WHAT is ADHD?
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that typically begins in childhood and is associated with significant behavioural, academic and social challenges. It is the most common psychological disorder among children in many Western societies, affecting about 1 in 20 primary school-aged children. Boys are 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. In the last few decades, an apparent increase in ADHD cases has stirred a “nature versus nurture” debate about possible causes, as well as more research into best-practice approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
WHAT are the different types of ADHD?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there are 3 recognised subtypes of ADHD.
- Hyperactive-Impulsive, which describes the fidgety “on the go” child and is most commonly associated with the term ADHD;
- Inattentive, a more subtle form of ADHD that describes the “absent minded” or easily distracted child, who may often make careless errors or have trouble completing tasks;
- Combined, which describes a child with features of both Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive subtypes.
WHAT are the impacts of ADHD?
ADHD can have a range of implications for children and their families. For example, a child with unmanaged symptoms of ADHD is more likely to experience difficulties in the academic areas of literacy and mathematics. This can sometimes contribute to the development of a specific learning disorder, such as in reading (dyslexia), which demands a high degree of focused and sustained attention.
Behavioural difficulties are common in children with ADHD, and are thought to be the result of impairments in higher order skills known as executive functions. For example, a child with undiagnosed Hyperactive-Impulsive type ADHD may be labelled as “naughty” due to their diminished ability to control impulsive behaviours at school or at home. Alternatively, a child with Inattentive type ADHD may be considered “lazy” or “rude” because they cannot focus and sustain their attention on a given task or person speaking. It’s not hard to imagine how these sorts of difficulties can lead to problems interacting with peers, family members and school teachers.
WHAT causes ADHD?
It is most likely that ADHD results from an interaction between genetic and environmental factors. There is consistent evidence that about 75% of the contribution to ADHD comes from biological factors (i.e. genetics). In general, there is less evidence pointing to specific environmental factors; however, it has been shown that prenatal exposure to tobacco, as well as birth complications (e.g. prematurity, low birth weight) can play a role. Interestingly, neuroimaging studies have shown that there can be both structural and biochemical differences in the brains of children with ADHD when compared to children without ADHD.
Marsden Psychology’s Kids Clinic in Woonona provide comprehensive assessment for ADHD in children and adults. If you suspect there may be difficulties associated with ADHD, you can contact us for an assessment on: