What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects behavior and begins in childhood. ADHD can be classified into three types:
- Inattentive (lack of attention)
- Combined (symptoms of the two types at the same time)
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
ADHD is characterized by an excessive increase in impulsivity, hyperactivity, as well as difficulty maintaining attention in an activity for a continuous period of time. When this type of behavior is persistent, more frequent and of greater intensity than usual in children of their age, it can affect their school performance and their relationships in various areas of their lives. Later in life, it can cause problems at work as well as relationships at home.
In many cases, a person affected by ADHD will also suffer from other disorders, such as depression, anxiety or learning disorders.
What are the causes of ADHD?
The cause of ADHD is unknown, but researchers have pointed to a number of possibilities:
- ADHD may be due to a malfunction of neurotransmitters (messengers) in the area of the brain responsible for the executive system that dominates the capacity for concentration and attention.
- ADHD may be genetic and sometimes runs in families
- ADHD could be a developmental problem caused by issues during pregnancy such as smoking, drinking, or poor nutrition
- ADHD may sometimes be acquired, due to a head injury or exposure to toxic chemicals such as lead
How is ADHD diagnosed?
When you visit the GP about ADHD they will ask you about your symptoms, how long you have had them for, and how frequently they occur. If the doctor suspects ADHD you may be referred for a formal assessment. If you see the GP as an adult, under current diagnostic guidelines you cannot be given a formal diagnosis unless you have had symptoms since childhood. To establish whether this is the case the doctor may wish to interview your family members and friends to ask about the history of your symptoms.
What is the treatment for ADHD?
A correct diagnosis is important to establish an adequate treatment for each patient. The main treatments are:
- Psychological: using therapies such as behavior, training for parents, cognitive therapy and training in social skills.
- Psycho-pedagogical: it is based on the reeducation of the child to improve their academic performance as well as teacher training to detect the problem as soon as possible.
- Pharmacological: including both stimulants and non-stimulant medication.