Since there is no medical test to determine a diagnosis of ADHD, professionals should be careful to rule out environmental and physical factors that may be playing a role. Parents can also explore possible causes rather than just accept a “label” for a set of symptoms.
It is not unusual for a child to be determined to be ADHD, and medication prescribed, when the actual cause of the symptoms are due to physical conditions or environmental issues in the child’s life.
School and Home Issues
- Children can exhibit behavioral changes that mimic ADHD when they experience significant stressors. Events such as a new baby in the family, parental discord or divorce, family financial problems, a new partner in the home, or the death of someone close to the family can have a major impact on a child.
- A move to a new location or lack of structure/routine can have a negative impact.
- Social difficulties at school (such as being bullied) or learning challenges also affect behavior; the child may react with restlessness, inattentiveness, or acting out.
- When a child is bright and not challenged at school, they may engage in distracting behaviors or daydream.
- Poor communication skills may frustrate a child or make it difficult to attend to others.
- Processing problems, such as visual or auditory weaknesses, or difficulty with handwriting can aggravate behaviors.
- Research tells us that sleep problems are often associated with ADHD behaviors. For older children, smoking and use of drugs.
- Depression or obsessive compulsive disorder which make it hard to focus.
- Maturity; sometimes the child needs to mature.
- Sometimes the setting needs to be adapted to meet the needs of the child; expectations are unreasonable.
Medical Conditions that Can Cause ADHD-like Symptoms
- Low blood sugar
- Hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- Toxic lead levels
- High mercury levels
- Toxic chemical exposures
- Epilepsy (Absence seizures)
- Genetic defects
- Iron and B-vitamin deficiencies
- Early-onset diabetes
- Infection: viral or bacterial
- Dietary factors: poor diet, artificial additives, food allergy
- Lack of discipline
- Other rare medical conditions
Looking for answers beyond a label can help point you in the right direction. Once the cause of the symptoms is discovered, efforts to treat or address the source of the problem can begin. inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive behaviors.