Category Archives: ADHD

Playing in ‘green spaces’ reduces ADHD symptoms

A new study published in the journal of Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing has found that kids with ADHD who spend more time playing in nature areas or so called ‘green spaces’ where there is grass and trees have fewer symptoms than those who spend more time indoors or in built up areas.

Previous research has already found that even a little bit of exposure to green spaces can help calm the mind and improve concentration in people without ADHD so this inspired researchers from the University of Illinois, Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances (Ming) Kuo to look at whether the same held true for kids with ADHD.

They analyzed data from a 2004 National Internet Based Survey of parents of children who had been diagnosed with ADHD and did indeed find a link between playing in greener spaces and milder ADHD symptoms.

Exposure to nature

In this new study, they also looked to see if it was the same when children played in the same green space setting regularly.

“Before the current study, we were confident that acute exposures to nature – sort of one-time doses – have short-term impacts on ADHD symptoms,” Kuo said.

“The question is, if you’re getting chronic exposure, but it’s the same old stuff because it’s in your backyard or it’s the playground at your school, then does that help?”

To find out

They looked at other data in the 2004 survey such as the parents descriptions of their child’s play areas and matched this with the severity of ADHD symptoms; they also took into account age, sex, and socio-economic status.

“On the whole, the green settings were related to milder overall symptoms than either the ‘built outdoors’ or ‘indoors’ settings,” Taylor said. This was true regardless of sex or household income.

Open spaces reduced hyperactivity

They also found that children who were more hyperactive benefited from playing in open spaces such as a large lawn or a football field rather than in a more enclosed green space with lots of trees or in a built up outdoor play setting or playing indoors.

The researchers noted

The findings don’t by themselves prove that routine playtime in green space reduces the symptom of ADHD said Kuo, but taking into consideration other studies showing a cause and effect relationship between exposure to nature and improved concentration and impulse control, “it is reasonably safe to guess that that’s true here as well”..

Premature Babies More Likely to Develop ADHD

A clear correlation has emerged between the birth of low weight preterm babies, and the development of ADHD later in life.

This has been revealed in a new journal on Paediatrics by a group of Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institute. They have found that indeed there is an elevated risk of ADHD developing in people who were born at just 36 weeks as opposed to going full term.

The correlation was uncovered after researchers noted in previous studies that there was a higher incidence of AHDH in children who had spent time in and survived the neonatal intensive care environment.

Surprising

Whilst 36 weeks is just 3 weeks early, it was still found that this amount of time was adequate to make the mental condition more likely.

Taking the information from previous studies on, the team then set out to determine the differences in ADHD susceptibility between those children born close to full term, and those born into an extreme preterm birth.

Variables

They were looking into the risk that the child may have of showing signs of ADHD at school going age. All of this was determined, factoring in a range of variables including genetics, whether the mother smoked during pregnancy and socioeconomic conditions the child was born into.

Data from the Swedish database was taken which included information of over a million children between 6 and 19. It was visible through this information to determine which children had been prescribed ADHD drugs.

It was found that those children who were most at risk of developing ADHD were born between week 23 and 28 in the pregnancy. It was noted that ADHD prevalence was two and a half times more prevalent than when the child went full term.

The Figures

It was seen that as many as 1 in every 15 of these premature babies went on to be prescribed ADHD drugs. This stands against the fully developed babies when born, where only 6 out of every 1000 children are in receipt of ADHD drugs.

It was noted too that even when there was only a very slight premature birth like two weeks the child was still at 20% higher risk of being prescribed ADHD drugs in later life.

Background

ADHD is a dual problem for not only the child but the parents also. It represents itself also on a dual basis as with it, the issues of hyperactivity and problems paying attention manifest. There has been hot debate in the western world about the increase in diagnosis of the condition, and indeed whether children as young as seven should be placed on medications for a condition that is by no means debilitating. Many pundits have declared that ADHD itself does not exist, and that it is merely ‘badly behaved children’ that exist.

