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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Ansley St. John


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Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder: Everything You Need to Know

Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder (ADHD), is a neurocognitive behavioral developmental disorder. Being one of the most common disorders among adolescents and adults in the United States, it affects more than 5.3% of the population. The disorder normally begins at a young age, usually diagnosed within preschool/elementary aged children, and then carried on into adulthood. Some of the symptoms of ADHD includes having difficulty focusing, paying attention, controlling behavior, staying organized, remembering details, as well as possible hyperactivity. While ADHD has the power to impose both emotional and physical stress on those affected, it can be controlled and treated through medication and therapy. Treatment has evolved over the modern age, advancing through the integration of new medical technology and the monitoring of patient's brain activity. However, the origin of the disorder itself, has been highly debated over the last few decades. The arguments hold reasoning behind everything from watching too much television to it being a hereditary disease. Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder, while overlooked as a common affliction, contains significant complex details, and is still in the midst of further discovery and the progression of its subsequent treatment.

While common knowledge only covers what happens on the surface of those diagnosed, ADHD stems from deeper brain activity, or lack thereof. Certain lobes of the brain might not be as active in people who are affected by this disorder. Using a scanning machine, it was discovered that children with ADHD have a thinner "Frontal Cortex" that matures slower than others. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that in some cases this part of the brain was 3 years behind in development (NIMH). This cortex eventually did thicken and catch up to the average size, which serves as an explanation as to why some children grow out of the illness when entering their adult years. Another lobe called the "Motor Cortex" grows a lot more rapidly than that of an average child. This significant cortex controls movement which could be the reason children with ADHD constantly have to be moving and have difficulty controlling their energy, as well as the cases where there are constant bursts of hyperactivity. Another discovery is that children with ADHD, on average, may not have as much gray matter (darker tissue within the brain as well as spinal cord) and have a lower brain volume, particularly in parts of the brain that have substantial correlation with a child's attention and emotion control- which could be another reason someone suffering from ADHD has a hard time focusing or handling themselves and their emotions. According to scientific studies, chemicals called neurotransmitters don't have the same effect on the brain and body in people with ADHD as people without it. In many cases, another chemical called dopamine, is able to also play a role in this disorder. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that carries signals between the nerves in the brain, as well as controls the pleasure regions of the brain. This particular chemical is linked to movement, sleep, mood, attention etc. If a person afflicted with the illness does not produce enough dopamine, it can put stress on their mood, sleeping patterns and general attentiveness. This corresponds with the moodiness, and difficulty focusing seen in cases, especially those in children who have a hard time dealing with a general lack of dopamine, While many Americans lack a certain level of the chemical, particularly through sleep deprivation or clinical depression, it becomes a serious problem for those living with the disorder. ADHD, seen as a generally surface disorder, involves a more complex reality behind the symptoms affecting it's victims.

As previously stated,while children are the ones mostly affected by ADHD although it is very possible and common for it to be seen in adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, about 11% of U.S. children from the ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, that's almost 6.4 million children just in the United States itself. Of these 6.4 million children, it is more commonly seen in males than females. After years of extensive research, a link was found on the basis of race. Scientific data and trials showed that ADHD is more common in Non-Hispanic White and African American children. ADHD continues to be on the rise with rates of diagnosis exceeding 15% in just the last 6 years. However, this does not correlate with the actual number of genuine cases over the years. This increase pertains to the spread of awareness about the disorder, and the vagueness of its symptoms. Although the test for diagnosing ADHD has not changed, researchers tend to believe that over diagnosis could be one of the many reasons the disorder has increased so much. Some believe the reason for incretion is linked to marketing behind the affliction itself. ADHD has become so common and well known that most parents, particularly across the U.S, are well aware of it's existence and the various symptoms that could determine if their child is affected by it. This spread of information leads back to the idea of false diagnosis. Even though ADHD is more prominently diagnosed in children, it can be seen diagnosed in adults as well. Adult ADHD is almost identical to childhood ADHD. Some people believe that adults with ADHD have had it since they were children and just haven't been diagnosed, but that is not always the case. The wide range of symptoms can attribute to one becoming convinced that they are affected by the ailment and seek help. This is especially seen in parents who see their child's slight hyperactivity or distaste for focusing on school work, as something more than just their personality or regular behavior.

