Around 11% of children up to the age of 18 and 2% of adults over 18 worldwide might fall within the definitions of ADHD.
Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. However, it is argued that this is not necessarily true, as boys and girls display their symptoms differently, boys tend to show their symptoms more outwardly, such as by fidgeting and increased aggression, where as girls tend to have internal symptoms, such as low self-esteem.
In this article we will look at the common symptoms and causes of ADHD as well as what do do if you think your child may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
ADHD is vastly misunderstood and there are a lot of myths surrounding ADHD. This can make people who may feel that their child could be living with ADHD, feel that their child is ‘just badly behaved’.
There is a lot of stigma and judgement surrounding ADHD. Often people think that ADHD is a ‘made up’ disorder, so that children who are badly behaved can be labelled with a condition, instead of being seen as behaving badly. However, this is not the case, ADHD is classed as a mental illness, or a behavioural condition.
Conditions that can be mistaken for ADHD
Other conditions can be mistaken for ADHD and often professionals can misdiagnose ADHD for other conditions. These may include:
- Anxiety disorder – For children who have ADHD are more likely to develop anxiety. The medication children that can be given to help children manage symptoms of anxiety can often cause ADHD worse.
- Depression – When children are diagnosed with ADHD, the medication they are prescribed to help mange their symptoms can make their mental health worse. Medication, along with social factors such as feeling isolated, can make a child depressed.
What are the potential causes of ADHD?
There isn’t a single definitive cause of ADHD. It is thought that ADHD is caused due to a combination of factors. These factors include:
- Genetics – For an individual who has a family member living with ADHD, it makes them 4 times more likely to develop the condition too.
- Brain structure and function – It is thought that children that have ADHD will have different brain structures and functions, opposed to individuals who don’t have ADHD. It is also thought that children that have ADHD brains take two to three years longer to develop fully and mature.
- Premature births – When babies are born prematurely, their brains haven’t had the time to develop fully. The more premature the baby is, the more risk of them developing ADHD.
- Substance misuse – It is thought if a pregnant mother is taking drugs and drinking, it is possible that this can cause a child to have ADHD. This is yet unproven conclusively but links are clear.
- Environmental factors – It is believed that poor nutrition is a contributing factor to why children develop ADHD. This is because too many sugary foods causes hyperactivity. Diets lacking omega-3 can also cause them to be hyperactive because omega-3 is known to have a calming effect on children’s behaviour.
Where to go when you suspect your child may have ADHD
It is recommended that before taking your child to the GP, that you do some observations of your child. You could also ask their school teachers to do this too. Observations can help make a referral more credible if the signs are witnessed both by you and a teacher. When doing an observation, it is important to be looking out for:
- Eye contact – If you can see that your child isn’t making eye contact with others, this could be because they find making eye contact very difficult.
- Fidgeting – Children that have ADHD will find it hard to sit or stand still.
- Daydreaming – Daydreaming can occur when a child is finding it hard to pay attention, due to the lack of ability to focus.
- Attention seeking in class – Often children that have ADHD will like to be the ‘class clown’, they want to make themselves liked by others, or to cause class disruption. When they are faced with a task that they do not want to do they may be even more disruptive.
If you see evidence to suggest that a child has ADHD from yours and the teachers assessments then it is recommended that you take them to the doctors. Although a GP cannot make a formal diagnosis of ADHD, they are able to make you a referral to a specialist, if they agree this is the best action to take. During your visit with the GP, they will ask you questions, such as what symptoms you have observed, when they started and how much of an impact is it having on the child’s life. The GP will also ask if there is any family history of ADHD.
From there the child will be referred for an assessment with a health care professional. This could either be a child psychiatrist, paediatrician that specialises in children’s health, or a learning disability specialist, social worker or an occupational therapist that is an expert in ADHD.
The average age that a child is diagnosed with ADHD is around 7, often symptoms will start occurring around the age of 3 – 6.