Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder which affects approximately 5 to 12 per cent of the population. Although often regarded as a childhood problem, up to 66 per cent of children with ADHD still exhibit symptoms into adulthood.
The most common behaviors exhibited by those who have ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD often have difficulty focusing, are easily distracted, have trouble staying still, and frequently are unable to control their impulsive behavior. Inattention symptoms tend to persist across the lifespan whereas overt symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity decrease and are described as feelings of “inner restlessness” by adolescents and adults with ADHD.
Because everyone can show signs of these behaviors at times, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5) specifies that the behaviors must appear early in life (before age twelve) and continue for at least six months. In children, the behavior must be more frequent or severe than in other children ofthe same age. The behaviors must also create a real impairment in at least two areas of a person’s life, such as school, home, work, or social settings.
A diagnosis is usually made by a specialist such as a pediatrician, psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician,neurologist or psychologist. Diagnosis is based on a comprehensive assessment which includes a history obtained from the patient, parents, family members and teacher(s).
The exact origin of ADHD is unknown, but scientists speculate that the disorder may be caused by the following factors
- Genetics – Research strongly suggests that ADHD tends to run in families. However, this does not mean that all children in a family will have the disorder.
- Abnormal neurotransmitter function – Research suggests that an abnormally low level of neurotransmitters (substances that help transmit messages in the brain), may account for many of the signs and symptoms of ADHD.
- Environment – Certain external factors, such as alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and chemical poison ingestion during pregnancy may contribute to ADHD.
ADHD can have serious adverse effects on the lives of those affected. The disorder can cause poor performance at school and in the workplace, while social and family relationships can also suffer. Evidence also suggests that those with ADHD may be at risk for other problems, such as drug abuse, antisocial behavior, and poor self-esteem.