What is the Cause of ADHD?

By: Shifa Malik


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons @ Psyc3330 w11

The number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is increasing. However, the cause of this is unclear: it could be that there are more children with ADHD overall or the general population is becoming more aware of the symptoms, making it easier to be diagnosed with it, perhaps leading to over diagnosis. That’s why finding out the cause of this learning disorder is so important, but there’s no simple answer to the question. Research has only been proving small correlation and no direct factors that specifically cause ADHD. This blog post will give an overview of the research progress that provides some explanations for possible causes.


There are risk factors that can increase the chances of someone developing ADHD and the most popular one is genetics. Many studies show that there’s a 25% chance that a child with ADHD has a parent with the same disorder. Other factors, such as having prenatal exposure to environmental toxins or drugs, and giving birth prematurely, can also increase the risk of having a child with ADHD. So far, there is no specific genetic variation that has been said to be the cause of ADHD. Findings in a 2018 research paper researching the effects of genetic variations could not confirm if a single variation caused ADHD, but it did affirm that they do increase the risk of developing it.


Some research has also found that if there’s a lower level of activity within some parts of the brain, this can be the cause behind some symptoms of ADHD. For example, if the cerebral cortex, which is in charge of self-management, isn't developing normally, this negatively affects a child's working memory and control on their emotions. A child would be unable to process the consequences of their current actions and end up experiencing the same emotions more frequently and intensely. However, more research has to be done to see if any of these factors directly cause ADHD.


There are factors that research has shown to have no link to ADHD, such as high levels of sugar, overexposure to television, parenting styles, or socioeconomic factors. They could worsen the symptoms but no evidence proves that they are a direct cause of ADHD. ADHD is also more likely to exist with other conditions, such as learning disabilities, mood disorders, and autism.


As people with ADHD and those who continue to study it spread awareness, it not only continues to reduce the stigma around this disorder, but it also advocates for more research to be done involving ADHD. Medication has immensely helped those who suffer from it, but one day advanced research could find a way to prevent it from even developing in the first place.


Citations:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889#:~:text=Risk%20factors%20for%20ADHD%20may,use%20or%20smoking%20during%20pregnancy

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/adhd/Pages/Causes-of-ADHD.aspx

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/add-adhd/adhd-and-the-brain

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/add-adhd/adhd-and-emotions-what-you-need-to-know?_ul=1*64m2e1*domain_userid*YW1wLUQwOW94dlJORTdfaFF1aUhHWF9WYVE.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6477889/


Image Credit:

No changes were made to the following image, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Proposed_Symptoms_of_ADHD.PNG, License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode


What Did You Learn?

Questions:

1. What is one example of how the brain of someone with ADHD differs from a brain of someone that doesn’t have ADHD?


One example is how the cerebral cortex functions differently. If it is developing abnormally, this will affect a child's working memory and control on their emotions because this cortex controls self-management. This means that they can’t process the consequences of their current actions and see the ‘bigger picture.’ When they lose control of their emotions, it means they experience the same emotions more frequently and intensely.


2. Why are more kids being diagnosed with ADHD each year?


There’s not one specific, proven reason, but it could be due to the fact that it’s being misdiagnosed or over diagnosed, or the increased awareness is leading experts to diagnose it faster and more efficiently.


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