Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder than can occur in both children and adults and is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD struggle with working memory, flexible thinking, managing emotions, self-regulation, and organization and planning. ADHD is not a lack of willpower to pay attention, the brain itself has a hard time shifting focus from one thing to another.
Scientists are not sure what causes ADHD, but it is not related to consuming too much sugar, watching too much TV, or poor parenting. Risk factors include genetics, exposure to environmental toxins either during pregnancy or at a young age, the mother smoking during pregnancy, and low birth weight. ADHD is also related to functional impairments in the brain associated with dopamine and nor-epinephrine.
Treatment for ADHD typically starts with behavioral therapy. Stimulants such as amphetamines are often used, but require careful monitoring. The use of stimulants is controversial due to the risk of abuse, but untreated ADHD also has a risk of substance abuse disorders and conduct disorders. Successful treatment will stop the disorder from negatively impacting relationships and performance throughout life.
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