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D E S C R I P T I O N

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common developmental disorders among children. ADHD is often accompanied by other disorders, such as learning disability, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety or depression.

ADHD is thought of as a children's disorder. However, symptoms often persist into adolescence and may continue with less severe symptoms into adulthood.


R I S K

ADHD affects 3 percent to 5 percent of all children. Boys are two to three times more likely than girls to have ADHD.

Approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have at least one close relative who also has the condition. At least one-third of all fathers who had or have ADHD have children with ADHD.


S Y M P T O M S

Children and adults with ADHD exhibit characteristic behaviors, which fall into three common behavioral groupings:

  1. Inattention - has difficulty with tasks requiring long-term effort; is forgetful, disorganized and easily distracted; doesn't listen.

  2. Hyperactivity - fidgets; cannot sit quietly; is always in motion; talks excessively.

  3. Impulsivity - cannot curb immediate reactions; acts or speaks without thinking; interrupts; has difficulty waiting.

People with ADHD may exhibit behaviors from one or more groupings. The behaviors must be significant and last a long time (at least six months).


T R E A T M E N T

Medications, behavior-changing therapies and environmental options are available to help people with ADHD.

1. Medications - Stimulants - such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), Adderall (a combination amphetamine product) and Cylert (pemoline) - are effective for both children and adults, reducing their hyperactivity and improving their ability to focus, work and learn. Antidepressants have also produced favorable results.

Medications do not cure the disorder, however; they only control the symptoms temporarily. Also, medications may improve attention, but that does not necessarily lead to improvement in specific skills such as reading, doing math or remembering.

2. Behavior-changing therapies - Medications are not effective for all aspects of ADHD. Behavior-changing therapies are also helpful:

  • psychotherapy, which helps people with ADHD accept themselves and their disorder
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps people learn to manage their behavior (for example, controlling fighting or organizing tasks)
  • social skills training, which helps children learn appropriate social behaviors, such as sharing and taking turns

3. Environmental options - Most children can remain in a regular classroom, but they may need special accommodations, such as:

  • a place to sit that has few distractions
  • an area where they can move around and release excess energy
  • clearly posted rules, with rewards for appropriate behavior
  • extra time on tests
  • reminders of assignments or materials needed
  • written instructions as well as oral instructions

Neurofeedback, a technique for learning self-regulation of brain activity, is a new treatment option for individuals with ADHD. The individual learns how to suppress brain activity associated with distraction, while boosting brain activity associated with focused attention.


P R E V E N T I O N

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown. However, evidence suggests a biological cause. ADHD usually is NOT caused by:

  • head injury
  • birth complications
  • food allergies
  • excess sugar
  • poor home life
  • poor schools
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