• Yashashree Mahajan

ADHD; an introduction

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder among children. The disorder is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often persists into adulthood.

Children with ADHD may not be able to pay attention, may act impulsively (without considering the outcomes/consequences), and may be too hyperactive. They also can be disorganised, have limited time management skills, and can face trouble while trying to multitask.

In addition to major impairment and a high comorbidity rate, ADHD is a severe mental illness. The consequences of undiagnosed ADHD in adulthood can be severe. An accurate diagnosis is therefore essential. Diagnosing ADHD can be challenging at times, as everyone is different and the severity level of the disorder can vary from person to person.

What causes ADHD?

Despite ADHD is one of the most studied childhood disorders, its cause is not clear at this time. According to the most popular current theory, ADHD is a disorder of "executive function" that indicates dysfunction in the prefrontal lobes of the brain.

The child lacks the ability to control behaviours associated with executive functions such as nonverbal working memory, speech internalization, affect, emotion, motivation, and arousal. A lack of neurotransmitters, which are specific chemicals in the brain, is said to cause ADHD in children, leading to an inability to focus and inhibit impulses.

Challenges in diagnosing ADHD

Diagnoses of ADHD can also be complicated by the fact that many disorders can look like ADHD - such as depression, anxiety, visual and hearing difficulties, seizures, learning disabilities and even inadequate sleep. ADHD symptoms can also be present in these conditions.

Children who have sleep apnea, which involves disordered breathing during sleep, are sometimes exhibiting similar symptoms to those associated with ADHD.

A child with a learning disability is another example. Due to an inability to process that information, he/she/they may not pay attention in class and be labelled as "inattentive". The same child may also get frustrated because he/she cannot process the material being taught in the classroom and will therefore disrupt the classroom and act as if he/she/they is/are hyperactive.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There's no test that can detect ADHD. Instead of asking you what symptoms you have and how many of them you have, doctors and psychologists ask when they started, how long they have lasted, and how severe they are. To be diagnosed with ADHD, one must experience several symptoms, not just one or two.

It typically takes at least 2-3 visits to diagnose ADHD, and the evaluation process takes time as well. If a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist is necessary, it may take longer. Blood tests may or may not be necessary, which will be discussed during your visit to the doctor.

Generally, children who receive treatment for ADHD have a very positive outlook once their diagnosis has been confirmed. As aforementioned, ADHD doesn't have a specific cure, but a variety of treatment options exist. The treatment for each child should be tailored to their specific needs. Treatments include:

1. A long-term management plan with

a. Target outcomes for behaviour

b. Follow-up activities

c. Monitoring

2. Education about ADHD

3. Teamwork among doctors, parents, teachers, guardians, other medical personnel, and

the child

4. Medication

5. Behaviour therapy

6. Parent-training sessions

7. Individual and family counselling

Writer: Yashashree Mahajan

Illustration: Yashashree Mahajan


1. “An Introduction to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) | South East Bay Pediatric Medical Group | Fremont, CA.” Sebpmg.com, 2021, sebpmg.com/special-topics/introduction-to-adhd/. Accessed 18 Dec. 2021.

2. Mörstedt, Beatrice, et al. “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adulthood: Concordance and Differences between Self- and Informant Perspectives on Symptoms and Functional Impairment.” PLOS ONE, vol. 10, no. 11, 3 Nov. 2015, p. e0141342, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26529403/, 10.1371/journal.pone.0141342. Accessed 18 Dec. 2021.

3. Watson, Stephanie. “Types of ADHD.” WebMD, WebMD, 13 June 2008, www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/types-of-adhd. Accessed 18 Dec. 2021.

4. https://www.facebook.com/WebMD. “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Treatment & Care.” WebMD, 2021, www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-treatment-care. Accessed 18 Dec. 2021.

5. https://www.facebook.com/WebMD. “Non-Drug Interventions for Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” WebMD, WebMD, July 2004, www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-behavioral-treatment. Accessed 18 Dec. 2021.

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