Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopment brain disorder characterised by hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. It affects the functioning and development of persons affected by this condition, and influences their quality of life.
Hyperactivity would include excessive activity inappropriate for a given situation, like fidgeting, jerks, nonstop talking, taps, moving about constantly, etc. Impulsivity would include hasty actions without much forethought, usually with an eye on immediate gains or rewards, like blurting out inappropriate comments without considering the effect on the listener, or show emotions without control, or act without thinking about the consequence, impatience to get something without waiting for the individual’s turn, etc. Inattention is the lack of ability of the individual to focus on an activity or perform a task or complete it with persistence.
ADHD is, thus, a multi-component disorder of which impulsivity is considered as the central feature. The presence of each component can vary from patient to patient and across their lifespan. Although it is common to have some degree of inattentiveness or impulsivity or hyperactivity among children, in individuals affected by ADHD, these signs occur more frequently, are more severe and affect their quality of life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders categorises ADHD depending on the behavioural symptoms as:
1.Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Predominantly Inattentive Type
2.Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
3.Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Combined Type
ADHD is usually seen in children and teens and can continue into adulthood. It is usually diagnosed during early school years, between the age of 3 and 6, when children are unable to pay attention. It is more prevalent among boys than girls.
What causes ADHD?
Although, researchers are unable to pinpoint the causes of ADHD, contributing factors that might lead to the condition are:
-Genetics: Heredity can be a likely factor. It can run in the family.
-Brain damage or disorder: Changes to the frontal lobe of the brain can lead to changes in the way the individual handles emotions and impulses.
-Chemical imbalance: Chemicals produced in the brains can lead to ADHD
-Unhealthy pregnancy: Substance abuse, alcohol abuse, smoking, poor nutrition or infections that the mother went through during pregnancy can affect the baby’s brain and thus, lead to ADHD.
-Exposure of young children to environmental toxins such as lead in paints.
Unlike what is commonly construed, sugar consumption or poor support at home or school, do not cause ADHD.
ADHD cannot be cured, or prevented. However, there are ways in which it can be managed. And the characteristic signs of ADHD can be medically controlled. Medication, therapy, counselling (education and training), or a combination of various approaches can help to improve how the patient functions.
Medication for ADHD is usually a ‘stimulant’. It might sound unusual to treat this condition with what is known as a stimulant. However, these stimulants increase brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine which help in attention building and thinking. Such medications, like any other, are to be taken under strict medical supervision, as they do come with side effects and risks. Doctors might prescribe non-stimulants, if patients report serious side effects when taking stimulants.
Recent advancement in medical research has shown promising results in the use of stem cell therapy for treatment of ADHD. Stem cell transplant is a relatively new medical intervention. It replaces damaged cells in the brain with healthy ones. ADHD affected persons can benefit from these new brain cells that function normally, thus, easing several behavioural problems associated with the condition.
Psychotherapy approaches such as behavioural therapy, family/marital therapy, etc. can assist the patient and persons interacting with them. Behavioural therapy will help the patient change his or her behaviour. Controlling their anger, completing their tasks, or organizing daily activities, etc. can be easier for the patient by managing on their own. Family members, carers at school or colleagues at work can help by providing clear instructions or set routines the patient can follow. They can also provide the patient with positive or negative feedback about accomplished activities. Social skills can be learnt, thereby, improving their social interaction. Therapy for the family or spouse of the affected person will help them understand what the patient is going through and how they can help to ease the patient into a managed state.
Educating parents and schools about ADHD can help pick out early signs in children. Teaching people around a patient how to help, by providing routines and schedules, by encouraging positive behaviour, setting up situations in which the patient can respond with appropriate responses and thus, encouraging themselves, can ensure a successful overall management of the condition. Training the patient in social skills can help improve their social interaction, by teaching them how to behave in social situations.
ADHD can often cause negative or stressful emotions among the parents or the spouse, as most symptoms of the condition can be mistaken for poor behaviour before the individual is diagnosed with ADHD. Stress management techniques for those around the patients can help keep them calm and can encourage them to support the patients.
Support groups can open a world of assistance by way of sharing experiences and, by that, provide relief in knowing that the affected families are not alone.