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June 22, 2010 at 2:03 PMComments: 9 Faves: 1

Five Surprising Facts about ADHD

By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This Author

With as many as 10% of children now diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), even those without the condition or without an affected friend or family member are familiar with the signs. Doctors break them down into three main categories: impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity.

While these may sound fairly vague overall, chances are if you or someone you know has been diagnosed, you'll recognize some of the signs (click for larger view):

Yet, despite widespread information surrounding the disorder, most people would be surprised to learn these five facts about ADHD. You'll find them below, along with a more complete understanding of this increasingly prevalent condition.

#1. There are multiple risk factors for ADHD.

  • Genetics: One of the most investigated links in conditions of ADHD is genetic predisposition. Research has shown that if one or both parents are diagnosed with ADHD, risks for the child developing the same condition will increase. Interestingly, this is especially true for fathers with ADHD. Statistics show one in three children born to fathers with ADHD will share this disorder.
  • Gender: Though the cause of this phenomenon is still unclear, it seems that boys have an increased risk of developing ADHD. One study found that boys are diagnosed twice as often as girls.
  • Environmental Toxins: One common explanation for the boom in cases of ADHD is environmental toxins.  Perhaps, people say, it is no coincidence that disorders like ADHD and autism have increased along with the amount of toxic chemicals present in our environment. It has already been shown that risk of serious neurological and degenerative disorders will increase with a child's exposure to mercury, lead, aluminum and pesticides.  Frighteningly, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that one in six women has unsafe levels of mercury in her body  putting any children she may have at increased risk of disorders like ADHD.
  • Bruxism: While you may have suspected genetic, gender and environmental factors as causes of ADHD, Bruxism, or teeth-grinding, is a link that seems to come out of nowhere. However, the approximately 5% of Americans suffering from the condition are at increased risk of developing ADHD. It seems Bruxism is strongly linked with a type A (aggressive/ambitious) personality type. Doctors believe it is caused by a dominance of slow-moving brainwave activity a factor shared by ADHD.
  • Problematic Pregnancy and Birth: Trouble during the pregnancy or birth of child is another factor which has been tied to ADHD. Mothers who smoke or drink alcohol during their pregnancy greatly increase their child's chance of developing many different health problems, ADHD included. Interestingly, ADHD is also more prevalent among children whose mothers required bed rest or reported high anxiety levels during their pregnancy. Perhaps this explains why boys are more commonly diagnosed with the condition. One study found that for unknown reasons, mothers carrying boys reported higher anxiety levels, especially between 12-22 weeks.
  • Television Viewing: Multiple studies have shown negative effects when infants and toddlers are exposed to TV and videos. Experts hypothesize that this is due to the way images are portrayed with rapid scene shifts and unnatural fast pacing that don't occur in the real world. These aspects of TV, they say, may be over-stimulating them at a time when children are trying to develop an accurate understanding of their world. They believe television viewing may be rewiring childrens' brains and causing changes in their still developing neural pathways. Evidence includes a jump in the number of children diagnosed, first in the 1950's when TV became a common household fixture, and once again in the 1980's when the VCR made watching videos possible at any time.

#2. There are 6 types of ADHD.

Traditionally, ADHD has been divided between just three subtypes: ADHD, Combined Type which includes both symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity; ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive which exhibits signs of inattention, but not hyperactivity/impulsivity (commonly referred to as ADD); and ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive which shows hyperactivity/impulsivity but not inattention symptoms.

However, increased understanding of the condition has allowed Dr. Amen, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, to identify six different manifestations and the best course of treatment for each.

  1. Classic ADHD: Classic ADHD is like ADHD, Combined Type. Affected individuals exhibit inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This type responds well to the stimulants normally prescribed for ADHD.
  2. Inattentive ADHD:This individual exhibits inattention and impulsivity, but shows low levels of energy instead of hyperactivity. This type is often referred to as ADD and responds well to normal stimulant medication.
  3. Overfocused ADHD: Affected individuals exhibit all the normal symptoms of ADHD, plus a tendency toward negativity, often resulting in arguments, opposition and other negative behaviors.
  4. Temporal Lobe ADHD:Similar to Overfocused ADHD, they exhibit all the classic symptoms of ADHD as well as negative behaviors. However they tend more toward aggressiveness and irritability and also have memory and learning problems.
  5. Limbic ADHD: Exhibits all the classic symptoms of ADHD, as well as symptoms of depression like lowered energy and motivation.
  6. The Ring of Fire: The Ring of Fire refers to individuals with a cross between ADHD and Bipolar disorder. Commonly manifested as moodiness, aggressiveness and anger, Ring of Fire individuals do better with anticonvulsants and antipsychotics than traditional stimulants.

