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What causes ADHD?

While working closely with countless individuals navigating the complexities of ADHD, one question that often arises is, “What causes ADHD?” The answer, my friends, is multifaceted. In fact, there are various factors that contribute to the development of ADHD, and today, we will explore them together.

Diagnostic Criteria: Navigating the Subtle Differences

When it comes to diagnosing ADHD and ADD, mental health professionals rely on the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). As we’ve discussed, ADD is now considered part of ADHD, with the main difference being the presence or absence of hyperactivity. 

Here, we’ll break down the specific criteria for each presentation.

Biological Causes of ADHD

To begin with, let’s take a look at the biological factors that come into play. Did you know that your genes can significantly influence your likelihood of developing ADHD? That’s right!

Research has shown that ADHD runs in families, with genetic factors accounting for approximately 70-80% of ADHD cases. [1] [2] If a close relative has ADHD, the chances of you having it as well increase significantly. But don’t forget, genes are only part of the story.

Environmental Causes of ADHD

The environment in which we grow up can also play a role in the development of ADHD. Think of your life as a garden; the quality of the soil and the amount of sunlight and water it receives can greatly impact the health of the plants.

Similarly, exposure to certain environmental factors such as prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco, or other toxins (eg., lead) can increase the risk of ADHD. Also, experiencing high levels of stress or trauma during childhood can contribute to the onset of this condition. So, it’s essential to be aware of the environment we cultivate for ourselves and our loved ones.

Neurological Causes of ADHD

The brain, a complex and powerful organ, is responsible for managing our thoughts, emotions, and actions. In the case of ADHD, imbalances in certain brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, can affect one’s ability to focus, maintain attention, and regulate impulses. Specifically, the brain’s dopamine and norepinephrine systems seem to be implicated in ADHD. The question is, how do we restore the balance? That’s where effective treatment strategies come in, which often include medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Social Causes of ADHD

Last, but certainly not least, let’s discuss the social factors that can influence ADHD. Did you know that the way we interact with others and the support we receive can play a role in managing ADHD symptoms?

For example, a lack of understanding or negative attitudes from family, friends, or teachers can exacerbate the challenges faced by someone with ADHD. On the other hand, a strong support network and positive reinforcement can make a world of difference in helping individuals with ADHD thrive.