Is ADHD Genetic? – Overview
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) tends to run in families and seems to have a strong link to the person’s genetics.
Although research studies have shown that some genetic variants increase the risk of ADHD, it is still up for debate whether some genes need environmental triggers to develop this condition.
In addition, as the disorder is very complex, researchers are still to discover a direct relationship with a particular gene or set of genes. This shows that a person’s surroundings also have a significant effect on the likelihood of developing ADHD.
What is ADHD?
ADHD makes it difficult for a person to pay attention to the tasks at hand, especially if the task is not particularly stimulating. This often causes them to become careless and make mistakes. Besides this, people suffering from ADHD also have difficulty managing themselves in situations that require constant mental effort.
There are several types of ADHD, but patients (adults and children) usually experience the following signs and symptoms more commonly:
- Forgetting things
- Daydreaming often
- Taking unnecessary risks
- Fidgeting significantly
- Unable to wait their turn
- Being impulsive
- Being careless at work
- Unable to sit or stand still
- Difficulty following instructions
- Talking excessively
- Experiencing constant distractions
- Interrupting people frequently
- Losing things easily
Some symptoms of ADHD may also differ in children between girls and boys.
Is ADHD Genetic?
A person whose parents (or siblings) have ADHD is more likely and at a higher risk of developing the condition too. With this being said, some people never experience ADHD symptoms despite having a known family history of the condition.
Besides this, twin studies have not proven 100% heritability as far as ADHD is concerned. This indicates that a person’s environment may influence the likelihood of developing ADHD.
Though a family history of ADHD can increase the risk of developing the condition in some people, there are other risk factors that may aggravate or trigger the condition too, such as:
- Brain injury
- Exposure to alcohol and tobacco while in the womb
- Exposure to lead while in the womb or at a young age
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
In contrast, some people believe that eating excessive amounts of sugar or watching too much television tends to cause ADHD.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of ADHD?
The three types of ADHD have different sets of symptoms.
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
If a person is suffering from this type of ADHD, then they will find it difficult to:
- Pay close attention to details
- Organize or finish tasks
- Block out distractions
- Inattentive to people talking
- Maintaining a routine
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
If a person is suffering from this form of ADHD, then they usually find it more difficult to:
- Talk quietly
- Sit still
- Control impulsivity
- Resist temptation
- Listen without interrupting
If a person is suffering from a combination of the first two types of ADHD, you will see a mixture of symptoms from the two initial types of the condition.
How Is ADHD Treated?
The treatment for ADHD includes a mix of medication and therapy.
Medication Treatment for ADHD
A doctor usually prescribes stimulants to help improve focus and attention span. However, people may sometimes experience unwanted side effects, so doctors prescribe a non-stimulant medication instead. This type of treatment takes significantly longer to be effective but has the same effect in improving focus and attention span.
Therapeutic Treatment of ADHD
Therapy is an effective treatment to help a person suffering from ADHD and their family better understand the condition and how to manage it. The types of therapeutic treatment for ADHD include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Parent management training
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Stress management techniques
- Special considerations at school (such as extra time for tests, allowing to move around, etc)
As ADD tends to run in families, it may suggest that genes play a significant role in developing this condition. However, keep in mind that having a family history of ADHD does not guarantee that a person will acquire the disorder.
The genetic disability may put the person at risk of developing ADHD, though. It is highly recommended to consult with an experienced pediatrician or child psychiatrist to ensure that your child does not have ADHD.