Confusion

The symptoms of the condition can start to show as young as seven, and indeed ADHD has often been confused with either growing pains, or just the natural character of the child. It is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects up to 5% of children globally. The bulk of these individuals will never know they have a condition or be treated for ADHD.

Whilst the symptoms of the condition are alleviated with treatment, ADHD does not disappear with age, and the psychiatric disorder continues with the individual throughout their lifetime.

There are many natural coping mechanisms which the children, and adolescents who have the disorder use to subside the negatives of ADHD. It is mainly a male issue with four times as many boys being diagnosed with the condition as girls who receive treatment and are diagnosed.

The difference between Bipolar and ADHD in children and teenagers

Bipolar disorder or manic depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder usually referred to as ADHD are very different conditions but often enough the symptoms in children and young adults can be very similar.

Symptoms of Bipolar

The symptoms of bipolar can be divided into depressive symptoms and manic symptoms.

According to the NHS symptoms that are characteristic of a depressive episode of bipolar include sadness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, a lack of interest in activities, memory problems, pessimism, sleeping too much, illogical thinking, and suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of a manic phase include euphoria, boundless energy, inflated sense of self importance, impulsive behaviour, delusions and hallucinations, illogical thinking, talking very quickly, needing very little sleep and having grand ideas or plans.

Symptoms of ADHD

Regarding ADHD, the NHS divides the symptoms into three categories:

Inattentiveness – having a short attention span, easily distracted, making careless mistakes, unable to follow instructions or carry out a task, poor listening skills and difficulty organising tasks.

Hyperactivity – can’t sit still, fidgeting all the time, excessive talking, always moving about

Impulsiveness – unable to wait for a turn, interrupting conversations, breaking rules, and little or no sense of danger

Getting a diagnosis

In general but not always, symptoms of ADHD usually become apparent before the age of 7 whereas in bipolar disorder it is often during adolescence.

However, the main difference between bipolar disorder and ADHD is that bipolar disorder is characterised by episodes of severe mood swings from mania to depression whereas ADHD is primarily an attention and behavioural problem.

What makes an accurate diagnosis more difficult in young people is that teenagers are going through an intensely emotional time with many changes occurring in their body. They will often be irritable and experience mood swings which most of the time are a perfectly normal part of growing up.

The best bet is to seek the help of a qualified mental health professional that is familiar with both ADHD and Bipolar.

Treatment

ADHD will normally be treated with medication and behaviour therapy whereas bipolar disorder is usually treated with antipsychotic drugs.

Interestingly, fish oil has been shown in many studies to be effective for both ADHD and bipolar disorder and indeed, people with mental health problems in general often have low levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in their blood.

Researchers claim they have found first genetic link for ADHD but have they?

Researchers reckon they may have found the first direct evidence of a genetic link to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but has it been hyped up?

The BBC reports that scientists from Cardiff University in Wales said that ADHD was not a result of bad parenting but that it originated in the brain, like autism. To come to this conclusion, they analysed DNA from 366 children who had met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD and compared it to over 1000 genetic samples from people without the disorder.

What they found was that 15 percent of the ADHD had variations in their DNA compared to 7 percent of the control group. It sounds good when you put it like that. The researchers wrote about their findings in the Lancet under the headline “Study is the first to find direct evidence that ADHD is a genetic disorder” reported the BBC.

“Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children” said Professor Anita Thapar, author of the study.

However, not everyone agrees, including Fergus Walsh, the BBC’s Medical Correspondence.

“I have done the sums and around 15 percent of the ADHD children had the genetic variant and about 7 percent of the control group did not” he wrote in his blog

“Put that another way, it affected one in seven of the ADHD group and one in 14 of those without” he said.

“That also means that seven out of eight of the ADHD group did not have the genetic variant – which hardly justifies Professor Thapar’s confident assertion that ADHD is a genetic disease.