#3 - You can ease symptoms without prescriptions meds.

  • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy is about identifying negative behaviors and finding ways to change them. The goal here is to directly change thinking and coping strategies. This can include help with organizing chores and homework, and handling powerful emotions through self-monitoring and self-praise.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can help the individual with ADHD learn to like themselves even with ADHD and to understand patterns of self-defeat and negativity so they can change and cope better in the future.
  • Social Skills Training: ADHD can create social problems for some people.  Here the focus is on how the individual perceives others and how others perceive them. The goal is to help the individual feel more comfortable interacting with others.
  • Support Groups: Support groups allow people with ADHD to help each other through mutual understanding and support with experienced advice. It ishelpful in creating a sense of belonging and acceptance. Support groups provide a place to share the frustrations that come with ADHD, with people that truly understand the struggle, without fear of judgment.
  • Parenting Skills Training: Children with ADHD benefit from parents who are not only knowledgeable about their condition, but are also knowledgeable when it comes to meeting their unique needs and dealing with common behavioral traits. Parenting skills training can help parents learn effective ways to discipline bad behaviors and to reward good behaviors. It can also help parent understand what their children need to be successful, including rules, consistent routines and organization.
  • Diet Changes: Protein has been found to be especially important to individuals with ADHD. According to neuroscientist Richard Wurtman Ph.D, protein triggers the synthesis of alertness-inducing neurotransmitters. Yet studies show less than 5 percent of children are actually getting the recommended amount of protein for breakfast and lunch.
  • Another aspect of diet that affects those with ADHD is food sensitivity. Studies have shown at least 30% of children and toddlers with ADHD benefit from the use of an elimination diet to determine food sensitivities. The Feingold diet designed for individuals focuses on food sensitivity and protein issues. Though experts remain unconvinced of its effectiveness, there are hundreds of testimonials from parents who say it helped their kids.
  • Herbal Supplements: Though you should check with a doctor before introducing a new herbal supplement in your diet, many herbal remedies may help ADHD symptoms.
    • Skullcap has been show to clinical research to work as a tonic on the nerves and promote calmness and balance. 
    • German Chamomile is used to relieve nervous tension and frustration.
    • Gotu Cola helps improve circulation to the brain  increasing memory and clarity and preventing mood swings. 
    • Gingko Biloba has been shown in numerous studies to enhance memory function and focus.
  • Neurofeedback: A new treatment for ADHD, neurofeedback works with brain waves, especially those associated with inattention and focus. In neurofeedback, doctors fit patients with electrodes and create a map of the patient's brain, checking against it during subsequent sessions. In each session, the child is taught to control brainwaves through the use of specially designed computer games. Though still new, the outlook of neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD is very good.  According to one practitioner, after the year of neurofeedback therapy, some patients were able to reduce medication dosage by about 50 percent.

#4 - Several conditions are commonly mistaken for ADHD.

ADHD can share symptoms with several other conditions  some benign and some very serious. Therefore, it's important that your doctor rule these out as the cause for symptoms you or your child may be experiencing.

  • Thyroid Conditions: Especially hyperthyroidism, which makes children susceptible to mood swings, short attention span and tremor, thyroid conditions can often be mistaken for ADHD.
  • Sleep Apnea/Disorder: A lack of proper sleep can lead to ADHD symptoms in individuals with the condition.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome: This condition is often confused with the hyperactivity of ADHD.
  • Mental Illness: Depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder all share symptoms of ADHD. While these may occur concurrently, they may also be mistaken for each other.
  • Brain Injury: Originally, ADHD was thought of simply as a brain damage disorder. We now know that this isn't the case, but the idea may have been grounded in fact. Lead poisoning and cerebral palsy both share symptoms with ADHD.
  • Learning Disability: Though ADHD can coexist with a learning disability, that is not always the case. Dyslexia, for example, is commonly misdiagnosed as ADHD.
  • Hearing Problems: Hearing problems are often confused with ADHD because children who don't hear instructions may seem like they are just daydreaming. They may also act out in frustration the way a child with ADHD might.
  • Giftedness: Often gifted children become easily bored and are restless the way a child with ADHD is.
  • Food/Chemical Allergies: Allergies can create symptoms that are similar to ADHD - in fact, several cases found symptoms were eliminated completely once the allergen was removed. However, ADHD can occur alongside allergies, and while removing allergens can help these individuals, it will not cure ADHD.

