What is ADHD?

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what is adhd

When a child or teen exhibits hyperactivity, inattention or impulsivity to the extent that it interferes with daily activities, parents are often concerned they have ADHD. Identifying ADHD is the first step to getting proper treatment, which is highly successful for many people with this condition whether they are children, adolescents or adults.

The causes of ADHD are not completely understood at this point, but scientists believe it has to do with a neurological issue. The brain does not process information as quickly for people with ADHD, so it’s harder to keep track of time and tasks. This can lead to problems with organizational skills, planning ahead and paying attention in school or work. In addition, a reduced level of dopamine in the basal ganglia is believed to be a factor in ADHD. Dopamine helps to move signals from one nerve cell to another, and regulates movement and emotions.

While some kids have difficulty focusing and tend to be more impulsive than other children, most children are not diagnosed with ADHD because they have normal behavior for their age or developmental level. It is not uncommon for young children to have short attention spans, or even be unable to concentrate on an activity, especially when it is boring or uninteresting.

Inattentive or impulsive children may be fidgety, squirm in their seats, have trouble waiting their turn, or forget things frequently. They may lose materials needed for assignments at school or work, and may struggle to manage their time and responsibilities. People with a primary hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD may also become easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, or things that are not related to the task at hand. They may be unable to follow directions or make good decisions for themselves, and are more likely to get into trouble at school or work.

If a child or teen has trouble concentrating or organizing tasks at school or work, it is important to talk with their teacher and parents about getting an evaluation for ADHD. A comprehensive evaluation will include an interview with a parent or close friend and a physical examination. A doctor will ask questions about the history of symptoms and use rating scales to review them. They will also ask about family history, lifestyle and other health issues.

Adults with ADHD have less success at home and at work than adults who do not have the disorder, which can cause significant marital and family problems. Spouses of adults with ADHD are often blamed by each other for their spouse’s behaviors, and this can contribute to the breakdown of marriages and relationships. Learning more about the nature of ADHD and how it impacts behavior and functioning, as well as the effectiveness of treatment options can help to improve communication between couples (Murphy 2005).

Behavioral therapy is typically a component of an effective ADHD treatment plan. Behavioral therapy can involve the entire family and includes teaching strategies to help people with ADHD stay on task, plan ahead, stay organized, and reduce distractions. Behavioral therapy is often combined with medications to optimize the effectiveness of the treatment program.

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