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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: What Is ADHD?

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What are ADHD symptoms in adults?

Adult ADHD symptoms may be different than the symptoms in children. In addition, they may stem directly from ADHD or may be the result of behavioral issues. Symptoms include:

  • Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Employment problems
  • Difficulty controlling anger
  • Impulsiveness
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Poor organization skills
  • Procrastination
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Chronic boredom
  • Difficulty concentrating when reading
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems

For in depth information, see WebMD's Adult ADHD.

What causes ADHD?

The exact cause of ADHD is not known, although researchers continue to study the brain for clues. They suspect that there are several factors that may contribute to the condition, including:

  • Heredity: The fact that ADHD tends to run in families suggests that children may inherit a tendency to develop ADHD from their parents.
  • Chemical imbalance: Experts believe an imbalance of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that transmit nerve impulses may be a factor in the development of ADHD symptoms.
  • Brain changes: Areas of the brain that control attention are less active in children with ADHD than in children without ADHD.

The following are other factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD or that may trigger symptoms:

  • Poor nutrition, infections, and substance abuse (including cigarette and alcohol use) during pregnancy may be contributing factors. That's because they can affect the development of the baby's brain.
  • Exposure to toxins, such as lead or PCBs, in early childhood can also affect brain development.
  • Injury to the brain or a brain disorder may play a part in the development of ADHD.

Eating too much sugar does not cause a child to develop ADHD. A proper diet is essential, though, for normal development in children. ADHD is also not caused by watching too much TV, a poor home life, poor schools, or food allergies.

How common is ADHD?

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children and is more common in boys than in girls. It most often is discovered during the early school years, when a child begins to have problems paying attention. ADHD can continue into the teen years and on into adulthood.

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