- Mental Health
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – An Emerging Threat to Normal Child Development
In today’s age of technological advancement, lifestyle modifications with their own benefits and risks make the population of 21st century prone to a number of psychosomatic disorders. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of those mental ailments that somehow obstruct the normal physiological development of child until the onset of maturity. In clinical terms, ADHD defined as a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder adversely influencing patient’s competitive ability and mental development leading to reduced cognition beginning from childhood until adolescence.
Well-recognized impulsive patterns of hyperactivity, sustained inattention, behavioural imbalances, restlessness, distraction, hyperkinesis, brain dysfunction, lack of concentration, daydreaming, confusion, cognitive conflicts and forgetfulness observed in clinically confirmed cases of ADHD.
The children affected with the onset of ADHD often display symptoms of constant mobility, excessive talking, discomfort, lack of patience, interruptive conduct, indiscipline and difficulty in performing school assignments. The patients of ADHD lack attention and exhibit delays in accurately grasping and processing information, react abruptly, do not respond to directions, remain irresponsible with a tendency to lose things, miss details and switch between the activities. Most of such children experience performance issues at school and fail to acquire good grades leading to poor academic record.
Although the disease predominantly influences children, its affects extend until adulthood resulting in social problems and functional difficulties among the impacted individuals.
The children affected with ADHD face challenges with their working memory and remembering things. They remain disorganized and tend to lose focus in their activities. They lack time management skills and difficulty to acclimatize with other children of the same age groups.
ADHD patients are devoid of contemplation, self-insight and thoughtfulness. They often have difficulty in talking, reading, comprehension and regulating their emotions. They lack will power, motivation, alertness and frequently experience daydreaming. Such patients are predominated with reduced intellect and problem solving abilities, and feel defeated by the challenges of life and lack vision and clarity in their future goals and achievements. The affected children fail to write words in an organized manner, and unable to coherently respond to situations and rapidly assemble ideas and actions following their circumstances. These children tend to deflect from normal work capacity and display uneven patterns of productivity and accuracy in their work with high degree of variation. At times, they are active and perfectly perform their tasks; however, many times they get erratic, lazy and unwilling to accomplish their assignments. The victims of ADHD experience symptoms prior to the age of 13 years, with the onset of hyperactive and impulsive behaviour. The symptoms, if sustained may adopt a chronic course, continue until the beginning of adolescence and manifest in adulthood.
Problems in Adulthood
5 – 10 % of the children suffering from ADHD may acquire manic depression or bipolar disorder leading to serious mental manifestations. However, 10 – 20 % patients suffer from personality disorder, delinquency and substance abuse. Adults with ADHD remain under-educated and under-employed relative to their intellectual ability, intelligence, and education and family backgrounds. They continue to exhibit hyperactivity, interpersonal problems and instability at work place.
ADHD patients are more prone to post marital conflicts, divorce and poor social relationships. They are not able to drive well, especially in the traffic prone areas, and likely to encounter road traffic accidents due to their negligent driving.
Etiology and Prevalence
ADHD patients display deformity in executive functions that adversely influences their self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, sequencing of behaviour, response inhibition, planning and working memory. Genetic factors to an extent believed to be the predisposing factors of occurrence of this disease. Apart from the genetic factors, pregnancy complications, smoking and alcoholism during pregnancy, premature birth, postnatal defects, disorganized lifestyle, chronic stress and exposure to the lead and neurotoxicants like pesticides, nicotine, solvents and heavy metals are the causative factors enhancing the onset of ADHD.
This disease not confined to geographical boundaries, and almost every country has reported the cases of ADHD at some point of time. ADHD expected to dominate in people with a family history of depression or other behavioural disorders like Tourette syndrome and oppositional defiant disorder.
Diagnosing and Managing ADHD
The first step in challenging this behavioural disorder is confirming diagnosis through detailed assessment of the affected children. Clinical neuroimaging studies including EEG, SPECT, PET and MRI are helpful in tracking functional alterations and reduced blood flow (in frontostriatal circuitry and the cerebellar vermis of the human brain) as significant contributing factors in the occurrence of ADHD.
The patients must not be humiliated for their non-performance in school, and thorough monitoring of the symptoms required for exploring the severity of illness in the diseased individuals. Special training needs of the disabled children require attention and accomplishment for effective management of this behavioural problem. The schoolteachers and parents need to render special counselling sessions with the help of psychotherapists to the affected children for controlling disease progression. Indeed, good parenting skills are highly required to antagonize child’s disruptive behaviour by instilling enthusiasm and courage with consistent positive feedbacks, praises and rewards.
Traditionally prescribed drugs like Ritalin, Methylin, Dextroamphetamines, Dexedrine, Metadate and Concerta impart psychoactive effects on the diseased children, with possible adverse impact on memory and behaviour. Integrative medicine presents combination therapy with herbs for acquiring increased cognition and neuroprotection among the affected population. Botanicals like St. John’s Wort, Melatonin supplements, Chamomile (Manzanea), Lemon Balm (Melissa officianalis), Valerian (Valeriana officianalis), Kava Kava, Ginkgo biloba, Ginseng, Biota, Schizandra and Pycnogenol offer promising remedies in curing ADHD. These botanicals enhance body’s neurotransmitters, rectify sleep patterns, induce antispasmodic and sedative effects, and render anti-stress, anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, and analgesic responses resulting in increased blood flow, improved cognition, memory, and reduction in oxidative neuronal damage by rectifying defective dopamine transport mechanism in the diseased individuals.
Clinical studies reveal the neurotoxic effects of food additives like bleaching agents, emulsifiers, preservatives, artificial flavourings and colourings on the human population. Similarly, allergens including eggs, soy, wheat, corn, peanuts, white vinegar, almonds, tomatoes, chicory, plums, fish and raspberries may selectively irritate or render toxic effects on the nervous system of ADHD victims. Therefore, such ingredients not recommended in diet for sustaining heath and facilitating recovery in the affected patients.
Indeed, the importance of nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, megavitamins and essential fatty acids lies in enhancing mental arousal, attentiveness, social responsiveness, behaviour, attention span, IQ and challenging severe manifestations of ADHD in children and adults of variable age groups.
Regular exercise, meditation, spirituality, hypnotherapy, guided imagery, neurotherapy (by EEG biofeedback), behaviour management, massage therapy, osteopathic manipulative therapy, multisensory communication, positive reinforcement, practicing patience and consuming balanced diet facilitate in antagonizing behavioural imbalances, depression, impulsiveness and hyperactivity in patients of ADHD.
A blend of alternative therapy, traditional treatment approaches and behaviour management potentially alters the progression of ADHD by establishing psychological well being and stabilizing physiological processes resulting in highly effective and self-sufficient mind-body coordination in ailing patients.