Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a very common disorder diagnosed in children. Children with ADHD are often very physically active, and are unable to stay focused or control their behavior. Patients with ADHD have difficulties concentrating on a task for a long period of time, become easily distracted, are unable to sit still or quietly and show an impulsive behavior. Teaching a child to manage their symptoms can take place informally, for example, by encouraging physical activity and by setting strict boundaries at home, or formally, with the help of behavioral therapists and teachers or medication. If a child with ADHD receives active therapy and support, they can learn to manage their symptoms.

Risks

ADHD is usually recognizable before the age of 12, and affects twice as many boys as girls. The causes of ADHD are not well understood. ADHD seems to run in families, and children who have family members with ADHD are more likely to also have ADHD. Children who were born prematurely, or who were exposed to drugs (including alcohol and nicotine) before they were born also develop ADHD more often than other children.

Symptoms

Hyperactivity, difficulties concentrating and impulsive behavior are the most common symptoms of ADHD. These may be expressed as a difficulty to learn at school, a quick temper, a tendency to become quickly frustrated and an inability to sit still. However, these change over the course of childhood, and in older children and teenagers, the hyperactive symptoms may become less troublesome, while the impulsive behavior and attention problems remain.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually made by specialist pediatric doctor with experience in normal child development. The diagnosis is based on the symptoms and by observing the child with parents, sibling and, if possible, teachers and classmates (or with reports from the teachers). A formal diagnosis is important because it enables families and teachers to coordinate plans for managing behavior and education.

Treatment

ADHD can not be cured, but the symptoms can be managed. Active management of symptoms, especially from early childhood, can make a big impact on future behavior and education. It is important that children with ADHD have plenty of opportunities to be active and to 'let off steam', so regular exercise and active family activities can be helpful. Family routine and strict behavioral boundaries can also be helpful in helping a child to manage their symptoms. There are several therapeutic approaches which train a child to sit and focus for a length of time, and these can be worked on with a child psychologist or trained teachers. Cooperation with schools and teachers is also important, so that activities can be tailored to account for the child's attention span. Lastly, medication can be used which help the child to maintain focus for longer than they would be able to normally.

Other names for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

  • ADHD
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children
  • hyperkinetic disorder