ADD — What Is It

ADHD, or what’s more commonly referred to as simply ADD, is one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed diseases in the world. The truth is, most people don’t understand ADD and wouldn’t recognize a person with it if they saw one. It is the hope of this article and the series to follow, to educate you about ADD, what it is, how it’s diagnosed, how it’s treated and several other topics that hopefully will aid in your awareness and understanding of this disease.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD or ADD, is a condition where the person with it is unable to maintain attention for an extended period of time. Other symptoms are impulsive behavior and motor restlessness. It is said that about 4.4% of all adults have ADD.

ADD is what is classified as a neurobiological disorder caused by problems in the dopamine neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Most cases of ADD are inherited. If a parent or close blood relative has ADD then there is a 30% chance that a child will have ADD. In studies of twins it is shown that if one twin has ADD there is a 50% chance that the other twin will also have ADD. ADD is not caused by poor nutrition as it was once believed. It is also not caused by bad parenting, drugs or allergies. Other medical conditions may cause symptoms similar to ADD such as severe head trauma, thyroid problems, foetal alcohol syndrome and lead intoxication, so it is important to do a thorough analysis in order to determine if the person has ADD and not one of these other problems.

What happens with ADD is that when a person does not get adequate neuro-chemicals, or in other words, the brain is not being properly stimulated, it tries to find ways to increase their release. Things such as movement, physical activity, focusing on things that are stimulating or doing anything that causes stimulation are various ways that people with ADD stimulate their brains. In a sense this is more a reflex to their not getting the proper neuro-chemicals and not so much a conscious act, which is the reason that people with ADD act in this way and really can’t control their actions.

The problems this action causes is that people with ADD, when confronted with a situation that doesn’t stimulate them, such as school work, then focus their attention on something that does stimulate them. Obviously when this happens the school work is not attended to and this results in poor performance in the classroom. An associate of mine related a story of this to me, about a child who would get up in the middle of the class, stand on his desk and start telling jokes. At first it was thought that he was just trying to be funny and disrupt the class. As it turned out he actually had ADD and couldn’t help himself. This occurred during a time when people really didn’t understand this disease.

Other problems associated with people who have ADD is that they have difficulty with personal relationships and staying employed. Also people with ADD may do things to stimulate themselves that are actually reckless and dangerous and thus may further complicate their lives with legal problems.

In the next in this series we’ll discuss how to determine if someone has ADD and if diagnosed what steps can be taken to treat it.