Risk Factors: (from a Mayo Clinic Perspective)
The Mayo Clinic defines ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as a chronic condition that affects millions of children in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta puts the number of children aged 3-17 years old diagnosed with ADHD at 5.9 million (2012 survey).
Children with ADHD have difficulty with their attention, are hyperactive, and behave impulsively. They may have issues relating to self-esteem, poor relationships, and low school grades. While symptoms decrease as the child gets older, some never completely overcome their problems. The Mayo Clinic also says that treatment will not cure ADHD, but can help control symptoms. Treatment is usually a combined medication/behavior therapy approach. The sooner the diagnosis, the better the prospects are for obtaining desired outcomes.
Who are at Risk for ADD?
Based on Mayo Clinic data, the following questions will help determine if a person is at risk of developing ADHD:
- Did you, or do you have, a blood relative (mother, father, brother or sister) who has ADHD or is suffering from another type of mental health problem?
- Have you been exposed to significant amounts of toxins (an example would be lead, found in pipes and paints of older buildings)?
- Did your mother smoke cigarettes, take drugs, or abuse alcohol while pregnant?
- Were you born premature?
- Was your mother exposed to toxic elements such as PCB during her pregnancy?
In a June 2, 2014 edition of the New York Times (Health Guide), dietary factors are also mentioned. The article reports that there may be a mineral deficiency (e.g. zinc) and sensitivity to sugar. However, no scientific conclusions have emerged relating to dietary considerations as risk factors for ADHD. In fact, even the Mayo Clinic pointed out that while sugar was found to have an effect on hypersensitivity in some children, there is no evidence to prove that a high sugar diet can lead to ADHD.
While there may be a close link between causes and risk factors, such as ADHD being genetically linked, or that some environmental factors can increase one’s risk, or that the central nervous system was compromised at key stages of development, again there is no solid proof that these factors can cause ADHD.
The Mayo Clinic points to some complications that may arise in ADHD cases, such as life becoming more difficult for some children. But it is also quick to point that ADHD does not cause psychological or developmental problems. It goes as far as saying, however, that children diagnosed with ADHD are more likely than other children to develop learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, Tourette syndrome, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), a characteristic of children who exhibit hostility and defiance to authority figures. Having friends is very important for children with ADHD (read why here). If a child is at risk for ADHD, even things like the stress of the holidays can make symptoms worse.
If you feel that your child should be examined by a doctor, or if you suspect your child is exhibiting symptoms of ADHD, the Mayor Clinic explains that no diagnosis will be given unless the “core symptoms of ADHD start early in life and create significant problems at home and in school on an ongoing basis.”
The diagnostic criteria suggested by the Mayo Clinic can be found here.