So just what is ADHD anyway? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control regular and sustained attention as well as hyperactivity in some cases. ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood and can last into adulthood, but in some cases, symptoms may not emerge or be recognized until adolescence.
In 2016, the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) estimated the total number of children aged 2 to 17 diagnosed with ADHD was 6.1 million. This estimate is consistent with earlier surveys that put the range between 4.4 and 6.4 percent of all children.
According to the 2016 survey, this number is broken down by age: –
- 388,000 children aged 2 to 5 years
- 4 million children aged 6 to 11 years
- 3 million children aged 12 to 17 years
It is relatively rare for symptoms of ADHD to emerge beyond the age of adolescence. In addition, up to 60 percent of children outgrow ADHD. The evidence suggests that 4 to 5 percent of adults aged 18 to 44 years old have ADHD.
The disorder is mainly neurobiological. It affects the prefrontal cortex, which controls the executive and other self-regulatory processes. There is a vital hereditary component, but there is evidence, and researchers continue to study other possible causes.
- Brain injury (traumatic)
- Exposure to environmental risks (e.g., lead) at an early stage of development or during pregnancy
- Alcohol and tobacco usage during pregnancy
- Low birthweight
- Premature delivery
No scientific evidence supports common beliefs that too much sugar, television, poor parenting, or social circumstances can cause ADHD. However, these factors may worsen the symptoms or hinder effective treatment of the condition.
Three behaviors typify Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
Some of the signs of ADHD are the tendency to:
- Daydream, to forget or lose things
- Be easily distracted
- Forget daily routines
- Squirm, fidget, and talk too much
- Constantly run, jump, or climb
- Act impulsively, without regard to risk or other people
- Have difficulty relating to other people
In very young children, these may be seen as purely natural behaviors. Most children grow out of these behaviors, but those with ADHD do not. The symptoms continue and may cause behavioral and learning difficulties at school and home.
Few children with ADHD exhibit all these symptoms, nor does any one of them on its own indicate ADHD as the cause. Only some of the symptoms outlined above can be identified before a child can express themselves. Still, the evidence clearly shows that early detection and treatment, either pharmaceutical or therapeutic is more likely to produce favorable outcomes.
If you think your child has ADHD, the first step is to raise your concerns with your child’s doctor, who may advise that you consult a specialist such as a developmental pediatrician or child psychologist.
There is no cure for ADHD, but it can be successfully managed. Some symptoms may improve as the child matures. Pharmaceutical and behavioral therapies make ADHD a manageable condition for the child and their family.
Increasingly, behavioral therapy is accepted as an effective, long-term solution to reducing the impact of a lifelong condition without the exclusive use of medication. Behavioral therapy is most effective when delivered in a family environment and delivered by the child’s parents. Parents trained in behavioral therapy have the skills and strategies to help their child to manage their behavior, self-control, self-esteem, and develop their social skills.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures that mental health treatments (such as ADHD) are covered in the same way as physical care. Mental health services for ADHD are among a core set of 10 services called “essential health benefits” that must be covered.
Your plan will determine how your care and medication costs will be divided between you and your insurer. It would be best if you were sure that all your potential providers are in the network of your chosen plan AND that any medications prescribed are included in your insurance provider’s “formulary” or list of approved pharmaceutical drugs. After calling your doctor or consultant, you should review your existing health insurance plans with a trained health insurance advisor.
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