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The ins and outs of ADHD and ADD

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

There is help available for children who suffer from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.

If a child who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) is not treated, the conditions could have long-term negative impacts on their health.

This is according to Dr Khatija Jhazbhay, who heads up the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit at Townhill Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

She explained that as adults, these children could be at an increased risk of other mental conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and could also misuse substances.

ADHD and ADD affect children’s academic progress and their behaviour could annoy others. Children could also be disliked, get into trouble and be prone to accidents.

“Each child’s circumstances are unique and developing, so it’s important to do a comprehensive clinical assessment to recognise other factors that could be impacting their development, as well as the strengths that can be built on to assist them to reach their full potential,” said Dr Jhazbhay.

She explained that ADHD and ADD are neurodevelopmental disorders that present with behavioural difficulties, such as inattention.

This shows in the form of:

  • making careless mistakes
  • not completing tasks
  • losing things
  • being easily distracted and forgetful

Examples of hyperactivity or impulsiveness include:

  • fidgeting
  • tapping hands or feet
  • squirming in their seat
  • blurting out answers and getting up when expected to remain seated.

“Symptoms present in two or more settings – at home, school, with friends or relatives or during other activities – and interfere with social, occupational or school functioning. Severe symptoms present before the age of 12 and must be present for at least six months.

Teachers are able to pick up behaviour difficulties and can refer a child for clinical assessment. There are treatment options that can be considered.

For information contact the Mental Health Information Line at 0800 567 567, the ADHD Helpline at 0800 55 44 33 or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group at 0800 456 789. You can also visit your doctor or local health facility.

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