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Could it be ADHD? Symptoms and Causes

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ADHD related image Photo: Getty Images

Attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome, or ADHD, is a neurobehavioral disorder that starts to exhibit symptoms in early childhood. It is generally characterized by the child’s inability to focus on and understand things that children in that age range usually do. Often, this is accompanied by the child’s hyperactive behavior which shows signs of impulsiveness.

So, how can you tell or begin to suspect that your child suffers from ADHD and know it is time to consult a doctor?

A balanced observation of the child by the parent at home, school or with friends will provide some pointers on the existence of the condition. Here is a list of some key symptoms that a child with ADHD exhibits. They may exhibit some or a combination of some of these symptoms:

1. Inability to stay focused on an activity such as a conversation, instructions, a game, a lesson, reading, writing or on any task that will take more than a couple of minutes.
2. The child may exhibit mildly uncoordinated motor skills though he/she runs excessively and moves and fidgets a lot.
3. Such children tend to talk excessively.
4. The child will move from one situation or thing to another quickly getting distracted easily.
5. The child may show signs of poor recall/memory.
6. An ADHD afflicted child may have difficulty in listening and keeping to instructions given by parents or teachers.
7. The ADHD child gets confused and bored easily with activities around them. Thus, they often find escape through daydreaming.
8. They may have problems with organizing things in order.
9. An afflicted child shows inattention and disinterest with the on-goings in his/her surroundings.
10. Shows restlessness in places where sitting or standing is required for some duration.
11. The child may interrupt others in their work.
12. The child may display signs of impatience in complying with form or order, such as playing quietly, waiting for their turn when being served or asking questions.

Gender-based differences are visible in ADHD patients. It has been found that ADHD boys are more impulsive than inattentive and it works the other way around for girls who suffer from ADHD. ADHD is likely to afflict boys more than girls.

With intense research done in the field of neurobehavioral science, scientists have been able to pin some of the reasons for ADHD, though all the causes are still not known. A list of some possible factors includes:

1. Genetics / Heredity: It has been observed that ADHD runs in families and thus the children from branches of such families are at higher risk of being born with the condition. Scientists currently researching ADHD are concluding that a set of genes is responsible for creating the ADHD condition. These genes affect the dopamine transporters adversely sparking the ADHD condition. (Source: Roman T, Rohde LA, Hutz MH. (2004). "Polymorphisms of the dopamine transporter gene: influence on response to methylphenidate in attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder."American Journal of Pharmacogenomics 4(2):83–92 PMID 15059031).
2. Race: Studies show blacks, whites and Hispanic males are the most affected by this condition. (Sources: Journal of Attention Disorders. Paper by Stephen Cuffe, Charity Moore and Robert McKeown, University of South Carolina. Paper Title: “Prevalence and Correlates of ADHD Symptoms in the National Health Interview Survey”. URL: http://jad.sagepub.com/content/9/2/392). In America alone, more than 2 million children are believed to be afflicted with ADHD (Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. URL: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5944a3.htm?s_cid=mm5944a3_w Report Title: Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children --- United States, 2003 and 2007. Weekly: November 12, 2010 / 59(44);1439-1443)
3. Altered brain function: Brain activity imaging of afflicted children has shown lesser chemical activity in the part of the brain that controls attention and activity levels.
4. Diet during pregnancy: A mother’s food intake during pregnancy affects the level of chemicals in the fetus’ brain that could start this condition. Regular intake of foods using artificial colors, additives that increase shelf life of the eatable, and flavor enhancers along with the usage of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and other toxins are suspected to set off similar changes in the fetus.
5. Environmental factors: Exposure to environmental pollutants including those in air, water and soil that enter our food chain and harm us are also thought to be culprits.
6. Social factors: The World Health Organization has collected data that suggests that ADHD prevalence is high in families with a history of alcoholism, low education, physical and emotional abuse and low incomes. Researchers are now suggesting that a child’s relationship with his or her caregiver also has an effect (Source: "CG72 Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): full guideline" (PDF). NHS. 24 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
7. Low motivational stimuli levels: These have also been blamed for ADHD symptoms. The children afflicted with ADHD suffer from a low motivational level and require high stimuli to do the same task as their group. These children thus create the high stimuli by excessive talking, fidgeting, running, etc., which their environments are not able to provide at a given point in time.
8. Difference in brain anatomy: Advancements in neuroimaging have exhibited that children who suffer from ADHD show an overall reduction in brain volume especially on the left-sided prefrontal cortex that controls the attention, activity and impulsiveness of a person. (Source: Krain, AL; Castellanos, FX (2006). "Brain development and ADHD". Clinical Psychology Review 26 (4): 433–444. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2006.01.005. PMID 16480802.


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman (Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2), the upcoming Rev Up Your Life! (Publisher: Hay House India) and Mentor Your Mind (Publisher: Sterling Publishers). She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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