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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Causes of ADD & ADHD

04/15/1998

Question:

What are the major causes of ADD and ADHD?

Answer:

ADD/ADHD is a genetic disorder that is thought to be neurobiochemical in nature. The altered levels of various neurochemicals affects glucose metabolism (sugar use by brain cells) in various areas of the brain, especially the frontal lobes and the reticular activating system. This system is a network that controls the body's level of alertness and attention by controlling level of consciousness, breathing rate, and heart rate as well as hormone and chemical reactions in the brain, spinal cord and the entire body. Both of these areas are of prime importance in regulating attention and impulse control.

Because ADHD is a genetic disorder, this dysregulation of attention and impulse control is present from birth, but may not be noticeable until the child enters school and has difficulty functioning in a structured environment where he/she has to follow multiple directions and rules. As the child gets older the symptoms may not be as apparent due to some maturation of the nervous system and because social pressures require conforming to the rules.

There can be acquired causes of ADHD such as brain injury due to infection or lack of oxygen before birth. Conditions causing brain injury after birth such as head trauma, encephalitis, and other significant traumas can also cause ADHD and other memory and personality changes.

ADHD, while it is a genetic disorder, can be treated with behavior modification, medicines, tutoring and other learning assistance, counseling as needed, and coaching.

Marcia J. Hern, RN, EdD Associate Professor of Nursing College of Nursing and Health University of Cincinnati

Related Resources:

National Attention Deficit Disorders Association

For more information:

Go to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Margaret C Sweeney, MD
Formerly, Associate Professor of Clinical Family Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati