Your Health A-Z

What causes ADHD?

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurological disorder that affects as many as 1 in 10 children globally. And it’s often not a ‘stand alone’ condition.

ADHD is characterised by poor concentration and organisational skills, easy distractibility, low tolerance for frustration or boredom, a greater tendency to say or do whatever comes to mind (impulsivity).

As educational psychologist Carina van Vuuren of the Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Support Group of Southern Africa says, although there are no current South African statistics detailing how many children suffer from ADHD, it could be up to 10% of the population. ‘ADHD tends to run in families and, in most cases, it’s thought that the genes you inherit from your parents are a significant factor in developing the condition. Research shows that both parents and siblings of a child with ADHD are four to five times more likely to have ADHD themselves.’

Mediclinc Hermanus paediatrician Dr Michele van Niekerk says ADHD can be viewed along a spectrum which ranges from quiet daydreaming to extremely restless behaviour.

‘At present, the major underlying mechanism of ADHD is regarded as an imbalance or rapid desctruction of chemical messengers in the brain, which assist with the abitlity to focus or prioritise, control impulsive activity and inhibit inappropriate fidgeting or restlessness,’ Dr van Niekerk adds. ‘These neurotransmitters or messengers also assist the brain in filtering out background noise or distractions.’

Signs to look for if you suspect your child has ADHD.

  • An abnormally short concentration span
  • Frequent resistance to sustained mental effort, especially with boring or repetitive tasks
  • Easily distractibility
  • Marked forgetfulness
  • Tendency to lose things frequently
  • Difficulty organising tasks and poor planning
  • Not listening properly to instructions
  • Tendency to rush work, giving poor attention to detail and making frequent careless mistakes
  • Often not completing tasks
  • Constantly on the go, “as if driven by a motor”
  • Runs about or climbs excessively
  • Restless, unable to stay seated
  • Fidgets excessively
  • Excessively talkative
  • Plays loudly
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others
  • Cannot wait his or her turn
  • Blurts out answers before the question is completed.

(This needs to be a functional impairment – only from around school-going age)

Dr van Niekerk says ADHD may be associated with a number of other problems, including mood disorders, behavioural problems, and attitude problems and learning disorders. ‘Management of ADHD require an holistic approach,’ she says. ‘Ultimately, the most important considerations are protection of your child’s self-esteem and nurturing their potential.’

 

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.