What Causes ADHD?
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition affecting as many as 10 percent of children in the United States. It is an often misunderstood disorder, with its associated “bad behavior” blamed on poor child-rearing, lack of discipline, or just plain orneriness. But ADHD is a clinical disorder – so what causes it?
ADHD affects the centers of the brain responsible for concentration and activity.
Different pathways in the brain are controlled by neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that attach to specific sites on brain nerve cells to bring about a response. For instance, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that attaches to sites in the brain that are responsible for attention. When enough dopamine attaches properly, then the brain can receive and react to instructions to pay attention to what is going on.
In a child showing signs of ADHD, the levels of dopamine are lower, leading researchers to determine that low levels of certain neurotransmitters are present in children with ADHD.
A child without ADHD can be taught to sit still during test time or to play quietly, while a child with ADHD can hear the same instructions but be unable to comply. This apparent misbehavior is not a result of naughtiness. The child may want to sit quietly and may know he needs to do so, but simply cannot. As a result, the child feels frustrated, angry at himself, and shame and sadness, particularly if he’s scolded or punished for his behavior.
So, What causes ADHD?
Now on to the question that most parents have: What causes ADHD to appear in some people but not others? Unfortunately, that’s a question researchers are still struggling to determine.
What researchers do know is that there is a marked difference between genders. Boys are more than twice as likely to become affected by ADHD as girls. And, of the 10 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD, about half of them will continue to show signs as adults.
Another factor researchers have discovered involves ADHD and twins. If one identical twin is diagnosed with the condition, there is almost 100 percent likelihood that the other identical twin will develop ADHD as well. For non-identical twins, the probability drops to one-third., still significantly higher than the 10 percent occurrence in the general population.
Scientists are researching many different avenues. For instance, is premature birth associated with higher occurrences of ADHD? If so, then the brain development in later stages of pregnancy might have some bearing on ADHD.
The fact that there is no definitive cause for ADHD can be frustrating to parents and children alike. Even so, there are treatments that are designed to improve the quality of life for those diagnosed with ADHD.