What causes ADHD is unknown, and the knowledge about its origin is quite incomplete. In the history of ADHD, the condition was referred to a minimal brain damage or MBD because it was first described in children who had suffered some type of injury or infection. ADHD has been the focus for much high-quality research and has been extensively reported in international and highly respected peer-reviewed journals. The use of the term ''brain damage'' is inaccurate and understandably is upsetting to parents. Researchers now know that brain damage is not the cause of ADHD.
Three major theoretical areas of investigation into the causes of ADHD include cognitive research, neurobiological research, and genetic research. Cognitive research focuses on the mechanisms that underlie traits such as impulsivity, which have been traced to the frontal lobes of the brain and possibly other areas. Neurobiological research is based on new technology to locate the sources of ADHD in the functioning brain. The genetic approach seeks to study the occurrence in families.
Studies have shown a possible correlation between certain environmental agents and ADHD. Michael Lyon in the book Healing the Hyperactive Brain has established a functional model of the causes ADHD that include the antecedents, triggers, mediators, signs and symptoms, and results. He sets these factors up as a pyramid with the foundation or antecedents as underlying risk factors:
1. Antecedents or underlying risk factors include environmental toxins, genetic predisposition, nutritional deficiencies, abuse, neglect, or family stresses
2. Triggers or resulting physical problems include leaky gut, environmental allergies, food allergies or intolerance, chronic or recurrent infections, less of normal gut flora, immune system impairment leading to impaired digestive function
3. Mediators or the biochemical effect include brain neurotransmitter dysfunction, immune modifiers, neuropeptides, and neurotoxins leading to brain structural problems and critical nutrient deficiencies
4. Signs and symptoms include impulsivity, inattention, hyperactivity
This pyramid's apex results in problems that include a long list of difficulties including, extreme moodiness, trouble with the law, difficulty starting projects, diminished self-esteem, forgetfulness, tardiness, taking on too many projects, addictions, personality problems, aggression, many unfinished projects, self-medication, antisocial behaviors, risk taking factors, chronic anxiety, procrastination, psychological disorders, troubled relationships, self-destructive behaviors.
1) Lyon, M. 2000. Healing the hyperactive brain: Through the new science of functional medicine. Calgary, AB, Canada: Focused Publishing
2) Wender, Paul. 1987. The hyperactive child, adolescent, and adult: Attention deficit disorder through the lifespan. New York: Oxford University Press.
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