Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD, is a common neurobehavioral disorder that causes above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviour. Across the lifespan, the social and societal costs of untreated ADHD are considerable, including academic and occupational underachievement, delinquency, motor vehicle safety, and difficulties with personal relationships.
Prevalence of ADHD
Studies have shown that around 8–11% of primary school children in India show symptoms of ADHD. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), 6.1 million children (9.4%) of all US children showed symptoms of ADHD. In all these studies, around ⅔rd of the affected were boys (which implies boys are twice as likely as girls to receive ADHD diagnosis). It was also found that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely than children from middle and higher socio-economic backgrounds to receive a diagnosis.
Adults can also be diagnosed with ADHD. Unlike in children, men and women are equally likely to be affected by ADHD.
Common symptoms of ADHD include the inability to sit still, speaking out of turn, excessive physical activity and acting without thinking. As a result, those diagnosed with ADHD also have difficulty in focusing or concentrating on anything and are easily distracted. Most also tend to be forgetful.
Types Of ADHD
ADHD is mainly classified into three types based on the symptoms presented.
- Predominantly inattentive type: Patients with this type of ADHD show symptoms of inattention and distractibility but are not hyperactive.
- Predominantly hyperactive type: Patients with this type of ADHD show symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness but not those of inattentiveness.
- Combined type: This is the most common type of ADHD. Symptoms of both hyperactivity and inattentiveness are presented.
The causes and risk factors of ADHD are unknown. Scientists are constantly studying the possible causes of ADHD. Current research (studies of twins and siblings) shows that genetics plays a key role in causing ADHD. Other possible causes are reduced dopamine levels (neurotransmitter responsible for stimulating pleasure), brain injury, exposure to environmental hazards during pregnancy, consumption of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy, premature delivery, socio-economic factors, etc.
There is no single diagnosis test for ADHD. Usually other tests are taken to rule out other possible causes of ADHD symptoms. After this is ensured, the symptoms are graded and appropriate treatment provided.
There is no single known cure for ADHD but there are various ways to manage the symptoms. Apart from behavioral therapy, medications can be used. The most common type of ADHD medications is stimulants. Common side effects of stimulants include:
- Feeling restless and jittery
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Irritability, mood swings
- Racing heartbeat
There are also many safety concerns regarding the use of stimulants like potential drug abuse. Non-stimulant drugs are also used to treat ADHD like atypical antidepressants and certain other blood pressure medicines. These are not as effective as stimulants in treating hyperactivity but they are considered when stimulant medications fail to work or cause intolerable side effects.
Untreated ADHD can severely impact both adults and children. It can affect school, work, and relationships negatively. It is important for people with symptoms to get help and take care of their mental health.