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Essay/Term paper: Attention deficit disorder

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Biology

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Attention Deficit Disorder

Chris Brown
English 102: section 6
May 3, 1996

Approximately 3-5% of all American children have an Attention Deficit
Disorder (ADD). ADD is a leading cause of school failure and under-achievement.
ADD characteristics often arise in early childhood. As many as 50% of children
with ADD are never diagnosed. Boys significantly outnumber girls, though girls
are more likely to be undiagnosed with ADD. "ADD is not an attention disorder,
but a disorder of impulse control ( Seminar notes Barkeley) ."
Characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder can include : Fidgeting
with hands or feet , difficulty remaining seated, awaiting turns in games,
following through on instructions , shifting from one uncompleted task to
another, difficulty playing quietly, interrupting conversations and intruding
into other children's games, appearing to be not listening to what is being said,
doing things that are dangerous without thinking about the consequences.
Most scientist now believe that a brain dysfunction or abnormality in
brain chemistry could be to blame for the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.
The frontal lobes of the brain are thought to be most responsible for the
regulation of behavior and attention. They receive information from the lower
brain, which regulated arousal and screens incoming messages from within and
outside of the body. The limbic system , a group of related nervous system
structures located in the midbrain and linked to emotions and feelings, also
sends messages to the frontal lobes. Finally, the frontal lobes are suspected to
be the site of working memory, the place where information about the immediate
environment is considered for memory storage, planning, and future-directed
behavior. Scientist believe the activity in the frontal lobes is depressed in
people with ADD. Studies show a decrease in the ability of the ADD brain to use
glucose, the body's main source of energy, leading to slower and less efficient
activity. Neurotransmitters provide the connection between one nerve cell and
another. In essence, neurotransmitters allow electrical impulses to pass across
synapses from one neuron to another. It is now suspected that people with
Attention Deficit Disorder have a chemical imbalance of a class of
neurotransmitters called catecholamines. Dopamine, helps to form a pathway
between the motor center of the midbrain and the frontal lobes, as well as a
pathway between the limbic system and the frontal lobes. Without enough dopamine
and related catecholamines, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, the frontal
lobes are under stimulated and thus unable to perform their complex functions
Attention Deficit Disorder is strongly considered genetically inherited,
however, not all cases of ADD may be genetically linked. . Studies have shown
that 20-30% of all hyperactive children have a least one parent with ADD. The
environment is a big influence on a child during pregnancy and after. Some
studies show that a small percentage of ADD cases were influenced by smoking,
drinking alcohol, and using drugs during pregnancy.
Exposure to toxins, such as lead, may also alter the brain chemistry and
function. If you suspect that you are suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder
you will need to discuss it with your medical doctor. In most cases the doctor
will recommend that you visit a psychologist for an evaluation. The psychologist
is professionally trained in human behavior and will be able to provide
counseling and testing in areas related to mental health. The psychologist is
not able to prescribe medication to help you, but may send you to a psychiatrist
to prescribe and monitor medication. A neurologist may be consulted in order to
rule out neurological conditions causing your symptoms. Your doctor will gather
information about your past and present difficulties, medical history , current
psychological makeup, educational and behavioral functioning.
Depending on your symptoms, your diagnosis may be categorized as ADD,
inattentive type ADD, or hyperactive/impulsive type ADD. After your diagnosis
you may learn that you are also suffering from a learning disability, depression,
or substance abuse, which is often associated with ADD.
There is no cure for Attention Deficit Disorder. "Along with increasing
awareness of the problem, a better understanding of its causes and treatment has
developed (3 Wender)". There is medication for ADD which will only alleviate
the symptoms. The medication will not permanently restore the chemical balance.
Approximately 70% of adults with ADD find that their symptoms significantly
improve after they take medication prescribed by their doctors. The patient is
able to concentrate on difficult and time-consuming tasks, stop impulsive
behavior , and tame the restless twitches that have been experienced in the past.
Some ADD patient's psychological and behavioral problems are not solved by
medication alone, and are required more therapy or training .
There are two types of drugs that work to balance the neurotransmitters
and have been found to be most effective in treating ADD. Stimulants are drugs
that stimulate or activate brain activity. Stimulants work by increasing the
amount of dopamine either produced in the brain or used by the frontal lobes of
the brain. There are several different stimulants that may work to alleviate the
symptoms of ADD, including methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine
(Dexedrine), and pemoline (Cylert).
Stimulants are by far the most effective medications in the treatment of
ADD. Some patients respond well to antidepressants. Antidepressants also
stimulate brain activity in the frontal lobes, but they affect the production
and use of other chemicals, usually norepinephrine and serotonin. The
