity means children will not stay seated when they are expected to; squirm, fidget or bounce when sitting; have a hard time playing quietly; are always moving, running or climbing; and talk excessively. Of course, toddlers and young kids are extremely active, curious, trying out new things and learning about the world. The intensity is what doctors look for in an ADHD diagnosis, and that becomes more defined during a child’s early school years.

Impulsivity means children blurt out answers before a question has been completed, have difficulty waiting for their turn, aren’t good at sharing and interrupt others often. Often because children will act without thinking through the consequences, they will be accident-prone.

People with ADHD have difficulty with social skills, such as making friends and maintaining friendships. They don’t do well in social settings because they have difficulty processing verbal and nonverbal language that offer cues for certain behaviors and they often will drift off during a conversation. About half of children and adolescents with ADHD will encounter social rejection from their peers.

Emotional control also is a major signal of ADHD in children. When ADHD children become frustrated or angry, that will come out, and often children will have difficulty controlling their anger. Adults with ADHD have been shown to have a higher-than-average divorce rate.

ADHD can cause havoc for children in school, making it difficult for them to learn and to get along in the classroom settings, which can affect their self-esteem. Also, children with ADHD are at risk for depression, anxiety, developing conduct disorder, drug abuse and learning disorders. They might have a delay in speech, language and motor development. Teens with ADHD face the risk of problems with alcohol and tobacco use, pregnancy and car accidents.

Adults with ADHD at times don’t display hyperactivity. However, just as children have difficulty in school and family life, adults with ADHD usually face problems on the job and/or in relationships. They can have difficulty with time management, organizing and setting goals, which will affect their ability to succeed in the workplace.They can be easily distracted, talk too much and have difficulty with quiet activities. Adults face the same problems as children with social behavior, because they aren’t able to pick up on cues to guide their behavior.

Treatments are designed to help people with ADHD manage the symptoms and adjust to their disorder. People learn to focus their attention, develop their personal strengths and stop disruptive behavior,thus becoming productive and successful.

Many types of drugs are used to control symptoms of ADHD, and it could take time and experimentation for a health care provider to find the most effective drug and dosage. Stimulants such as Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse, Quillivant and Ritalin, are used to treat moderate and severe ADHD and have been found to be helpful for 70 percent to 80 percent of people with ADHD. These drugs are used for children, adolescents and adults. Side effects can include weight loss and decreased appetite, sleep problems, headaches and the jitters. Sometimes, the drug can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems or worsen psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety or psychosis. Health care providers can change the dosage and the medication to prevent such side effects.

Nonstimulant drugs, including Strattera, Intuniv and Kapvay, are used alone or in combination with a stimulant. These medications target improvement in concentration and impulse control. Sometimes, stimulant and nonstimulant drugs aren’t effective or people can’t tolerate side effects. In that case, other medications might be used, including Elavil, Norpramin, Catapres, Tenex and Wellbutrin.

For adults with ADHD, cognitive behavior therapy is often recommended. It’s a type of talk therapy to help people change their thoughts and behaviors, aiding with self-control, motivation, organization and time management. Some people find an ADHD coach, talking with them several times a week. Coaches can help with organizational abilities and reducing anger levels. They can also help with strategies to avoid negative behaviors, such as leaving credit cards at home to prevent impulse purchases. Experts advise people considering ADHD coaches to make sure the coach has a master’s degree in counseling or a related mental health field.

Research on an ADHD diet has shown mixed results and study continues. Some findings indicate people have been helped by a high-protein diet, including beans, nuts, eggs, meat and cheese. Adding protein in the morning and for after-school snacks might help with concentration and extend the effects of ADHD medications. Some expertsalso suggest that people limit eating candy, corn syrup, honey, sugar, potatoes without skins, white rice and products made from white flour, increase their complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruits, and get more omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon, tuna and other cold-water white fish, olive oil, Brazil nuts and canola oil. Some studies show it’s helpful to add a daily vitamin and mineral supplement and avoid artificial food colors — especially red and yellow — and additives such as aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrites.

