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What Causes ADHD?

Thursday, May 4, 2023 - 11:06

We don’t really know what causes most cases of ADHD. Genetics does play a role – ADHD runs in certain families. But genes alone don’t provide the full explanation.

It is likely that a combination of factors, including genetics and environment, ultimately contribute to the development of ADHD.

Most children with ADHD have a close relative who has or had it. If a child receives a diagnosis of ADHD, there is a one in four chance that a parent has or had it.

Often, parents don’t realize that they have (or had) ADHD until their child is diagnosed. This may shed some light on why they felt they could never sit still or concentrate, or why they still find it hard to organize things properly.

Latest research

Thanks to new techniques for studying the brain, scientists are getting a better idea of what’s happening in individuals with ADHD. We know that, in some cases:

  • There is a difference in the level of some neurotransmitters in the brain. These are chemicals that pass messages from one nerve cell to another. There appears to be less of two neurotransmitters — dopamine and norepinephrine — in those with ADHD.

  • There is a difference in blood flow to certain parts of the brain responsible for planning, organization, and self-regulation. This difference in blood flow may reflect a difference in how efficient those parts of the brain are operating.

  • There is a difference of size in certain structures of the brain. In individuals with ADHD, these structures are smaller.


What About Stress?

Stressful situations, such as a divorce in the family or other family problems, are not likely to cause ADHD, but they can make the condition harder to cope with.

Having a child with ADHD can certainly be a source of stress to others in the family. This stress should be considered when you work with professionals on your child’s treatment program.


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