Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that makes it difficult for people to control their behavior. It affects 4-12% of school-aged children and is more frequently found in boys than girls. While often viewed as a disorder of childhood, it is important to recognize that ADHD can affect adults too. Having ADHD makes it difficult for a person to pay attention, sit still and practice self-control.
Children with ADHD may have signs from one or more of these categories:
- Inattention- wanders off task, difficulty sustaining focus, is disorganized
- Hyperactivity- seems to move constantly even when it is inappropriate, excessively fidgets
- Impulsivity- makes hasty actions without thinking about them first
Children with ADHD often have behavior problems so frequent and severe that they interfere with their ability to live normal lives. Those who have trouble paying attention usually have trouble learning. The behavior problems that come with ADHD also mean these kids may get into trouble more often than others.
There is not just one cause that has been linked to ADHD, and research is ongoing. ADHD is a neurobiological condition whose symptoms are also dependent on the child’s environment.
Some factors that have been shown to increase a child’s likelihood of having ADHD include:
- Genetics – It frequently runs in families
- Toxins in the environment such as lead
- Significant head injuries
- Prenatal exposures such as alcohol or nicotine from smoking
There is very little to no evidence that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, food additives, allergies, or immunizations.
ADHD is most often diagnosed around age 7. The number of children getting treated for ADHD has risen over more recent decades. It is unclear, however, whether this is due to more children actually having the condition or just increased diagnoses.
In general, an effective treatment for ADHD will include a combination of behavioral therapies, pharmaceutical treatment, parent coaching, and school support. For children diagnosed under the age of 6, behavior therapy is the first line. For those age 6 and older, both behavior therapy and medications are options, and the two tend to work best together.
A newer treatment option was just approved in April of this year for children with ADHD who are 7-12 years old and are not currently taking ADHD medications. It is called the Monarch external Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation System. It is used while the child is sleeping and generates low-level electrical stimulation from a small patch on the child’s forehead, sending signals to areas of the brain related to attention, emotion, and behavior.
With an effective treatment regimen alongside a healthy support system, those with ADHD can live productive, healthy lives.