antidepressants considered most useful for ADD include imipramine (Tofranil),
desipramine (Norpramin), bupropion ( Wellbutrin), and fluoxetine hydrochloride
All stimulants have the same set of side effects. Some patients complain
of feeling nauseous or headachy at the outset of treatment, but find that these
side effects pass within a few days. Others find that their appetites are
suppressed and or that they have difficulty sleeping. If the stimulant dosage is
too high the patient may experience feelings of nervousness, agitation, and
anxiety, In rare cases, increased heart rate and high blood pressure can result
with the use of stimulants, especially if the patient has an underlying
predisposition toward hypertension.
Ritalin is the most widely prescribed drug used to treat ADD in both
children and adults. Ritalin appears to work by stimulating the production of
the neurotransmitter dopamine. The benefits of Ritalin include improved
concentration and reduced distractibility and disorganization.
Dextroamphetamine is another stimulant medication that appears to have a
slightly different pharmacological action than Ritalin. Both work to boost the
amount of available dopamine. Dextroamphetamine, however, blocks the reuptake of
the neurotransmitter while Ritalin increases its production (334 Kelly, Ramundo,
All the drugs used to treat ADD have the same goal: to provide the brain
with the raw materials it needs to concentrate over a sustained period of time,
control impulses, and regulate motor activity. The drug or combination of drugs
that work best for you depends on the individuals brain chemistry and
constellation of symptoms. The process of finding the right drug can be tricky
for each individual. The physicians are not able to accurately predict how any
one individual will respond to various doses or types of Attention Deficit
Disorder medication.
Medication is rarely enough for the patient. Most Attention Deficit
Disorder patients require therapy to give guidance . Adult patients have the
burden of the past that often hinders their progress. The patient then needs
help with the relief of disappointment, frustration, and nagging sense of self-
doubt that often weighs upon the ADD patient. Some ADD patients suffer from low-
grade depression or anxiety, others with a dependence on alcohol or drugs, and
most with low self-esteem and feelings of helplessness.
Therapy also helps the ADD patient fully understand the disorder and how
it controls the patients life. The knowledge of ADD will make the patient and
parents more capable of changing the behaviors or circumstances disliked and
enhancing strengths and assets. A second and most crucial part of the education
process involves informing those around you about the disorder and its effects.
Family members, friends, employers, and colleagues have been playing roles in
the drama called ADD without ever being aware of it. Explaining how the disorder
may affect the relationships around the patient will help repair any past damage
as well as pave the way to a stable future.
Attention Deficit Disorder is difficult for any family. ADD challenges
the relationships and the issues of daily family life. Getting a family
household to function smoothly is challenging for any family, with or without
the presence of ADD. Adults and children suffering from Attention Deficit
Disorder have trouble establishing and maintaining physical order, coordinating
schedules and activities, and accepting and meeting responsibilities. Parents
with children suffering with ADD have to learn how to deal with the obstacles
that they will have while raising their child.
Adults dealing with ADD often have chronic employment problems,
impulsive spending, and erratic bookkeeping and bill paying. Raising healthy,
well-adjusted children requires patience, sound judgment, good humor, and,
discipline which is difficult for an ADD parent to do. The presence of ADD
often hinders the development of intimate relationships for a variety of reasons.
Although many adults with ADD enjoy successful, satisfying marriages, the
disorder almost always adds a certain amount of extra tension and pressure to
the union. The non-ADD spouse bears an additional burden of responsibility for
keeping the household running smoothly and meeting the needs of the children,
the spouse with ADD, and, if he or she has time, his or her own priorities.
Parenting a child who has ADD can be an exhausting and, at times,
frustrating experience. Parents play a key role in managing the disability.
They usually need specialized training in behavior management and benefit
greatly from parent support groups. Parents often find that approaches to
parenting that work well with children who do not have ADD, do not work as well
with children who have ADD.
Parents often feel helpless, frustrated and exhausted. Too often,
family members become angry and withdraw from each other. If untreated, the
situation only worsens. Parent training can be one of the most important and
effective interventions for a child with ADD. Effective training will teach
parents how to apply strategies to manage their child's behavior and improve
their relationship with their child.
Without consistent structure and clearly defined expectations and limits,
children with ADD can become quite confused about the behaviors that are
expected of them.
Making and keeping friends is a difficult task for children with ADD. A
variety of behavioral excesses and deficits common to these children get in the
way of friendships. They may talk too much, dominate activities, intrude in
others' games, or quit a game before its done. They may be unable to pay
attention to what another child is saying, not respond when someone else tries
to initiate and activity, or exhibit inappropriate behavior.
I decided to write my research paper on Attention Deficit Disorder
because my four-year old step-brother has recently been diagnosed with the
disorder. I hope that my relationship with my brother can become closer now
that I have a better understanding of what he is suffering from.


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