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Thursday, November 10, 2005

What exactly is ADHD?

Everyone hears a lot about attention deficit problems these days and the condition has even become a staple of media entertainment (mainly sitcoms), appearing as a humor-based topic on shows like Desperate Housewives and the animated series, South Park. But what exactly are attention problems beyond how we might normally conceptualize them?

The condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, can be summarized in a variety of ways, but essentially, the condition is simply one that is denoted by characteristic hyperactivity, short attention span, and high impulsivity. It is also a medical condition for which the diagnosis is occurring far more frequently. And, though this may not be surprising to some, the disorder is one that predominantly affects one particular gender.

How prevalent is ADHD? It may affect between from five to ten percent of younger children with the condition being diagnosed far more frequently in males versus females (up to 10 times more often).

Very often, an ADHD patient will show symptoms of other conditions, such as depression and anxiety. Those with ADHD also tend to have a certain degree of emotional instability and a reduced level of maturity comparable to their peers. Again, this is no surprise to parents and teachers. Unfortunately, as well, learning disorders are also fairly common among those with attention deficit problems.

Many of the same parents and teachers who must deal with attention problems in children on a daily basis, however, might be surprised to learn that many adults have attention deficit issues also (though prescription drug treatment and counseling for ADHD is typically aimed at adolescents and children). Very often, the adult with ADHD is not even aware that he or she has the condition. And, in fact, many older persons with ADHD are not diagnosed with the condition until relatively late in life.

Presently, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is believed to be genetically transferred and passed on by heredity. And popular conceptions about the disorder take the position that it is the result of biochemical abnormalities within the brain.

Coincidentally, this mirrors current views regarding bipolar disorder, a medical and psychiatric problem that seems to be caused, at least in part, by neurochemical deficits.

What should you do if you suspect your child may have ADHD, or suspect that you or another adult may have the disorder? Seek appropriate help, possibly from an internist, or a psychiatrist or other mental health practitioner who is trained to diagnose the disorder and evalute its severity. And do it soon. ADHD can be a difficult condition to live with, but, with proper intervention, its severity can be managed.

by Tim Moore


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