Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be a controversial diagnosis, particularly for children; one only has to meet 6 of 18 criteria to qualify as ADHD, which is characterized by the kinds of behaviors children often exhibit, such as hyperactivity, trouble organizing their time, distracted attention, and lack of focus. ADHD is also typically treated with potent and addictive stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall that some parents are not comfortable giving to children. Of course, adults are also diagnosed with the disorder, though the adult category of the illness didn’t even make it to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) until 1980. Since then, 6.4 million children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed, and approximately 10 million adults have also been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States.
A Lancet Psychiatry study recently found the brains of both boys and girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD are smaller than those of other children. Dutch neuroscientists found the greatest differences in brain size between children under age of 15 with ADHD and those without attention problems who are in the control group. A look at the brains of adults with ADHD indicates there is a developmental delay in brain growth. The good news is that children with ADHD seem to be able to catch up to their peers as they grow and develop.
We live in a population increasingly concerned about dementia and Alzheimer’s as our loved ones age. Forgetfulness, lack of short-term memory, inability to stay focused – any of these symptoms may lead doctors and family members to fear the worst. But for many seniors, these symptoms may have another cause, and one that is readily treatable: ADHD.