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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition in which the affected person has trouble focusing on tasks and paying attention. It usually begins in early childhood and in some cases continue into adulthood. Without proper treatment, ADHD can adversely affect the functioning of the child, that may further lead to low self esteem and depression. The causes for ADHD are unclear, but research suggests that genetics may play a role in some cases.
The most common symptoms include:
Short attention span: People suffering from ADHD have very short attention spans and tend to get distracted very easily.
Hyperactivity: People with ADHD have problems sitting still for even short periods of time. Children with ADHD may wiggle, squirm, fidget when asked to sit. Teens and adults feel agitated and restless. They find it difficult to perform any activity that includes sitting still or waiting for some time. In school, they may be labelled as ‘naughty’ or ‘trouble-makers’ because hyperactivity prevents them from following rules and being disciplined.
Impetuousness: People with ADHD tend to do things without thinking it through. They tend to exhibit exaggerated behaviours such as excess laughing and talking, getting angry or upset for trivial reasons. Teenagers and adults might make long term life decisions without thinking of the consequences that they might have to face in future.
ADHD is usually diagnosed in ages between 6 and 12 years. Evaluation may be initiated by the teachers owing to the problems caused by the above symptoms at school. Some schools may have counsellors or psychologists who may be trained in recognising the symptoms of ADHD thereby facilitating early referral to a Psychiatrist for further evaluation.
Before making a diagnosis of ADHD, other conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder or learning disability are ruled out as they may also present with similar symptoms. The doctor should be informed about problems at home as well as school to help with the diagnosis. A letter from the school teacher describing the problems faced by child at school can aid in evaluation.
ADHD cannot be cured but the available treatment helps with symptom management. Medication and behaviour therapy is widely used to manage the symptoms of ADHD. It is vital to monitor the child after they begin to take medicines for ADHD as the medicines may have side-effects such as headaches, stomach aches, loss of appetite, and insomnia. If the side effects are troublesome, the doctor may reduce the dose or switch to a different medication.
Therapy includes making alterations in the environmental conditions to change the child’s behaviour. Regular counselling and supportive attitude towards the child at home and at school can help them to cope with the problem and lead a better life.