Attention Deficit Disorder

What is Attention Deficit Disorder? How is it treated? Can it be treated with medicine and, if so, is the medication safe? Why has it been so highly publicized lately? Why are so many people being diagnosed, and why is this disorder suddenly growing at such an overwhelming rate? Where was this disorder twenty or even ten years ago? Over the past decade, A.D.D., or rather its diagnosis, has become one of the most rapidly growing disorders among children and adults, not only in the United States but throughout the world. Three to six percent of school age children and half that number of adults in the United States have already been diagnosed with A.D.D. Although the majority have yet to be diagnosed, it is estimated that approximately 15 million people in the United States have Attention Deficit Disorder. Is A.D.D. a "fad disorder", a matter of over-diagnosis in the population, or is it a neurological disorder?

What is A.D.D.?
Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) is a neurological syndrome rooted in the central nervous system, which affects approximately three to six percent of the child population in the United States(Merrow). Its most defining symptoms include distractibility, impulsivity, and restlessness(Hallowell). "A.D.D. is a breakdown of the filter systems of the brain," according to Dr. Edward Hallowell, a world-renowned expert on A.D.D. and author of several best-selling books on the subject. A.D.D. is not an indicator of low intelligence, nor is it a learning disability. The A.D.D. brain cannot filter the information coming in and cannot filter what is going out. It is constantly bombarded with stimuli which can\'t be fully processed--resulting in unpredictable responses.
When was A.D.D. first recognized as a neurological disorder?
Although Attention Deficit Disorder has gained world-wide recognition in the 1990\'s, its discovery actually occurred in 1937. Dr. Bradley of Providence, Rhode Island, discovered while treating severely destructive children that by using amphetamines, a stimulant, these children would become more tranquil and could concentrate better. Since his discovery, many others in his field have continued his work; however, Attention Deficit Disorder wasn\'t known by the vast public until the last decade. The fact remains that A.D.D. has always been around and was simply being over-looked until recently. It was present twenty years ago, it was present fifty years ago, two hundred years ago, a thousand years ago--essentially, it has been present throughout the ages(Hallowell).

Who is affected by A.D.D.?
Attention Deficit Disorder has no biases. It affects people from all walks of life, wealthy or poor, black or white, male or female, high intelligence or low intelligence--virtually anyone could have A.D.D. While it is not proven to be a genetically predisposed disorder, as many as 75% of children diagnosed with A.D.D. have at least one relative who also has it, be it a parent, sibling, or uncle(Mascia).

How is Attention Deficit Disorder Diagnosed?
Doctors agree that making a diagnosis is not a simple task and that many questions regarding the patient\'s symptoms, behavior, and life situation must be raised to rule out other possible disorders which could produce symptoms similar those of A.D.D.
The most official means used to diagnose Attention Deficit Disorder was published by the American Psychiatric Association in a volume entitled "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" which was last published in 1994. For short, it is called "DSM-IV". Using this guide, doctors look for six or more of the following symptoms in their patient:
a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
in school work, work or other activities.
b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
d) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish school work,
chores, or duties in the workplace. (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
e) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
f) often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained
mental effort. (such as schoolwork or homework)
g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities.
h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
i) is often forgetful in daily activities.
In addition to six of the above, the following symptoms all should be apparent:
a) some hyperactive, impulsive symptoms that caused impairment were present
before age seven years.
b) some impairment from the