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Although many people think of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) as a modern phenomenon, Dr. Alexander Crichton first described the syndrome in 1798. Dr. Crichton called the condition “mental restlessness,” and attributed it to a “morbid sensibility of the nerves.”
Today, many neuropsychologists and medical experts believe that ADHD is a neurochemical disorder related to insufficient brain levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Imaging studies show marked differences in the areas of the brain that control concentration between children who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and other children.
Approximately 5.2 million children in the U.S. between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many more may have gone undiagnosed. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 4.1 percent of the nation’s adult population also suffer from ADHD.
ADHD is a collection of maladaptive behaviors that manifest in children as a general inability to focus or concentrate at tasks on hand. Children with ADHD are easily bored and frustrated, and they don’t seem to follow directions very well. These children have difficulties controlling impulsive behavior. They are constantly fidgeting and moving around, often in a disruptive manner.
Adults with ADHD have severely impaired organizational and time management skills, to the point that personal and work relationships are often negatively affected.
The American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV)” describes three types of ADHD:
Attentional ADHD: Individuals with attentional ADHD are characterized by their lack of organizational skills. They cannot sustain sufficient attention for even short periods of time. They are highly distractible.
Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD: Individuals with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD are characterized by hyperkinesis and an inability to self-censor.
Combined ADHD: Individuals with combined ADHD are both hyperactive and distractible.
There are no specific biological markers or tests for ADHD. Nonetheless, diagnostic criteria for the condition are better defined now than they were a decade ago.
Teachers are often the first identify ADHD these days, since many parents have become inured to what they see as their own child’s quirks. In-service training for teachers has made these teachers more likely to refer children for further evaluation.
Additionally, certain children are known to be at higher risk. These include children with a parent or sibling with ADHD and children who’ve been exposed to heavy metals like mercury and lead. Maternal alcohol, drug and tobacco use during pregnancy have all been linked to the subsequent development of ADHD.
Medical experts recognize there are environmental triggers for ADHD. These include exposures to environmental pollutants and toxins, maladaptive maternal behaviors during pregnancy, and even nutrition.
Certain food additives, such as artificial dyes and the preservative sodium benzoate, have been linked with ADHD in a handful of cases. ADHD has even been linked to ostensibly healthy foods like milk, wheat and eggs.
Some child experts believe that entertainments like video games and communication techniques like texting are generating a kind of generational ADHD.
But are these environmental triggers responsible for the rising incidence of ADHD? Probably not. After all, fifty years ago, there was no environmental regulation. Lead was routinely used in all household paint. Mothers were encouraged to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol freely during their pregnancies. ADHD diagnoses were much lower, however, though evidence suggests that the condition hovered in the same three to seven percent range that is reported today.
Amy Hovenkotter is a family and healthy living blogger, who contributed this post on behalf of Maximum Security Safes. Their line of home safes will provide peace of mind to any family looking to protect their most precious and valuable possessions.