ADHD

Does your child have trouble sitting still or paying attention? You may have been told that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may be the cause. A child with ADHD might have a hard time staying focused (attention deficit). He or she may also have trouble controlling impulses (hyperactivity disorder). A child with one or both of these problems struggles daily to perform and behave well. ADHD is no one’s fault. But if left untreated, ADHD can deprive a child of self-esteem and limit success.

Which of the following describe your child?

A partial list of symptoms common to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder appears below. Your child may show traits from one or both groups.

Attention deficit

  • Lacks mental focus

  • Performs inconsistently

  • Is distracted easily

  • Has trouble shifting between tasks or settings

  • Is messy, or loses things

  • Forgets

Hyperactive/impulsive

  • Has trouble controlling impulses; might talk too much, interrupt, or have a hard time taking turns

  • Is easy to upset or anger

  • Is always moving (sometimes without purpose)

  • Does not learn from mistakes

What happens in the brain?

The brain controls your body, thoughts, and feelings. It does so with the help of neurotransmitters. These chemicals help the brain send and receive messages. With ADHD, the level of these chemicals often varies. This may cause signs of ADHD to come and go.

When messages are not received

With ADHD, chemicals in certain parts of the brain can be in short supply. Because of this, some messages do not travel between nerve cells. Messages that signal a person to control behavior or pay attention aren’t passed along. As a result, traits common to ADHD may occur.

Remember your child’s strengths

Children with ADHD can be challenging to raise. Because of this, it’s easy to overlook their good traits. What’s special about your child? Do your best to value and support your child’s unique talents, strengths, and interests.

Treatments

Specific treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of your child's symptoms
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Major components of treatment for children with ADHD include parental support and education in behavioral training, appropriate school placement, and medication. Treatment with a psychostimulant is highly effective in most children with ADHD.

Treatment may include:

  • Psychostimulant medications. These medications are used for their ability to balance chemicals in the brain that prohibit the child from maintaining attention and controlling impulses. They help "stimulate" or help the brain to focus and may be used to reduce the major characteristics of ADHD. Medications that are commonly used to treat ADHD include the following:
    • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta, Methylin)
    • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat)
    • A mixture of amphetamine salts (Adderall)
    • Atomoxetine (Strattera). A nonstimulant SNRI (selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) medication with benefits for related mood symptoms.
    • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)

    Psychostimulants have been used to treat childhood behavior disorders since the 1930s and have been widely studied. Traditional immediate release stimulants take effect in the body quickly, work for 1 to 4 hours, and then are eliminated from the body. Many long-acting stimulant medications are also available, lasting 8 to 9 hours, and requiring 1 daily dosing. Doses of stimulant medications need to be timed to match the child's school schedule to help the child pay attention for a longer period of time and improve classroom performance. The common side effects of stimulants may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Insomnia
    • Decreased appetite
    • Stomach aches
    • Headaches
    • Jitteriness
    • Rebound activation (when the effect of the stimulant wears off, hyperactive and impulsive behaviors may increase for a short period of time)

    Most side effects of stimulant use are mild, decrease with regular use, and respond to dose changes. Always discuss potential side effects with your child's doctor.

    Antidepressant medications may also be administered for children and adolescents with ADHD to help improve attention while decreasing aggression, anxiety, and/or depression.

  • Psychosocial treatments. Parenting children with ADHD may be difficult and can present challenges that create stress within the family. Classes in behavior management skills for parents can help reduce stress for all family members. Training in behavior management skills for parents usually occurs in a group setting which encourages parent-to-parent support. Behavior management skills may include the following:
    • Point systems
    • Contingent attention (responding to the child with positive attention when desired behaviors occur; withholding attention when undesired behaviors occur)

    Teachers may also be taught behavior management skills to use in the classroom setting. Training for teachers usually includes use of daily behavior reports that communicate in-school behaviors to parents.

    Behavior management techniques tend to improve targeted behaviors (such as completing school work or keeping the child's hands to himself or herself), but are not usually helpful in reducing overall inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity.

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Symptoms and Screenings for ADHD

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Causes and Preventions for ADHD

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Education and Resources for ADHD

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Support groups for ADHD

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Learn More about ADHD

Vidant Health can connect you to health care professionals to help you understand your condition and guide you through the treatment process. Let’s chat.