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Understanding ADHD
Understanding ADHD

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You have now completed your study of the free course Understanding ADHD. Hopefully as you have studied this material you have both challenged and consolidated some of your previously held beliefs about this common neurodevelopmental disorder. You have learnt how ADHD is experienced, diagnosed and managed, but you should also now recognise that there is much still to be understood about the condition. For example, the exact cause is unknown. It is also not yet clear exactly how child and adult forms of ADHD relate to one another, or indeed if they are distinct from each other at all. The exact mechanism of action of current drug treatments to reduce symptoms of ADHD is also not fully understood.

A summary of key learning points from this course:

  • ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental condition which affects around 6 in 100 children and adolescents, and around 3 in 100 adults. The condition has three core symptoms: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It is also associated with difficulties in social interactions and a range of comorbid conditions.
  • Diagnosis of ADHD can be made using DSM-5, in which three different presentation types are possible based on the type of core symptoms an individual displays. Symptoms must be present from childhood and found in more than one setting for a minimum of 6 months. It is expected that similar criteria will be found in ICD-11 which will be the first time this diagnostic system has recognised ADHD.
  • The search for risk factors for ADHD has been extensive. The condition is known to be highly heritable but genetic studies have yet to reveal a clear genetic basis. Studies indicate multiple genes are likely to be involved. Environmental risk factors also exist, with several prenatal events identified as increasing risk of ADHD.
  • The brain basis of ADHD is likely to revolve around the brain circuitry involved in selective attention, including structures such as the prefrontal cortex and a range of neurotransmitters, but most notably dopamine.
  • Management of ADHD varies with the age of the individual. Psychosocial and biological treatments are available at all ages, but in younger individuals medication is used with caution because the precise long-term effects on the developing brain are unknown.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course SK298 Brain, mind and mental health [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .