November 27, 2015

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Childhood ADHD FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Take the Childhood ADHD Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
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Q:The abbreviated term ADHD denotes what condition?

A:ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, one of the most common disorders in childhood.

It is a neurodevelopmental disorder because it affects how the brain develops. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention, inability to control impulsive behaviors, and being hyperactive.

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Q:Stuttering is a symptom of ADHD. True or false?

A:False. Stuttering is not a symptom of childhood ADHD, but inattention, impulsivity, and fidgeting are characteristic symptoms of the disorder.

All of these behaviors are normal in children from time to time. What makes children with ADHD different is that they do not grow out of these behaviors, including daydreaming, forgetting or losing things, fidgeting, talking too much, inattention, impulsivity, unnecessary risk-taking, and having trouble getting along with others. These symptoms disrupt the lives of children with ADHD at home, school, and with friends.

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Q:ADHD in children is found by a series of blood tests. True or false?

A:False. There is no single test – medical or psychological - that will diagnose a child with ADHD.

The diagnosis is usually made in several steps. Often the first step is a health care professional gathering information about the child, his or her behavior and environment. Often, a health care professional's first step is to gather information about the child, his or her behavior, and environment. Tools to gather this information include behavior rating scales and a detailed health history. In some cases a child's pediatrician may make the diagnosis, but many will refer a family to a mental health professional who specializes in children with ADHD. It is important to also rule out other causes for the behaviors such as learning disabilities or depression.

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Q:ADHD can be an inherited condition. True or false?

A:True. Studies have shown that ADHD often runs in families.

Children diagnosed with ADHD may have close blood relatives with the disorder. The National Institutes of Heath is conducting an ongoing study of the genetic components of ADHD, with the hope that it might lead to better diagnostics, and possibly individualized treatments.

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Q:Which class of drugs is NOT used to treat ADHD in children or adults?

A:Antipsychotic medications are not used to treat ADHD in children or adults.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines are most commonly used to treat the disorder. These medications have been found to improve attention, help focus behavior, and reduce hyperactivity – all of which help kids do better in school and at home. Other non-stimulant medications such as atomoxetine, guanfacine, and clonidine may also be prescribed. Psychostimulant medications are by far the most widely researched and commonly prescribed treatments for ADHD, though two types of antidepressant medications, tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) and bupropion have also been shown to have a positive effect on all three of the major components of ADHD.

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Q:Medications are the only current treatment option for children with ADHD. True or false?

A:False. In addition to medications, there are many treatment options to help children with ADHD.

ADHD cannot be cured, but there are many resources to help manage the disorder. These include psychotherapy, behavioral intervention, training parents to help children stay focused and organized, and also accommodations that can be made at school. Seek professional help and make sure you know what resources are available to you and your child.

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Q:ADHD in children will resolve itself by adulthood. True or false?

A:False. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) doesn't always go away when childhood ends.

It can continue during adolescence and into adulthood. Many adults have ADHD and were never diagnosed as children. Like children with ADHD, adults with the disorder often feel restless. ADHD can pose challenges for adults making it hard for them to stay organized, keep a job, get to work on time, or maintain relationships. Treatment for ADHD in adults often involves medication and psychotherapy.

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Q:Parents who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk of having a child with ADHD. True or false?

A:True. There is evidence that prenatal exposure to smoking is associated with disruptive behavioral disorders in children, including ADHD.

If mom or dad smokes, a child has a higher chance of being diagnosed with ADHD. The risk is higher when the mother smokes, but compared with children born to nonsmoking parents, children born to smokers had a higher occurrence of ADHD. The connection is still not fully understood, but it is well documented that prenatal exposure to smoke is unhealthy for a developing fetus, so parents should not smoke during pregnancy.

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