What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by inappropriate impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity.
Children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still, paying attention, or controlling their impulsive behavior. This behavior is so pervasive and persistent that it interferes with many aspects of these children's daily lives.
Without proper identification and treatment, ADHD can have serious consequences such as school failure, family stress, depression, relationship problems, drug abuse, delinquency, risk of accidental injury, and job failure.
Symptoms of ADHD in children
A child with ADHD has trouble controlling his behavior.
He is constantly on the move, making noise without stopping, refusing to wait his turn, stumbling over everything around him, not paying attention or finishing the things he starts.
He also has difficulty learning and remembering.
Types of ADHD
Attention deficit disorder is divided into 3 general subtypes:
- Impulsive / hyperactive type ADHD(ADHD-HI)
The child tends to be very restless, has difficulty waiting his turn, and tends to be disorganized.
He also acts immature, has a poor sense of physical limits, behavioral problems, and a tendency to adopt destructive behaviors.
- Inattentive-type ADHD(ADHD-I)
The child may appear distracted, and lacks the hyperactive component of the previous subtype.
She processes information slowly, and she may have learning disabilities and show signs of anxiety and depression.
- Combined type ADHD (ADHD-C)
The child usually shows behaviors of the two previous subtypes, inattention and hyperactivity / impulsivity.
Diagnosis of ADHD
There are clear symptoms that allow professionals to identify and differentiate between a child without ADHD and a child with the disease.
The presence of ADHD can be suspected if inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive behavior is not appropriate for the child's age. This behavior leads to chronic problems in daily functioning. The first signs usually appear before the age of 7, although they are sometimes difficult to recognize and the disorder is diagnosed later.
There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, therefore a complete evaluation of the child is necessary to rule out other causes. A careful history and clinical evaluation of the child's academic, social and emotional functioning, as well as his level of development, is required.
Each of the subtypes tends to be diagnosed at different ages and stages of development. Thus, in the case of ADHD of the hyperactive / impulsive type or of the combined type, they are usually diagnosed at preschool ages. While inattentive ADHD is usually detected later, when the child is in school stages that require more attention to perform their tasks at school.
Causes of ADHD
ADHD is a complex disorder that results from the interaction of multiple factors.
One of the theories that currently exists is that it may be due to an imbalance in some of the brain's neurotransmitters, that is, in the substances that allow the transmission of signals in the brain.
It also appears that in ADHD, the brain is unable to filter the large amount of information that comes from stimuli from the outside world, and that in people with ADHD, the frontal lobes of the brain, which are related to inhibition, are less active than in people without ADHD. Genetic or hereditary factors are also important. There are many studies that have shown that several genes could be involved.
Low birth weight, prenatal maternal smoking, and other additional prenatal problems may also appear to contribute to the development of ADHD.
There is no cure for ADHD, but early diagnosis and treatment are very important. Treatment must be tailored to the needs of each child and their family.
The first step in treatment includes help with behavior and stress management, as well as educational support. At this point it is very important that parents of children with ADHD receive instructions that allow them to cope with and manage their children's behavior.
Medications should only be prescribed if behavioral strategies are not sufficient. The most effective are psychostimulant medications, such as methylphenidate, which improve a child's ability to focus and pay attention. Approximately 70-80% of children with ADHD respond positively to psychostimulants.
To reduce impulsivity, hyperactivity and aggression, some antidepressants and antihypertensives are used.
Like all drugs, there may be side effects that must be assessed.