Behavioral Health

The Facts about ADHD

Kids can be impulsive. There are plenty of things they would rather be doing each day than sitting in a classroom, behaving in church, or getting together for some boring “adult” activity. That’s normal.

When that behavior begins to disrupt their schoolwork, and leads to trouble at home or with friends, it could be a case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.” It’s something kids don’t normally outgrow, often lasting into adulthood.

With proper diagnosis, however, ADHD can be treated and controlled. 

ADHD History

The condition was first recognized by a Scottish doctor near the end of the 18th century. In 1902, Sir George Frederic Still talked about impulsive behavior in children of typical intelligence.

Hyperkinetic disease was described by two German doctors in 1932. The condition prevented children from sitting still in class and getting along with schoolmates. It started in children as young as 3 and peaked by the age of 6.

In 1937, it was discovered that Benzedrine, a stimulant, caused a decrease in the patient’s hyperactivity. By 1954, Ritalin became the most widely used drug to treat children with ADHD.

By the Numbers

It is estimated that as many as 6 million children between 3 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD. That includes:

  • 265,000 3 to 5 years old
  • 2.4 million 6 to 11 years old
  • 3.3 million 12 to 17 years old

Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Black non-Hispanic children, and White non-Hispanic children are most often diagnosed with ADHD — 12% and 10% respectively — compared with Hispanic children (8%) or Asian non-Hispanic children (3%).

The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has increased steadily each year.

Potential Symptoms

Many children will have problems focusing. That doesn’t mean they have ADHD. However, it’s important to look out for:

  • Daydreaming
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing things
  • Fidgeting
  • Being overly chatty
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Carelessness
  • Exceedingly poor impulse control
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Difficulty getting along with others
  • Difficulty keeping their grades up. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Researchers continue to look for the exact causes of ADHD. Some factors they have identified include:

  • Genetics — Studies show it may run in families.
  • Environment — Environmental factors, such as lead exposure, may increase risk.
  • Development issues — Problems with the nervous system during key moments of childhood development could be a factor.
  • Exposure to environmental factors during pregnancy — Exposure to smoke, alcohol, or  drugs during pregnancy could be a risk factor.
  • Premature birth — This could be another risk factor.

Coexisting Conditions

ADHD can be extremely frustrating, especially if it isn’t diagnosed until adulthood. Dealing with the forgetfulness, inattentiveness, poor performance at school, work, or in relationships, can lead to the development of other conditions. These include:

  • Mood disorders — Depression and bipolar disorder are common. They are not directly tied to ADHD but could be related due to a repeated pattern of failures and frustrations that result from ADHD.
  • Anxiety disorders — Anxiety can become amplified because of the challenges of ADHD.
  • Learning disabilities — Adults with ADHD could score lower on academic testing and may have greater difficulty with understanding and communicating.
  • Other disorders — Personality disorders and substance use disorders pose a greater risk because of undiagnosed or untreated ADHD.

Here to Help

ADHD is common and there are treatments for children AND adults. If you believe you or a loved one might have symptoms of ADHD, AltaMed has skilled pediatricians and behavioral health professionals who can help. Also, AltaMed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has pediatricians that specialize in developmental and behavioral diagnoses that could assist your child or adolescent. Call us at (323) 669-2113.

Get started with AltaMed

See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

Learn More

The Facts about ADHD