Attention deficit disorder (ADD) with or without hyperactivity affects school-age children and is more common in boys than girls. The condition can continue into adulthood.
ADHD is a brain developmental disorder. The main symptoms can be grouped into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Symptoms of inattention:
- Makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
- Loses or forgets personal belongings
- Has difficulty listening when spoken to (is easily distracted)
- Avoids tasks that require a mental effort over a long period of time
- Has trouble following instructions
- Has difficulty getting organized
Symptoms of hyperactivity:
- Moves around a lot, fidgets, squirms in their seat
- Has trouble sitting for long periods (leaves their seat in class)
- Has difficulty playing properly (cannot sit still, may shout and run about during leisure activities)
- Climbs or runs about
Symptoms of impulsivity:
- Talks excessively
- Interrupts others during discussions (talks out of turn)
- Often blurts out an answer before hearing the full question
Some people will show predominant symptoms: either symptoms related to inattention, or symptoms related to hyperactivity and impulsivity. Others will show symptoms of all three. These symptoms can become a problem at school, at home, in extracurricular activities, and in other areas.
Causes and triggers
ADHD symptoms are caused by a lack of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that act as messengers. They transmit information from one part of the brain to another.
There are multiple causes of ADHD and aren't yet fully understood. ADHD is believed to be largely genetic, which means that it is passed down from generation to generation. However, this does not mean that every child who has a parent with ADHD will have ADHD. Certain factors, such as premature birth, can also increase the risk for ADHD.
Many children with ADHD can also suffer from the following disorders:
- Learning disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Oppositional defiant disorder
Teachers are usually able to detect ADHD in the early years. An evaluation by a health care professional is required for an official diagnosis.
School staff, parents, health care professionals, and the child themselves should be involved in developing an adapted intervention plan. Including the child in decisions about their treatment will give them a feeling of control and ensure they are an active participant.
In addition to an intervention plan, children sometimes need an extra push. ADHD is therefore often treated with medication. Medications are very effective and can significantly reduce symptoms.
When should I see a health care professional?
If it is not treated, ADHD can have an impact on different areas of a child's life, including their academic performance and their social and family functioning. This can lead to low confidence or self-esteem. It's therefore important to consult a health care professional if you think your child may have symptoms of ADHD.