ADHD Explained


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


What most people know about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is that its used to describe someone who cant focus. And when they really cant focus they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD ; this continuum from one to the next isn’t quite how it works though.

ADD and ADHD are actually synonymous. ADD is an outdated term used prior to 1987, after which it evolved to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to encompass more of the symptoms people with ADHD often experience. Which in addition to being inattentive, includes both hyperactivity and impulsiveness. According to the 5th edition of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, ADHD is categorized into three subtypes:


  1. Inattentive – not paying attention, careless mistakes, easily distracted
  2. Hyperactive/impulsive – overly active and impulsive, fidgety,
  3. Both


The first two categories, Inattentive and Hyperactive/Impulsive, each have 9 symptoms that describe them.  A diagnosis of ADHD occurs when someone suffers from six out of those 9 symptoms for at least 6 months. Interestingly, most children who receive the diagnosis suffer from symptoms of both subtypes and therefor have the combined subtype. Additionally, since ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, the symptoms need to have started between the ages of 6 and 12.


But what causes someone to hyperactive, impulsive or inattentive? As you might guess, its pretty complicated and doctors now believe that it occurs from a combination of both environmental and genetic factors. This conclusion was drawn by studying families and observing that the sibling of a child who was diagnosed with ADHD was more likely to develop it themselves. Furthermore, if those siblings are identical twins and share the exact same DNA, it is still possible that only one sibling meets the criteria for diagnosis, illustrating the significance environmental factors.


There is no known specific gene that determines whether or not someone will have symptoms of ADHD but rather a combination of a few. These genes likely influence the production of singling molecules in your brain called neurotransmitters. More specifically, it affects dopamine and Norepinephrine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter used to send messages associated to rewards, risks and impulsivity; and Norepinephrine is associated to attention, awareness, and arousal. Its believed that lower circulating amounts of these neurotransmitters is whats responsible for the symptoms of ADHD.


While there is no cure for ADHD, there are many types of treatments that are proven to improve its symptoms, such as; behavioural psychotherapy, medication, or both. If you believe your child’s behaviour is inappropriate for their age and might benefit from an evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist, please do not hesitate so contact a professional today!


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