What Causes ADHD
Problem of Misdiagnosis
Activities that Help
According to the US National Library of Medicine, about three to five percent of children in the US suffer from attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), also called attention deficit disorder (ADD). Mental health counseling professionals and other experts claim that the numbers are actually higher, about eight to 10 percent of children under the age of 18 in the US.
When medical professionals first began to research ADHD back in the 1980s and early 1990s, many believed that children would grow out of ADHD once they reached adulthood and puberty. However, many of these same experts, in addition to other leading professionals, no longer believe this to be the case. It is now understood that children who suffer from ADD or ADHD can continue to struggle with the issue well into adulthood and experience adult ADD.
There are a number of ways in which ADHD and adult ADD can create problems for the people who suffer from the issue, affecting their own hopes for the future, their day-to-day experiences, and their family members and loved ones as well. However, there are also a number of ADHD treatments that can help create real change.
Are you or is someone you care about struggling with ADD or ADHD? A number of different styles of treatment are available to help. Contact us at the phone number listed above and learn what we can do to assist you in creating a balanced life for yourself and your family.
What Causes ADD and ADHD?
Perhaps one of the hardest parts about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is that the leading experts are uncertain as to what exactly causes it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some possible causes include:
- Genes. Twins have been studied internationally and the resulting research shows that ADHD may run in the family. There are a number of genes that may be responsible for the development of ADHD, but it is not yet known which are specifically involved.
- Brain tissue thickness. In the areas of attention, children diagnosed with ADHD have thinner brain tissue than do their undiagnosed peers. Some research shows that, in most cases, this tissue thickens as the child grows and ADHD symptoms diminish.
- Environmental factors. Some studies show that mothers who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol during pregnancy have a higher incidence of children later diagnosed with ADHD. High levels of lead in a preschooler’s environment may also mean an ADHD diagnosis later on.
- Brain injuries. Only a very small percentage of kids diagnosed with ADHD have experienced trauma to the brain, but some studies show that brain injuries can result in behaviors that are similar to those in kids with ADHD.
- Food additives. Artificial colors and preservatives have been linked to increased activity, one of the symptoms of ADHD, by some researchers, though how additives affect ADHD and its symptoms is still being studied.
One interesting note: though many believe that sugar causes or increases the symptoms of ADHD, most research shows that this is, in fact, not the case. Children given sugar substitutes and sugar were shown to have no difference in behavior or learning ability.
The Problem of Misdiagnosis
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Because the signs and symptoms of ADHD are so varied, ranging from hyperactivity issues to attention and focus problems, and can manifest differently in different patients, it’s common for those seeking treatment to be wrongly diagnosed with ADHD when the cause of the similar symptoms is another disorder entirely. According to MedlinePlus, some common problems that are often misdiagnosed as ADHD include:
- Learning disabilities
- Tic disorders
- Behavior issues
- Sleep disorders
Use of Medications in the Treatment of ADHD
There are a few different medication options available for the treatment of ADHD or ADD, for both children and adults. Stimulant drugs are the most commonly prescribed to treat this disorder because they have very few side effects and are affordable. Popularly prescribed drugs for patients over the age of six include Ritalin, Adderall, Metadate and Vyvanse, all drugs derived from methylphenidate. While these drugs are not classified as addictive for children, one should always be wary when taking any drug, as abuse and misuse of these drugs can be an issue.
There are also non-stimulant drug options. Strattera is one. Another is Intuniv. Recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the drug is supposed to increase the production of a chemical in the brain called norepinephrine, which is thought to be the chemical that is out of balance in some children with ADD or ADHD.
Short-acting, long-acting, some with side effects, some without – it can be a constant adjustment process to find the right combination of medications that work, especially for children whose bodies are constantly changing or adults who have co-occurring medical or mental health issues that also require medication and mental health treatment.
It is important to note that medication is not meant to be a permanent solution or the sole solution to the problem. Every few years, it is important to take a base line, removing the individual from all medications until they are out of his or her system so that the therapeutic team can accurately gauge how well the behavioral therapy is working. The individual should be working toward learning how to self-monitor his or her own behavior without the assistance of medication. The only way to figure out if this is working is to go off the medication regularly and then meet with medical and therapeutic professionals to figure out the next step.
