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ADHD in Children Health Center

ADHD: It Can Run in the Family

A child's ADHD diagnosis is often the key to helping parents realize they could have the condition, too.
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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."

ADHD can run in families. Some studies indicate that 25% of close relatives of kids with ADHD also have this neurological disorder. For parents, that number is even higher: In children with ADHD, more than 50% of the time at least one parent has ADHD, too.

Though it may not be diagnosed until much later, ADHD always begins in childhood, so adults with the condition have had it for years, dragging their symptoms along with them as they've matured. In fact, research shows that between 30% and 70% of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of the disorder as they grow into adulthood.

"Adults, especially women, might just believe they're not smart, or they're forgetful and disorganized," says Quinn. "They might be aware of their difficulties, but they have no idea that it is ADHD. They suffer silently until they are diagnosed later in life."

When an adult is diagnosed with ADHD, especially a parent, treating the disorder is important for her own health, but also for the health of her child living with the disorder.

"We've seen that parents with poorly managed ADHD are less likely to be aware of their child's whereabouts, less likely to come up with solutions to problems, and more likely to struggle with strategies for their child's future," says Quinn.

When ADHD is managed, a parent can serve as a role model who can make the well-being of both child and family a priority. Together, they can focus on living with ADHD and getting it under control by attending support groups, creating a family calendar, becoming organized, and learning more about the different types of medication available. Family members also can turn to a trained ADHD coach for help (as the Websters did) in coming to grips with their new diagnosis and advice on managing its ups and downs.

"A family living with ADHD can be happy, healthy, and balanced," says ADHD coach Nancy Ratey, EdM, author of The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your AD/HD Brain to Get Control of Your Tasks, Time, and Talents.

"The key is to start each day with a well-organized and realistic plan, list of activities, and schedule, always remembering that structure is what will help you succeed," she says.

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