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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

From MayoClinic.com

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) is a condition that can make it hard for a person to sit still, control behavior, and pay attention. These difficulties usually begin before the person is 7 years old. However, these behaviors may not be noticed until the child is older.

Doctors do not know just what causes AD/HD. However, researchers who study the brain are coming closer to understanding what may cause AD/HD. They believe that some people with AD/HD do not have enough of certain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) in their brain. These chemicals help the brain control behavior.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of chronic disorders that begin in childhood and sometimes last into adult life. In general, children and adults with ADHD have a hard time paying attention and concentrating (inattention), sitting still (hyperactivity) and controlling impulsive behavior (impulsivity). These problems can affect nearly every aspect of life. Children and adults with ADHD often struggle with low self-esteem, troubled personal relationships and poor performance in school or at work.

At various times, ADHD has been called attention-deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity, and even minimal brain dysfunction. But today ADHD is the preferred term because it more accurately describes all aspects of the condition. Yet changing the name hasn't made ADHD less controversial.

For some time, experts disagreed on how ADHD should be diagnosed - and even on whether it was a real disorder. But in 1998, the National Institute of Mental Health agreed that ADHD is a legitimate condition. In addition, most doctors believe that a child shouldn't receive a diagnosis of ADHD unless the core symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention have created significant problems at home and at school for at least 6 months. Even so, it often can be hard to distinguish the behavior of a child with ADHD from that of normal, active children. And children who are either slow learners or bright, quick learners and children with adjustment problems share many symptoms with ADHD children.

Just what constitutes the best treatment for ADHD is also a matter of debate. Currently, psychostimulant drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) are the most common treatment. But the use of these drugs is under scrutiny. Psychostimulant medications can relieve many symptoms of ADHD, but they don't cure the disorder. It's also clear that counseling, special accommodations in the classroom, and family and community support are just as, if not more, important in solving the problems affecting a child's life.

Experts agree that without any treatment some children with ADHD will likely continue to have poor learning skills and low self-esteem. They may also have social difficulties that last into adulthood. The good news is that when children receive appropriate treatment for ADHD, their confidence, social skills and even academic performance may improve dramatically.


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