Causes of ADHD

from The Diary of a First Grade Teacher

Causes of ADHD - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – are continually being studied. While it’s one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in childhood, it still remains one of the most misunderstood.

Approximately ten percent of children in the United States struggle with it. Boys are more than twice as likely to become affected by ADHD as girls.

And, of the ten percent of children diagnosed with it, about half of them will continue to show signs as adults. So everyone – especially parents and teachers – wants to know the causes of ADHD.

What the Causes of ADHD are not …

Some people say ADHD is the result of a lack of discipline or it’s just plain bad behavior. Others ask if it’s caused by the wrong diet or because of problems in the family ... Could it be a learning problem, or do hormones come into play?

Researchers report that none of those are proven causes. What we do know is ADHD is a clinical disorder.

Human Brain Provides Clues

While no single cause has been identified, scientists agree that ADHD affects several areas in the brain. And the area called the frontal lobe is the most likely to be affected.

Since behavior - including thinking, planning, organizing, and memory - are involved, scientists are studying factors that affect brain development and functioning.

ADHD affects the centers of the human brain responsible for attention, concentration and impulse control. Different pathways in the brain are controlled by neurotransmitters. These brain chemicals attach to specific sites on brain nerve cells to bring about a response.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that attaches to sites in the brain that are responsible for attention. When enough dopamine attaches properly, the brain can receive and react to instructions - to pay attention, for example.

But in a child showing signs of ADHD, the levels of dopamine are lower. And this information has led researchers to determine that low levels of certain neurotransmitters are present in children with ADHD.

Why can’t you behave?

A child without ADHD can be taught to sit still during test time or to play quietly, but a child with ADHD can hear the same instructions and be unable to comply.

This apparent misbehavior is not a result of purposely refusing to cooperate. The child may want to sit quietly and may know he needs to do so, but simply cannot.

As a result, the child may feel frustrated and angry at himself. And whenever he’s scolded or punished for his behavior, he may feel sadness and shame.

What We Know

Why does ADHD appear in some people but not others? Unfortunately, that’s a question researchers are still struggling to answer. But recent studies have determined that heredity is a likely factor.

Researching many different avenues, scientists believe it is set in motion early in life when the brain is developing. They’re looking closely at the fetus being exposed to toxins ...

Toxins - including lead poisoning, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs – are being considered. Brain injury from trauma and disease – during fetal development – MAY also be factors.

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.


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