What is ADHD?

What is ADHD?

Let’s better understand what ADHD means and what symptoms are the most common.

So, what does “ADHD” means? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects people’s behaviour. Children with ADHD can show a constant pattern of hyperactivity-impulsivity and may struggle to concentrate, which impacts day-to-day functioning.

ADHD has a strong heritable component but biological and environmental factors can be responsible for exacerbating its course. Moreover, there is a higher risk of ADHD if a family member has the diagnosis, genetic factors can be responsible for 70-80% of its development. On the other hand, among the biological risk factors such as low birth weight, prenatal exposure to alcohol, smoking, and childhood exposure to toxins, including lead pesticides. Furthermore, psychosocial factors, such as complicated parent-child interactions, unhealthy peer relationships, and underequipped school settings can also influence ADHD development.

The majority of cases are diagnosed between 7 and 8 years old, and ADHD affects about 3-5% of children, being more common in males than females (4:1). Girls may present less hyperactivity compared to boys; therefore, an ADHD diagnosis can be missed on girls more easily.

Are there other mental health disorders associated with ADHD?

Yes, ADHD frequently has some comorbidities. ADHD doesn’t just present on its own and commonly occurs with other mental health problems, such as learning disorders, sleep disorders, anxiety, mood disorder, and autism spectrum disorders, to name the most frequent.

Therefore, it is essential to screen for those disorders during an ADHD assessment. Having a diagnosis will help the child and their family take action and have tools to improve their day-to-day activities.

What about ADHD in the UK? How common is it among children and adolescents here?

A study was conducted over 10 years (2004-2013) in the UK to describe the incidence and distribution of ADHD among children and adolescents.

10,284 new cases were diagnosed in this period, with the highest incidence among children between 7 and 9 years old, most commonly observed during primary school. ADHD was diagnosed significantly more in males than in females every year studied, which is a pattern across the globe. It has been hypothesised that symptoms are more visible in males, and females have more inattentive symptoms, which is less attention-grabbing from parents. Therefore, the diagnosis can be more difficult in females.

Overall, the incidence rate was higher in Northern Ireland, followed by Wales, then England and Scotland, with the lowest incidence of the 4 nations.

It is important to highlight that diagnosis should only be provided by a medical professional. Remember to discuss with your child’s teacher and GP if you have any concerns and think your child’s behaviour might differ from their classmates.

Source: Hire AJ, Ashcroft DM, Springate DA, et al. ADHD in the United Kingdom: Regional and Socioeconomic Variations in Incidence Rates Amongst Children and Adolescents (2004-2013). J Atten Disord 2018;22:134–42. doi:10.1177/1087054715613441