Considerations When Using ADHD Medications
When choosing whether or not to use medication to treat ADD, stimulant or not, it is important to do your research and consider a few things. Sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, stomachaches and headaches can all be an issue for patients, according to the National Institutes of Health. For example, abuse of drugs in teens and others in the house can be an issue, and it’s an important consideration. Also, most ADD medications have mild to semi-severe side effects, and almost all of them require frequent lab blood testing, because they can tax important internal organs like the liver, kidneys and gall bladder. Additionally, some of these drugs can be physically addictive and if the user stops taking the prescription, he or she will experience a period of withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, the withdrawal symptoms and dependence are serious enough to lead some to enter ADD treatment centers and rehab programs to healthfully stop using the medications.
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ADHD Treatment Information
The choices you make for your ADD or ADHD treatment should be determined by your personal needs and experience with the disorder. Contact us today to discuss the best options for you and to find a comprehensive mental health treatment center that can provide you with the treatment and care that you need. The following are some of the more common and effective approaches to treatment.
Psychotherapy and Behavioral Therapy to Treat ADHD
Psychotherapy is one of the first ADHD treatments that most people try. Children and adults alike benefit from having a neutral sounding board to whom they can vent their frustrations, discuss their progress, and later, discuss how their medication is affecting them. However, therapy for ADD treatment must be much more than talk therapy alone. Behavioral therapy that teaches the individual the social skills they need to positively interact with others offers practical assistance in self-organization and self-praise, and teaches how to self-monitor behavior; it is the only evidence-based type of therapy that really addresses ADHD in a productive way. In some cases, behavioral therapy can be enough to help the patient get the issue of ADHD symptoms under control without the assistance of medication.
However, if the individual is taking medication for ADD as well as attending therapy sessions, both the therapist and prescribing physician must be in close contact with each other in order to make sure that the individual is progressing, especially if the individual is a child. Monthly check-ins are not uncommon, whether the two medical professionals work together or in different buildings. Only then can the benefits of ADD psychotherapeutic treatment be fully recognized.
Educational Classes, Support Groups and Social Classes in ADD Treatment
Educational classes provide valuable information that can assist the individual in learning more about how to monitor his or her behavior. Support groups and social classes can expand the breadth of peer support and offer opportunities to be guided through interactions if that is one of the issues present. However, just like medication or therapy, these ADD treatment methods only benefit the individual when they are done in combination with other ADD treatment options in such a way that the physicians and therapists running the programs work together on a regular basis to adjust the program. Their effectiveness is increased when other family members, parents or significant others learn what the patient is learning so that they can reinforce those behaviors and choices when the patient is “out in the world.”
Multiple Courses of Treatment
It cannot be stressed enough – the biggest benefit of ADD treatment comes when multiple courses of treatment are undertaken simultaneously with all programs being run by a single medical and therapeutic team rather than undertaken bit by bit across various organizations. Choose medical professionals and therapists who are willing and able to talk to the other medical professionals in the individual’s life, then follow up and make sure that there are monthly check-ins and progress meetings taking place.
Effective Activities to Augment ADD/ADHD Treatment
No matter what the age of the patient, there are many actions an individual diagnosed with ADD or ADHD can take to help relieve their symptoms. Some of the techniques to help treat ADD require the intervention of mental health professionals while others are simple and can be added to your daily life at home. Each of the following treatment options has proven benefits and, most often, the best results occur when multiple treatments are combined together.
- Exercise Regularly. This is one of the easiest ways to cope with the symptoms that result from ADHD. Exercise has a strong positive effect on the emotional and cognitive problems of ADD because it immediately increases the amount of multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, mainly dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Theses neurotransmitters are responsible for one’s ability to maintain focus and attention on an activity. In fact, exercise works much the same way as ADD medications such as Ritalin in helping the brain to relax and focus without any of the side effects.
- Get Outside. Research has proven that going out into nature can decrease the symptoms of ADHD independent of age. If you combine exercise with nature such as walking in a park, hiking, mountain biking or kayaking, for example, then you can double your ADD symptom relief.
- Eat Well. There is no proof that what you eat causes ADHD, however, what you eat and how often you eat it can affect your mood and energy levels. Also, people who eat erratically tend to binge on sweets, and this can indirectly increase issues of hyperactivity. Individuals with ADD should schedule regular meals with highly nutritious foods. These meals should include Omega-3 fatty acids as studies have shown that they improve mental focus in patients diagnosed with ADD. You can get your daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids by eating salmon, tuna, sardines, some fortified eggs, or by taking fish oil supplements.
- Stay Involved in Your Treatment. Continuing to take your medication regularly, attend group therapy sessions, and actively take part in personal therapy sessions in addition to incorporating some of the above at-home treatments can help to improve the quality and effect of your overall recovery.