Rick Webster's son, Richy, stood out at school -- but not necessarily in a
good way. He wasn't doing his homework, he was having combative interactions
with teachers, and his grades were suffering as a result. While his classmates
had trouble once in a while, Richy's difficulties were constant. Rick and his
wife tried to get their 14-year-old son to focus on his studies, but the more
they pushed, the more his behavior spiraled out of control. The yelling, a
steady stream of calls from the school, and Richy's failing grades fueled the
ever-present sense of strain in their home.
After months of struggling, Richy's parents and teachers met to discuss the
situation. As they talked through his issues, each describing how the boy's
behavior was having a negative impact on his academic and family life, it
became more obvious than ever that Richy needed some help.
Bipolar disorder and ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are two conditions that are increasingly being diagnosed in American children and teens, often together. And interestingly, in children and teens, there are some similarities in the symptoms of the two conditions. But how can a doctor know for sure if the child has bipolar disorder or ADHD? Also, how does the treatment for these two conditions differ?
Medical science is learning more about bipolar disorder in children and...
"We started with a pediatrician, but ended up at a psychiatric center," says
Rick. "After several sessions and endless questions about Richy's behavior, we
learned that his actions were symptomatic of ADHD."
ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is diagnosed by a trained
clinician -- for example, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or pediatrician. The
clinician rules out other possible causes for the symptoms, such as a learning
disability or undetected seizures; conducts a thorough physical examination;
asks parents and teachers to describe the child's behavior; and, finally,
spends time with the child to learn how he or she behaves during situations
that demand self-control and attention, including reading, working math
problems, and playing a board game. Children with the disorder often show lack
of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are ongoing, disruptive, and
inappropriate for their age.
The process can evaluate the symptoms and lead to a diagnosis of ADHD, which
affects more than 2 million kids such as Richy in the United States today.
"Learning about Richy's ADHD was the first step in helping him and our family
get back on track," says Rick.
But Richy's diagnosis brought something else to light for Rick: The
conversation Rick and his wife had with Richy's teachers reminded him of his
own youth and his troubles with school, with peers, and with his parents. And
he thought of his continued struggles into adulthood with seemingly simple
tasks: organizing his calendar, focusing on projects, and getting out of the
house on time each morning.
In fact, Richy's diagnosis made Rick realize ADHD just might run in the
Is ADHD Inherited Behavior?
"More and more adults are starting to realize that the symptoms of ADHD they
see in their children are behaviors they've been living with since their own
childhood," says Patricia Quinn, MD, author of Putting on the Brakes: Young
People's Guide to Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
(ADHD). "So as a result of pediatric diagnoses of this condition, we are
also starting to see an increase in adult ADHD, as parents are being diagnosed
alongside their kids."