The cause of ADHD still remains a mystery, but there are a few variables that can definitely play a role in any particular diagnosis. Some believe that watching too much TV or ingesting too much sugar can play a role with developing ADHD. These ideas have been heavily debated in both the patient and medical communities, but no research done thus far proves those claims valid, However, through routine diagnosis procedures, case studies and world-renowned research, a hereditary link as well as a correlation with pregnancy conditions has been found within the disorder  According to WebMD, if a parent has ADHD there is a 50% the child will end up being diagnosed with it as well. If an older sibling has it, the child has over a 30% chance of having it. Other theories are that children with low birth weights, premature conditions, babies whose mothers had problematic pregnancies, or those with mothers that ingested alcohol or smoked during pregnancies have a high risk for being diagnosed with ADHD. These factors attribute to a lack of health in the child from the moment they are born, and can continue affected both their physical self and mental states in the future. Overcoming traumatic birth conditions has a significant effect on both the mother and child, and can manifest into a mental disorder such as ADHD (usually within the child). Aside from pregnancy and birth complications, it is thought that extreme neglect, abuse, or social deprivation might cause ADHD. Children who grow up in abusive households do not receive a healthy support system or the care that is needed in order to develop a strong mental state. A combination of both physical abuse and emotional neglect can suppress chemical levels that are released within the child's brain, making them easily susceptible to various disorders, including ADHD. Both previous family history, certain medical conditions and various mental trauma can attribute to a child, or adult becoming afflicted with the disease.

Symptoms of ADHD are seen as obvious factors by the general population. When thinking of ADHD many probably regard ideas such as a standard lack of attention, hyperactivity, and problems focusing. However, the disorder is met with a string of more, sometimes serious, symptoms that are not of common knowledge.This includes the inability to follow through with instructions and failing to finish projects, chores, or tasks while working. People with this disorder also suffer with having intense difficulty organizing things, spouts of forgetfulness, and losing their belongings. Impulsivity also goes along with ADHD. Children (in some cases, adults) will blurt out the answers before questions have been completed, as well as a hard time waiting their turn, and tend to have a frequent affair with interrupting conversations or intruding on others. A common mistake in those generalizing the disorder, is seeing hyperactivity as one straightforward symptom.However, the reality is that is constructed from a vast number of variables such as  fidgeting with hands or feet, squirming around in a seat, or leaving a seat when instructed to remain seated. According to WebMD, the testing for ADHD is complex, not just one test but a string of activities that require a lot of research (of the patient) such as gathering information from the patient's school or workplace, caregivers, and parents. They monitor the behavior and habits of the child and see how it affects their daily life, and success levels within their particular endeavors. The doctor or psychiatrist then compares it to the patient's peers, seeing what percentile they stand at and will then continue the diagnosis whether or not they have ADHD and address treatment options. This complex and detail procedure raises the question of how false diagnosis can occur. That can be explained through the idea that ADHD is not a matter of a black and white disorder, but rather falls on a gray scale. While some may show slight symptoms, it does not affect their daily life or educational needs. However, the serious cases will show signs of a significant need for treatment and therapeutic intervention.

In the United States, most doctors and psychiatrists prescribe medications such as Vyvanse or Adderall in attempt to treat and control this disorder. However, after a different stream of research over the last couple of decades, medical experts from other countries believe that the U.S  medical system is handling the treatment in a dangerous and unadvanced way. Opposing the heavy use of prescription medication, these medical professionals theorize that instead, these patients should seek therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist as the first course of action. While a different approach, it has proven to be just as, if not more affective than the standard medication route. There have been many case studies and experiments testing the results of the children and adults to see if they benefit more from the therapeutic treatment or the actual medication. Studies such as these of foreign research, are beginning to catch the attention of the U.S medical system and being looked at closely among the doctors of this nation. This shows promise to end false diagnosis, and even the serious issue of over-prescribing heavy doses of the medications. A first initial trial of  therapy can prove to be a significant form of rehabilitation for patients, and rid many of the burden and side effects of consuming intense doses of prescription medication. Along with the integration of therapy, new medications are quickly being developed to aid those such as young children, and unhealthy adults that experience harsh side effects from the usual prescriptions. One particular study that U.S doctors have begin to construct, goes over a course of 70 weeks. This study is called “The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This study is specifically tailored for preschoolers, stemming from the reasoning that some of the medications such as Vyvanse and Adderall are too harsh for their small, underdeveloped bodies. Some of the results from this study have shown that the preschoolers can benefit from very low doses of a newly introduced medication called “Methylphenidate”, when it is monitored closely. This medication is prescribed normally to preschoolers and children younger than 6 years old. However, while at first glance a seemingly helpful alternative to Adderall or Vyvanse, the downside of Methylphenidate discovered, is that the side effects are worse than the actual positive aspect. Therefore, at the end of the clinical study, it was proven to not be enough of a positive impact in order to replace the regular prescriptions that are heavily administered. While the trials incorporating new medications or drug technology have not been able to de-regularize the harsh ones usually prescribed, therapy sessions have proved to create a positive effect on those afflicted. A string of behavioral therapy-stemmed treatment across the U.S following the example of foreign practices, has started the change the conditions of both the patients' overall health and the procedure of their diagnosis. If a false diagnosis is unfortunately made, therapy and multiple sessions with ADHD specialists, has proven to correct that mis-diagnosis, and avoid any over-prescription as well. By physically and mentally working through their disorders, instead of just medicating it, patients are able to gain control of their impulses through the power of their own mind and body.  

