What is ADHD?

The terminology for Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be as confusing as the condition itself.

The term ADHD is interchangeable with AD/HD, ADD, or ADD/ADHD. All of them are the result of an actual brain abnormality. This condition is divided into three types: Attention Disorder, Hyperactive-Impulsive Disorder, and a combination of the two. They all stem from the same physical problem. It is the result of a neurotransmitter aberration that has been found to cause real physical differences in the structure and activity levels of certain areas of the brain. ADHD cannot be cured. In some cases the symptoms may be outgrown or compensated for, but many people must deal with the symptoms their whole lives.


It has also been proven that ADHD is not, as previously thought, the result of head injuries or too much TV. The research for another proposed cause, food additives, is not consistent. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has concluded that approximately 5 percent of cases are caused by food allergies, but other sources are still debating this factor.

Current research indicates that ADHD starts in early childhood while the brain is still developing. Although there is currently no definitive cause of ADHD, NIH has determined through scientific studies that a tendency to develop it does run in families. This suggests that it may be a genetic defect. Researchers have found that there is an approximate 30 percent likelihood that a family with one case of ADHD will have other members with the disorder, whether they have been diagnosed or not, in comparison to only a 5 percent possibility in families with no such predilection.

Finally, there is a strong indication that prenatal or childhood exposure to toxins is also a likely risk factor. It is a fact that the children of women who smoke, use alcohol, or take other drugs during pregnancy have a greater chance of developing ADHD. This cause also includes children who were exposed to environmental contaminants either before birth or during their preschool years.


Symptoms of the disorder may vary widely for each type. Those with ADD symptoms have more toward difficulty paying attention or staying organized while those with the hyperactivity problems will find it almost impossible to remain still or quiet. In some children there will be a combination of the symptoms of the two disorders. ADHD signs in boys are usually different than those in girls. While boys who are unable to focus are also more likely to be disruptive, girls usually slip into daydreaming. Neither child will be able to function successfully in school, but the boys’ behavior gets more attention while the girls may simply slip through the cracks.


ADHD is a serious condition that can have a negative effect not only on children but adults as well. The chances that a child with ADHD will outgrow their symptoms are only about 33 percent. Of the remaining 66 percent, half will improve and the other half will have significant interference their whole lives.

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