#5 - ADHD can have advantages!

Today, almost half of CEOs in major corporations, many successful entrepreneurs, and many members of the US Senate have ADHD! Many of the most famous people in history, including Leonardo Di Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein showed signs of ADHD. Of course ADHD can create difficulties, but for these special individuals it may have given them a real advantage. Individuals with ADHD often share these positive characteristics:

  • Compassion: People with ADHD are often good at connecting with others and empathizing, because they are used to being different and have experienced both compassion and intolerance from others.
  • Creativity:  The connection between creativity and ADHD is very strong. While studies are still being conducted to understand the link completely, it has been suggested that sporadic thought patterns lead to connections that might not have been made otherwise. It has also been suggested that perhaps ADHD is a symptom of creativity, not the other way around.
  • Drive: With ADHD, completing a task the individual is bored with can seem like pulling teeth, but if they are interested in what they are doing, they can have an incredible drive to do their best and get it done.
  • Problem Solving Ability: ADHD can help us make connection between different concepts with more ease than most. Many inventors show symptoms of ADHD.
  • Hyper-Focus: While some individuals with ADHD may have a hard time focusing at all, other are hyper-focused on the task at hand and have a hard time letting it go until it's complete. This helps the individual to stay controlled and directed to accomplish long-term goals.
  • Sense of Humor: ADHD is common among comedians. ADHDers tend to be creative, and have a knack for understanding others and making connections - all important to well developed sense of humor.
  • Resiliency: Despite the challenges of ADHD, people with the condition are notoriously resilient and adaptable.
  • Intuition: It may be because of their insight into human nature or their ability to notice patterns and make connections, but whatever the reason, ADHD seems to fine-tune the individual's intuition.
  • Idea Generating: Though people with ADHD prefer to avoid minutia, they excel in big picture thinking and have a skill for coming up with ideas quickly.
  • Unique Perspective. People with ADHD are good at remaining objective and have a gift for seeing things from multiple perspectives.

Five Surprising Facts About ADHD Infographic

Sources:

WebMD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: What is ADHD?

WhiteDot.Org : It's Official: TV Linked to Attention Deficit

eMedTV: Behavior Therapy for ADHD

ADDitude Magazine.com: Alternative ADHD Treatments: Can Diet Ease Symptoms?

ADDititude Magazine.com: Alternative ADHD Treatment: Neurofeedback

Web4Health: Advantages of ADHD

ADD/ADHD Self-Assessment Test from Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, MD and the Smart Living Network®

Take Our Free ADD / ADHD Assessment Now!

Concerned you or your child may have ADHD? Want to track progress with an ADHD treatment? Need a way to work with your ADHD child's teacher? Take our Complete ADHD Assessment today!

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9 Comments

  • I REALLY like your fifth heading here, the advantages of ADHD. It seems like the world is so bent on creating complacent, submissive followers, that they forget we need leaders too (either that or the 'problem' is a conspiracy to dumb down the herd).

    The thought of my children being drugged into the zombie state I so frequently see in other medicated kids makes me sick. My wife and I have opted to home school our children so they won't be forced into the submissive mold expected of children. Whatever, they can be tomorrow's creative, resilient, driven, and intuitive leaders!

  • Thanks, Sprouty!

    I agree. While it may be more difficult to teach or parent the funny, creative kid than the quiet, attentive kid, I'd rather hear what they have to say than to silence them with mind-numbing medications. We need all sorts of people in the world. Now, if your child is struggling in school, I definitely think it's a parent's and teacher's job to do what they can to help them succeed, but I also think that can be done without the meds. Just takes a little more effort.

