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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

What is it?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is also called "ADHD." More than 10 million adults in the United States have ADHD. It is a common behavior problem in children. You (or your child) may seem hyperactive ("hyper") and have a hard time paying attention. But not all adults or children with ADHD are hyperactive. ADHD may cause you to have problems getting along with friends and family. Most people with ADHD have had attention problems since childhood. ADHD may make it hard for your child to do well in school. You may notice that your child's behavior seems different than other children. ADHD usually starts before your child is 7 years. ADHD is more common in men and boys. The following information is written for both adults and children with ADHD.

Causes:

It is not known what causes ADHD. It may be caused by a problem of how the brain works. Some people are overactive from the time they were born. ADHD may run in families.

Signs and Symptoms:

You may have trouble paying attention or following directions. You may also have a hard time sticking to the details at work. You may move from one thing to another and not finish jobs. You may do and say things without thinking. It may be hard for you to stop talking or moving. You may pace back and forth, tap your fingers, or move around while sitting. You may become easily bored and put tasks off before completing them. You may "drift" away while talking. While resting you may feel nervous.

You may also have a hard time managing your time. Your moods may quickly change or it may be hard to get organized. You may feel stressed and worried much of the time. You may have addictive behavior. This means you may do some things and cannot stop. An example of this is drinking too much alcohol or using street drugs. You may gamble, shop, eat, or work too much.

Your child may not be able to stop moving or talking. He may have trouble following directions. Or he may not pay attention to what is said. Your child may move from one thing to another without finishing anything. He may have a hard time staying seated in school. Or he may move around in the seat. Your child may find it hard to wait his turn or to be called on in class. His school work may show poor planning and attention to detail. He may lose things because it is hard to be organized.

Sometimes your child may do and say things without thinking. He may get in trouble for not having control over his actions. These actions may hurt someone or cause things to get broken. Your child may have a hard time playing quietly. Or he may not be able to stay with an activity for long. Your child may possibly do harmful things without thinking about what could happen. An example of this would be running onto the street without looking. Your child may avoid, dislike, or not want to do certain tasks or activities. ADHD can lead to impulsive behavior or drug or alcohol use.

Wellness Recommendations:

Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet, especially breakfast, may improve learning.

Medical Care:

Caregivers will want to understand you better by learning about your past, including your family. You may be given many tests by caregivers or school staff. You may be asked many questions, including questions about your behavior. Teachers will be asked similar questions about a child's school behavior. These questions and answers will help caregivers build a treatment plan.

Caregivers may want to have meetings with you and your family. These meetings can help you and your family better understand ADHD. You may also learn how to stay in control and improve your friendships. Caregivers will support and teach you new ways to care for yourself. You may need to go into the hospital if your behavior is out of control and harmful.

Medicine may be used to help your attention and to slow down your activity. It may also help to improve schoolwork and friendships. Caregivers may help you learn how to help yourself improve at home or at school. Learning about ADHD will help you to understand yourself or your child.

Dietary Measures:

  • Foods high in sugar may make ADHD worse.
  • Some food or things (additives) added to food may make your ADHD symptoms worse. Learn what these foods are and do not eat them.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.

Herbs:

    Supplements:

      Complementary Therapies:

      • Biofeedback is helpful for some patients with ADHD.

      Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

      Talk to your caregiver if:

      • You would like medicine to treat ADHD.
      • Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
      • You have questions about what you have read in this document.

      SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

      • You feel like hurting yourself.
      • You feel like hurting others.

      Care Agreement:

      You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss your treatment options with caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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      Last Updated: 4/4/2014

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