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Is ADHD Genetic?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a
behavioral disorder. It’s most commonly diagnosed in childhood, but adults can
experience the symptoms of the disorder and be diagnosed as well. According to
the American
Psychiatric Association (APA), an estimated 5 percent of children and 2.5
percent of adults in the United States have ADHD. The most common symptoms of
ADHD include:

  • inability to focus
  • fidgeting or squirming
  • avoiding tasks or not being able to complete
    them
  • being easily distracted

What
causes ADHD?

Researchers have been unable to identify a single cause for
ADHD. A combination of genes, environmental factors, and possibly diet seem to
influence the likelihood of a person developing ADHD.

Some research suggests genes are the largest factors in
determining who develops ADHD. After all, genes are the building blocks for our
bodies. We inherit our genes from our parents. Like many disorders or
conditions, ADHD may have a strong genetic component. For that reason, many
scientists focus their research on the exact genes that carry the disorder.

One
close relative

Having a family member with ADHD makes you more likely to
also have the disorder. Children who have ADHD typically have a parent,
sibling, or other close relative with ADHD. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at
least one third of fathers who have or had ADHD will have children who will be
diagnosed with ADHD.

Identical
twins

Twins share lots of things: birthdays, secrets, parents, and
grades. Unfortunately, they also share the risk of having ADHD. According to an Australian study,
twins are more likely to have ADHD than singletons. Additionally, a child who
has an identical twin with ADHD has a high chance of also developing the
disorder.

Missing
DNA

Unlike potential environmental causes of ADHD, DNA can’t be
changed. As research has narrowed in on what causes ADHD, scientists recognize
the strong role genetics play. Therefore, much of the research into ADHD is
devoted to understanding genes. In 2010, British researchers identified small pieces of DNA that are
either duplicated or missing in the brains of children with ADHD. These
affected genetic segments have also been linked to autism and schizophrenia.

Thinner
brain tissue

Researchers with the National Institute of Mental
Health (NAMI) identified an area of the brain that ADHD may affect. In
particular, the scientists found that individuals with ADHD have thinner tissue
in the areas of the brain associated with attention. Fortunately, the study
also found that some children with the thinner brain tissue developed normal
levels of tissue thickness as they got older. As the tissue became thicker, the
symptoms of ADHD became less severe.

Additional
risk factors for ADHD

Besides DNA, other factors can influence who develops ADHD.
These include the following:

  • Environmental exposure, such as exposure to
    lead, may increase a child’s risk for ADHD.
  • A small number of
    children who suffer a traumatic brain injury may develop ADHD.
  • This study found that mothers who
    smoke while pregnant increase their child’s risk for developing ADHD; women
    who drink alcohol and use drugs during pregnancy also put their child at
    risk for the disorder.
  • Babies born before their
    due date are more likely to have ADHD when they’re older, according to this study.

To
parents with ADHD

You may be worried about passing the genes for this disorder
onto your child. Unfortunately, you can’t control whether your child will
inherit the genes for ADHD. However, you can control how vigilant you are about
your child’s potential symptoms. Be sure to alert your child’s pediatrician to
your personal history of ADHD. The sooner you’re aware of potential signs of
ADHD in your child, the sooner you and your child’s doctor can respond. You can
begin treatment and therapy early, which may help your child learn to better cope
with the symptoms of ADHD.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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