What is ADHD?

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Mental Health FoundationThe normal (control) brain compared with the ADHD brain due to lack of dopamine

ADHD is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects the neurotransmitters ability to transfer messages through the frontal lobes of the brain.

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Are you New to ADHD? Not sure what to do? We have launched a page of videos which take you through the journey from spotting the condition to what help is available. Take a look under our tab “Videos” for the page called New to ADHD?

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Dr Martin Newman, Consultant Psychiatrist, CAMHS Richmond has allowed us to show his Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Dr Newman slides for his Talk to us on May 9th 2017

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NICE

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence  and nice-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-final-scope2 gives guidelines on treatment and states ADHD starts during child development but frequently persists through adolescence and into  adulthood.

Symptoms include inattention, distractibility, disorganisation, over activity, restlessness, impulsiveness and mood swings; and these may lead to considerable clinical and psycho-social impairments. ADHD can often bring with it other significant clinical problems including anxiety & depression. ADHD is often associated with specific learning difficulties throughout education

Although the term ‘ADHD’ is a relatively new one, the symptoms of the disorder were first described over 2,000 years ago. Today, it is one of the most widely researched disorders in medicine

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Mental health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation says ADHD means the brain doesn’t function in the way it should. Read their leaflet all_about_adhd

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NAS

Here’s what The National Autistic Society says about ADHD

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Here’s what Great Ormond Street Hospital has to say about ADHD and also read a Mother’s story about Understanding ADHD

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dr-hallowell

If you have just found out your child may have ADHD, watch this video by Dr Hallowell, a respected, leading World authority on ADHD

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Video of Childhood/adolescent ADHD and further research background by Dr Mitul Mehta

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Listen to this podcast What is ADHD –  from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

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ADHD is a broad term, it has 3 sub-types:

Predominantly inattentive

Also called attention deficit disorder or ADD, predominantly inattentive ADHD has 6 or more inattentive symptoms and fewer than 6 hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still exist to a certain extent.

Children with predominantly inattentive ADHD are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other kids. They may sit still, but struggle being attentive. Such children are often overlooked because parents and teachers may not notice that the child has ADHD.

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD has the opposite combination compared to predominantly inattentive ADHD: 6 or more symptoms are in the hyperactive-impulsive categories, and fewer than 6 inattentive symptoms. Children with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD are more hyperactive and impulsive, although inattention may still exist to some degree.

Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive

As its label suggests, combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive ADHD occurs when one is inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive. In these cases, 6 or more inattentive symptoms exist, as well as 6 or more hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. This is the most common type of ADHD among children.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, children must have any combination of these symptoms for at least 6 months at levels surpassing those of other children of the same age

diagnostic criteria for ADHD

Only a Consultant Psychiatrist can provide an ADHD diagnosis, after a thorough evaluation. If you think you or your child might have ADHD, contact your GP (see ADHD Diagnosis Pathways)

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You may like to use this ADHD Symptoms Test to check if your child may have ADHD

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The Society for the Promotion of ADHD Research & Knowledge has an excellent FAQ list to guide you through your queries

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Health Channel TV provides an insight into What is ADHD?

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CaptureTesting for ADHD: you may like to use this ChildAssessmentPackage to check if your child has the condition

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 Dr. Russell Barkley explains everything there is to know about ADHD in this in-depth video Watching this presentation is well worth the investment in time.

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CaptureA good resource reference on ADHD can be found at the Patient website

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If you’re an adult with ADHD visit AADD-UK otherwise read on …

Suzy_webADHD: A lifespan approach: Suzy Young paper on ADHD

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AS_277810968055811@1443246704162_lThe effect of ADHD on the life of an individual, their family, and community from preschool to adult life by Val Harpin. Read here: The effect of ADHD by VA Harpin

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Here is a useful ADHD_Action_Guide

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 BMJThe BMJ has produced this audio explaining ADHD

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additude Click the photo for a 100 day plan for evaluating Adhd

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AADA6K_adhd_350x200 Click on photo for a study into ADHD

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Capture  Click on this for an excellent audio with 13 tips to help you

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of neuro symptoms which include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – or ADHD – is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects attention, concentration and impulsivity. Someone with ADHD might have significant attention problems, appear restless, fidgety, overactive and impulsive. They can act before thinking and often speak before thinking by blurting out and interrupting others.

ADHD isn’t a disease or the result of damage to the brain but it a dysfunction that means the brain doesn’t function in the way it should. Studies show that ADHD may affect certain areas of the brain that allow us to solve problems, plan ahead, understand others’ actions, and control our impulses. It begins in childhood and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood.

Signs and symptoms

Someone with ADHD may show a number of symptoms in areas like attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, including:

  • Overactive and/or impulsive behaviour
  • An inattention to details and makes careless mistakes
  • Trouble finishing work or school projects
  • Difficulty in paying attention and easily distracted
  • Always “on the go”
  • Impatient

What causes ADHD?

