What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder that causes hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour, and attention problems. ADHD interferes with a person’s ability to exercise age-appropriate control of their behaviour and/or their cognition.

It's estimated one in 20 children in Australia have ADHD and it is 10 times more common in boys than girls. Three types of ADHD are now recognised: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type and combined type. 

 Common signs and symptoms of ADHD include:

 

  • Inattention – difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completion

 

  • Impulsivity – talking over the top of others, losing control of emotions easily, being accident-prone, acting without thinking

 

  • Overactivity – constant fidgeting and restlessness

 

While many children will face some of the difficulties that fall within under symptoms of ADHD, there is a marked difference between a young child misbehaving and a young child with ADHD. Children with ADHD will experience these difficulties in two or more settings (for example at home and school), will have presented with the symptoms before 7 years of age and their symptoms result in significant impairment in everyday functioning. 

As symptoms of ADHD can overlap with numerous other behaviour and medical conditions, diagnosing ADHD isn’t straight forward. There is no specific test for ADHD so the assessment of a child is made using a wide range of information provided by both the family, a child’s school and clinical observations by doctors, paediatricians and child psychologists.

While there is no cure, positive parenting strategies, school support, dietary interventions, counselling can significantly help many children with ADHD. Some children may also be prescribed stimulant medications or in some cases anti-depressants for additional support. However, about 30% of patients do not respond to stimulant medications or cannot tolerate their side effects.  Therefore in addition to pharmaceutical interventions, more research is now being done on nutritional therapeutics and their potential to address some of the key pathophysiological aspects of ADHD, without producing unmanageable side effects.

References

Albrecht, B., Uebel-von Sandersleben, H., Gevensleben, H., & Rothenberger, A. (2015). Pathophysiology of ADHD and associated problems-starting points for NF interventions?. Frontiers in human neuroscience9, 359. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00359

Dunn, G., Nigg, J., & Sullivan, E. (2019). Neuroinflammation as a risk factor for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pharmacology Biochemistry And Behavior182, 22-34. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2019.05.005

 

Written By Clare Carrick

Clare Carrick is an accredited nutritionist whose special interests involve gut health, diet and its effect on mental health, early childhood nutrition, and the impact that diet during pregnancy can have on the health of the offspring. Clare studied a BHSc (nutrition & health promotion) at Deakin University, and completed an internship at the Food & Mood Centre, which specialises in nutritional psychiatry.

Although Clare enjoys getting deep in the science behind nutrition, she is also all about balance! Life is busy for her with two daughters under five and a growing nutrition business and, in all honesty, coffee is often her 1st thought when the alarm goes off in the morning! Whilst the abundance and diversity of the Mediterranean diet is definitely a favourite way of eating for Clare, perhaps her favourite part of it is the bit where she gets to sink into the couch at the end of a long day with a glass of red and know that the polyphenols are doing good things for her microbes.

Brittany Darling