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Attention Deficit Disorder

            Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a common disease among children and adults in the United States.  It is commonly misunderstood and many people have a problem believing it actually exists.  ADD is a controversial neurological disorder with many treatment methods and potential triggers.  This will help you understand the history, treatment options as well as the symptoms of this highly unspecific disease.

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            Attention Deficit Disorder is another developmental disorder that results in academic difficulties. It is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. These symptoms generally appear in most situations, such as at school, home, and with friends, but in some instances they may appear in only one of the situations. The symptoms are usually worse when sustained attention is required, for example, during lessons at school. About 3% of children have attention deficit disorder, and it is six to nine times more common among boys than among girls. The disorder generally persists throughout childhood, and in many cases, some signs of it continue in adulthood. The symptoms of ADD are lack of attention, people who easily decides on something without proper scrutinizing of the situation, and hyperactivity. There are certain types of ADD and these are the Combined Type ADHD, Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD and Predominantly inattentive type ADHD. Symptoms of ADD  if not treated early will get worse and these includes depression and the most common is how it greatly affects the school performance of the child involved. People in the society believes that having ADD is hereditary that if your family blood lines have this disorder then there is great chances that the generations of the present will likely be affected, and also they perceived that when during pregnancy, when the mother always drinks alcohol and do smoke then these will also affect or contribute to the development of this developmental disorder.

            In DSM III this syndrome is categorized as a specific Developmental disorder called “attention deficit disorder”. Extremely active behavior, impulsiveness, poor motor coordination, and low frustration tolerance are associated with this label. Although in the examples, the behaviors were obvious early, many children are identified as having this disorder only when they enter school. Many children who receive this label are not distinguishable from typical children in unstructured free- play situations. However, when hyperkinetic children are in a structured schoolroom, teachers perceive them as creating havoc. The hyperactive behavior is associated with difficulty in learning the academic materials in the schoolroom. Attention deficit children get poor grades, and are often held back to repeat classes. It is one of several learning disabilities seen in some children.

            ADD dates back to the mid 1800’s.  In 1848 symptoms of ADD were first described in a popular children’s book called Fidgety Phil, written by a German doctor.  During the early to middle 1900’s ADD was misunderstood and was commonly referred as a form of brain damage by many medical professionals.  During the 1970’s a psychologist named Virginia Douglas was involved in many studies and vast research of the disease. She is responsible for identifying the four major characteristics of the disease. In the late 1900’s to date, ADD has become more studied and understood by the medical community; although it is still a controversial topic.

            The criterion for ADD is very broad and is not considered by many to be a specific disease. ADD affects three to five percent of the population of children.  There are two major types of ADD. ADD with hyperactivity is the traditional and most known type of the disease.  ADD without hyperactivity is the other well known form of the disorder.  It is estimated that there will be more types of ADD as more is learned about the disease.

            The main characteristics of ADD include impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention.  Most of these characteristics are present throughout childhood and follow fifty to eighty percent into adulthood.

            People who live with ADD without hyperactivity are usually inattentive and externally show many signs of disinterest. When an individual has ADD without hyperactivity they are commonly known by teachers and others as individuals with behavior problems.  These individuals often have difficulty following directions and are usually forgetful.  In school the child often lacks attention and does not follow through with homework.  An individual who has ADD without hyperactivity also appears lost in thought and tends to daydream a lot. Characteristics of ADD with hyperactivity are almost the opposite of ADD without hyperactivity.  The individual usually has a lack of patience.  They are often fidgety and have a hard time waiting their turn.  They tend to interrupt others and blurt out answers before the question is finished.  These individuals often appear not to be paying attention, when actually are.  All children exhibit these characteristics and it only adds to the controversy surrounding this disease.

            Studies of the disease suggest it is a neurobiological condition rather than a “mental illness.” Recent studies are suggesting that abnormalities in brain chemistry as well as smaller lobes in the brain cause ADD.  There has also been speculation that suggests the neurotransmitters of dopamine and norepinephrine are not functioning properly and may be an origin of ADD. A study by Bowes and Shaywitz in 1977 showed a remarkable difference in the amount of dopamine found in cerebral spinal fluid was a lot lower in children who had ADD than the amount found in normal children.  There continues to be a lot of speculation of what causes ADD.  What is known for sure is it is a neurochemical imbalance that plays a huge role in the cognitive process.

            ADD affects most patients’ relationships.  It is a challenge for many families and

some parents only let it frustrate them. Their ability to make friends is often a difficult task.  When they have made friends, it is often hard for them to keep the relationship.  Some may talk too little and others may talk too much. Without proper medication and treatment many children are unsure of the behavioral standards that are expected of them. For an adult who has ADD, marriage and other meaningful relationships can be hard to manage.  ADD can cause miscommunication and tension in a marriage.  Patients who

have ADD have to work harder at keeping relationships together and meaningful.