    When you teach your creative, active child how to organize their thoughts and break tasks down into more manageable pieces, you are setting them up for a lifetime of success. Just think - we have computers now that can do most any technical job better and faster than we humans can - what they can never replace however, is our human ability to think, feel, design, conjure ideas and create!

  • Wow I love this. Go Sprouty!! I am fortunate enough so far that the school has had an open mind and seem to be up to date. I want my children to be creative and learn to deal with others in different situations. My son has done much better this year socially and is learning to handle situations better.

  • Good to hear from all of you! One of the most damaging experiences I have had was in public schools, constrained by the way things were taught and what experiences were available to me. I would have loved to have create freedom and be able to learn at a quicker pace and with different resources. Instead, it was right in the middle of the "no child left behind" fiasco. Good on paper, but I was stuck in a school where a lot of students *wanted* to be left behind.

  • Silver - Thanks! It's good to hear that your school is supportive and that your son is doing better this year. :)

    Dave- I can totally relate to that. I never had a hard time understanding the concepts being taught. I was considered to be one of the strongest students in a few subjects - writing and science in particular. My deal was that I was a perfectionist and so work took me longer to do than it should have, thus I became overwhelmed by my workload. At the same time, I was bored by the subject matter and wanted to work ahead, but because I didn't do my homework like I should, I wasn't allowed. I talked with my school counselor about it and told him I just didn't care. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Where I was going, who I wanted to be. So why would I put up with the frustration? I didn't see the point and I didn't really find the motivation to work until I did.

    My best advice for parents of ADHD children is to support and believe the heck out them! Help them learn organization and how to break large tasks into smaller ones. Help them develop and define personal goals and see where their efforts are moving them. Believe in their talents through it all and voice that belief as often as you can.

  • Can't help but chime in again. Dave and Erin, both of your comments remind me of school too. I was a poor student until 9th grade, because we all took the same 'oatmeal' classes. Erin, I was soooooo bored in some of my classes, always refused to do my homework (like, to the point where I would calculate how many homework assignments I could not do and still get a passing grade in the class), and just wanted to just go to the next chapter.

    Then came 9th grade, where students were allowed to choose their classes for the next semester. I instantly became a straight A student.

    One meeting with my guidance counselor stands out to me. I applied to take Chem II, Physics II (while being the lab assistant for both), AP Calc, 3-D Geometry, AP Biology, AP English Lit, AP Economics, Spanish IV (AP), and Photography for my senior year. He said no, I needed room to breath and needed more study hall time to get my homework done (he knew I didn't do my homework). I argued with him for weeks about this. Eventually, the superintendent was called in. The dialogue went pretty much like this:

    Mr D.: "What do you want to do when you graduate?"
    Me: "I don't know. That's why I'm in school... to figure that out."
    Mr. D: "What interests you?"
    Me: "Everything. Didn't you see my elected schedule for next year?"
    Mr. D: "OK smart aleck. But I don't think you should take all those classes as AP classes."
    Me: "But AP classes count as college credits once I take the exam."
    Mr. D: "If you don't pass the exam, it's a poor reflection on this school's counseling program."

    They eventually agreed to let me pack my schedule the way I wanted, but with the provision that they could pull me from any classes (of their choice) if my performance wasn't what they expected. Senior year came, and I still didn't do most of my homework. But, I maintained my GPA and they were happy with me (except the teachers who's homework I didn't do :)).

    Of course, that was all 10 years before 'no child gets ahead' came about. Oh, and I did have study hall for 40 minutes almost every day... during which time I played ping pong instead of doing my homework. Had some great discussions (growth models, repulsion angles, and function limits as they apply to the surface area of a regularly textured sphere) with some of my equally nerdy ping pong sparring partners.

    I guess my point is with all this: you have to find someone (thank you Mr. D. and Mr. M.!) to believe in you (Erin!) and allow you to learn at your own pace (Dave!) or you'll just be miserable... much like I was until they started letting student make their own schedules for the following year.

  • The more i read about ADHD the more I think I have it.

  • Very Informative.

  • I have ADHD and ADD all the way that how my parents,teachers, and people overall slaped on me. Sometimes i feel the thing people say in these types of documents are false. Yeah some are right but the percent of this people right is about a 80% you still have 20% or 10% left that isnt right if i did the math correct. I very much find this hilarious:) contact me if any questions at haleysroka102@gmail.com

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