Possible causes of ADHD

Whether you know your child has ADHD (also known as ADD), or you think your child may have it, you may wonder what causes ADHD. Researchers don’t know the exact cause of this common condition. But studies have shown a number of factors that may contribute to it.

Learn more about the possible causes of ADHD.

Differences in brain anatomy and function

Brain-imaging studies have shown differences in brain structure and wiring between kids with ADHD and their peers. The brain develops in a similar way in both groups. But in kids with ADHD, development of certain areas of the brain is often delayed by about three years. Those delays are typically in the areas most involved in .

Differences also exist in how well certain parts of the brain communicate and work with each other. In kids with ADHD, that communication is less efficient than it is in most kids without ADHD. That can create problems with attention, impulse control, and motivation.

It’s not always easy to spot these problems, however. That’s because people with ADHD often have a few activities or tasks where their executive function works well. That happens when the task is especially interesting to them.

Watch as an expert explains more about the ADHD brain.

Genes and heredity

ADHD is one of the most common childhood conditions, and it tends to run in families. A child with ADHD has a one-in-four chance of having a parent with ADHD. It’s also likely that another close family member, such as a sibling, will also have ADHD.

Signs of ADHD in a parent often go unnoticed. That’s because adult ADHD symptoms often don’t fit the old hyperactive stereotype of ADHD.

The connection to learning differences

Having a learning difference doesn’t cause ADHD. But some issues frequently co-occur with ADHD. These include , , and . Kids with dyslexia, for instance, have a greater likelihood of also having ADHD than kids who don’t have dyslexia.

Knowing the causes of ADHD can help you better understand your child’s challenges. Learn about the connection between ADHD and anxiety. Find out about treatments for ADHD. You may also want to hear from a dad on how he moved past the guilt of “giving” his son ADHD.


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