What Causes ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD is only recently beginning to be understood by researchers. For many years, ADHD was surrounded by myths and fallacies by those who thought it might not be a real disorder or that it was simply an excuse for bad behavior born of neglectful parenting. Although experts are still unsure what exact components lead to ADHD, there are a number of educated theories, most of which suggest that it is a genetic or biological condition rather than the result of outside influences.


It is important that parents do not blame themselves if their children have ADHD. Because the needs of children with ADHD are somewhat different from typical kids, certain parenting styles might exacerbate the negative symptoms of the disorder. This has given rise to the myth that the hyperactivity and acting out done by children with ADHD is the result of poor parenting. Although there are certain risk factors regarding prenatal wellness that could be avoided or reduced, there is more evidence to suggest that ADHD is caused by a combination of factors that are out of anyone's control.


·         Genetics – Researchers are still trying to pin down the link between genetics and ADHD, however, studies have shown that children with the disorder often have a close relative suffering from it as well. Because ADHD so often went undiagnosed in the past, many parents only recognize the symptoms in themselves after seeking help for their children. Additionally, certain genes that control the neurotransmitters, or chemical levels, in the brain have been shown to be different than in those without the disorder.
Researchers are particularly studying the naturally occurring chemical, dopamine, as those with ADHD have lower levels of it. They have also found that children with ADHD who carry a certain version of a particular gene have thinner tissue in the part of the brain associated with attention. Although the brain tissue mostly regains a normal level of thickness by the time adulthood is reached, many of the symptoms of ADHD will remain permanently.

·         Smoking or Alcohol Abuse During Pregnancy – Studies show that fetuses exposed to tobacco and alcohol are 2.4 times more likely to have ADHD as those who are not. Alcohol or drug use during pregnancy also affects the neurons that create neurotransmitters, which experts have linked to the disorder. While studies have linked prenatal smoking to behavioral issues in children, the jury is still out with many researchers on whether or not the habit leads to ADHD. However, it is considered a significant enough risk factor that smoking mothers should certainly abstain while pregnant.

·         Brain Injury – It is believed by some experts that brain injury may be the cause of ADHD in a small minority of children. Toxin exposure or physical injury either before or during birth may be the culprit. It has been found that previously unaffected people can present ADHD like symptoms after a head trauma. The disorder is most likely connected to frontal lobe damage.


Although there have been great inroads to understanding ADHD in the last decade or so, researchers continue to study the disorder in the hope that understanding the causes will lead to more effective treatment. There is no cure for ADHD, however, through therapy and medication it can be successfully managed. Instead of accepting or casting blame, parents of children with ADHD should take advantage of the many resources available now to make sure that their child gets the best start on living a healthy and full life.


If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, please visit us on our site at Liahona Academy. We are a residential treatment center located in southern Utah and we specialize in helping teen boys overcome the challenges connected to living with ADHD. We are happy to answer your questions and discuss the treatment options available to you. 

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