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What is ADHD?

Updated on March 12, 2011

ADHD is an acronym for a neuro-behavioral condition known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It was once thought that ADHD was more common in boys than girls. However, recent research suggests that the symptoms of the condition may present themselves differently in girls and boys due to gender variations. Girls with ADHD are more likely to be inattentive and overly emotional, whereas boys with the condition are more hyperactive and aggressive.

Attention deficit disorders are estimated to affect approximately 8 to 10 percent of all school-age children in the United States. Doctors classify these disorders according to three main groups. ADHD is marked by excessive hyperactivity. ADD is attributed to inattentiveness without marked hyperactivity. And people who have an attention deficit disorder with combined hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness are classified as “combined ADHD.”

ADHD is also found in adults, but there is a large percentage of the adult population that has never been diagnosed. In women, it is often found that misdiagnosis is also common. Women with ADHD may be misdiagnosed as having thyroid problems, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders.

Attention deficit disorders are also typically accompanied by sensory processing disorders. This means that vision problems, hearing problems, increased sensitivity to touch, and an intolerance to certain kinds of foods are also common in children with ADHD. Sensory processing disorders are a hallmark trait of autism spectrum disorders, which leads many medical researchers to believe that conditions like ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome may be related or even on the same spectrum.

Treatment for children with ADHD varies, often including a combination of learning strategies, therapy, speech therapy, diet and nutrition, and medications. Prescription medications are often used only as a last result in children with attention deficit disorders. This is because ADHD medications are stimulants and can be habit-forming. Also, medications include a wide variety of side effects.

ADHD diets seek to eliminate many foods that can aggravate symptoms and lead to behavior problems. These diets are often accompanied by nutritional supplements to correct nutrient deficiencies. Vitamins, minerals, and even herbs are used in conjunction with a high protein diet that is also rich in complex carbohydrates. Food additives, such as artificial flavors, dyes, and preservatives are avoided.

Therapy for children with ADHD seeks to teach recognition of various emotions, as well as appropriate responses and stress management. People with ADHD often have very high frustration levels, and become easily agitated. Therapy can help these people to learn to deal with increased stress and frustration, as well as improve communication.


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