ADHD: Cause Unknown, Diagnosis Difficult
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a disorder that most people have encountered. Most people know someone (child or adult) who has been diagnosed with ADHD, or at least are familiar with the disorder. Despite this, ADHD is relatively poorly understood.
Despite nearly a hundred years of research, the cause of ADHD has not been discovered. Many researchers point to genetics. Although ADHD does seem to run in families, the exact genetic marker for ADHD is not known. Additionally, there are many children who have been diagnosed with ADHD that do not have a family history of behavioral disorders. There may also be other factors involved, including:
- Differences in brain activity, structure, and chemistry
- Use of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs during pregnancy
- Environmental toxins
- Artificial food colorings
- Poor diet
- Too much television or video games
- Lack of a loving and secure home environment
In addition to the cause of ADHD being unknown, it is difficult to diagnose. ADHD cannot be diagnosed by blood tests, x-rays, or MRIs. Instead, it is diagnosed by a series of subjective criteria. These symptoms must be observed by teachers or parents, and a frequency for symptoms of behaviors must be reported. The diagnostic criteria for ADHD are as follows:
- A child must experience at least 6 symptoms for at least six months. There are three categories of symptoms: Inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity.
- Inattention symptoms are: making careless mistakes, lack of attention to detail, poor listening skills, disorganized, cannot complete tasks, failure to follow instructions, is easily distracted, avoids tasks requiring mental effort, is forgetful, often loses things, or has difficulty paying attention while playing or performing tasks
- Hyperactivity symptoms: fidgets, can't remain seated when supposed to, runs around or climbs things when the situation does not allow for this behavior, cannot play quietly, excessive talking
- Impulsivity symptoms: blurts out answers before the question is complete, cannot wait for his or her turn in activities, interrupts conversations, intrudes on others while playing
Additionally, the following are considered signs of ADHD:
- Symptoms being present before age 7
- Impairment from symptoms is present at two or more locations (for example, at home and at school.)
Many of these behaviors are simply normal behaviors exhibited by active children. Most children exhibit these behaviors on occasion. However, in our fast-paced society, a quick fix is often desired, and the child is medicated without enough information.
Although ADHD is a real disorder, it is better to be cautious and attempt alternative methods, such as behavioral modification, biofeedback, counseling, therapy, or herbal supplements before trying dangerous medications. Many stimulant medications have been shown to have dangerous side effects, such as heart problems, seizures, and death.
Photo Credit: allmothers
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