The Current Research on Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is also known as hyperactivity or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging.

People with ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. They may be fidgety, noisy and unable to adapt to changing situations. Children with ADHD can be defiant, socially inept, or aggressive. Families considering treatment options should consult a qualified mental health professional for a complete review of their child’s behavioral issues and a treatment plan.
The most common treatment for ADHD in both children and adults is stimulants such as Ritalin. Taking this medication typically results in fast – but temporary – improvements in both performance and social interaction. Most people with ADHD need extra help. In addition to medication, they can benefit from parent education, family therapy, and supportive interventions.

In up to 90 percent of cases, stimulant medication helps children improve their approach to schoolwork, get more focused and organized, think before acting, get along better with others and break fewer rules. The often seem happier, too. Despite these benefits, some concerns remain. Some worry that medication sends the wrong message, discouraging children and their parents from focusing on building problem solving skills. Others note that as eligibility criteria expand, the number of prescriptions are skyrocketing – suggesting that some children are being misdiagnosed. In the end, the cost/benefit analysis favors the use of stimulant treatment for children with ADHD. There is little evidence of harm and the treatment is effective.

Gender differences in ADHD are often misunderstood. The stereotype of someone with ADHD is a hyperactive little boy. The reality? ADHD also affects girls and even adult women. Parents, teachers, and others often overlook ADHD in girls because their symptoms differ from those of boys. Girls with ADHD aren’t usually hyperactive, for example. Instead, they tend to have the attention-deficit part of the disorder. According to researchers, girls with untreated ADHD are at risk for low self-esteem, underachievement and problems like depression and anxiety. They’re also more likely to get pregnant and start smoking while still in middle or high school. What’s worse, girls with untreated ADHD typically carry their problems into adulthood.

ADHD has three subtypes:
* Predominantly hyperactive – impulsive
o Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity – impulsivity categories.
o Few than six symptoms of inattention are present, although inattention may still be present to some degree.
* Predominantly inattentive
o The majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity – impulsivity are present, although hyperactivity – impulsivity may still be present to some degree.
o Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.
* Combined hyperactive – impulsive and inattentive
o Six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity – impulsivity are present.
o Most children have the combined type of ADHD

Treatments can relieve many of the disorder’s symptoms, but there is no cure. With treatment, most people with ADHD can be successful in school and lead productive lives. Researchers are developing more effective treatments and interventions, and using new tools such as brain imaging, to better understand ADHD and to find more effective ways to treat and prevent it.

Symptoms of ADHD:
Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and is greater than other children of the same age.

Children who have symptoms of inattention may:
* Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and switch from one activity to another.
* Have difficulty focusing on one thing
* Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
* Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
* Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments
* Not seem to listen when spoken to
* Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
* Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
* Struggle to follow instructions

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:
* Fidget and squirm in their seats
* Talk nonstop
* Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
* Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
* Be constantly in motion
* Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities

Children who have symptoms or impulsivity may:
* Be very impatient
* Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
* Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
* Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities

The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that 3%-7% of school aged children have ADHD.
* Approximately 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2007.
* Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.
* Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.
* The highest rates of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis were noted among children covered by Medicaid and multiracial children.
* Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis varied substantially by state, from a low of 5.6% in Nevada to a high of 15.6% in North Carolina.
* Parents of children with a history of ADHD are almost 10 times as likely to have difficulties that interfere with friendships (20.6% vs 2.0%).
* The annual cost of illness for ADHS is estimated to be between $36 and $52 billion, and $12-17,000 annually per individual.

Overall, ADHD, or ADD, is becoming more prevalent in our society and the ability to diagnose and treat it is as well. Children and adults alike are affected and factors such as gender and socio-economic status play a role as well. Although there isn’t a cure, ADHD can be successfully treated and managed in order to live a healthy and productive life.

About Elizabeth Rojas Brooks

Elizabeth Brooks completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California, and is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. Because of her own background, Beth has developed a level of compassion and understanding for the less fortunate, the wounded and the misunderstood. Her journey to recover from her own past has led her to pursue her passion – helping others who have had similar experiences. Beth’s goal is to work in the area of violence and abuse prevention and addiction recovery. She also has a special desire to assist our service men and women who are struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

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