Many parents of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, tend to blame themselves when their children are affected, but the truth is the causes of ADHD are more likely the result of heredity rather than any choices parents may have made. Nevertheless, although doctors and other medical experts are still relatively unclear regarding the specific causes of ADHD in specific cases, there are some environmental factors that may contribute to the condition or worsen the effects they have on a child.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is a chronic medical condition that affects millions of children worldwide—a condition that can also persist into adulthood in some cases. There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate a child is suffering from ADHD, including a noticeable inability to sustain attention, impulsive and often inappropriate behavior and a difficulty sitting still. Secondary effects of ADHD, as can be expected, include low self-esteem, a difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships and poor performance in school that cannot otherwise be explained.
5 Causes of ADHD
So what are the causes of ADHD? As mentioned above, inherited traits are most likely responsible in the majority of cases, but recent research seems to indicate that there are other factors that may also contribute, at least partially, in certain cases. Some of the causes of ADHD may include:
- Heredity. Doctors are still unsure just how heredity plays a role in developing ADHD, but in a significant number of instances, at least one of the parents of children with ADHD admits to having struggled with the condition themselves. Studies have shown that parents who were diagnosed with ADHD or ADD in their lifetime are approximately 5-times more likely to have a child who develops ADHD. Researchers of ADHD are currently studying several genes they believe may be responsible.
- Altered brain activity, function and anatomy. The exact cause of ADHD remains a mystery, but case studies on ADHD sufferers—studies involving complex brain scans—have turned up some interesting results. ADHD patients seem to have different brain structures and brain activity than other people. In fact, several studies have shown that ADHD patients seem to have reduced activity in the areas of the brain responsible for attention and activity levels.
- Lifestyle choices and toxins during pregnancy. Women who choose to smoke or consume alcohol during pregnancy may be contributing to the likelihood that their children will develop ADHD, because both nicotine and alcohol can affect nerve activity. This affect on nerve activity could inhibit the production of neurotransmitters in children, which in turn can cause ADHD and other behavioral disorders. Additionally, a woman’s exposure to certain environmental toxins during pregnancy has also been linked to ADHD in children.
- Early Exposure to Toxins. Children who are regularly exposed to certain toxins when they are very young have an increased chance of developing ADHD during childhood. One of these toxins is lead, a chemical found primarily in certain paints and in older pipes and has been linked to hyperactivity, violence and irrational behavior, according to scientists.
- Food Additives. Several research studies have found that certain food additives, including artificial coloring and artificial preservatives, can lead to hyperactivity in children. Parents of children with ADHD should watch their child’s diet carefully and avoid packaged and processed foods as well as sugary items.
ADHD still remains somewhat of a puzzle for doctors and medical researchers, but fortunately increased research funding into the causes of ADHD is expected soon. This is a promising sign for ADHD sufferers and parents—a sign that doctors may soon have the tools at their disposal to help children overcome the condition.