It is known to be the most common neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood. According to a report published in Pakistan in 2007, ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: an update on assessment and management’, it makes up 30-40 percent of referrals to child mental health practitioners. Almost three percent of children in Pakistan are found to be diagnosed with ADHD, with a higher prevalence found among boys. However, due to the scarce number of child psychiatrists in the country, often children are seen by pediatricians and adult psychiatrists.
Individuals suffering from ADHD are at risk of suffering a variety of abnormalities within the development of their personalities. The definition of ADHD consists of a ‘persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactive and impulsive behaviour that is more severe’ than children of a similar age. Children suffering from ADHD can present with difficulties and impairments in certain domains of functioning including relationships with adults (for example, not listening to requests made by adults), abilities to function at school (for example, causing disruptions in class and struggling with academic work), relationships with peers and siblings (for example, misbehaving, invasive and aggressive behaviours). It is known that these difficulties can continue into adolescence and adulthood, and as ADHD is a chronic disorder, it requires treatment throughout life.
The symptoms of ADHD can be defined by two categories. These include inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Some of the inattention symptoms include failing to pay close attention to details or making careless mistakes when doing work, difficulty in staying attentive during tasks, not listening, frequently losing items, excessive distractibility and forgetfulness. Some of the hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms include constant fidgeting, leaving their seats frequently at inappropriate times, running or climbing on things, difficulty to play quietly, excessive speech, failing to wait their turn and interrupting someone speaking. Children with ADHD usually present with a co-morbidity of disorders (diagnosed with a second disorder), most commonly with ADHD is conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. As a result, this causes them to present with even more socially unacceptable behaviours such as opposing rules, becoming involved in arguments, showing aggression and later in life becoming involved in drugs and criminal behaviours.
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown. However, research suggests there are certain factors like genetics, damage to central nervous system and brain development during foetal and perinatal stage, neurochemical, neurophysiological and psychosocial factors can play a role in the development of this disorder.
ADHD can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist and families and children can receive support and advice by attending therapy with the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist. It can be difficult for some parents to understand the disorder, or perhaps have been under the misbelief that their child was ‘just being naughty and misbehaving’. Therefore, it is important that parents are involved in therapy and provided support to ensure the best care is offered to their children. This will also help in reducing any disruption in their child’s education and social development.
There is medication available in order to support individuals with ADHD and help manage the symptoms. However, as mentioned, due to the lifelong nature of this disorder, medicines would have to be taken regularly throughout life. The use of medication and therapy can provide the best support for someone suffering from ADHD.
The writer is a Trainee Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in UK