“I put this to Professor Thapar and she was keen to stress that she was not asserting that genes alone were responsible for ADHD but rather a complex mix of genes and environmental factors” wrote Mr Walsh.

The BBC reports Tim Kendall, a director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, as saying a number of factors cause ADHD and blaming it purely on genetics could mean incorrect treatments.

“I’m pretty sure these studies are not going to produce undoubtable evidence that ADHD is caused solely genetically.

“I am saying it’s a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, and the important thing is that we don’t end up thinking this is a biological problem which is only subject to biological treatments like Ritalin.”

Professor Thapar’s study was funded mostly by the Wellcome Trust with some support from the Medical Research Council.

Almost 1 million children wrongly diagnosed with ADHD

Sounds shocking but that’s what Michigan State University economist Todd Elder found during his research.

Elder said that the children are only diagnosed with ADHD because they happen to be the youngest in their kindergarten class and are naturally the most immature.

Worryingly, it is the youngest that are also more likely to be prescribed medication like Ritalin and yet know one knows what the long term effects of Ritalin and similar drugs are on a child’s health.

Elder also says that this unnecessary medication for a misdiagnosis of ADHD resulted in a waste of around $320 million to $500 million a year, all for being younger.

“If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s 5 and the other kids are 6,” said Elder, assistant professor of economics.

“There’s a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 4.5 million children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with ADHD and that is despite there being no physical test for ADHD.

Using data from a sample of almost 12,000 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort, Elder compared the age of diagnosis and the rate of medication between the youngest and oldest children in a grade.

He found that the youngest kids were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD compared to the oldest in the same grade and concluded that overall a total of 20 percent are likely to have been misdiagnosed with ADHD.

Although a teacher cannot have a child diagnosed with ADHD, they form an important part of the diagnostic criteria as the symptoms of ADHD require a child to demonstrate a number of symptoms that persist for six or more months and these symptoms must occur in at least two settings before the age of seven. The two settings are of course, at home and at school.

“Many ADHD diagnoses may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a kindergarten classroom,” said Elder. “But these ‘symptoms’ may merely reflect emotional or intellectual immaturity among the youngest students.”

A separate study carried out by North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota came to similar conclusions.

Adult with ADHD and is it wrecking your relationship?

We tend to think of ADHD as something that only affects children but many people may not be aware that adults can also suffer from ADHD too.

It is estimated that around 50 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD will eventually grow out of it, but what about those who don’t?

A recent article in the New York Times says that if your husband or wife is constantly forgetting chores and losing track of the calendar and that if you sometimes feel you are raising another child instead of living with a spouse, then your marriage may be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The most common symptoms in an adult with ADHD include being easily distracted, highly disorganised, and often forgetful. These symptoms may in turn cause the other person in the relationship to think their partner is lazy, selfish and doesn’t care.

Apparently around 4 percent of adults have the disorder and that many of these adults may never have been diagnosed with ADHD as a child. As such many of these adults are struggling to cope in a world where they are often misunderstood, particularly as there hasn’t been much focus on adults with ADHD.

Psychiatrist Dr Jillian Glass recently visited Good Day to explain how ADHD in adults can affect their relationships and their marriage.

She reckons that in relationships where one person has ADHD, the other partner may find that they have to take on more responsibility for things like paying bills etc. The partner with ADHD may often miss appointments or turn up late for meetings. They may not spend a lot of time with the family and could be giving the impression that they don’t care.

There could also be financial stress due to the adult with ADHD being unable to hold down a job for any length of time.

Of course ADHD should not be used as an excuse for something who is genuinely lazy and disorganised but if you are really struggling with symptoms of ADHD and wonder how you can cope there are things you can do.

Dr Glass says that couples therapy can be beneficial as there could be years of built up anger and resentment within the relationship. She recommends learning organisation techniques and using things like calendars, personal organisers and even digital voice recorders to help you keep track of the things you need to do.

The bottom line says Dr Glass is that within a relationship each partner has to recognise the role they are playing so they can make a change.