Causes & Effects of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

No one experiences ADHD the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of ADHD is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding ADHD

Learn about ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental health disorder and one of the most common disorders affecting school-aged children today. Characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity ADHD is divided into three types based upon the symptoms that an individual is displaying. These three types and are described in more detail below:

Predominately inattentive type is described as the inability to stay focused on one task or follow a specific set of instructions. Adolescents with this form of ADHD tend to be frequently late, lose their homework or other items on a regular basis, and are unable to finish projects because they have moved on to something else that caught their attention.

Predominately hyperactive/impulsive is characterized by an adolescent not being able to sit still and remain calm, as well as the inability to control their impulses, which prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors. Young people with this type of ADHD may run around in circles until they drop from exhaustion, they may constantly fidget when asked to sit still, or they may pace back and forth. Additionally, they may a difficult time waiting their turn and often blurt out thoughts at inappropriate times.

Combined type is a combination of characteristics from the inattentive type and the hyperactive-impulsive type. Doctors have found that most children and adolescents with ADHD will have this type of ADHD.

No matter which form of ADHD a young person is struggling with the bottom line is that their symptoms are going to experience some form of difficulties in multiple area of their life. More specifically, the symptoms of ADHD can create difficulty for a young person at home, at school, and within their interactions with their peers. While ADHD presents a variety of challenges for young people and their families with understanding and effective treatment these challenges can be overcome.

Statistics

ADHD statistics

Currently, research suggests that about 3% to 5% of children and adolescents struggle with ADHD and the accompanying symptoms. Additionally, studies have shown that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is more prominent in males than it is in females; with males being diagnosed two and a half more times than females. Furthermore, it has been shown that males are more prone to suffer from the hyperactive type of ADHD, while females typically display symptoms more synonymous with the inattentive type.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for ADHD

While scientists continue to study ADHD the exact causes for this disorder are still unknown, however it appears to occur from the combination of many different things including genetic, environmental, and physiological factors. These different factors and the role they may play in the development of ADHD are further explained below:

Genetic: There have been many studies that came to the conclusion that genetics play an important role in whether a young person will go on to develop ADHD. This means that children and adolescents who have a first degree relative with ADHD are more likely to develop this disorder themselves. Recent twin studies have continued to back up this conclusion.

Physical: ADHD is a disruption of neurocognitive functioning and multiple MRI studies have lead researchers to believe that it may develop as the result of neurochemical dysfunction of the brain. More specifically, the areas of the brain that are responsible for executive functioning, problem solving, and impulsivity seem to function differently in young people with this disorder.

Environmental: Finally, current studies have concluded that environmental factors can potentially play a large role in the onset of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. For example, exposure to certain toxins, having a mother who smokes, drinks, and/or does drugs while she is pregnant, as well as continued exposure to stressful situations can all make a young person more vulnerable to the development of this disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or other mental illness
  • Personal history of other mental health condition
  • History of substance abuse
  • Being male
  • Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
  • Prenatal exposure to various types of infections and toxins
  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight
  • History of substance abuse
  • Constant exposure to crime and/or violence

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

The signs and symptoms that make up ADHD will present differently among children and adolescences depending upon the type of ADHD they have and their own unique characteristics. Examples of various signs and symptoms that may be displayed by youth who are struggling with ADHD may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Displays impulsive behaviors
  • Squirms or fidgets
  • Talks too much
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Takes unnecessary risks
  • Has a difficult time getting along with others
  • Does not seem to listen when is spoken too
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • May blurt out things without waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others
  • Tends to leave sit when required to sit still
  • Is often “on the go”
  • Often does not follow through on instructions or fails to finish school wok or responsibilities at home

Physical symptoms:

  • Change in eating patterns
  • Changes in weight (typically significant weight loss)
  • Persistent headaches or migraines
  • Muscle tension
  • Frequent urination
  • Chronic stomachaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Day dreams a lot
  • Forgets things constantly
  • Is unable to focus on current task
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Ritualistic thinking patterns
  • Is easily distracted
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Pervasive inattentiveness
  • Persistent procrastination
  • Trouble staying motivated

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Sense insecurity
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism
  • Has a sense of underachievement
  • Doesn’t handle frustration well
  • Short, explosive temper
  • Easily flustered or stressed out
  • Feelings of agitation and irritability
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Low self esteem
  • Depression
  • High levels of anxiety

Effects

Effects of ADHD

When children and adolescents, who are struggling with the symptoms of ADHD, do not receive proper treatment they can experience problems in virtually all aspects of their lives. Some of the long-term consequences that could develop include the following:

  • Development of physical and additional mental health problems
  • Academic difficulty which could lead to academic failure
  • Behavioral disturbances at school, home, and in other social settings
  • Possible suspension or expulsion
  • Becoming socially withdrawn or isolated
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Inability to find and/or maintain steady employment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and co-occurring disorders

It is fairly common for children and adolescents who have ADHD to also be suffering from another mental health condition as well. Some examples of such conditions may include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Tic disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Depressive disorders
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders

What Past Clients Say

My husband and I decided to help our daughter get counseling at DBI and are so glad we made the choice to do so. Through the specialized programming that focused on behavioral therapy, our daughter is thriving so much more than before!

– Mother of a former client