Center for Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Inc. | Las Vegas, NV

Causes of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

More than 11 million U.S. residents suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a condition formerly called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  Some use the terms interchangeably.  This disorder strikes both males and females and is not limited to children.  For the majority, it lasts a lifetime.  


ADHD is considered a neuro-behavioral condition.  It has no cure.  Around two out of every three youngsters with ADHD continue to experience symptoms that require treatment as adults.  ADHD is a condition with a lifelong and persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that causes interference with a person's ability to function or develop over time and in various settings. 
Adults who suffer from this condition or parents of children with ADD in Las Vegas often wonder about its causes.  Many alleged causes have been attributed to ADD/ADHD.  The belief that consuming too much sugar or watching a great deal of television results in the disorder is a misconception. 

Although there has been significant interest in attention deficit in the last two decades, experts still do not know exactly what causes ADHD.  However, most agree that the following could play a role:

Genetics  causes as many as half of ADHD parents to have a child with the same condition.  If an older brother of sister has the condition, a child has nearly a one-third chance of having it.

Brain chemical differences  are apparent in ADHD patients.  Research reveals that they experience abnormalities in how two neurotransmitters work to help the communications process between neurons and various functions of the brain. 

Brain activity and structural differences  exist in individuals with ADD/ADHD.  One research study reported that the brain scans of ADHD adults showed reduced activity levels throughout the organ, particularly in areas linked to motor activity and attention capacity.
Brain communication differences  appear to involve poor connectivity between various portions of the ADHD brain and along various communication routes.  When dysfunction occurs, individuals experience problems with performance and activity engagement.
Pregnancy issues  can result in an elevated risk for having ADD/ADHD.  Children whose mothers experienced difficult pregnancies are one example.  Others facing a higher-than-average risk are children with head injuries affecting the brain's frontal lobe, who were born prematurely, or who had a low birth weight.  Toxins could be to blame, some researchers believe.  They might interfere with brain development, resulting in difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.

What Works Best for ADHD-Behavior - Therapy or Medication?

A few years ago, researchers from several universities got together and developed a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health called the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA). Several of the sites were located in California, not far from Las Vegas. In the study, boys and girls ages 7-9 years were divided into four groups. One group received medication management for ADHD administered by a study doctor (MedMgt), a second group received behavioral treatment for ADHD (Beh), the third group received combination (Comb) for ADHD-both medication from the study doctors and behavior treatment, and the fourth group received treatment by their regular community doctor for ADHD (community comparison or CC group) for 14 months. The Beh and Comb group families received 35 sessions of behavior therapy for ADHD and the children attended an 8-week summer camp to improve their academic and social skills. The subjects in the MedMgt group received medication only for ADHD and saw the study doctor monthly. At the end of 14 months, the group who got Comb treatment for their ADHD fared the best with 68% having their ADHD symptoms decrease to the range of behavior symptoms seen in normal children. The MedMgt group was next, with 56% of those kids having their ADHD symptoms decrease to the normal range. In the Beh group 34% had ADHD symptoms normalize at 14 months. The kids who just saw their community doctors fared the worst with only 25% of those having their ADHD symptoms normalize. What does this mean for boys and girls with ADHD in Las Vegas? Both behavior therapy and medication are helpful in treating ADHD and children do best when they are treated by doctors who are experts in ADHD.