Attention Deficit Disorder: An Overview

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is most commonly diagnosed in children (mostly boys), though adults can also have it. When people with ADD symptoms are also hyperactive, the disorder is called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

People with ADD do not lack intelligence; rather, they have difficulty focusing their attention, and as a result, their performance suffers.

Life can be very frustrating for children with ADD:

  • They have problems at school.
  • They become known as troublemakers or slow learners.
  • They get angry easily.
  • They see themselves as bad or stupid.

Attention Deficit Disorder: Both Common and Controversial

attention deficit disorder ADDGenuine ADD seems to run in families, although environmental factors can also play a role in causing it.

Attention deficit disorder is one of the most frequently diagnosed behavioral disorders and — because some experts believe it is widely overdiagnosed — one of the most controversial. Since there is no known cure for ADD, the normal treatment is to try to manage it with medication — chiefly the stimulant methyl-phenidate (Ritalin).

While this drug and other stimulants help some children, many experts think the drugs are prescribed too often. Antidepressants may also be prescribed for some children.

It is important to note that other problems can trigger ADD symptoms. Learning disabilities, physical or sexual abuse, tension, depression, stress and family violence can all cause children to act in ways that resemble the symptoms of ADD.

If you or your child show signs of ADD that interfere significantly with daily life and work or school, call a mental health professional for advice and a thorough evaluation.

Do not accept the diagnosis of a teacher; ask your pediatrician for a referral if he does not wish to manage the situation himself.

Attention Deficit Disorder: A Sensible Course of Action

If you suspect that your child has attention deficit disorder, find a skilled specialist you trust and get a thorough evaluation. Child psychiatrists, pediatricians, neurologists and psychologists are among the professionals who work with ADD. Your family doctor may be able to refer you.

After ADD Has Been Diagnosed

Here are some guidelines to help you through the challenge:

  • If a doctor says your child has ADD, consider getting a second opinion; particularly if Ritalin or another drug is prescribed, or if the doctor does not specialize in childhood psychiatric disorders.
  • Know your child: Learn about his or her patterns and habits, strengths and weaknesses.
    • Some children do best with lots of planned activity and minimal distractions.
    • Others need lots of activity and do poorly if their environment is too controlled.
  • Educate yourself and your child about the disorder.
  • Try not to punish your child for behavior he or she can’t control.
  • Locate a support group for people concerned about ADD and get involved.
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