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Facts about ADHD Hyperactivity

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 5/26/2011

ADHD hyperactivity can be shrouded with myths and misconceptions that further perpetuate erroneous ideas of what this neurobehavioral disorder truly is all about. Therefore, we’ll provide a compelling list of facts about this component of ADHD to set the record straight.

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    Busting Myths and Improving Lives

    ADHD hyperactivity is easily misconstrued so that the ADHD child or adult is viewed as someone who simply won’t behave in a manner that shows any consideration for their own actions or how they are affecting others. They can often be looked at as simply being an unruly brat or a maladjusted flighty adult when in fact their brain is abnormally wired to cause behavioral problems. These misunderstandings do nothing to help those who are burdened with this mental health disorder.

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    No One Asks For ADHD

    ADHD in Children First off, no one asks for a mental illness that can wreak personal havoc and invites criticism and judgment from their family, friends, teachers, employers, and acquaintances.

    The ADHD hyperactive type is one of three distinct types of this disorder. ADHD Inattentive Type and ADHD Combined Type are the other two. It is generally considered that the hyperactive and combined type will lead to more trouble in school and in relationships than the inattentive type.

    In many cases, children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have coexisting conditions such as conduct disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and learning disabilities.

    Image credit/Flickr.com/allmothers

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    There is a Problem, and a Solution

    ADHD is among the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorders of childhood and it’s estimated to occur in about three to five percent of American children. Contrary to popular belief that ADHD is over diagnosed, some researchers posit that adult ADHD is misdiagnosed or missed entirely because the criteria for it, as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is catered toward children and impractical for adults. In an article for WebMD, the researcher James J. McGough, MD, states that ADHD-impaired adults may not fit the criteria since it states some of the symptoms listed to fit it are "running and climbing incessantly". [1]

    McGough believes that more appropriate diagnostic criteria for adults might be symptoms such as frequently missing appointments or driving too fast because adults don't generally climb things or run around the room when they have ADHD. Also, the requirement that someone with ADHD showed signs of hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattentive behavior before the age of 7 is very difficult to determine by the time a person is an adult. Changing it to 16 or 18 is one of his suggested amendments to the DSM.[1]

    Counter intuitively, stimulant medications are best at reducing hyperactivity and impulsivity. They are not a cure-all however; therapy and behavior modifications are needed as well.

    ADHD PET Scans As stated in the useful article Hyperactivity and Impulsivity in ADHD: Your Child’s Bill of Rights, establishing a plan for counselors, family members, teachers, and friends' parents is the best approach at working to manage and offset the behaviors of an ADHD child. ADHD is a permanent condition; a person won’t grow out of it, but with a proactive treatment approach, they can lead fulfilling and successful lives.

    To further blast a myth that ADHD doesn't exist, let's look at the facts about the ADHD brain. People with ADHD tend to have a smaller brain and abnormal brain chemistry. According to a study carried out by the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, it was found that people with ADHD had lower levels of dopamine transporters in the brain's reward center than control subjects.

    Image credit/Commons.wikimedia.org/NIMH

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    Knowledge Really Is Power

    The overly hyperactive child or person is more often than not relieved at being diagnosed. Diagnosis can be a liberating and hopeful event rather than a sentence of future disappointment and failure. The maxim of knowledge is power applies once a person understands the name and nature of what specifically is wrong with them. The hyperactive component of ADHD usually means that the child or adult is behaving without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Fidgeting, restlessness, talking excessively and loudly are all examples of hyperactive behavior.

    ADHD hyperactivity and impulsivity can often overlap, but both are often marked by the individual's failure to recognize or consider the future implications and cost of their actions. Although scientists aren't entirely clear about the causes, they believe genetics plays an important role.

    Studying large groups of twins is a reliable method in determining genetic predisposition since identical twins share exactly the same genetic information while non-identical twins do not. Therefore, researchers can reasonably conclude that a disorder has a strong genetic basis if more identical twins present with it than non identical twins. Such studies have been conducted independently in different parts of the world with highly comparable results. One such study conducted in Australia by Dr. Florence Levy and her colleagues monitored 1,938 families. They discovered an 82 percent occurrence rate for ADHD in identical twins compared to a 38 percent occurrence rate for ADHD in non identical twins.

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    Patience and Understanding

    Perhaps the best way to cultivate patience, tolerance, and empathy is to help someone with ADHD hyperactivity get the help they need by encouraging the proper hyperactivity treatment, the right diet, exercise, and positive reinforcement. Now that you are armed with the facts, you can do just that.

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    References

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

    Deficits in Brain’s Reward System Observed in ADHD Patients: Low levels of dopamine markers may underlie symptoms; implications for treatment. Brookhaven National Laboratory News: September 8, 2009.

    The ADHD Molecular Genetics Network. Report from the third international meeting of the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder molecular genetics network. American Journal of Medical Genetics, 2002, 114:272-277.

    Levy, F., Hay, D.A., McStephen, M., Wood, C., & Waldman, I. (1997). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a category or a continuum? Genetic analysis of a large-scale twin study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 737-744.

    [1]Charlene Laino; Adult ADHD Underdiagnosed? Researchers Say Some Criteria for Diagnosis Was Developed for Kids, Not Adults. WebMD Health News (May 6, 2008). http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/news/20080506/adult-adhd-underdiagnosed

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