Nearly all kids struggle to control themselves at times. It’s normal for children to become distracted, restless or impatient. But for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescents and teens, it’s more than an occasional issue. Frequent and persistent symptoms of inattention, impulsivity or hyperactivity can affect their ability to lead normal lives.

At Mercy, we help children and families manage ADHD symptoms to reduce their impact on daily life.

What is ADHD in Children?

More than 9% of U.S. children ages 2-17 have ADHD – a neurological (or brain) disorder that makes it hard for kids to control their behavior. ADHD affects the part of the brain that helps children pay attention, make decisions, plan and organize. As a result, ADHD often affects a child’s performance in school.

Although it begins in childhood, ADHD often continues into adulthood. But the condition is manageable with help from Mercy’s pediatricians and pediatric behavioral health providers.

What Causes ADHD in Children? 

In children with ADHD, the prefrontal cortex (forehead region) of the brain – the last part of the brain to develop in all people – can be even slower to mature. This results in decreased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a crucial role in regulating attention, behavior and emotion.

Risk Factors

Other factors that can contribute to ADHD in children include:

  • Genetics – ADHD can run in families. Differences in certain brain genes can be inherited.
  • Developmental Issues – Medical problems or delays at critical points in a child’s development may play a role.
  • Environment – Exposure to lead, smoking or having a traumatic brain injury can also cause ADHD.

While it’s true some kids with ADHD are more sensitive to sugar, refined flour, food dyes and other dietary substances, these nutritional factors don’t actually cause ADHD. 

ADHD Symptoms in Children

ADHD has three groups of behavior symptoms: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Children with ADHD may not have all the symptoms or experience them the same way. However, symptoms typically occur for more than 6 months and happen in 2 or more settings, such as home, school and/or social situations. 

Inattention Symptoms

Inattention symptoms in child ADHD are associated with behaviors that include:

  • Difficulty paying attention or frequently daydreaming
  • Trouble listening, even when spoken to directly
  • Distraction from schoolwork or play
  • Making careless mistakes without concern for details
  • Trouble following instructions or finishing tasks
  • Disorganization; frequently losing important things
  • Forgetfulness
  • Avoiding things that require mental effort

Hyperactivity Symptoms

Children who are hyperactive may show these behaviors:

  • Constantly in motion or active
  • Difficulty staying seated
  • Squirming and fidgeting
  • Talking excessively
  • Climbing, running or jumping when it isn’t permitted
  • Trouble playing quietly
  • Difficulty settling down to sleep

Impulsivity Symptoms

These behaviors may be symptoms of impulsivity:

  • Acting or speaking without thinking first
  • Running into streets without checking for traffic first
  • Difficulty taking turns
  • Being impatient frequently
  • Calling out answers before questions are complete
  • Often interrupting others
ADHD Diagnosis & Treatment

If your child is experiencing ADHD symptoms, it can be overwhelming. Mercy's behavioral health experts are here to help.

Learn about diagnosis & treatment options for child ADHD.

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