In Germany, an estimated five percent of all children and adolescents suffer from ADHD. Boys are much more affected by attention deficit than girls. ADHD is noticeable in children due to symptoms such as overactivity and difficulty concentrating. But many other symptoms may indicate ADHD. We clarify the causes, symptoms and treatment options of ADHD in children.
ADHD or ADD: Where are the differences?
The abbreviation ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the abbreviation ADS for attention deficit disorder. The difference between ADHD and ADD is therefore in the term hyperactivity: Children who suffer from ADHD are not only more often unfocused and easier to distract than peers, but also hyperactive. They are fidgety, constantly on the move and rarely able to deal with anything. ADS children, on the other hand, are more likely to daydream.
Depending on which symptoms the affected children show, different types are distinguished:
- Hyperactive-impulsive type
- Mainly attention-getting type (occurs especially in girls)
- Combined type: hyperactive and attention-getting
Causes of ADHD in children
The exact cause of ADHD has not yet been conclusively clarified. However, it is suspected that attention deficit is genetic in many cases. In addition to the affected child, close relatives such as parents or siblings often suffer from ADHD.
The cause of the disorder is thought to be defective brain signaling: the messengers dopamine and norepinephrine, which play an important role in our attention and motivation, are present in lower levels than usual in people with ADHD. As a result, the exchange of information between the nerve cells is disturbed and stimuli sometimes no longer properly processed.
But not only genetic influences, but also the environment should supposedly play a role in the development of ADHD. For example smoking and drinking during pregnancy should increase the predisposition for attention deficit disorder. Also, an oxygen deficiency at birth may have a negative impact. In addition, the environment in which the child grows up is also important: traumatic events, for example, should favor the development of ADHD in children.
Typical symptoms of ADHD in children
Whether ADHD is present in a child is usually not obvious at first glance. Often, the symptoms are difficult to distinguish from age-appropriate behavior. A typical symptom that indicates ADHD in children is marked overactivity: the children are restless, fidgety and constantly on the move - even in situations where they are required to behave quietly.
ADHD children are more often unfocused than peers and are easily distracted. In addition, it is difficult for them to spend a long time quietly dealing with a cause. They also have problems distinguishing between important and unimportant things. These symptoms often cause problems when the children attend school.
ADHD children may also experience increased forgetfulness, increased irritability, aggressiveness, and impulsivity as well as less frustration tolerance in ADHD children. Also, motor difficulties, such as learning to write, can occur.
Their classmates tend to avoid ADHD children, which is why they seldom build lasting friendships. This often results in lower self-esteem, which can lead to long-term anxiety and depression. That is why it is particularly important for ADHD children to experience love, security and acceptance in their family.
Course of ADHD
The first signs of ADHD can appear as early as infancy: Infants and small children suffer from sleep problems or indigestion, are moody and refuse to contract. Somewhat older children have problems learning new motor tasks - for example, eating alone with cutlery. Of the learning speed, ADHD children often lag behind their peers.
Due to the many new attractions to which the children are exposed in kindergarten, the symptoms usually worsen. The children are unpredictable in their actions, are difficult to make friends and some get violent tantrums.
The most obvious signs of ADHD symptoms are, however, usually seen during school enrollment. ADHD children are often unfocused, disturb the classroom and sometimes react aggressively towards teachers or classmates. Regarding their academic performance, children with ADHD are lagging behind many of their classmates: they are often less receptive and have problems reading, writing and arithmetic. Often, some of the symptoms of AHDS persist into adulthood.