A Short Introduction to ADHD
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We now know that ADHD is a real neurological disorder that probably
is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Through PET scans,
we are able to observe that people with ADHD have a lowered level
of brain activity in part of the brain.
Most of the time ADHD is inherited, but it can also be caused by
problems with the pregnancy, the delivery, early childhood severe
illness, environmental toxins, etc.
The three main symptoms of ADHD are getting bored easily, acting
fast without thinking first about consequences or alternatives, and
Three types of ADHD are diagnosed. One which is primarily
hyperactive and impulsive, one which is primarily inattentive, and
one which is a combination of all three symptoms. It is possible that the combined type and the primarily hyperactive and impulsive type are actually the same syndrome.
In addition to the three main symptoms, children with ADHD often
have other characteristics such as desiring immediate
gratification. They want it, they want it now, and they are going
to be in your face until you give in, become very angry, or they
have a tantrum. Many of the children are oppositional, demanding,
The children also tend to be immature. Twelve year olds are more
like eight year olds, nine year olds are more like six year olds,
These characteristics can lead to problems with peer relationships.
Many children with ADHD end up playing with younger children.
One of my biggest concerns is the effect that ADHD has on
personality development. The children begin to think that they are
stupid, uncontrollable, and unlovable. These negative self beliefs
lead to even greater problems since we act the way we think.
Most children have some of the symptoms of ADHD. We diagnose the
disorder if the symptoms differ significantly from what other
children their age are experiencing, if their developmental
history supports the diagnosis, and if there is significant impairment. We become concerned when we see
that the problems are handicapping the child’s development by
interfering with learning, relationships, and self concept
The current treatment of choice is a combination of medication and
counseling. Stimulant medications stimulate brain activity, thus
reducing the severity of the symptoms.
The purposes of the counseling are to educate the child and the
family about ADHD, help the family create a more ADHD friendly
environment, work on any developing personality problems, and try
to decrease parental depression and guilt.
Children with ADHD do not appear to addict to the medication.
However, we are now beginning to see teenagers and young adults who
are abusing the medications by mixing them with alcohol and other
drugs and using them to stay up longer to party. Currently, we do have some medications which have a lower abuse potential.
Help For ADHD
I recommend that you seek out more information about the disorder
by reading current literature about it, attending lectures, joining
CHADD, checking out videos from your library, or signing up for our
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