Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder in American youth, affecting 5.2 million – 9 percent – of children ages 3 to 17. More than half have at least one other co-existing mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Left untreated, ADHD, a neurobiological disorder which occurs more frequently in boys, can continue into adulthood and impact all aspects of life.

Although the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, research indicates that it is most likely due to genetics and environmental factors, such as exposure to high levels of lead. Fortunately, expanding knowledge and research has resulted in effective treatment and enhanced quality of life.

Three types of ADHD are recognized: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and a combination of both. Symptoms of predominantly inattentive include difficulty paying attention to details and organizing tasks, daydreaming, and losing things. Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive symptoms include fidgeting, interrupting, talking excessively, and difficulty waiting one’s turn. The combined type has symptoms of both.

Diagnosing ADHD cannot be determined with one single test. A child’s medical history and academic, social, and emotional functioning must be comprehensively evaluated. If symptoms are persistent for six months or longer, ADHD may be suspected. Parental interviews are essential, as is direct observation of and information about the child at school. Learning disabilities, language disorders, and visual and hearing impairments also need to be ruled out.

Since ADHD cannot be cured, treatment aims to relieve symptoms. Treatment can include behavior therapy and/or medication for the child and training and education for parents. Treatment is custom-tailored to each child and his/her family. In therapy, children become aware of their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and of the consequences of their actions. It teaches coping skills, frustration/anger management techniques, and appropriate social skills. Parents need support and education about establishing new ways of communicating and relating to their children. It is important for them to learn how to react to disruptive behaviors in consistent and firm ways, while remaining calm. The goal is to enable children to be successful in school and lead productive lives.

For more information about ADHD treatment at Christian Health Care Center, call (201) 848-4463, email, or visit our Mental Health and Publications sections.

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