Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is believed to affect between five and ten percent of the population. The condition appears to be hereditary. Over thirty percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have a parent who has the condition. Normally, it is the child’s teacher that picks up the behavioral problems associated with ADHD. Approximately three times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with ADHD, but this may be partly due to symptoms going unnoticed in girls, as they tend to be less disruptive. Girls with ADHD will, however, have the same academic and social problems as boys.
Children with ADHD have difficulty socializing. Undiagnosed or untreated ADHD can have serious consequences including parental conflict, substance abuse, depression and anxiety and learning disabilities. Fortunately, in the case of substance abuse, there are professionals who can help people with addiction.
The common symptoms of ADHD are:
- Hyperactivity which may include talking excessively, fidgeting, inability to remain seated, difficulty in engaging in social activities, excessive running and climbing and a short temper
- Inattention includes failing to pay attention, making many mistakes, failure to complete tasks, being easily diverted, appearing not to listen when spoken to, not following instructions, frequently losing things.
- Impulsivity includes being unable to wait, not considering the consequences of actions taken, problems with self-control, recklessness, impatience, tactlessness, interrupting others and temper tantrums. Ari Tuckman, PsyD, wrote, “People with ADHD tend to feel and express their emotions more strongly.”
The ADHD sufferer may not suffer from all of the symptoms equally, although most sufferers do have all three. Joel L. Young, MD, wrote, “While hyperactivity is one telltale sign of ADHD, not being hyper does not mean a person lacks an attention condition.” Those who suffer from inattention only, may not be diagnosed, as they do not cause disruption in their environment. They may be seen as dreamers, but they will still have problems with task completion. Those suffering from impulsive behavior are often a danger to themselves.
The symptoms of ADHD will have a negative impact on both academic results and social interactions and up to 60% of people suffering from ADHD also suffer from other disorders.
About fifty percent of people diagnosed with ADHD also suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder ODD. This is characterized by antisocial behaviors such as stubbornness, temper tantrums, refusing to follow rules, anger, and resentment.
Twenty percent have Conduct Disorder CD. Sometimes described as delinquency, it involves repeated attempts to break the rules of society without getting caught.
Joel Nigg, PhD, wrote, “ADHD is the earliest onset disorder of the common psychiatric conditions. Its median age of diagnosis precedes addictions, conduct problems, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, psychosis, and depression.”
Associated mood disorders can include bipolar disorder, particularly if there is a family history of bipolar, depression, anxiety, Tourettes, and substance abuse.
The Diagnosis of ADHD is difficult and eliminating other conditions known to cause similar symptoms often shows how the diagnosis is arrived at. At the time of the diagnosis, the possibility of co-existing conditions must also be analyzed.
Usually, a pediatrician and a psychologist carry out an assessment. The assessment will take account of the child’s academic, social and emotional functioning. The teachers and parents will be interviewed to ascertain the child’s history. The doctors will first try to eliminate possible environmental, social and physical causes of the behavior.
The diagnosis of ADHD will require the presence of the following:
- At least six symptoms must have been present for more than six months
- The symptoms must be the cause of significant social and academic impairment
- The symptoms must have been present in at least two different settings
- Some of the symptoms must have been present before the age of seven
Medication is not always required and it should never be the only treatment for ADHD. Environmental factors should also be addressed by introducing behavioral therapy and parent and teacher support. Children with ADHD function far better in a structured environment so treatment often begins with the training of the parents. There are effective ways in which parents can assist in correcting behavioral problems resulting from ADHD. Modification of the physical and emotional environment of the child is used to help the child to modify his behavior. Behavioral therapy whereby the child is offered rewards for good behavior has proven helpful. Removal of privileges can be used to punish bad behavior.
Parents who suspect that their child may be afflicted by ADHD should have the child assessed by professionals trained to do this. Failure to correctly diagnose and treat this disorder can lead to major problems when the child reaches adolescence. Treatment and environmental adaptation can ensure that the child and his parents manage the symptoms for a happier outcome.