Treatment for ADD/ADHD

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ADD and ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is made up  of a number of symptoms from mildly inattentive to disruptively agitated and can present differently in boys and girls. ADHD contains three subtypes:

  • Predominantly inattentive type
  • Predominantly hyperactive–impulsive type
  • Combination type

A child can have any combination or degree of these behaviours. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) generally refers to the predominantly inattentive subtype of ADHD.


DEFINITION OF ADHD

ADHD is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display certain behavioral characteristics  over a period of time. The most common core features include:

  • distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks)
  • impulsivity (impaired impulse control and impaired delay of gratification)
  • hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness)

In order to meet diagnostic criteria, these behaviours must be excessive, long-term, and pervasive. The behaviours must appear before age 7, and continue for at least 6 months. A crucial consideration is that the behaviours must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person's life, such as school, home, work, or social settings. These criteria set ADHD apart from the "normal" distractibility and impulsive behaviour of childhood, or the effects of the hectic and overstressed lifestyle prevalent in our society.

According to the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) some common symptoms of ADHD include the following: often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes; often has difficulty sustaining attention to tasks; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often fails to follow instructions carefully and completely; losing or forgetting important things; feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming; running or climbing excessively; often talks excessively; often blurts out answers before hearing the whole question; often has difficulty awaiting turn.

It is to be noted that the exact nature and severity of ADHD symptoms varies from person to person.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY ADHD

According to 2013 statistics, approximately 11% of  children in the U.S. aged 4 to 17 have ADHD. This is a 16% rise since 2007. An estimated 1 in 5 boys in high school are reportedly affected and boys are generally more affected than girls. ADHD usually persists throughout a person's lifetime. It is not limited to children. Approximately 60% of children with ADHD will continue to have significant problems with ADHD symptoms and behaviours as adults, which impacts their lives, their jobs, the family dynamics and their social relationships.

Studies have shown that parents sometimes over-predict diagnosis of ADHD in their children, because they misremember their own childhoods as times of attentive and tranquil learning. Teachers can also over-predict ADHD diagnosis because they expect ADHD treatment to result in quieter classrooms. And children often under-predict ADHD diagnosis because they have no reference point beyond their own behavior, which they see as normal. In any given case, the parents, the teacher, and the child rarely agree on whether the child has ADHD.

Research at the University of Central Florida indicated that playing with your hair, wriggling in your seat etc. is not necessarily a sign that a child is distracted and not learning. It reported that squirming and fidgeting can be a way in which children maintain their cortical arousal, especially their working memory, when faced with a dull task. The study found that children with ADHD who are told to sit still perform worse on tests than those allowed to move around naturally.

THE CAUSES OF ADHD

ADHD may be caused by biological factors which influence neurotransmitter activity in certain parts of the brain, and which have a strong genetic basis. Studies to observe the brain at work have shown a link between a person's ability to pay continued attention and the level of activity in the brain. In people with ADHD, the brain areas that control attention were less active. It appears from this research that a lower level of activity in some parts of the brain may cause inattention and other ADHD symptoms.

There is also evidence that ADHD runs in families, which is suggestive of genetic factors. If one person in a family is diagnosed with ADHD, there is a 25% to 35% probability that any other family member also has ADHD, compared to a 4% to 6% probability for someone in the general population.

Experts at Cardiff University analyzed stretches of DNA from children who had been diagnosed with ADHD. Genetic samples where then compared with DNA from children without the condition. Compared with the control group, more children with ADHD had rare but large portions of DNA that were either missing or duplicated. The implication is that these regions may be crucial to development of the brain in the womb or in infancy, and that disruption may play a role in ADHD.

STIMULANT MEDICATION USEED IN THE TREATMENT OF ADHD

Stimulant medications (Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera etc.) are commonly used to help normalize brain activity by conventional medical practitioners. The latest studies show that while ADHD drugs can be effective, some kids may be wrongly diagnosed, and therefore inappropriately treated with the stimulant medications.

In a recent study an analysis of prescriptions for ADHD shows that the youngest children in a school classroom are 50% more likely to get a diagnosis, raising the concern that these children may simply be less mature than their older counterparts, and not experiencing ADHD at all.

In 2007, the number of prescriptions written for youth aged 10 to 19 years old rose 26% year-on-year, to 21 million annually. A study in 2008 showed that 5% of six to twelve year olds in the U.S. were taking stimulant medication to treat ADHD, a percentage that has continued to rise since the 1980s.