FROM DUGOUT.COM

Healing the 7 Types of ADD!

Dr Amen:

“One Treatment Does Not Fit Everyone”

As the founder of six Amen Clinics, I bring a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating brain based disorders including attention deficit disorder and coexisting conditions. For over twenty years, I’ve used SPECT brain scans (along with other diagnostic techniques) to develop individual, targeted treatment plans for each patient. Early on, I discovered through brain SPECT patterns that attention deficit is not a single or a simple disorder.

My ADD Is Not Your ADD

ADD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and other conditions are not single or simple disorders. They all have multiple types. ADD affects many areas of the brain—the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum primarily, but also the anterior cingulate, the temporal lobes, the basal ganglia, and the limbic system. The 7 types of ADD that I studied are based around three neurotransmitters—dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.

Classic ADD

This is the easiest type to spot of the 7 types of ADD: Primary symptoms are inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, disorganization, and impulsivity. Scans of the brain show normal brain activity at rest, and decreased activity, especially in the prefrontal cortex, during a concentration task. People with this type of ADD have decreased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and the basal ganglia, the last of which helps produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Treating Classic ADD

The goal here is to boost dopamine levels, which increases focus. I do it with either stimulating medications — Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, Concerta — or stimulating supplements like rhodiola, green tea, ginseng, and the amino acid L-tyrosine. Getting lots of physical activity also helps increase dopamine, as does taking fish oil that is higher in EPA than DHA.

Inattentive ADD

This type, as well as Classic ADD, have been described in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders since 1980. This type is associated with low activity in the prefrontal cortex and low dopamine levels. Symptoms are short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, procrastination. People with this type are not hyperactive or impulsive. They can be introverted and daydream a lot. Girls have this type as much as, or more than, boys.

Treating Inattentive ADD

Inattentive ADD is usually responsive to treatment. It is often possible to change the course of a person’s life if he or she is properly treated. The goal, as with Classic ADD, is to boost dopamine levels. I use the supplements like the amino acid L-tyrosine, which is a building block of dopamine. Take it on an empty stomach for maximum effect. I often prescribe a stimulant like Adderall, Vyvanse or Concerta. I put patients on a high-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet, and I have them exercise regularly.

Over-Focused ADD

Patients with this type have all of the core ADD symptoms, plus great trouble shifting attention. They get stuck or locked into negative thought patterns or behaviors. There is a deficiency of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. When the brain is scanned, you see that there’s too much activity in the area called the anterior cingulate gyrus, which is the brain’s gear shifter. This overactivity makes it difficult to go from thought to thought, task to task, and to be flexible.

Treating Over-Focused ADD

The goal is to boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Treatment is tricky. People with Over-Focused ADD get more anxious and worried on a stimulant medication. I use supplements first—L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, saffron, and inositol. If supplements don’t help with symptoms, I prescribe Effexor, Pristique, or Cymbalta. I avoid a higher-protein diet with this type, which can make patients mean. Neurofeedback training is another helpful tool.

Temporal Lobe ADD

Of the 7 types of ADD, this type has core ADD symptoms along with temporal lobe (TL) symptoms. The TL, located underneath your temple, is involved with memory, learning, mood stability, and visual processing of objects. People with this type have learning, memory, and behavioral problems, such as quick anger, aggression, and mild paranoia. When the brain is scanned, there are abnormalities in the temporal lobes and decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

Treating Temporal Lobe ADD

I use the amino acid GABA (gamma-aminobutryic acid) to calm neuronal activity and inhibit nerve cells from overfiring or firing erratically. Taking magnesium—80 percent of the population are low in this mineral—helps with anxiety and irritability. Anticonvulsant medications are often prescribed to help with mood instability. For learning and memory problems, I use gingko or vinpocetine.