The causes of ADHD are still not fully known. It is believed to be caused by poor transmission of messages in the brain, and in particular by low levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which carry messages from one neuron to another. These neurotransmitters are particularly associated with attention, organisation and managing emotions.

Do people grow out of ADHD?

Some children grow out of ADHD; others have problems that continue into adolescence and beyond. Approximately two out of five children with ADHD continue to have difficulties at age 18. The main symptoms of ADHD, such as attention difficulties, may improve as children get older, but behavioural problems such as disobedience or aggression may become worse if a child does not receive help. In particular, boys who are hyperactive and aggressive tend to become unpopular with other children. It is therefore very important for children to receive help as early as possible, to prevent them from getting socially isolated and from developing other emotional and behaviour problems that can persist into adult life.

Does medication help?

ADHD is often treated with stimulant medication. The theory is that medication can either reduce the uptake or increase the production of the neurotransmitters, so increasing the levels in the brain. Medication does not cure ADHD – it can only reduce the difficulties it causes.

However there are concerns that these drugs may be used too quickly to deal with behaviours that are not due to ADHD/ADD at all; the child may be simply over-boisterous or unruly or difficult to manage for other reasons to do with their family and environment. Also, they are very powerful drugs – some are classed as amphetamines – and can carry other health risks.

The long-term effects of stimulants on young, developing brains are still not fully known and children and adults with existing heart conditions are at risk of heart attacks if they take stimulant medications. Stimulants can also trigger or exacerbate hostility, aggression, anxiety, depression and paranoia – anyone with a personal or family history of suicide, depression or bi-polar disorder is at very high risk and should be closely monitored.

The reported side effects of stimulant medication for ADHD/ADD include some of the problems for which they are prescribed. They include: restlessness, difficulty sleeping, irritability and mood swings, depression, loss of appetite, headaches, upset stomach, dizziness, racing heartbeat and tics. For these reasons, stimulant medication should only be prescribed to children who have been professionally assessed and diagnosed by an expert, and should be reviewed regularly.

Non-medical ways of managing ADHD include exercise, healthy diet, sleep management and behavioural therapies.

Why is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) so often associated with other conditions?
ADHD frequently occurs alongside other conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette’s syndrome and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). There are several reasons why these linked conditions, or co-morbidities, are so often associated with ADHD.

Sometimes ADHD is a risk for behavioural problems such as conduct disorder or ODD. This is partly because the symptoms of ADHD can affect a child’s relationships at home or with their peers, making the child more likely to become antisocial or depressed. Sometimes the ADHD is actually the result of another problem such as autism or a learning difficulty. ADHD may also have a common root in the brain with other developmental problems, such as dyslexia.

Co-morbid conditions can be hard to disentangle, and this is part of the reason that specialist assessment is advised for a child with ADHD.

How common is ADHD?

ADHD is the most common behavioural disorder in the UK. It’s unknown exactly how many people have the condition, but most estimates suggest if affects around 2-5% of school-aged children and young people.

Childhood ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls.

Girls with ADHD often have a form of the condition where the main symptoms relate to problems with attention rather than hyperactivity, which can cause less noticeable symptoms. It is therefore possible that ADHD could be underdiagnosed in girls, and could be more common than previously thought.

Typical symptoms of ADHD include:

  • a short attention span or being easily distracted
  • restlessness, constant fidgeting or overactivity
  • being impulsive

ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability, although it is more common in people with learning difficulties. People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be first noticed at an early age, and may become more noticeable when a child’s circumstances change, such as when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed in children between the ages of 6 and 12.

The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who are diagnosed with the condition at a young age will continue to experience problems.

Adhd guide Check to see if you may have ADHD. Click ADHD_Action_Guide

Getting help

Many children go through phases where they are restless or inattentive. This is often completely normal and does not necessarily mean they have ADHD.

However, you should consider raising your concerns with your child’s teacher, their school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or GP if you think their behaviour may be different to most children their age.

Richmond Borough Council operates the SPA service (Single Point of Access) which is the first port of call for diagnosis of ADHD. Call 020 8744 7969 for advice (out of hours: 020 8744 2442)

It’s also a good idea to speak to your GP if you are an adult and you think you may have ADHD, but you were not diagnosed with the condition as a child.

Why do we hear so much about ADHD today? If it’s a brain condition, shouldn’t our ancestors have had it too?
Probably our ancestors did have it too. There is much more concern about it now but very little sign that the actual rate is going up. Perhaps ADHD was much less of a disadvantage in earlier periods of our evolution.

Richmond-based educational psychologists show this video to parents and children. It’s on our YouTube channel:

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