Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known by the acronym ADHD, is a sort of neurobehavioral developmental disorder, and the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric condition in children.
Most of us hear about ADHD all the time, particularly ADHD in children. Indeed, most of us probably think of ADHD as a children’s disease, something which people outgrow as they get older. Some people tend to characterize the symptoms of ADHD in children as perfectly innocent, merely children being children. There are those who hear that the symptoms for ADHD in children include such behaviors as squirming and excessive talking, and simply draw the conclusion that ADHD does not actually exist outside the minds of doctors and anxious parents and teachers who cannot recognize normal behavior in children. Neither opinion – that ADHD is a real and very serious disease or even a disability which needs treatment, or the idea that ADHD is a manufactured disease in the minds of detached and possibly unscrupulous doctors and pharmaceutical companies – is without a great share of controversy. There are also those who fall somewhere between these two extremes, feeling that ADHD in children exists, but is more a description of a state which some children are in than a disability, or that disabling ADHD does exist, but that it is over diagnosed, and mover medicated with stimulants.
Complicating the discussion of ADHD in children further is the fact that the standards and understanding of its diagnosis have been changing over the past few years.
ADHD in children is not so much a single symptom or behavior as it is any of a number of symptoms of behaviors from a whole suite of signs. Just any one of the symptoms of ADHD is not enough to diagnose children with the disorder. What’s more, the symptoms ought to be severe enough to interfere with the child’s life, creating a real handicap in at least two of the following settings: in school, on the playground, at home, in the community, or in social settings. If there is not a very real handicap in at least two of those situations, then a child should not be diagnosed with ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD include being in constant motion, squirming and fidgeting, not listening, having difficulty playing quietly, talking excessively and interrupting others, being easily distracted and having difficulty finishing tasks.
Now, the controversy here becomes very clear, since all of us know children who we would describe that way. Many of us were children like that, and it did not interfere with our lives. And that is the difference – it did not interfere with our lives. Remember, symptoms of ADHD should be more extreme than normal, and they should be creating a handicap for the child.
There are many treatments available for ADHD in children, and not all of them immediately turn to medications. Along with alternative therapies and education techniques, there are behavioral therapies which may or may not be used along with medications and education. In cases of ADHD in children, education is an incredibly important component of any treatment plan.
Medication alone can improve signs of ADHD in children in the short term, but in the long run they do not show great improvements. The most medically affective treatment is considered to be medications used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and lifestyle changes. The most common medications used to treat ADHD are stimulants such as Ritalin, but there are other nonstimulant medications available. Changes in diet may be useful, including vitamin or Omega-3 supplements which can sometimes help improve concentration, and lifestyle changes such as increased aerobic exercise can be useful.