What are the general signs of ADHD in children?
- the child is restless, overactive, fidgety
- the child is constantly chattering
- the child is continuously interrupting people
- the child cannot concentrate for long on specific tasks
- the child is inattentive
- the child finds it hard to wait his/her turn in play, conversations or standing in line (queue)
The above signs may be observed in children frequently and usually do not mean the child has ADHD. It is when these signs become significantly more pronounced in one child, compared to other children of the same age, and when his/her behavior undermines his/her school and social life, that the child may have ADHD.
What causes ADHD?
We are not sure. Studies reveal that a person’s risk of developing ADHD is higher if a close relative also has/had it. Twin studies have indicated that ADHD is highly heritable. We also know that ADHD is much more common in boys than girls. The scientific community generally agrees that ADHD is biological in nature. Many reputable scientists believe ADHD is the result of chemical imbalances in the brain.
Some studies have indicated that food additives, specifically some colorings, may have an impact on ADHD behaviors. In July 2008, the European Union ruled that synthetic food colorings (called azo dyes) must be labeled not only with the relevant E number, but also with the words “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.
A 1984 study by Benton and team, demonstrated that sugar has no effect on behavior. A study in 1986 by Milich and Pelham, and another by Wolraich and team in 1985 also found no link between sucrose (sugar) and behavior impact on children with ADHD. However, most sugars found in sugary foods and sweets (candy) consumed by children are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup – these sugars were not used in any of the above-mentioned studies.
Mercury during pregnancy and ADHD risk – according to a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, mercury exposure during pregnancy may be associated with a higher risk of ADHD-related behaviors in offspring.
The authors added that even slight exposure raises the risk of ADHD. Fish consumption during pregnancy seems to lower the risk. Several types of fish have low or no levels of mercury. Women should focus on those types of fish when they are pregnant.
How do I know if I, my child, spouse or relative has ADHD?
ADHD cannot be diagnosed physically, i.e. with a blood test, urine test, brain scan or a physical checkup. As most children have problems with self-control anyway, a proper diagnosis can be quite challenging.
An ADHD diagnosis has to be carried out by a specialist – usually a psychiatrist, psychologist or pediatrician. The specialist will observe the child and recognize behavior patterns. Data regarding the child’s behavior at home and at school will also be studied. Only a specialist will be able to accurately detect whether other problems and/or conditions are resulting in ADHD-like behavioral characteristics.
Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD (ADHD Information Services)
If you do not know how to find a specialist, ask your GP.
When does ADHD start? How long does ADHD last?
According to New Zealand’s ADHD Online Support Group, the onset of ADHD usually occurs before the person is 7 years old. For about 75% of ADHD sufferers, symptoms continue into adulthood. However, levels of hyperactivity tend to decrease as the person gets older.
It was not until the 1970s that researchers began to realize that what we today know as ADHD did not always go away during a person’s teen years. It was during that decade that it was also noticed that some ADHD symptoms were identified in the parents of children undergoing ADHD treatment. In 1978 ADHD was formally recognized as a condition that also afflicts adults, and the term Adult ADD began – the ‘H’ of ADHD was dropped because it seemed the adults were not as hyperactive as children.
According to uspharmacist.com, approximately 8 million adults in the USA have ADHD. An adult with ADHD who is untreated will tend to have a chaotic lifestyle – they may seem more disorganized compared to people who are not afflicted with ADHD. Healthcare professionals believe there are millions of adults who have ADHD but do not know and remain untreated. Studies indicate that adults with ADHD benefit enormously from a combination of medication and behavior therapy.