Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder with severe behavioral and concentration problems. A person with ADHD is restless, impulsive and has difficulty concentrating. This disease is common in children but also in adults. Because many of these adults are later in life diagnosed with ADHD, they often have had many problems before.
The cause of ADHD is not exactly known. Presumably, there is a disturbance in the transfer of electrical impulses between brain cells. ADHD is also associated with problems during pregnancy or childbirth. Additionally, there is more and more evidence that hereditary factors may play an important role.
ADHD has three symptoms:
- Attention deficit: quickly distracted, difficulty with planning, easily bored, difficulty concentrating.
- Hyperactivity: restless, fidgety, cannot sit still, mobile, frequently fiddling and wobbling.
- Impulsivity: difficulty waiting, doing things without thinking about it, just blurting out inappropriate comments.
In children, the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms are more obvious, while in adults the attention and concentration problems stand in front. Both children and adults with ADHD often experience rapid mood swings and irritability.
The diagnosis of ADHD can be made from the fourth year, although sometimes any symptoms may have been present at a younger age. The diagnosis is usually determined by a psychologist, (children’s) psychiatrist or remedial educationalist. There is no standard test or physical examination which clearly shows, in a measurable way, the existence of ADHD. The diagnosis of ADHD can be best made on basis of a detailed clinical assessment. This includes an extensive interview with the patient about the history and presence of ADHD characteristics, as well as an interview with the partner, parent or family member.
Many people benefit from treatment that includes medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and neurofeedback:
- With the aid of medicines, symptoms may be reduced. This often has a positive impact on the social function, so that the effect can be huge. Medication can also support the other forms of treatment.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to make a person aware of and gain more control over his or her inner function. The impulsivity of ADHD patients brings them sometimes into trouble and is one of the biggest annoyances of the patient's environment. ADHD patients do things without thinking about the consequences. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people with ADHD to gain control over their impulses and manage them. They learn to think in advance about the actions they are about to take.
- Neurofeedback is a treatment method for the brain, in which a person can learn to control his or her brainwaves. It allows patients to positively influence the activity in their brain, resulting in an improved focus and more control over behavior.
ADHD is incurable, the predisposition for this disease is always present. The prospects depend on early detection and treatment. By careful attention to the child’s behavior, education and social life, the child can be helped to develop into an as optimal as possible functioning adult.
- Provide clear structure in the daily schedule in times of getting up, breakfast, lunch, dinner and sleep.
- Equip working place or study room so that the patient is not easily distracted.
- For maximum success, apart from the ADHD patient, also parents or partner, other family members and teachers/school management must get actively involved in the treatment. Contact with fellow-sufferers is also important.
- Dietary changes appear to have a positive effect on the symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults. An ADHD diet is based on healthy and balanced food. Poor nutrition can worsen the symptoms of ADHD. So it is advised to reduce sugar intake by using a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. Ready-to-serve dinners are not recommended.
- Recent research suggests that the following nutrients have a positive effect on the treatment of ADHD:
- Ginkgo Biloba: to boost concentration.
- Fish oil and cod-liver oil: contain essential fatty acids (omega-3).
- Vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc.