Causes & Effects of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of ADHD and get help for your child, teen, or young adult.

Understanding ADHD

Learn about ADHD

While many children and adolescents require redirection or guidance when it comes to managing behavior or staying on task when the situation calls for it, there are many young people who struggle with retaining focus, controlling impulses, and sitting still even when redirection and guidance is afforded. When a child or adolescent’s functioning is significantly impaired due to these issues, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is often to blame.

Also known as ADHD, this mental health condition can appear in three forms or types. The hyperactive type of ADHD can make it difficult for a youth to remain still or stay on task when he or she experiences urges or fidget, constantly move about, and talk incessantly. The inattentive type of this disorder can make it extremely difficult to focus and concentrate on tasks, especially in a school setting. And lastly, the impulse type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can lead a child or adolescent to act out, partake in dangerous behaviors, be overtly defiant, or be impulsive regardless of the consequences that can ensue.

Viable options for care of this condition that treats each of the three types is available and can be accessed by those who wish to alleviate the symptoms of this destructive and disruptive mental illness. Young people who receive care ultimately learn new methods for managing and coping with symptoms and understand the impact ADHD has on his or her life. With appropriate treatment, ADHD does not have to be a hindrance on an individual’s life.


ADHD statistics

It has been estimated that as many as 1 in 20 children and adolescents meet diagnostic criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Additionally, research has found that fewer female children and adolescents are diagnosed with this condition when compared to male children and adolescents. Similar studies have also concluded that while female children and adolescents suffer more commonly from the inattentive type of ADHD, male children and adolescents present with more symptoms synonymous with the hyperactive type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for ADHD

Research on ADHD has yet to determine a single, isolated cause for the development of this mental illness. Therefore, experts in the field of mental health believe that the following causes and risk factors play a part in the manifestation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms:

Genetic: Children and adolescents with a biological parent who meets diagnostic criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have an increased risk for eventually displaying ADHD symptoms at some point during their lifetimes. In lieu of this discovery, researchers have deduced that this mental health condition does, in fact, possess a genetic component.

Physical: Extensive research on neurochemicals in the brain has found that sufferers of ADHD have imbalanced neurotransmitters in their brains. When these chemicals do not achieve homeostasis, brain functioning can be adversely impacted and an individual’s mood and ability to control impulses can be hindered. When this is the case, symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are known to appear.

Environmental: The onset of attention-deficit/hyperactively disorder symptoms can be triggered and caused by certain environmental influences. If a young person resides in a home where chronic stress or violence is prevalent, there is a greater likelihood that symptoms will manifest at some point. Moreover, some experts in the field of mental health believe that prenatal exposure to malnutrition, certain toxins or chemicals, infections, and illicit drugs can eventually lead to the development of this mental illness.  

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Prenatal exposure to toxins or infections
  • Family history of ADHD or other mental health condition
  • Personal history of a mental health condition or conditions
  • Exposure to chaos
  • Exposure to violence
  • History of substance use or abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can affect people differently. Depending on the sufferer’s age and the type of ADHD present, the signs that infer an individual is grappling with this condition may not be obvious. If you suspect that your child or adolescent is battling attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, it is important to consider the presence of the following signs and symptoms and seek an evaluation from a mental health professional so that a definitive diagnosis can be determined:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Poor impulse control
  • Restlessness
  • Truancy
  • Lack of focus
  • Poor task completion
  • Increased agitation
  • Excessive talking
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Changes in eating
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Broken sleep patterns
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Stomachaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Decreased patience
  • Inattentiveness
  • Easily distracted
  • Racing thoughts
  • Boredom
  • Procrastination
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Incoherent speech

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling unable to achieve
  • Insecurity
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depressed mood


Effects of ADHD

Untreated ADHD has the potential to cause several negative effects over time. The impulsive, hyperactive, and/or inattentive symptoms of this disorder can ultimately lead to the following consequences and undue adversity for a youth when ADHD symptoms persist:

  • Academic failure
  • Impaired academic functioning
  • Hindered occupational functioning
  • Increased conflict with others
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Disciplinary action at school and/or expulsion
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Inability to acquire or maintain employment
  • Substance use / abuse / addiction / dependence

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and co-occurring disorders

Children and adolescents who suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are often diagnosed with an additional mental health condition. The following mental illnesses are examples of co-occurring disorders and can be triggered by ADHD or lead to the development of ADHD symptoms:

  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Tic disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Substance use disorders

I feel so much happier and healthier after getting help at Millcreek of Pontotoc.

– A former patient