Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Understanding the Behavioral Disorder: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD)


Imagine living in a fast-moving kaleidoscope, where sounds, images, and thoughts areconstantly shifting. Feeling easily bored, yet helpless to keep your mind on tasks youneed to complete. Distracted by unimportant sights and sounds, your mind drives youfrom one thought or activity to the next. Perhaps you are so wrapped up in a collage ofthoughts and images that you don't notice when someone speaks to you. "Tommy can't sit still. He is disruptive at school with his constant talking and clowningaround. He leaves the classroom without the teacher's permission. Although he hasabove-average intelligence, Tommy has trouble reading and writing. When he talks, thewords come out so fast no one understands him" (Rees, 1994). For many people, this iswhat it's like to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. They may beunable to sit still, plan ahead, finish tasks, or be fully aware of what's going on aroundthem. To their family, classmates or coworkers, they seem to exist in a whirlwind ofdisorganized or frenzied activity. Unexpectedly--on some days and in some situations--they seem fine, often leading others to think the person with ADHD can actually controlthese behaviors. As a result, the disorder can mar the person's relationships with others inaddition to disrupting their daily life, consuming energy, and diminishing self-esteem.Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) comes from the standard diagnosticreference of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). ADHD is a diagnosis appliedto children and adults who consistently display certain characteristic Understanding ADHD 4.behaviors over a period of time. Hyperactivity has no single known cause and istherefore classified as a syndrome because it has a cluster of symptoms. It is generallycharacterized by excessive motor activity, short attention span, and impulsive behaviorfor a child's age. The most common behaviors fall into three categories: inattention,hyperactivity, and impulsivity. According to the DSM, signs of inattention include:? becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds? failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes? rarely following instructions carefully and completely? losing or forgetting things like toys, or pencils, books, and tools needed for a task.(Frankovich, 1994)

Some signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity are:

? feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming? running, climbing, or leaving a seat, in situations where sitting or quiet
behavior is expected? blurting out answers before hearing the whole question? having difficulty waiting in line or for a turn. (Frankovich, 1994)Under the criteria set by the APA, the diagnosis should include onset of the conditionbefore age seven, lasting at least six months. There should also be a proven absence ofmental illness or mental retardation. Parents can remove a huge burden of guilt from blaming themselves for theirchild's behavior. Knowing that scientists are finding more and more evidence thatADHD does not stem from home environment, but from biological causes. In the articleADHD Decade of the Brain, scientists find, "Not all children from unstable ordysfunctional homes have ADHD. And not all children with ADHD come fromdysfunctional families" (1990). Some research shows that a mother's use of cigarettes,alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy may have damaging effects on the child. Understanding ADHD 5."These substances may be dangerous to the fetus's developing brain" (ADHD Decade ofthe Brain, 1990). One other theory that is not definite whether it is a definite cause or notis that refined sugar and food additives make children hyperactive and inattentive. As aresult, many parents were encouraged to stop serving children foods containing artificialflavorings, preservatives, and sugars. There is no cure for ADHD. While research continues to help scientistsunderstand the underlying causes, treatments have been developed to provide relief ofsymptoms. Management of the syndrome may involve more than one method. Theprimary ones are medication, psychological intervention, and diet. In extreme cases ofhyperactive behavior, the physician may prescribe stimulant drugs which affect mood,the thinking processes and behavior. This controversial practice has been used since the1930's to control hyperactivity. "The stimulants amphetamines like Ritalin, Dexedrine,and Cylert act on the nervous system, and have been shown to be effective in manystudies. The drugs have a calming effect on hyperactive children" (Rees, 1994). Stimulants allow many people to focus and pay better attention, whether or not they haveADHD. The improvement is just more noticeable in people with ADHD.
It is not easy coping with the frustrations of ADHD day after day. Some releasetheir frustration by acting hostile, starting fights, or destroying property. Some turn thefrustration into a physical body illness, like the child who gets a stomachache each daybefore school.