Medicating people with ADHD is the most widely popular option across the United States due to the ease of the option and the patients' need to rid themselves of the symptoms as quickly as medically possible. Stimulants are the main type of medications that are prescribed for people with the ADHD disorder. There are two different classes of stimulants: methylphenidate and amphetamine. According to the platform "MyADHD", there have been over 150 controlled double-blind experiments completed that utilized children with ADHD and over the course of the studies, documented that these medications do significantly improve disorder symptoms. The experiments saw an increase in the patients' attention span, self-control, behavior, fine motor control, and social functioning. Different types of stimulants generally used/prescribed are VyVanse, Daytrana, Concerta, Adderall, XR, Focalin, Methylin, Metadate, and Ritalin. These certain stimulants are taken once a day, are normally fast acting (around 30 minutes), and last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. The ease of their accessibility, combined with the fast acting effects within these medications show the reasoning behind their popularity, and over-prescriptions. However, while these medications are preferred, and show significant relief for patients, they have negative side effects, and have shown signs of addiction within some cases. This growing concern has pushed many medical facilities to gear patients towards other, advancing treatment options, such as behavioral therapy.  

Behavioral therapy is a widely common, popular treatment within foreign medical institutions, particularly those dealing with ADHD cases across Europe. The simplest part of behavioral therapy begins with the parents, or caregivers of the patients. It is crucial that the parents commit to making sure their child understands the rules of the treatment, give them clear commands, do not expect perfection, and ask the child's teacher to help by setting up a similar behavioral system for their student in the classroom. The main intent of behavioral therapy is to help teach children how to behave in socially appropriate ways. Since most young children seek praise and approval from their parents, and authority figures, it is a crucial part of the therapy to make sure the efforts of the child are recognized. The significant good behavior should be rewarded and praised in order for the child to feel good about themselves and feel like they are pleasing their parents, while simultaneously working their symptoms and improving the conditions of their disorder. While children are not the most easy sample to navigate and control throughout various case studies, they are able to utilize the methods given to them to come out just as treated as they would with comparable medication. It provides the parents with a sense of security, knowing their child is striving to mentally overcome the ailments of the disorder, as well as protecting them from the side effects that manifest themselves within various medications. In adults, those having more control of both their body and emotions over the years, therapy proves to enable a sense of relief and a decrease in stress of those who choose to utilize it, and replace their prescriptions. Behavioral therapy, while very often overlooked and seen as a second choice, proves to be just as effective throughout the patients that take on the challenge.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a stressful illness affecting a significant number of young children, and in some cases, adults. The hyperactive-based disorder shows itself in a number of symptoms, ranging from lack of attentiveness to hyperactivity. While no specific origin of the disorder has been proven through extensive research and numerous case studies, a number of theories have been highly debated over the past several decades. A few facts remain, attributing a link between diagnosed patients and the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy/birth conditions, as well as any hereditary exposure to the illness. The disorder itself stems from brain activity, or any shortage of such. From lack of dopamine, to mutations within various cortexes, the brain is the central system controlling both the symptoms and the existence of the disease within the patient. While there is no definite cure, or way to rid a patient of the symptoms fully, there are various success-proven methods surrounding the disorder, such as medication and therapy. While many prefer to take an easy route and utilize prescriptions, behavioral therapy sessions have shown to be just as extensive and successful. ADHD while an emotional and physical burden on the children and later adults it affects, it is very simply treated, enabling anyone who suffers from it to live a normal, healthy lifestyle.

Works Cited

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"ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) Health Center."WebMD. WebMD, 15 May 2014. Web.

"Welcome to MyADHD!" Welcome to! The Big Brain, 16 Oct. 2015. Web.

"Preschoolers with ADHD Improve with Low Doses of Medication." NIMH RSS. National Institue of Mental Health, 16 Oct. 2006. Web.

Holmberg, K., Sundelin, C. and Hjern, A. (2013), Screening for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): can high-risk children be identified in first grade?

Antshel, Kevin M., and Teresa M. Hargrave. "Advances in Understanding and Treating ADHD." BMC Medicine. BioMed Central, 10 June 2011. Web.

Lefler, Elizabeth K., and Gina M. Sacchetti. "ADHD in College: A Qualitative Analysis." FSU Libraries. N.p., 29 Jan. 2016. Web.

Parker, Harvey C. ProQuest. N.p.: n.p., n.d. ProQuest Ebrary. Specialty Press. Web.

Rettew, David C. "Child psychiatry consult: ADHD treatment--beyond medications." Pediatric News Nov. 2015: 19+. Academic OneFile. Web.

Zoler, Mitchel L. "More options than ever are approved for ADHD treatment." Pediatric News Mar. 2015: 1+. Academic OneFile. Web.

Nafees, Beenish, et al. "Parent Preferences Regarding Stimulant Therapies For ADHD: A Comparison Across Six European Countries." European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 23.12 (2014): 1189-1200. Academic Search Complete. Web.

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