Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children And Adolescents

hyperactivityOne of the most common disorders of childhood, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) impacts approximately 8 to 10 percent of children between ages 4 to 17, HEALTH takes a take a closer look…

What It Is

ADHD is a medical condition with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. “It is often first recognized in childhood and its symptoms affect a child’s cognitive, academic, behavioral, emotional, and social functioning, and the condition often continues into adulthood,” Dr. Umair Sharih, Pediatrician and Neonatologist at the American Hospital, Dubai explains.


Most experts agree that ADHD is a medical or neurodevelopmental disorder, explains Dr. Sharih and many experts believe there is an inherited imbalance of chemicals in the brain. “This is supported by the improvements often seen with the use of medications that affect these chemicals,” he says.


ADHD, tells Dr. Sharih, is a condition that can cause three categories of symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. “Children with ADHD may have one or more of these symptoms and the symptoms may change in frequency or pattern as the child develops,” he says. These include the following:

  1. Hyperactivity which is defined as excessive fidgetiness or talking, difficulty remaining seated when required to do so, difficulty playing quietly, and frequent restlessness.These symptoms are usually seen by the time a child is four years old and typically increase over the next three to four years. The symptoms may peak in severity when the child is seven to eight years of age, after which they often begin to decline.
  1. Impulsivity; impulsive behavior almost always occurs with hyperactivity in younger children. It can cause difficulty waiting turns, blurting out answers too quickly, disruptive classroom behavior, intruding or interrupting others’ activities, rejection by classmates, and unintentional injury.
  2. Inattention may take many forms, including forgetfulness, being easily distracted, losing or misplacing things, disorganization, underachievement in school, poor follow-through with assignments or tasks, poor concentration, and poor attention to detail.


There is no simple test to diagnose ADHD, tell Dr. Sharih. “In addition, many of the symptoms of ADHD are common among four to six-yearold children, but tend to occur with less frequency and/or intensity than in children with ADHD,” he says. “Thus, it may be difficult for parents ascertain if their young child has ADHD or is simply behaving as young children often do.” However, studies that evaluate children over time have confirmed that most preschool children who meet all the criteria for ADHD will continue to do so as they get older.

When to Seek Help

  1. Parents who suspect that their child has ADHD should begin by talking to the child’s teacher and/or school staff. This can help parents determine if the child has difficulties with behavior in more than one setting (for example at home and at school).
  2. The next step is to make an appointment with the child’s healthcare provider. The provider will evaluate the child and determine if further testing or evaluation is needed, and if ADHD or another condition is a possible cause of symptoms.
  3. After the diagnosis is made and treatment begins, the parent, teacher, and healthcare provider will continue to monitor the child to ensure that treatment is effective and the diagnosis is correct.


(Credit: Dr. Umair Sharih)

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