Limbic ADD

This type looks like a combination of dysthymia or chronic low-level sadness and ADD. Symptoms are moodiness, low energy, frequent feelings of helplessness or excessive guilt, and chronic low self-esteem. It is not depression. This type is caused by too much activity in the limbic part of the brain (the mood control center) and decreased prefrontal cortex activity, whether concentrating on a task or at rest.

Treating Limbic ADD

The supplements that work best for this type of ADD are DL-phenylalanine (DLPA), L-tryosine, and SAMe (s-adenosyl-methionine). Wellbutrin is my favorite medication for this type of ADD. Researchers think it works by increasing dopamine. Imipramine is another option for this type. Exercise, fish oil, and the right diet will help a person with Limbic ADD better manage symptoms.

Ring of Fire ADD

Patients with this type don’t have an underactive prefrontal cortex, as with Classic and Inattentive ADD. Their entire brain is overactive. There is too much activity across the cerebral cortex and many of the other parts of the brain. I call it “ADD plus.” Symptoms include sensitivity to noise, light, touch; periods of mean, nasty behavior; unpredictable behavior; talking fast; anxiety and fearfulness. In brain scans, it looks like a ring of hyperactivity around the brain.

Treating Ring of Fire ADD

Stimulants, by themselves, may make symptoms worse. I start out with an elimination diet, if I suspect an allergy is involved, and boost the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin through supplements and medication, if necessary. I prescribe GABA, 5-HTP, and L-tyrosine supplements. If I prescribe medication, I start with one of the anticonvulsants. The blood pressure medicines guanfacine and clonidine may be helpful, calming overall hyperactivity.

Anxious ADD

People with this type have hallmark ADD symptoms, and they are anxious, tense, have physical stress symptoms like headaches and stomachaches, predict the worst, and freeze in anxiety-provoking situations, especially where they may be judged. When the brain is scanned, there is high activity in the basal ganglia, large structures deep in the brain that help produce dopamine.This is the opposite of most types of ADD, where there is low activity in that region.

treating Anxious ADD

The treatment goal is to promote relaxation and boost GABA and dopamine levels. ADD stimulants, taken alone, make patients more anxious. I first use a range of “calming” supplements—L-theanine, relora, magnesium, and holy basil. Depending on the patient, I prescribe the tricyclic antidepressants imipramine or desipramine to lower anxiety. Neurofeedback also works to decrease symptoms of anxiety, especially to calm the prefrontal cortex.

For More Information:

Learn more about the 7 Types of ADD:

  • Listen to Dr. Amen’s podcast on the 7 Types of ADD

Types of ADHD

Raising or being an ADHDer is not easy.  Brain scans and specs are reaching great heights towards assisting those that struggle.  The more we learn, the better we can address issues towards a healthy outcome.

As I have researched ADHD, I have found that doctors vary on how many types of ADHD exist.  I have found at the most, seven, by Dr. Amen. www.amenclinics.com

We have attached some to cartoon character you may recognize.

 

1. CLASSIC ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms (short attention span, distractibility, disorganization) plus hyperactivity, restlessness, and impulsivity.

Usually low prefrontal cortex and cerebellar activity with concentration.

TIGGER

 

2. INATTENTIVE ADD – Primary ADD symptoms plus low energy and motivation, spacey, and internally preoccupied. Type 2 tends to be diagnosed later that than Type 1, if at all. It is more common in girls. These are quiet kids and adults, often labeled as “lazy”, “unmotivated”, or “not all that smart”.

Usually low prefrontal cortex and cerebellar activity with concentration. We are working hard to see how these two types differ in the brain.

WINNIE THE POOH

 

3. OVER-FOCUSSED ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus cognitive inflexibility, trouble shifting attention, being stuck on negative thoughts or behaviors, worrying, holding grudges, argumentativeness, oppositional, and saddled with a need for routines. It is often seen in families with addiction problems or obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Usually high anterior cingulate activity plus low prefrontal cortex with concentration.

