Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Term Paper

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder is a behavioral disorder that is mostly found in children. According to one research almost 7.5% of school-aged children are suffering from some kind of ADHD related behavioral problem in the United States. In some cases, untreated symptoms can persist in the adulthood too, which can create numerous problems in the patient's social and emotional life. ADHD is rarely found in isolation as the child may also develop some other behavioral problems. The existence of more than one behavioral disorder is known as co-morbidity, which usually complicates the case because the child cannot be treated for one specific condition. It was once believed that ADHD patients outgrow the symptoms with age but this theory is no longer supported by latest research, which indicates that without treatment, ADHD's symptoms can easily persist in one's adult life. A newspaper article, which appeared in St. Louis Post-Dispatch (1994), author claimed, " ... modern research has shown that Attention Deficit Disorder is a lifelong problem that usually persists throughout teen-age years and into adulthood. The symptom of "hyperactivity," which refers to restless, fidgety behavior or excessive body motion, may be less prevalent in adults with this disorder. It is common for adults with attention deficits to experience difficulty in job performance and social relationships."

Therefore parents are required to seek treatment, which may involve medical and non-medical procedures as soon as the child is diagnosed with ADHD. Adults suffering from ADHD do not develop this problem suddenly and thus it is believed that symptoms existed in the childhood too which only aggravated with time because of lack of proper treatment. Most experts are of the view that ADHD is essentially a childhood condition and symptoms starting appearing at an early age.

Claudia Wallis et al. (1994) write, "Fifteen years ago, no one had ever heard of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Today it is the most common behavioral disorder in American children, the subject of thousands of studies and symposiums and no small degree of controversy. Experts on ADHD say it afflicts as many as 3 1/2 million American youngsters, or up to 5% of those under 18. It is two to three times as likely to be diagnosed in boys as in girls."

While the debate about this disorder and its gravity continues, researchers have been unable to find an answer to the most commonly asked question. What causes ADHD? If only we had a perfect answer to this important question, we could have found a successful way to treat this disorder and eradicate its symptoms. But since there are more than one theory and view on this particular question as researchers have come up with only tentative answers, which still require solid evidence and further research. Every new research presents findings, which usually invalidate previous studies. In this paper, we shall thus focus on the causes and find out if the disorder is a genetic problem or simply a personality type.

The causes of ADHD, as indicated by various researches, include everything from flawed fetal development to poor parenting to defective genes but no one is certain what really makes a child or adult behave in an abnormal manner (Bussing, 2000). While an accurate answer to the question of causes is being actively sought, it has proved t be highly elusive in nature. The problem of ADHD is however not very new. Its origin can be traced back to early 1900s when a scientist recognized a group of children who would indulge in involuntary behavior. But since causes were unknown as they still are, the scientist assumed that these children were mentally deranged and concluded something was probably wrong with their brain size. Some scientists even blamed brain injuries for sudden occurrence of ADHD symptoms but it has been found that only ten percent of cases are connected with brain injury while the rest cannot be disposed off so easily. Regina Bussing M.D. (2000) writes, "While birth injuries and maternal alcohol or tobacco use may be factors in some cases of ADHD, most experts agree those factors account for less than 10% of cases." In order to leave no stone unturned and no theory unexplored, some scientists are even researching the brain size theory but most have narrowed down the long list of causes to genetics and abnormal brain development. It is yet not clear if these causes are interrelated but these assumptions contain more substance than several other theories. Abnormal brain development is a complex subject, which requires extensive research as does the genetics theory. Many scientists even maintain that it is due to imperfect genes that some portions of brain fail to develop properly. At the moment however, we need not explore the interconnection of two causes and must focus only on separate study of each.

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak (2002) in her article on the subject of brain development and its connection with ADHD writes, "Given the complexity of the brain's attention and thinking mechanisms, the prevalence of the disorder is not surprising ... "There is so much complicated communication in the brain, with different parts talking to each other," says Timothy Wilens, a staff psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, "that it is not easy to get unification." For example, many studies suggest that the reduced frontal-lobe activity in ADHD may be caused in turn by decreased activity in the basal ganglia, a deeper part of the forebrain that generates two important neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine. Studies suggest that abnormally low supplies of these chemicals may be involved in inattention."

All this may appear a little too complex but it certainly is not without grains of truth and solid substance. Scientists agree that each part of human brain is responsible for a different function and thus even slight abnormality in one can trigger a series of problems. Keeping this information in view, we can safely say that damage or abnormal development of the area responsible for attention and concentration may cause a person to indulge in irregular behavior. The field of genetics is being actively explored to find out causes of several mental and behavioral disorders including depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and schizophrenia, ADHD etc. There is a bright chance that with this exploration, we might get some solid answers, which would remove the mystery surrounding ADHD and other related conditions. To determine the exact variant of genes may not be an easy task but some names started already making an appearance on the list.

Arthur Allen (2001) sheds more light on this, "The leading candidate gene for ADHD is a variant of the gene known as DRD4. This variant apparently causes a receptor on certain brain cells to have trouble sucking dopamine out of brain synapses. That presumably slows the feedback messages in the brain that inhibit impulses. But you can't call it a defective gene because it turns out fully 30% of the U.S. population has it, and not all of those people have been diagnosed with ADHD ... In a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of California at Irvine found to their surprise that among ADHD patients, the ones with the "ADHD" form of the DRD4 gene were actually less impaired than study participants who had a normal DRD4 gene."

The field of genetics promises amazing discoveries and with these findings, we may get answers to some puzzling questions. These answers will help in discounting false causes of ADHD or in discovering that this disorder is not solely the result of abnormal genes. Currently a number of important researchers are being carried in various parts of the world. Australia is testing 3,400 twins with behavioral problems to see if genes play an important role. Similarly National Institute of Mental Health is seriously considering a study of 200 families, which have more than one member suffering from this disorder. (Wallis, 1994) The reason why interest in genetics is rapidly increasing is because various studies have shown that patients with ADHD usually have a family history of this disorder.

Second important reason for investigating genetic connection is that some scientists are of the view that abnormal brain development may also be connected with a series of improperly developed genes. Scientists claim that children with ADHD have poorly developed frontal lobes and this is the reason why Ritalin is prescribed. But there has to be a reason why brain doesn't develop in a normal fashion in these children. What scientists are now probing is the question "Are genes responsible for this too?" It will certainly take a long time and thorough research to build a connection between the two, if any exists, but for the moment scientist want to reach conclusive results. Results that would link this disorder to defective genes and for this reason, evidence is being gathered through various studies.

I personally believe that genes play a more dominant role in abnormal or irregular behavior than abnormal brain development. Study after study is…

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