Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD, often abbreviated as ADHD) is usually considered to be a neuro-behavioral developmental disorder. It affects about 3 - 5% of children with symptoms starting before seven years of age. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness and inattention, with or without a component of hyperactivity.
ADHD occurs twice as commonly in boys as in girls.
ADHD is generally a chronic disorder with 10 to 40% of individuals diagnosed in childhood continuing to meet diagnostic criteria in adulthood. As they mature, adolescents and adults with ADHD are likely to develop coping mechanisms to compensate for their impairment.
The most common symptoms of ADHD are:
Children who have symptoms of inattention may:
Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:
Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:
If you suspect your child might have ADHD, see your family doctor or pediatrician. Your child's vision, hearing, and anything else that may contribute to inattention should also be checked. The doctor may diagnose ADHD or refer your child to a mental health specialist for evaluation.
Methods of treatment usually involve some combination of medications, behavior modifications, life-style changes, and counseling. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that stimulant medications and/or behavior therapy are appropriate and generally safe treatments for ADHD.
Many people today believe ADHD is a "condition" that did not exist in the days of good parental discipline and in the days when schools were allowed to apply discipline. The controversies have involved clinicians, teachers, policymakers, parents, and the media, with opinions regarding ADHD that range from not believing it exists at all to believing there are genetic and physiological bases for the condition, and also include disagreement about the use of stimulant medications such as Ritalin used in treatments.
FDA has approved two types of medications--stimulants and non-stimulants--to help reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve functioning in children as young as age 6.
Despite their name, stimulants, which contain various forms of methylphenidate and amphetamine, actually have a calming effect on hyperactive children with ADHD. They are believed to increase brain levels of dopamine--a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, attention, and movement.
FDA has also approved three non-stimulants to treat the symptoms of ADHD: Strattera (atomoxetine), Intuniv (guanfacine), and Kapvay (clonidine). These provide a useful alternative for children who do not tolerate stimulants well.
In addition to medication, some children with ADHD receive behavioral therapy to help manage symptoms and provide added coping skills. Moreover, concerned parents can reach out to their children's schools and community support groups for information and guidance on how to cope with ADHD behavior. "It's helpful to engage with the different individuals who are involved in a child's life when managing the disorder.
Studies suggest that about 4% of adults may have ADHD. For adults, the symptoms are the same as those in children but might show up somewhat differently. Adults with ADHD may have poor time management skills and trouble with multitasking, become restless with downtime, and avoid activities that require sustained concentration.
A diagnosis of ADHD in an adult is given only when it's known that some of the symptoms were present early in childhood, usually under the age of seven.
For some adults, a diagnosis of ADHD can bring a sense of relief. Receiving a diagnosis allows adults to understand the reasons for their problems, and treatment can help them to deal with challenges more effectively.
Study estimates ADHD symptom persistence into adulthood
60% of children with ADHD in a recent study demonstrated persistence of symptoms into their mid-20's, and 41 percent had both symptoms and impairment as young adults.
Investigators noted that rates of ADHD persistence into adulthood have varied greatly in earlier studies, depending on how information is collected and analyzed. In a 16-year follow-up of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (the "MTA"), they found that a combination of parent and self-reports plus a symptom threshold that is adjusted for adulthood (rather than based on traditional childhood definitions of ADHD) may be optimal.
There has been a lot of recent controversy over whether children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into adulthood. This study found that the way you diagnose ADHD can lead to different conclusions about whether or not an adult still has the disorder that started in childhood. First, if you ask the adult about their continued symptoms, they will often be unaware of them; however, family members or others who know them well often confirm that they still observe significant symptoms in the adult. If the classic childhood definition of ADHD is used when diagnosing adults, many cases will be missed because symptom presentation changes in adulthood. By asking a family member about the adult's symptoms and using adult-based definitions of the disorder, you typically find that around half of children with moderate to severe ADHD still show significant signs of the disorder in adulthood.
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