ADHD» Find a counsellor or psychotherapist dealing with ADHD
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder It is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. It is made up of three main strands, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. This causes attention problems and can prevent and cause problems with learning and socialising.
Symptoms generally present themselves after eighteen months and before seven years, and must continue for more than six months. In some cases, ADHD continues into adulthood. There is also debate as to whether ADHD can be diagnosed later in life.
In children, ADHD must be diagnosed by a doctor, child psychiatrist or paediatrician. ADHD overlaps with conditions like dyslexia, OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome.
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Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD can be divided into three categories, the three strands of the conditions.
- being easily distracted, forgetting things, and frequently switching from one activity to another
- difficulty focusing on one task, having a short attention span, inability to complete tasks not listening, daydreaming
- unable to process information/instructions as quickly as others
- rushing work, resulting in careless and avoidable mistakes.
- fidgeting, wriggling, squirming, the need to be in constant motion
- talking non-stop, the need to touch/pick up items and objects
- difficulty doing quiet tasks
- inability to ‘settle’.
- answering questions before they’ve been fully asked
- unable to distinguish what is and isn’t appropriate, showing emotions without restraint, acting before considering consequences
- a limited or no sense of danger.
There are other conditions which are related to ADHD, which the child may also suffer from. Around a third of children with ADHD also have a learning difficulty. Other problems and conditions include anxiety disorder, depression, sleep problems, conduct disorder – a tendency toward antisocial behaviour, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) – negative behaviour towards authority figures.
Causes of ADHD
The specific cause of ADHD is not known, but there are a number of factors that contribute to, and exacerbate the condition:
ADHD often runs in families, and can be inherited. Hyperactivity is also a genetic condition.
There are some environmental factors which may cause ADHD. These include potential links between using drugs, alcohol and smoking during pregnancy. Exposure to high levels of lead and solvents may also contribute to ADHD.
There is much debate about the role diet plays in ADHD. A study at Southampton University showed a link between hyperactivity and artificial food colours – six in particular. Following these results, food packaging must now carry a warning if any of these six food colours are present.
Issues within the family may manifest themselves as ADHD in a child, and studies show that a high number of foster children, who have obviously experienced conflict and disruption in their lives, have ADHD.
Children who have suffered any kind of abuse are also more likely to have ADHD.
When is the right time to seek help?
Due to the symptoms of ADHD, it can be easy to mistake children’s natural tendencies and development of their personality for ADHD, and vice versa. The development of ADHD may be noticed by both teachers and parents. The child’s behaviour may make them seem ‘out of control’, and it may be particularly noticeable that they lose interest in tasks and activities quicker than their peers.
If ADHD is suspected, the GP is the first port of call. He may then refer the child to a child psychiatrist (a doctor who specialises in children’s mental health), a child psychologist (a health professional who specialises in children’s behaviour) or a specialist paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in children’s illnesses). This is to eliminate any other problems, and to get a firm ADHD diagnosis.
There is no specific test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, it relies on monitoring the child’s behaviour and checking and recording symptoms.
This is of course a stressful time for parents. They may be upset, worried and frustrated. Once a positive ADHD diagnosis has been made, there are many adjustments the parents will need to undertake to help support their child.
Treatment for ADHD
There is no cure for ADHD. However there are different approaches that can help keep it under control. Sometimes a combination of approaches is required, and it is important to try them and see which the child responds best to.
Diet and nutrition for ADHD
Cutting down on stimulants i.e. sugar, caffeine and food additives, can help with hyperactivity levels. Children with ADHD can sometimes have lower nutrient levels, so it may be appropriate to include vitamins and supplements.
It is also important the child gets plenty of exercise.
At home, it is important to provide structure, order and routine for the child, to try and help instill these ideas and help control their behaviour.
Depending on the severity of the ADHD, it may be appropriate for the child to attend a specialist school. Alternatively, extra help may be on offer at their current school. An educational psychologist can give advice on the most effective form of education.
Medicine may be prescribed, which will change the chemical levels in the brain. The drugs prescribed fall under three categories: methylphenidate, atomexetine, dexamphetamine. As with all medicines, they can have side effects, which may include weight loss, headaches and insomnia.
Talking therapies include psychotherapy and counselling. This can help the child talk about and deal with their problems. Talking Therapies can also be useful for parents.
Parents may also need support to deal with their child’s condition. There are national and local support groups, where families can meet and discuss different ways of dealing with ADHD and support each other. It may also be beneficial to have counselling, either as a whole family or just the parents.
Behaviour therapy can include both teachers and parents. It involves setting up a rewards and penalty systems so that the child recognises good behaviour, and is rewarded for it, helping to change their behavioural patterns.
- ADHD affects 3-5% of children worldwide
- 1.7% of the UK population have ADHD
- 5-10% of children and adolescents in the UK have ADHD, one in 100 are severely affected by it
- two thirds of children with ADHD still have the symptoms when they reach 25
- ADHD is four times more common in boys than girls
- 1 in 20 school aged children are affected by ADHD.
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