            The characteristics of ADD generally cannot be controlled without professional and the assistance of medicine.  Various individuals respond well to different medications than others.  The most common medicine prescribed to patients living with ADD is Ritalin. Ritalin’s effects are similar to caffeine. Ritalin affects chemicals in the brain and helps control hyperactivity.  Ritalin has been shown to be a safe drug as long as the patient uses the correct dosages.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has put restrictions on the manufacturing and distribution of Ritalin because of its addictive nature.  Ritalin also has many side affects that may contribute to patients abandoning the


            Some side effects include loss of appetite, headaches, digestive problems, psychotic episodes, and many more.  Most people who live with ADD do not suffer from any side effects from their medication. Addiction to Ritalin is the main worry of parents, doctors and the patients themselves.  For patients who have difficulty with addiction to Ritalin, there is an abundance of other options.

            There is no known treatment for ADD but there are medications which help lessen or alleviate the symptoms a child with ADD will manifests. These are the stimulant medication. However there is a new drug discovered to be also effective and this is Strattera. Children who take these medications should be watched by their parents for these drugs have adverse effects towards the client’s body and these may include Lack of interest to eat, nausea, vomiting, and altered sleeping patterns.

            Therapies could also be used to treat ADD, and counseling and emotional support from the family would be a great treatment. Maternal and Paternal discipline should also be imposed in order for the child to see great authorities and be able to obey and respect it. This would greatly affect the behavior of the child having ADD; whatever they see from their elders will be registered in their young minds.

So if they see that they are not that well guided and disciplined by their parents and that their behaviors are well tolerated, then the more they will be encouraged to continue their lack of attention and hyperactivity which causes troubles towards others and themselves.

The focus of many medications is to improve various troublesome areas of the patients’ life. A difference in the patient’s behavior is usually noticeable at home as well as at school or work when they are using the proper medication.  The individual can usually enter a social situation and contribute to the group without fear of rejection.

            Anxiety is also a symptom of ADD that is alleviated with the proper use of medication.  Most importantly, with the proper use of medicine, the individual has a sense of belonging and increased self-esteem. Cognitive therapy is another way to treat ADD. This form of treatment can be used without medicine.  It can also be used hand in hand with medicine to help the patient make better decisions.  Cognitive therapy focuses on the self-image of the patient as well as focusing on eliminating depression and anxiety.  The process of therapy also looks at events and choices the patient was recently involved with. They put an emphasis on what happened when the patient made the choice and how to approach a similar situation in a different manner the next time they are put in the same position.  To keep the patient from getting overwhelmed, the therapist divides the tasks into smaller goals and usually focuses on one task at a time.

            Recent studies are showing a correlation between individuals with ADD and the exposure to lead.  All children have some degree of lead in their system, but children with ADD are likely to have increased levels.  Many of the toys available to children contain small amounts of lead.  Just recently there has been a massive recall of toys made in China due to unsafe lead levels.  Studies have also speculated that watching excessive amounts of television can contribute to a child developing ADD.  If a child watches too

many hours of television between the ages of one and three, the risk of the child developing ADD are increased. The more television the child watches increased the risks of eventually having ADD.  Most of these results are theories and there is still not many

solid facts about ADD.

            The debate continues about whether ADD is an actual disorder.  Many people think a child who suffers from ADD is nothing more than a child being who they are.  We are all different and to say that because a child is too hyper or too introverted makes him or her have a disease can offend some people.

            Others are looking at studies, experiments and a lot of data obtained through years of tests and are coming to a different conclusion.  ADD is thoroughly studied and documented.   The origins and mysteries surrounding the disease will someday come to light.

            ADD is a mysterious disease. A lot of time and effort is going into the research of the origins and treatment of ADD.  With effective treatment and medicine, most of the symptoms of ADD can be treated, but most patients will grow into adulthood with the disease.  An adult with ADD will tend to have difficulties in relationships and employment.  I believe ADD is a real disease and more progress will be made to cure it in the future.


Benjamin, L. T., et al. (1990). Psychology. Macmillan Publishing Company.
Mehr. J. (1983). Abnormal Psychology. USA: CBS College Publishing.
Hallowell, E. M, MD. 1992. What it is like to have ADD? Attention Deficit Disorder Association. December 9, 2007.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. ADHD predominantly inattentive. Wikimedia Foundation Incorporated. December 9, 2007.

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