Common Questions Parents Ask about ADHD
Written by Sheila Woods, MD, FAAP
Why should I have my child’s behavior evaluated?
- Children with ADHD often have difficulty controlling their own actions/reactions. Emotional lability, meaning he/she rides a rollercoaster of emotions, is common in ADHD and your child may not have the skills or ability to regulate those emotions.
- Symptoms of excessive movement, inattention to things he/she finds boring, and charging ahead without thinking can be part of ADHD.
- Every child with ADHD presents with A DIFFERENT SET of SYMPTOMS. That is, not all children with ADHD have hyperactivity, not all have trouble with attention, and not all have impulsivity.
- If your child has trouble with any of the following: regulating emotion, regulating activity levels, regulating attention levels, and regulating impulsivity, please consider ADHD as a possible cause and seek evidence-based evaluation for your child.
Why should I treat my child’s ADHD?
- As children grow and realize they are unable to function as well as their peers, self-esteem begins to decline.
- This “unable to function as well as their peers” affects every aspect of the child’s life including the ability to develop and maintain friendships, ability to learn different sports and follow instructions of coaches, ability to show their intelligence in school, and the ability to make good decisions on a day-to-day basis.
- Some children grow very discouraged thinking they are “inadequate” “stupid” or “lazy” and lose motivation. Some children grow very angry and oppositional developing Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Some children grow very anxious or sad and depressed.
- When middle school age approaches and opinions of peers become more important to your budding teenager, undiagnosed and/or untreated ADHD can often lead to significant emotional distress. The child/teen does not understand why he/she feels so bad, so angry, so inadequate.
- Treating ADHD leads to lower chances of your child dropping out of school, lower chances of your child repeating a grade/class, and fewer high-risk behaviors including motor vehicle accidents as they age into older teen years.
What treatments are proven effective for ADHD?
There are only 3 treatments for ADHD that have been proven helpful for ADHD. They work best when all used together.
- ADHD medication
- Behavior modification in the home with an increase in positive parenting
- Behavior modification in the classroom with accommodations
What causes ADHD?
- ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and results in an imbalance of neurotransmitters, chemicals sending messages through the brain, and other structural differences in the brain.
- ADHD is usually inherited from family members.
- ADHD is NOT a “behavior” disorder that can be “whipped” into shape. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Children, teens, and adults cannot just “control” it just like a person cannot just “control” their poor vision when they need glasses.
Should ADHD medication be given every day?
- YES. ADHD medication helps regulate brain chemistry and improves attention/focus, reduces hyperactivity, and improves impulse control.
- When brain chemistry is balanced through appropriate medication treatment, your child’s daily functioning is significantly improved. This means better decision making, fewer frustrations and fewer meltdowns, improved and more efficient thinking skills, and better sleep.
- Overall, appropriate treatment helps your child’s brain chemistry be balanced and sleep is also improved. Giving medication consistently every single day will lead to improved overall results and better mood.
Do ADHD medications lead to substance abuse?
- NO. In fact, the opposite is true. Treating ADHD in childhood leads to HALF the risk of substance use in young adults.
- Most ADHD people describe the feeling of their brain being “scattered”, “racing”, “jumping around”, or “unable to follow a thought”. These feelings lead to searching for ways to calm their brain and often leads to the misuse and abuse of substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and other illegal substances.
- Treating ADHD appropriately usually prevents the need for “self-medication”.
Do ADHD medications cause long-term harm?
- NO. The majority of ADHD medications are only in the body for a certain number of hours and do NOT accumulate in body tissues, brain tissues, or any organs.
- In fact, these are some of the safest medications because they leave the body every single day. This also explains why medications should be taken every day since brain chemistry is only balanced while the medication is in your system.
- Most ADHD medications vary in length of action from 4 hours to 12 hours.