Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children. Children with ADHD may be hyperactive and unable control their impulses. Or they may have trouble paying attention. These behaviors interfere with school and home life.
It’s more common in boys than in girls. It’s usually discovered during the early school years when a child begins to have problems paying attention.
Adults with ADHD may have trouble managing time, being organized, setting goals, and holding down a job. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addiction.
Symptoms in Children
Symptoms are grouped into three categories:
Inattention. A child with ADHD:
- Is easily distracted
- Doesn’t follow directions or finish tasks
- Doesn’t appear to be listening
- Doesn’t pay attention and makes careless mistakes
- Forgets about daily activities
- Have problems organizing daily tasks
- Doesn’t like to do things that require sitting still
- Often loses things
- Tends to daydream
Hyperactivity. A child with ADHD:
- Often squirms fidgets, or bounces when sitting
- Doesn’t stay seated
- Has trouble playing quietly
- Is always moving, such as running or climbing on things (In teens and adults, this is more commonly described as restlessness.)
- Talks excessively
- Is always “on the go” as if “driven by a motor”
Impulsivity. A child with ADHD:
- Has trouble waiting for his or her turn
- Blurts out answers
- Interrupts others
Symptoms in Adults
Symptoms of ADHD may change as a person gets older. They include:
- Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
- Low self-esteem
- Problems at work
- Trouble controlling anger
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Easily frustrated
- Chronic boredom
- Trouble concentrating when reading
- Mood swings
- Relationship problems
Causes of ADHD
The cause of ADHD isn’t known. Researchers say several things may lead to it, including:
- Heredity. ADHD tends to run in families.
- Chemical imbalance. Brain chemicals in people with ADHD may be out of balance.
- Brain changes. Areas of the brain that control attention are less active in children with ADHD.
- Poor nutrition, infections, smoking, drinking, and substance abuse during pregnancy. These things can affect a baby’s brain development.
- Toxins, such as lead. They may affect a child’s brain development.
- A brain injury or a brain disorder. Damage to the front of the brain, called the frontal lobe, can cause problems with controlling impulses and emotions.
Sugar doesn’t cause ADHD. ADHD also isn’t caused by watching too much TV, a poor home life, poor schools, or food allergies.
ADHD can’t be prevented or cured. But spotting it early, plus having a good treatment and education plan, can help a child or adult with ADHD manage their symptoms.