In general, quite a bit of stigma is associated with mental health conditions, where individuals struggling with various disorders often are disregarded or criticized for seeking appropriate treatment.
ADHD is among these conditions. Historically, ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity fisorder, has been a largely misunderstood condition ridden with controversy and negative publicity.
The general public, and even family members, frequently state that the child needs firmer discipline or an "attitude adjustment."
I recently attended a conference with Dr. Russell Barkley, a leading expert in the field. During that time, he summarized all of the recent and relevant research on ADHD. I will devote the next few columns to summarizing the information from this conference.
This column will focus more on overturning the myths of ADHD.
Though many do not believe that ADHD is real, the truth is that it is a serious developmental neurological condition that has a tremendous impact on the individual's functioning. It is considered a disability.
Though the name of the condition indicates that it is a problem with attention, the symptoms actually are much more widespread and impact a person's executive functioning (i.e., their ability to execute tasks designed to achieve a future goal). I will expand upon this definition in a future column.
At any rate, there are decades of research to support that ADHD is a real neurological condition that needs real neurological treatment. Additionally, ADHD frequently is associated with other conditions that also have a biological components, including Tourettes syndrome and autism.
The cause for ADHD has been identified and is COMPLETELY biological. It largely is a genetic condition, passed down from a parent.
A person also can acquire the condition, usually during the prenatal or during the birth process. There is a high association with maternal smoking, drug use and alcohol use during the prenatal period.
ADHD also is associated with premature birth and/or delivery complications. The causes frequently overlap.
A parent with ADHD is more likely to use substances during pregnancy, which then increases the chances for a premature birth. A child with multiple causal factors tends to have more severe symptoms.
ADHD affects children early in their development, and the condition usually persists through adulthood. Someone would not tell a child with diabetes or cancer to will themselves better. So is true for ADHD, where a structured treatment plan needs to be implemented and typically includes medication, as well as behavioral strategies.
ADHD is not an excuse. It is a reason for a person's problematic behavior and decreased functioning. With proper treatment, though, a person with ADHD can achieve a normal life.
Failing to address the problems, though, may result in serious consequences, including school dropout, substance abuse, criminal behavior and the list goes on.
Check back next month for a great discussion of the definition of ADHD. For additional information, visit the website www.lycominghealthyliving.com.
Seiler is a licensed psychologist and neuropsychologist and sees clients through Associates in Neuropsychology and Collaborative Healthcare, PC.