What Is ADHD and How Does It Work?

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What is ADHD and how does it work are questions more and more people are asking these days mainly driven by greater demands being placed on performance at school, in the workplace, combined with social expectations. The questions  as for what is ADHD and how does it work also seems to be reflected in the number of the self-help books written on the subject and a plethora of diverse treatment options ranging from risky prescription medications to brain re-patterning therapies.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is the more current name for what was previously known as ADD, or attention deficit disorder. The change in name was made to reflect the high incidence of hyperactivity most often seen is boys.

According to the American Medical Association "Symptoms must begin before the age of 7, last for at least 6 months, and cause the child to encounter substantial difficulty in at least two settings of which the most common are home and school.".

The three primary symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are intention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity or restlessness. The three primary classifications are inattentive, the hyperactive impulsive, and the combined type. Of the three the combined type is the most often diagnosed and describes someone who has a difficult time maintaining concentration or focus and has difficulty sitting still or doing things without thinking.

It should also be mentioned that there are a myriad of secondary symptoms which some believe to be at least as serious as the primary symptoms. The most notable of these are low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, excessive worry, excessive boredom, irritability, lack of patience, and frustration.

How Does It Work?

The truth is no one really knows how ADHD works, or quite honestly whether it is simply an interpretation of problematic unconventional behaviors which may not fit in societal expectations. In other words, if your child acts differently or fails to achieve on the same level academically then they must have ADHD.

Nevertheless, here is what seems to be the current line of thinking as for the cause or causes.

Genetics. Gene research has linked two genes to ADHD like behavior. Prior to this recent finding it was only suspected supported by statistical analysis showing children in families with one ADHD parent have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disability/condition.

Neurological activity. Brain scan technology has revealed that people with attention deficit disorder have brain irregularities. For example, some studies have shown lower levels of activity in the frontal lobe which controls self-regulation. Other studies have discovered abnormalities in other regions deep within the brain. Perhaps the most notable is an idea being pushed forward by the National Institute of Health which seems to prove that there are brain development issues at work that can cause the most common symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Interestingly enough some children in the study showed a 3 year lag in development.

Brain chemical imbalances. When your doctor diagnoses ADHD and then writes a prescription for either a stimulant or non-stimulant medication he is treating ADHD from this causative perspective. Several studies, many of which are funded by drug companies, suggest there are differences in responses when brain chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) are created and released by people with ADHD compared to those who don't have the condition. The most commonly mentioned brain chemicals are dopamine followed by norepinephrine.

In conclusion, what is ADHD and how does it work are questions that can't yet be answered with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, we do know that those who exhibit the symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity tend to dramatically under achieve in school, tend to change jobs regularly as adults, and tend to experience social problems at home, at work, and at school. They also tend to be very forgetful, woefully disorganized, and may be hard pressed to finish boring projects or assignments.

These concerns beg for some form of treatment to level the playing field. That said, the area of treatment is confusing as well with prescription medications showing good short-term results, no long-term benefits, and a list of every growing side effects that can no longer be ignored.

For this reason many have chosen to purse less risky treatment alternatives such as behavioral therapy and/or homeopathic natural remedies. This combination, when combined with diet modification, has shown to be at least as effective as prescription medications without the risks, and just might be something worth investigating further. 
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