Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder. ADHD affects around five per cent of children worldwide with symptoms starting before the age of seven. Children tend to be generally energetic in general but there's a great deal of difference between a bored or restless child and one suffering from ADHD. So what is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurobehavioural disorder. This means that activity in the brain of the sufferer affects their outward behaviour. ADHD makes it more difficult for sufferers to concentrate on a task and may cause them to be overactive or impulsive. Children who suffer from ADHD may have a great deal of problem behaviours, making them difficult to teach or care for.

The most common symptom of ADHD is hyperactivity, with sufferers often having restless sleep, difficulty concentrating and an inability to sit still or the need to constantly fidget . Another common symptom is inattention with the sufferer becoming easily distracted, not finishing work and having a tendency to day-dream. Sufferers of ADHD are often impulsive or disorganised. This may cause them to interrupt the conversations of others or to jump quickly from one activity to another.

Some symptoms such as hyperactivity may improve or disappear as a child grows up however some sufferers have problems which last long into adulthood. Research has found that ADHD sufferers tend to be unpopular with other children and as such it's very important that they receive help as early as possible to prevent other behavioural problems arising from this.

There is no specific cause known for ADHD however there are several factors which may be involved in the condition. Research has found that diet, genetics and physical environments can all contribute to ADHD.

Treatments for ADHD often involve a combination of behaviour modifications, life-style changes and medication. Stimulant medication is common and research has shown that this can provide short-term benefits to children with ADHD. These work by stimulating the areas of the brain which control attention and focus. Although medication can't cure ADHD, by calming the child they can provide an opportunity to help them manage their own behaviour. The most common psychological treatments for ADHD include family therapy, group therapy and psychotherapy.

Parents of children with ADHD can receive training and education which can help them to talk, play and work properly with their child. Research has shown this to improve the behaviour of sufferers. Several professionally-run programmes exist to help parents with behaviour management which involves learning how to plan activities and encourage children for even very small amounts of progress.