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Author: Dr Partha BanerjeaConsultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

ADHD is common in children and teenagers and, with the right medication and treatment, can be successfully managed allowing your child to reach their full potential and enjoy their lives.

 

What is ADHD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ADD (attention deficit disorder) are neurodevelopmental conditions affecting thousands of families in the UK.

ADHD and ADD are psychiatric disorders characterised by impulsive, hyperactive or inattentive behaviour. The child may appear ‘naughty’, can struggle in school and home settings and be challenging to parent. With the right help, children and teenagers with ADHD and ADD are much more able to reach their full potential.

The average age for diagnosis of ADHD in children is 7 years of age.


What causes ADHD in children?

ADHD in children is thought to result from many genetic and environmental factors interacting.

1. Genetic

Children with a family history of ADHD are much more likely to have the condition themselves.

Many children with ADHD have been found to have slightly different gene structures. One study found a greater number of ‘copy number variants’ (a term used to refer to deletions and duplications of certain chromosomes)1 in children with ADHD.

2. Neurobiological

Brain imaging has shown a difference in the brain size of children with ADHD.

Brain maturation is slower in children with ADHD; grey matter maturity is approximately 3 years behind that of children who do not have ADHD2.

The levels of neurotransmitters – the chemicals that deliver messages in the brain – are different in children with ADHD. Noradrenaline, linked to our ability to pay attention, and dopamine, linked to our ability to control impulses, have been found in lower levels in children with ADHD. Medications, such as Ritalin, can be successfully used to adjust the levels of brain chemicals.

3. Environmental

Premature birth and low birth weights are linked to an increased chance of ADHD.

Factors such as alcohol, drug and cigarette use during pregnancy have links to a greater likelihood of ADHD.

You can read more about the Causes of ADHD

1. Williams., et al (2010)
2. Shaw, P. (2007)

Dr Banerjea has helped my son so much, we are eternally grateful for the care and compassion he offered us when we were at an all-time low.

Helen, London


Things that do NOT cause ADHD

It’s common for parents to worry that something they have done might have caused ADHD. We know this isn’t true. The following are common factors that parents think might have led to their child developing ADHD:

  • Watching too much television makes a child unable to concentrate
  • Family stress (poverty, family conflict) – whilst this can mean your child is anxious or depressed, it doesn’t cause ADHD
  • Parenting style and behaviours does not cause ADHD. ADHD is a neurobiological condition. However, parenting styles may make symptoms of ADHD better or worse.

Download our guide to a child and adolescent ADHD assessment

Learning that you have not caused this problem, and that the child cannot help their difficulties, can, for the first time allow for some space to think about what to do, without blame and guilt.
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MBChB, MRCPsych

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
London

Dr Partha Banerjea is a very senior and experienced Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist. He is currently the Lead clinician for Southwark CAMHS, and has for the last 15 years managed a specialist outpatient adolescent service. This is a...

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