Does my child have ADD / ADHD?

We have all heard the terms ADHD or ADD. It has become a popular buzz word around schools these days. Many children have been labeled with this “condition.” It is estimated that somewhere around 2 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. This is between 3% and 7% of all school-aged children in the US. We are going to take a look at this “condition” to find out what it is, what the symptoms are, and its possible causes. We will talk about treatment options in Part II..

What exactly are ADHD and ADD? ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; ADD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Disorder without the hyperactivity. Both ADHD and ADD are considered neurological brain disorders which affect brain chemical levels.

Some believe that there could be as many as 5 to 7 different types of ADD/ADHD. Currently there are three main types of ADD/ADHD that are recognized across the board.

They are:

1. Hyperactivity-Impulsivity
2. Inattentive
3. Combined

The symptoms of each type are described below:

1. Inattentive

a. Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.
b. Had difficulty maintaining attention in tasks or play activities.
c. Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
d. Does not follow directions and fails to complete schoolwork, chores, or, in adolescents, on-the-job duties.
e. Has difficulty organizing tasks or activities.
f. Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as homework and schoolwork).
g. Loses things, necessary for tasks or activities (for example, toys, pencils, assignments, tools).
h. Is easily distracted.
i. Is often forgetful in daily activities.

2. Hyperactivity

a. Fidgety or squirms in seat.
b. Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations where expected to remain seated.
c. Runs or climbs excessively when inappropriate.
d. Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly.
e. Is always on the go or acts as if “driven by a motor.”
f. Often talks excessively.
g. In adolescents, may be exhibited as restlessness.
3. Impulsivity
a. Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
b. Has difficulty waiting for a turn.
c. Interrupts or intrudes on others (for example, butts into conversations or games).
d. Emotionally reactive

3. Impulsivity

a. Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
b. Has difficulty waiting for a turn.
c. Interrupts or intrudes on others (for example, butts into conversations or games).
d. Emotionally reactive

ADD and ADHD have several different characteristics. ADD is characterized by sluggishness, boundary issues, obedience, under-assertiveness, over-politeness, modesty, shyness, socially withdrawn and clear bonding with others, but does not attract friends easily. ADHD, on the other hand, is characterized by physical hyperactivity, impulsivity, intrusiveness, rebellion, bossy attitude, irritability, showing off/egotistical, attracts friends easily, but does not bond well and are prone to have Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorders.

We have looked at what ADD/ADHD is and some of the symptoms and characteristics involved. Now, let’s look at some possible causes. There are many different opinions as to why children have ADD/ADHD. It has been suggested that this “condition” can be genetically inherited, caused by brain differences, such as size and shape, brain trauma, food allergies and sensitivities to artificial foods, colorings, and preservatives, hypoglycemia and sugars, environmental and metal toxicity, malnutrition, and poor digestion/absorption. Let’s first take a look at the possible genetic link.

Many professionals believe there is a genetic link to ADHD. It has been noted that when a child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, usually one or both parents have ADD/ADHD or another neurological disorder such as, depression, Tourette’s syndrome, or antisocial behaviors. A study was conducted by J.L. Morrison and M.H. Stewart in 1971 showing that hyperactivity tended to run in families (Zimmerman, 1999, pgs.67-68). The study revealed that hyperactive parents were present in 20% of their child subjects. Another study was conducted by L.E. McCormick, M.D. in 1995. Dr. McCormick discovered that out of 58 child subjects, 30% of the mothers had some degree of depression (Zimmerman, 1999, pg.66).

Another common cause for ADHD seems to be food allergies or sensitivity. If a child has a food allergy, it can be manifested with symptoms like mood swings, digestive problems, mal-absorption, hyperactivity, and depression to name a few. Marcia Zimmerman, author of The A.D.D. Solution. A Drug-Free 30-Day Plan, believes that 75%-80% of children with ADHD have a food allergy or sensitivity (Zimmerman, 1999, pg.75) Food allergies can cause symptoms similar to ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome by causing a reaction called ATFS, or Allergic Tension Fatigue Syndrome (Rapp, 1991, pg. 329). These symptoms include: tension, irritability, hyperactivity/fatigue, depression, as well as apathy. ATFS can also be displayed as impulsivity, distractibility, lack of concentration, and learning disabilities.

Sugar has long been suspected of being a cause of ADHD. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to large swings in blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is common in ADHD patients. Symptoms of hypoglycemia are nervousness, irritability, exhaustion, depression, headaches, digestive disturbances, forgetfulness, mental confusion, twitching and jerking muscles, antisocial behaviors, etc. Environmental allergens and toxins are also being pointed at as a possible cause. Pollen, mold and chemicals can lead to ADHD. Symptoms such as headaches, leg pains, irritability, and behavior problems, as well as the typical runny nose. Pesticides can accentuate ADHD symptoms.

Toxins come in many disguises. Take your pre-packed foods, for example; would you believe that for some people it is a box of poison? Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives abound here. A lot of these food additives contain an organic compound called a phenol. Many food additives (preservatives, such as BHT, BHA and TBHQ, flavors and colors) are petroleum-based and contain very large amounts of phenols. A subgroup of phenols are salicylates, which are naturally occurring in some fruits. Phenols interfere with metabolizing certain compounds in the body, sulfur in particular.

Heavy metal toxicity is next in line. Metals such as lead and mercury, in particular, are thought to help cause ADD/ADHD. These cause cognitive impairment and negatively impact the brain.

Poor digestion and malnutrition are also considered to be possible causes. Poor digestion is one of the symptoms for faulty sulfur metabolism. It can lead to poor absorption and deficiencies in nutrition. Signs pointing to deficiencies in nutrition can be irritability, aggression, clouded thinking, lack of attention, decreased neurotransmitters and decreased cognitive skills.

This is a very brief overview of ADD/ADHD. Hopefully, it will give you a better understanding of what ADD/ADHD is and what to look for as possible causes if your child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Next time we will look at treatment options.


Bibliography Rapp, Doris. Is This Your Child? Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies.
William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. 1991.
Zimmerman, Marcia. The A.D.D. Nutrition Solution. A Drug-Free 30-Day Plan.
Henry Holt and Company, LLC., 115 west 18th street, New York, NY 10011. 1999.
For more information about ADD and ADHD, check out the following resources:

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