General information on ADHD
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms of ADHD are inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. The condition begins in childhood and negatively impacts a patient’s relationships, education and employment.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition (brain maturation) characterized by difficulty sustaining attention (inattention), excessive activity or restlessness (hyperactivity), and acting without thinking (impulsiveness). ADHD is one of the most frequent childhood psychiatric disorders. Although ADHD symptoms begin in childhood, the disorder can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. ADHD can have a significant impact on a patient’s psychological and social functioning.
Symptoms of inattention in children usually take the form of being easily distracted and having difficulty sustaining attention, especially during boring and repetitive tasks. Impulsiveness can manifest as the tendency to act without thinking about the long-term consequences or in the form of social intrusion (interrupting conversations or games), and hyperactivity as restlessness, excessive motor activity, and tapping with hands and feet or talking too much.
ADHD patients often have other psychiatric disorders. These are mainly oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders, as well as learning disorders, tic disorders, and affective and anxiety disorders. In adults, substance use disorders and antisocial personality disorder are common in addition to affective and anxiety disorders.
What causes ADHD?
ADHD patients very often have close family members with the condition, suggesting that genetic factors contribute to ADHD. However, to date no gene or gene combination has been identified that clearly explains how ADHD develops.
In addition to genetic factors, numerous environmental factors have been associated with an increased risk of developing ADHD. The most relevant of these are prenatal smoke exposure, being born premature, low birth weight, lead exposure, extreme social deprivation, nutritional deficiencies and consuming some preservatives and artificial colours.
Research to date has not identified the specific causes of ADHD, and its development is likely due to an interaction between genetic and environmental factors.
What are the impacts of ADHD?
ADHD has significant negative impacts on relationships, education and employment. Compared to healthy people, ADHD patients perform more poorly academically, have fewer years of schooling, have more problems with interpersonal relationships, higher divorce and unemployment rates, lower socioeconomic status, more traffic accidents, more legal problems and a poorer quality of life in general.