RABBIT

 

4. LIMBIC ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus chronic mild sadness, negativity, low energy, low self-esteem, irritability, social isolation, poor appetite, and sleep patterns.

Stimulants by themselves usually cause problems with rebound or produce depressive symptoms.

Usually high deep limbic activity plus low prefrontal cortex at rest and with concentration.

EEYORE

 

5. ANXIOUS ADD/ADHD – Inattentiveness, distractibility, disorganization, anxiety, tension, nervousness, a tendency to predict the worst, freezing in test-taking situations, and a tendency toward social anxiety. People with this type are prone to experience the physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Increased activity in the basal ganglia at rest and while the person is concentrating. Decreased activity in the underside of the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum while the person is concentrating.

PIGLET

 

6. TEMPORAL LOBE ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus a short fuse, misinterprets comments, periods of anxiety, headaches or abdominal pain, history of head injury, family history of rage, dark thoughts, memory problems, and struggles with reading. This subtype is often seen in families with learning or temper problems.

Usually low temporal lobe activity plus low prefrontal cortex with concentration.

 

7. RING OF FIRE ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus moodiness, anger outbursts, oppositional, inflexibility, fast thoughts, excessive talking, and very sensitive to sounds and lights. Dr. Amen named it “Ring of Fire” after the intense ring of over-activity he saw in the brains of those affected. This type is usually made much worse by stimulants.

Marked overall increased activity across the cortex; may or may not have low prefrontal cortex activity.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM DR. AMEN

  1. Take a 100% multi-vitamin every day. Studies have reported that they help people with learning and help prevent chronic illness.
  2. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. It interferes with treatments and sleep.
  3. Get 30-45 minutes per day of intense aerobic exercise. At Amen Clinics, brain health is very important to us, so please make sure kids have safe exercise outlets and wear helmets when appropriate. When nothing else is available, go for long, fast walks.
  4. Turn off the television and video games, or limit them to no more than 30 minutes a day. This may be hard for kids and teens, but it can make a huge difference.
  5. Food is a drug. Most people with ADHD do best with a diet that is high in protein and low in simple carbohydrates. Healing ADD is a good place to start learning how to make this diet work for you or your loved one.
  6. Do not yell at people with ADD/ADHD. Many people with ADD/ADHD seek out conflict or excitement because they like the stimulation it brings them. They can be masters at making other people mad or angry. Do not lose your temper with them: if they are able to get this reaction out of you, their subconscious, low-energy prefrontal cortex lights up and the stimulation makes them feel great. Never let your anger be their medication—they can get addicted to it.
  7. Test ADD/ADHD kids and adults for learning disabilities. They occur in up to 60% of people with ADD/ADHD. The local schools are often set up to do this for school-age children.
  8. Apply for appropriate school or work accommodations.
  9. Take a high-quality fish oil supplement. Adults: 2,000-4,000mg per day. Children: 1,000-2,000mg per day.
  10. Never stop seeking the best help for your brain.

For more information, go to amen clinics.com

 

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

ADD; ADHD; Childhood hyperkinesis

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, or a combination of these. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for a person’s age and development.

Causes

ADHD usually begins in childhood, but may continue into the adult years. It is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in children. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls.

It is not clear what causes ADHD. A combination of genes and environmental factors likely plays a role in the development of the condition. Imaging studies suggest that the brains of children with ADHD are different from those of children without ADHD.

