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Saturday, January 12, 2008

ADHD: a childhood psychological disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a childhood psychological disorder characterized by persistent hyperactivity-impulsivity.

ADHD children are hyperactive; they have difficulty sitting still and controlling their physical activity. Their impulsiveness and lack of self-control creates annoyance and exhaustion which can cause many problems especially in school.

These children tend to encounter academic problems, because not only does their condition erode their ability to concentrate and focus on the tasks at hand, but it also wears down their capability to integrate in social and academic settings.

This may lead to inability to organize work and to pay attention to lessons. These children distract other children in class as well.

ADHD Children have a very low threshold for sensory stimuli such as noise, touch and visual cues. Over exposure to such cues can result in dramatic behavior changes including giddiness or aggressiveness.

About 4% of the general population is affected by ADHD; boys are six times more likely to be affected. ADHD reportedly continues into adulthood in approximately 40% to 60% of the cases.

ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder) are generally thought to be two different conditions, but in fact, they are interchangeably used to refer to the same condition.


Although the exact cause of ADHD is still unclear, biological factors seem to constitute the root cause of the disorder. Brain chemical imbalances are responsible for the majority of the symptoms exhibited by an ADHD child.

Genetic predisposition is another risk factor for developing the disorder.

Close family members of ADHD children are at a four-fold higher risk of having this medical condition; the incidence of the disorder is also reportedly higher in identical twins compared with non-identical ones or siblings.

However, no scientific research has yet specified chromosomes contributing to the development of this condition has not yet been identified in any.

Antenatal or postnatal brain injuries altering cerebral function can also give rise to the ADHD symptoms. Furthermore, any exposure to drugs, alcohol or radiation during cerebral development phase of the fetus may cause ADHD.

Certain postnatal infectious diseases such as meningitis or encephalitis can affect the brain tissue and thereby changing the process by which the brain sends signals and, ultimately, result in the manifestation of these symptoms.

Food additives and refined sugar, lead poisoning and ineffective parenting are amongst other factors responsible for the development of ADHD symptoms.


Attention deficit disorder is the condition which surfaces before the age of seven and causes extensive disruption in school, social and family life.

ADHD symptoms are grouped into three major categories: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention.

It may present itself as excessive fidgeting or squirming, difficulty in following instructions, shifting activities, uttering answers to questions, difficulty in maintaining attention, excessive talking, engaging in dangerous activities, inability to wait for ones turn, easily being distracted, and the inability to sit still.

There is a great likelihood that ADHD children experience a range of other nervous system disorders including learning disabilities, tic disorders (Tourrette's syndrome), motor control delays (reduced coordination), language difficulties, depression, autism, anxiety, conduct disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD), and oppositional-defiant disorder.


There are no specific blood tests, brain activity exams, or scans for diagnosing ADHD. Diagnosis is primarily made based on the patient's symptoms.

Questionnaires completed by a child's teachers or parents are used to help the specialist decide whether or not the problematic behavior needs treatment.


The parents of ADHD children should be assured that their child's condition is not their fault; they should also be told that these children are as capable as their peers and after receiving appropriate help they can lead successful, happy, and productive lives.

Successful medical treatment must be accompanied by non-drug approaches including supportive counseling and psychiatric or psychological help. In other words, ADHD treatment is a combination of medical therapy along with familial, educational, and social changes.

Low doses of psychostimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms and filter out unnecessary distractions.

The drugs have shown an 80%effectiveness in ADHD children; they enable children to pay more attention, concentrate, and to be less impulsive.

Several minor side effects have been reported for these drugs; all of which can be controlled through adjusting the administered doses.

The major concern for the parents of ADHD children is that their children will become dependent on the drug and will not be able to lead a successful life without medication.

Researchers have found no evidence supporting any physical or psychological dependency following the use of such drugs.

Children with comorbid conditions or disorders, such as autism or depression, may require an alternative drug.

A variety of parental training methods such as effective child behavior management methods, classroom behavior modification methods, and academic intervention schemes (special educational placement), have all yielded positive results.

Furthermore, employing behavioral techniques such as behavior modification and cognitive behavioral therapy can bring dramatic improvements even in the absence of medical therapy.

Some studies suggest changing the regular diet can treat ADHD individuals; however, there is no reliable and strong scientific evidence to support of such claims.

Thu, 10 Jan 2008 19:53:52
By Said Pournaghash Ph.D.,
Press TV, Tehran -

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