ADHD: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD, stands as one of the most frequently diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders in children. However, its reach is not confined to the younger population; a significant number of adults also contend with ADHD, even if they haven’t been formally diagnosed during their childhood years. At its core, ADHD is characterized by a persistent and often disruptive pattern of behaviours that fall into three primary categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The manifestation of these symptoms varies among individuals. Some may predominantly show signs of inattention, often appearing forgetful or easily distracted, while others may display predominantly hyperactive and impulsive behaviours, like the inability to sit still or wait their turn. Many individuals with ADHD exhibit a combination of all these behaviours. Globally, ADHD affects an estimated 5% of children, although this figure can vary based on regional differences, cultural perceptions, and diagnostic methodologies. The diagnosis rate among boys is higher than that among girls. However, this discrepancy might be attributed to boys often displaying the more overt and noticeable symptoms, such as hyperactivity, whereas girls may present more inattentive symptoms that can be overlooked. When it comes to adults, many remain undiagnosed, leading to challenges in personal, academic, and professional arenas. The onset of ADHD symptoms typically occurs in early childhood, often before the age of seven. While the precise cause of the disorder remains a topic of extensive research and discussion, a confluence of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors are believed to play a role. This is not a disorder that emerges due to a singular cause; rather, it’s the result of a complex interplay of multiple factors.

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Psychologist.


The exact cause of ADHD remains uncertain, but there are several factors believed to contribute to its development:

1. Genetics: ADHD often runs in families, indicating a genetic link. Certain genes related to neurotransmitter systems have been identified that may play a role.

2. Brain Structure and Function: Brain imaging studies have shown some differences in the size and activity of certain brain structures in individuals with ADHD.

 3. Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental factors during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, can increase the risk of ADHD in offspring.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of developing ADHD:

1. Family History: Having a relative with ADHD increases the chances of a diagnosis.

2. Premature Birth: Children born prematurely may have an increased risk.

3. Environmental Exposures: Prenatal exposure to toxins like lead or certain infections during pregnancy can elevate risk.

4. Brain Injuries: Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may show symptoms resembling ADHD. Additionally, untreated ADHD can lead to complications like poor academic performance, increased risk of injuries, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and challenges in personal and professional relationships.


ADHD symptoms can be divided into two main categories:

1. Inattention: Includes becoming easily distracted, missing details, forgetting things, difficulty focusing on a task, frequent mistakes, and avoiding tasks that require mental effort.

2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Includes fidgeting, difficulty staying seated, rushing through tasks, talking excessively, and interrupting others. It’s crucial to understand that everyone can exhibit these behaviours at times, but for those with ADHD, these behaviours are severe, persistent, and disruptive.

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Diagnosing ADHD involves:

1. Clinical Interview: A detailed history is taken about the person's life, behaviour, and the challenges they face.

2. Rating Scales: Questionnaires may be used to evaluate the severity and frequency of symptoms.

3. Physical Examination: To rule out other conditions.

4. Psychological Tests: To assess for learning disabilities or other psychological conditions.


Several treatments can help manage ADHD:

 1. Medication: Stimulants like methylphenidate and amphetamines are commonly prescribed. Non-stimulants like atomoxetine and certain antidepressants can also be effective.

2. Behavioural Therapy: Helps patients develop coping strategies and address disruptive behaviours.

3. Psychoeducation: Teaching the individual and their family about ADHD.

4. Parent Training: Techniques to help manage children's behaviour.

Preventive Measures

1. Prenatal Care:

• Avoid Harmful Substances: Pregnant individuals should refrain from consuming alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs. These substances can adversely affect foetal brain development, increasing the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD.

• Nutrition: A balanced diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals during pregnancy can support optimal foetal brain development. In particular, adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc might play a role in reducing ADHD risk.

• Minimize Stress: Chronic high levels of stress during pregnancy might influence foetal brain development. Engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation, gentle exercise, and prenatal yoga can help manage stress.

2. Minimize Exposure to Environmental Toxins:

• Lead Exposure: Studies have linked high lead levels in young children with a greater risk of ADHD. Ensure your living environment, especially older homes, is free from peeling or chipping lead-based paints. Also, ensure that your child does not have access to products or toys that might contain lead.

• Avoid Certain Chemicals: Some studies suggest a potential link between exposure to certain chemicals, such as phthalates and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (found in plastics and some household products), and ADHD symptoms. Opt for natural or organic products when possible.

3. Early Childhood Care:

• Limit Screen Time: Overexposure to screens in early childhood has been associated with attention difficulties. It's beneficial to establish healthy screen-time habits from a young age.

• Promote Physical Activity: Regular physical activity has numerous cognitive and physical benefits for children. Activities that promote focus, such as martial arts or dance, can also be beneficial.

 • Structured Environment: A consistent routine and a structured environment can help children develop good habits early on, potentially mitigating some ADHD-like symptoms.

4. Healthy Diet and Lifestyle:

• Balanced Diet: While the relationship between diet and ADHD is still being explored, some studies suggest that a diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and certain micronutrients can potentially help manage ADHD symptoms.

• Avoid Potential Allergens: There's some evidence to suggest certain food additives, colourings, and preservatives might exacerbate ADHD symptoms in some children. While not a universal trigger, being aware and potentially minimizing these can be considered.

5. Early Intervention and Monitoring:

• Regular Check-ups: Regular paediatric visits can help monitor developmental milestones and catch potential symptoms early.

• Seek Early Support: If you notice attention or hyperactivity issues in your child, seeking early interventions such as behavioural therapy can be beneficial.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
stablish routines: Create and stick to a daily schedule. Avoid excessive multitasking: Try to focus on one task at a time.
Break tasks into smaller steps: Use checklists or organizers to manage tasks. Avoid chaotic environments: Minimize clutter and distractions when possible.
Practice time management: Use timers or alarms to stay on track with tasks. Don't procrastinate: Try not to leave tasks until the last minute.
Regular exercise and movement: Engage in physical activities to channel excess energy. Avoid excessive screen time: Limit prolonged exposure to electronic devices.
Encourage organization: Use tools like planners, calendars, or reminders. Don't overlook self-care: Neglecting sleep, nutrition, or personal care can exacerbate symptoms.
Utilize positive reinforcement: Reward yourself for completing tasks or achieving goals. Avoid self-criticism: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge accomplishments.
Effective communication: Communicate openly with friends, family, or colleagues about your needs. Don't isolate yourself: Seek support from others instead of withdrawing socially.
Seek professional help: Consult with healthcare providers or therapists for guidance and support. Avoid excessive caffeine or stimulants: These can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Psychologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
No, while often diagnosed in childhood, many individuals continue to experience symptoms into adulthood.
No, while effective for many, behavioural therapy and other non-medication strategies can also be beneficial.
No, while the exact causes are unknown, genetics, brain structure, and environmental factors during pregnancy play roles.
Yes, many adults are diagnosed after recognizing their symptoms later in life.
This is debated. Some believe it's underdiagnosed while others think it's over diagnosed. Proper diagnostic evaluations are crucial.
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