How Do You Get ADHD?

ADHD is a neurological condition that occurs in 4-9% of children in the United States.  The Center for Disease Control keeps current statistics on the number of individuals with ADHD in the US. ADHD boys and girls are found in all geographic areas of the US.  ADHD is a common disorder that is also found across people of all income levels.  For example, many successful entrepreneurs have ADHD and have found ways to utilize their strengths to manage ADHD to their advantage.  On the other hand, there are many men and women with ADHD that never achieve to their potential.  In many cases the most successful people with ADHD have a strong guide or mentor that nurtures and encourages them.  I believe that behind every successful person with ADHD is usually a tired parent.  If you agree then consider reading my book “Raising Boys With ADHD: Secrets for Parenting Healthy, Happy Children” for real advice and help.

Many parents have questions about ADHD. I address some common questions about ADHD in this blog and have tons of helpful resources for parenting children with ADHD (video, ebook, and print resources) in my membership area.

One of the FAQs about ADHD is, “How do You Get ADHD?”  The most frequent way children get ADHD is because they inherit it from a family member.  Since ADHD is a neurological disorder it can be linked to genetics in about 40-50% of children.  ADHD may or may not have been formally diagnoses in a parent but ADHD might have been suspected.  Many parents learn they have ADHD when their child is diagnosed with ADHD.  It’s relatively common during the ADHD testing results meeting for a parent to think, and often comment, “That sounds a lot like me.”  Some parents of children with ADHD go on to get their own testing for ADHD through a MD or psychologist.

In many families, the cause of ADHD is unknown.  In some cases It may have been something in utero that occurred that caused ADHD.  Other children with ADHD are suspected of ingesting an environmental toxin that caused symptoms of ADHD.  In all cases, poor parenting did not cause ADHD.

If you are the parent of a child with ADHD feeling guilty is a natural response to the initial ADHD diagnosis.  I find guilt occurs with mothers more than fathers.  If you read about the stages of grief that parents go through after learning that their child has a disability, guilt is one of the common stages.  Just know that if you’ve been feeling guilty that it’s a normal feeling.  Try not to beat yourself up about it.

Most professionals agree that 5 criteria should be met for a psychologist to diagnose ADHD.  First, the child must have at least 6 symptoms of inattention, or 6 of hyperactivity-impulsivity, or a combination of 12.  Second, the child’s symptoms must have caused problems before 7 years of age.  Third, there must be impairment from the symptoms in two or more settings.  Fourth, there must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.  Fifth, the symptoms must not be caused by another mental or physical condition.

Your child can meet the DSM-IV criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, if he or she exhibited symptoms before age 7, symptoms continue to occur across multiple settings, behaviors have lasted more than six months and interfere with your child’s academic and/or social performance.  The symptoms are not presumed due to any other physical or mental condition.

Regardless of how your child got ADHD, the important question is, “How do we treat ADD/ ADHD?”  The most common treatment option for ADD/ ADHD is using medications and these usually help about 80% of individuals that use a medication treatment for ADHD.  Since I’m not a MD, I don’t advise parents about the type of medication they should use with their child.  How to decide on what ADHD medication works best is a conversation you should have with your child’s medical doctor.  I know from personal experience that the stimulant types of ADHD medications worked best for my son.  Yes, there were side effects that my wife and I did not like but the good outweighed the bad.

The second common treatment for ADHD is using counseling.  If you decide to use counseling for ADHD, you must spend time interviewing several counselors to find one that fits your child’s personality.  If your child does not click with the counselor then you should spend your money elsewhere.  You may find some personal/ parenting benefit from talking to the counselor but the child must have that solid relationship.  I recommend a cognitive behavioral therapy that is goal oriented.  Some ADHD counseling therapies can last for a year or more.  You want your child to quickly start feeling benefits from counseling for ADHD.  While starting ADHD medication is a  quick way to see results, counseling is a slower route toward seeing improvement in your child’s ADHD symptoms.

An emerging and very promising way to help improve a child’s concentration, attention, and academic grades is the Cogmed Working Memory Training.  This is an internet based, coached, intensive working memory training program that lasts for a year.  The first 25 sessions are daily for five weeks and then the child goes into maintenance training mode for a year.  Cogmed is only offered through medical doctors and doctoral level psychologists.  Independent research (not paid for by Cogmed) by university faculty has shown Cogmed works for 80% of individuals that use it; and the results are sustained at 6 and 12 months.  One characteristic of individuals with ADHD is a weak working memory.  Cogmed helps increase a person’s tank of memory so he or she can pay attention longer and when tasks become difficult.

A less well documented treatment for ADHD is using vitamins.  There is a plethora of information on the internet with websites trying to sell parents vitamins or drops to improve attention.  While these sound promising, they rarely live up to expectations.  Of course there are always exceptions and if a child happens to have a certain vitamin deficiency and is then given the vitamin you can see a change in performance.  If you want to use vitamins as a treatment option for ADHD I recommend working with a registered dietician.

These are three treatments for ADHD.  Many more exist.  As you consider different ADHD treatments there are 3 important questions to ask yourself.  What questions should you ask yourself about your child’s ADHD treatments?

  1. How is my child’s self-esteem?  If it seems to be low, ADHD medication may help him or her start to have more immediate success and build up self-esteem.
  2. Can I deal with my child having difficulty falling asleep?  Since difficulty falling asleep is one of the most common side effects of ADHD medication, you will likely have to deal with later bedtimes.
  3. Can I afford counseling or Cogmed?  If you use either of these approaches for managing ADHD, prepare for an expense of about $1500.  Fifteen counseling sessions and the year of working memory training both cost about the same.

I wish you well in your decision making process and I have many more resources for you in the member center.  Click on the membership tab above for more information.