Symptoms

Symptoms of ADHD fall into three groups:

  • Not being able to focus (inattentiveness)
  • Being extremely active (hyperactivity)
  • Not being able to control behavior (impulsivity)

Some people with ADHD have mainly inattentive symptoms. Some have mainly hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Others have a combination of different symptom types. Those with mostly inattentive symptoms are sometimes said to have attention deficit disorder (ADD). They tend to be less disruptive and are more likely not to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Inattentive Symptoms

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Has difficulty keeping attention during tasks or play
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores and tasks
  • Has problems organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork)
  • Often loses toys, assignments, pencils, books, or tools needed for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity Symptoms

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has problems playing or working quietly
  • Is often “on the go,” acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively

Impulsivity Symptoms

  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others (butts into conversations or games)

Exams and Tests

If ADHD is suspected, the person should be evaluated by a health care professional. There is no test that can make or exclude a diagnosis of ADHD. The diagnosis is based on a pattern of the symptoms listed above. When the person with suspected ADHD is a child, parents and teachers are usually involved during the evaluation process.

Most children with ADHD have at least one other developmental or mental health problem. This problem may be a mood, anxiety or substance use disorder; a learning disability; or a tic disorder. A doctor can help determine whether these other conditions are present.

Treatment

Treating ADHD is a partnership between the health care provider and the patient. If the patient is a child, parents and often teachers are involved. For treatment to work, it is important to:

  • Set specific, appropriate goals.
  • Start medicine and/or talk therapy.
  • Follow-up regularly with the doctor to check on goals, results, and any side effects of medicines. During these visits, information should be gathered from the patient and if relevant, parents and teachers.

If treatment does not seem to work, the health care provider will likely:

  • Confirm the person has ADHD.
  • Check for medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
  • Make sure the treatment plan is being followed.

Medicines

Medicine combined with behavioral treatment often works best. There are several different ADHD medicines that may be used alone or in combination. The health care provider will decide which medicine is right based on the person’s symptoms and needs.

Psychostimulants (also known as stimulants) are the most commonly used ADHD medicines. Although these drugs are called stimulants, they actually have a calming effect in people with ADHD.

Follow the health care provider’s instructions on how to take ADHD medicine.

Some ADHD medicines have side effects. If the person has side effects, contact the health care provider right away. The dosage or medicine itself may need to be changed.

Therapy

Therapy for both the patient and if relevant, the family, can help everyone understand and gain control of the stressful feelings related to ADHD.

A common type of ADHD therapy is called behavioral therapy. It teaches children and parents healthy behaviors and how to manage disruptive behaviors. For mild cases of ADHD, behavioral therapy alone (without medicine) can sometimes be effective.

Support groups can help the person and family connect with others who have similar problems.

Other tips to help a child with ADHD include:

  • Talk regularly with the child’s teacher.
  • Keep a consistent daily schedule, including regular times for homework, meals, and outdoor activities. Make changes to the schedule in advance and not at the last moment.
  • Limit distractions in the child’s environment.
  • Make sure the child gets a healthy, varied diet, with plenty of fiber and basic nutrients.
  • Make sure the child gets enough sleep.
  • Praise and reward good behavior.
  • Provide clear and consistent rules for the child.

There is little proof that alternative treatments for ADHD such as herbs, supplements, and chiropractic are helpful.

Outlook (Prognosis)

ADHD is a long-term, chronic condition. If it is not treated correctly, ADHD may lead to:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Not doing well in school
  • Problems keeping a job
  • Trouble with the law

One third to one half of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity as adults. Adults with ADHD are often able to control behavior and mask difficulties.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call the doctor if you or your child’s school staff suspect ADHD. You should also tell the doctor about:

  • Problems at home, school, and with peer relationships
  • Side effects of ADHD medicine
  • Signs of depression

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Subcommittee on Attention-Deficity/Hyperactivity Disorder, Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management. ADHD: Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128:1007-1022. [PubMed]
  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
  3. Bostic JQ, Prince JB. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 69.
  4. Knouse LE, Safren SA. Current status of cognitive behavioral therapy for adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2010;33:497–509. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  5. Prince JB, Spencer TJ, Wilens TE, Biederman J. Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 49.

Review Date: 2/24/2014.

Reviewed by: Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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