ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a disorder that afflicts roughly 5% to 7% of the American population. ADHD causes chronic inattention and hyperactivity, to the point where the individual literally cannot sit still and pay attention to anything for extended periods of time.

There are a variety of ADHD causes. Common causes of ADHD include:

  • genetics
  • exposure to toxic chemicals at an early age
  • head trauma.

In a majority of cases, genetics play a role.

Family studies performed by doctors have pointed to family lines that have a much higher risk of ADHD. In the same way that those with brown eyes are more likely to have family members that also have brown eyes, those with ADHD may have family members who are also suffering from the condition. Medical experts at the Massachusetts General Hospital have found that anyone in a family who has a member suffering from ADHD is roughly five times more likely to have it themselves than the general population.

How does a person's genes determine if someone will have ADHD? Studies show that people with ADHD have abnormalities in the neurotransmitters of their brains that is caused by genetic mutations. Many studies have focused on dopamine, a chemical responsible for carrying signals between brain cells. A high percentage of those with ADHD have an unusual variation of the DRD4 gene, which is associated with dopamine receptors in the brain. Other studies have shown that those with ADHD may have sluggish dopamine systems in general.

Several toxic chemicals can interfere with brain development in children. Pregnant women who drink or smoke may put their children at increased risk of developing ADHD. Additionally, an environment which contains lead, PCBs, or pesticides may put a child at greater risk of ADHD.

In addition, head trauma of any kind has a small chance of causing the disorder in persons who otherwise would not develop it. Serious blows to the head, brain tumors, or strokes should not be discounted as possible causes, even if only a small percentage of these actually cause the disorder.

Dieting and ADHD:

There are a couple of additional items that are commonly talked about as ADHD causes. For example, there is the question of diet. While to date there is no concrete study linking diet to ADHD, it does make sense that unhealthy eating habits contribute to learning difficulties and other problems associated with the disorder. It is possible that a healthy diet can help with the symptoms to a degree, but as of now there is no evidence to suggest that diet can treat the disease.

Media and ADHD:

Our media rich environment is also commonly blamed for ADHD and similar problems. TV and the Internet have often been blamed for increasing impatience and diminishing attention spans. While it is likely that this is true to an extent, it is not widely accepted that prolonged media exposure actually causes ADHD.

ADHD Treatment:

Understanding the causes of ADHD is the first step in the quest to treat it. As more studies are conducted and more data comes to light, the causes of ADHD will become more clear, as will treatments become more effective.