Imagine living in a world where sights, sounds, images and thoughts areconstantly changing and shifting. Unable to focus on whatever task is at hand,your mind wanders from one activity or thought to the next. Sometimes you becomeso lost among all the thoughts and images that you don’t even notice whensomeone is speaking to you.This is what it is like for many people who have Attention DeficitHyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Once called hyperkinesis or minimal braindysfunction, ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders among children.
Itaffects 3 to 5 percent of all children, and it is likely to occur two to threetimes more in boys than in girls.People who have ADHD may be unable to sit still, plan ahead, finishtasks, or be completely aware of what is going on in the world around them.However, on some occasions, they may appear “normal”, leading others to believethat the person with ADHD can control such behaviors. As a result of this, ADHDcan hinder the person’s relationships and interactions with others in additionto disrupting their daily life and lowering self-esteem.To determine whether or not a person has ADHD, specialists must considerseveral questions: Do these behaviors occur more often than in other people ofthe same age? Are the behaviors an ongoing problem, not just a response to atemporary situation? Do the behaviors occur only in one specific place or inseveral different settings?In answering these questions, the person’s behavior patterns arecompared to a set of criteria and characteristics of ADHD.
The DiagnosticStatistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) presents this set of criteria.According to the DSM, there are three patterns of behavior that indicate ADHD:inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.According to the DSM, signs of inattention include: becoming easilydistracted by irrelevant sights and sounds; failing to pay attention to detailsand making careless mistakes; rarely following instructions carefully and/orcompletely; and constantly losing or forgetting things like books, pencils,tools, and such.Some signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity, according to the DSM, are:the inability to sit still, often fidgeting with hands and feet; running,climbing, or leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet, attentivebehavior is required; difficulty waiting in line or for a turn; and blurting outanswers before hearing the entire question.
However, because almost everyone will behave in these manners at sometime, the DSM has very specific guidelines for determining if they indicate ADHD.Such behaviors must appear early in life, before age 7, and continue for atleast 6 months. For children, these behaviors must occur more frequently andseverely than in others of the same age. Most of all, the behaviors must createa true handicap in at least 2 areas of the person’s life (e.g. school, home,work, social settings).
One of the difficulties in diagnosing ADHD is that it is usuallyaccompanied by other problems. Many children who have ADHD also have a learningdisability. This means that they have trouble with certain language or academicskills, commonly reading and math. A very small number of people with ADHD alsohave Tourette’s syndrome. Those affected by Tourette’s syndrome may have tics,facial twitches, and other such movements that they cannot control. Also, theymay grimace, shrug, or yell out words abruptly.
Almost half of all children with ADHD, mostly boys, have anothercondition known as oppositional defiant disorder. This sometimes develops intomore serious conduct disorders. Children with this disorder, in conjunction withADHD, may be stubborn, have outbursts, and act belligerent or defiant. They maytake unsafe risks and break laws — ultimately getting them into trouble atschool and with the police.Still, not all children with ADHD have an additional disorder.
The sameis true for people with learning disabilities, Tourette’s syndrome, etc. They donot all have ADHD with their initial disorder. However, when ADHD and suchdisorders do occur together, the problems can seriously complicate a person’slife.As we speak, scientists are discovering more and more evidencesuggesting that ADHD does not stem from home environment, but from biologicalcauses. And over the past few decades, health professionals have come up withpossible theories about what causes ADHD. But, they continue to emphasize thatno one knows exactly what causes ADHD. There are just too many possibilitiesfor now to be certain about the exact cause. Therefore, it is more importantfor the person affected and their family to search for ways to get the righthelp.
A common method for treating ADHD is the use of medications. Drugs knownas stimulants seem to have been the most effective with both children and adultswho have ADHD. The three which are most often prescribed are: methylphenidate(Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Dextrostat), and pemoline (Cylert).For many, these drugs dramatically reduce hyperactivity and improve theirability to focus, work, and learn. Research done by the National Institute ofMental Health (NIMH) also suggests that medications such as these may helpchildren with accompanying conduct disorders control their impulsive,destructive behaviors.However, these drugs don’t cure ADHD, they only temporarily control thesymptoms. Many health professionals recommend that these medications be used incombination with some type of therapy, training, and/or support group. Suchoptions include: psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, social skillstraining, parental skills training (for parents with ADHD children), and supportgroups.
Although most people with ADHD don’t “outgrow” it, they do learn how toadapt and live better, more fulfilling lives. With the proper combination ofmedicine, family, and emotional support, people who have ADHD can develop waysto better control their behavior.Through further studies, scientists are better understanding the natureof biological disorders. New research is allowing us to better understand howour minds and bodies work, along with new medicines and treatments that continueto be developed. Even though there is no immediate cure for ADHD, researchcontinues to provide information, knowledge, and hope.Category: Science