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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Frequently Asked Questions About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • What is ADHD?
  • Answer:

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; also known as ADD) is a behavioral condition that includes a group of symptoms such as difficulty sitting still (hyperactivity), problems staying focused (inattention), and acting without thinking (impulsivity). This disorder occurs in 8% to 10% of school-age children, affecting boys two and a half times more often than girls. In addition, ADHD often results in poor school performance -- since these children cannot sit still long enough to learn -- as well as low self-esteem from repeated criticism or punishment as a result of their uncontrollable behavior.

  • Has a cause been found for ADHD?
  • Answer:

    At this time, the exact cause of ADHD is unknown. What is known involves an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Also, this condition does run in families, pointing to certain genes that may be involved.

  • What should I do if I think my child has ADHD?
  • Answer:

    Since ADHD is a recognized medical disorder, you should take your child to your family doctor for evaluation and possible referral to a specialist in treating ADHD. You should also be aware that other conditions besides ADHD can cause a child to be overactive, inattentive, and impulsive. These include underachievement at school because of a learning disability; inattention due to petit mal epileptic seizures; frequent middle ear infection, which may cause an intermittent hearing problem; and anxiety or depression -- a common cause of disruptive or unresponsive behavior in children. This is why seeing your doctor and following his or her recommendations can be so important in helping your child gain control and improve self-esteem.

  • What are the available treatments for ADHD? Can it be cured?
  • Answer:

    There are various medications that can help control some of the symptoms of ADHD. Most commonly these are stimulant medications such as Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate ( methylphenidate preparations)  or amphetamines such as Adderall (a mixture of amphetamine salts), Dexedrine, and Vyvanse. . There is no cure for ADHD, and about half of those who develop this condition as children continue to  have symptoms that affect their functioning as adults. Special learning programs and behavioral management programs are available to help children with ADHD adapt to this disorder. Again, your doctor is your best starting point for treatment that will help your child.

  • My son has just been diagnosed with ADHD. Where can I go for more information or support?
  • Answer:

    One of the best sources for area ADHD support groups and/or information is CHADD (Children and Adults With ADHD). For information from or about CHADD, you can call (800) 233-4050 or visit their web site, www.chadd.org.

  • I've heard that watching too much TV or eating too much sugar can cause ADHD. Is this true?
  • Answer:

    It's unlikely. ADHD is believed to represent a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not usually caused by too much TV, food allergies, eating a lot of sugary foods, a poor home life, or poor schools. However, a child whose mother smoked cigarettes, drank alcoholic beverages, or abused drugs while pregnant may have symptoms similar to those of ADHD, because the toxic chemicals in these substances can affect the unborn child's developing brain.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD on July 25, 2012

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