Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children

Article excerpt

Usually misdiagnosed, more often misunderstood, a common psychiatric disorder has become too serious to ignore. The problem manifests itself as behavioral--the name change brings much needed clarity.

(Editor's Note: These articles originally appeared in Issue #63.)

The child fidgets with hands and feet, squirms when sitting, is easily distracted, has difficulty waiting, becomes uncontrollably overactive in school, and is unable to follow instructions because of failure to pay attention. There was a time when such behavior evinced anger and despair from parents and doctor. The child was considered overbearing.

In another time, children who had difficulty sustaining attention in tasks of play activity compulsively shifted from one uncompleted activity to another, could not play quietly, talked incessantly, interrupted or intruded upon others, seemed not to listen, and often engage in physically dangerous activities at school or home (running into the street without looking for oncoming traffic). The diagnosis usually was possible brain injury at birth.

Misdiagnoses varied: some children were labeled "minimally brain damaged." Others, by evidence of excessive activity, were identified as "hyperactive," a matter that could be solved by drugs, diet, or surgery. Each remedy had its own enthusiastic professional proponents.

Fortunately, much progress has been made in defining the cause and consequent improvement of the condition. Some sufferers have an attention deficit disorder (ADD), and some are hyperactive with attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Practically all patients suffer from learning disabilities. The change of name for the ailment distinguished the various types of the disorder.

A question of brain damage is emphatically denied by most authorities who deal with the problem. On the contrary, enough evidence exists to confirm frequent observations that intelligence is not necessarily impeded by ADD.

One of the many characteristics of children With ADD is their impulsivity. Although most children display a difficulty in waiting, thinking ahead, or maintaining patience, growth into the other phases of development produces change. The adolescent shows a mastery over earlier childhood impulses. An ADD or ADHD child, however, never seems to grow out of those development-related stages. In fact, ADD children seem to operate on an earlier developmental level; they are often disorderly and unorganized and because of easy distractibility, they produce untidy surroundings, sloppy dress, unfinished assignments, and careless reading and writing habits.

What part does environment play in contributing to an individual's development of ADD or ADHD? Whereas earlier appraisals implied parental problems, a flawed diet, improper home life, and many other negative influences, new scientific evidence points to the basic source of difficulties to be inborn--a matter of genetics.

Knowledge about the disorder's origins is incomplete, but a consensus is growing among therapists who are dealing with the crisis that, like many genetic disorders, ADD and ADHD are caused by an impaired flow of chemicals in the brain. (Panic disorder, Tourette syndrome, and Obsessive-compulsive disorder are only a few of the conditions caused by malfunctioning of brain neurotransmitters [chemicals]). According to David Comings, M.D., many more mental health mysteries may be attributed in the future to genetic disorders, including alcoholism, pathological gambling, obesity, depression, and manic-depressive disorders. …

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