Research into the origin of ADHD

ADHD prevention is a seldom explored area of ​​research

A child with severe ADHD can have limitations in their daily lives. That can be very upsetting for a child, says researcher Katharina Hartmann of UMCG’s University Center of Psychiatry (UCP). Through her research into the development of ADHD and the potential role of preventing it, she wants to help these children.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The condition can manifest itself in problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Existing treatments can significantly reduce ADHD symptoms, but they do not cure the condition or provide significant long-term improvement. “This is why it is so important to know how ADHD develops and whether prevention is possible,” Hartmann says. “It’s not because ADHD is exclusively negative,” she asserts, “there are many nice aspects to it.” Children with ADHD are often very active and excited. But children with a severe form of ADHD sometimes face major problems in their daily lives. In this case, the child cannot keep up with class at school, although he has the ability to do so, as Hartmann gives as an example. Or that you fail to make or keep friends. Through her research into the development of ADHD and the potential role of preventing it, she wants to help these children.

Little is known about ADHD prevention
ADHD prevention is an area of ​​research that is rarely explored. A diagnosis of ADHD is usually given when a child is in elementary school, but parents often realize early on that their child’s development is different from that of other children. Little is known about the early signs of ADHD. In the Hartmann study, which she and colleague Nanda Rummels of Radbodomke lead with, researchers follow 700 children and their parents from conception through age 6. This is the period before ADHD appears. Some children have at least one biological parent with ADHD.

It may affect the environment
To be able to better recognize early signs, we look at genetics, among other things. ADHD is strongly genetic and often runs in families, so there is a possibility that children of parents with ADHD may also develop ADHD. “But not all children who have one parent with ADHD will develop ADHD themselves and not all children have the same amount of ADHD symptoms.” The environment is also likely to influence the extent to which children develop ADHD symptoms. “As we know more about early signs of ADHD in relation to the environment, we can use this to reduce the severity of symptoms or adverse effects.”

Emotional outbursts at an early age
Hartmann suspects that children who have significant problems regulating their emotions at an early age may develop ADHD later on. For example, you can think of frequent and violent outbursts of anger or frustration. Children learn from their parents how to regulate their emotions. “When you were a little girl, you didn’t realize that you had to take a break if you felt too many triggers or if things didn’t work out,” she explains. As a parent, you can distract the child or cuddle him to reassure him. So it is important how you as a parent respond to your child, but this is not always easy.

Parental support
In the study, Hartmann and her colleagues looked at the possibility of preventing or reducing ADHD by supporting parents in teaching their children’s emotion regulation skills. In this therapy, with the support of a therapist, parents can practice how to deal with their children’s feelings in difficult situations. By providing parents with tools, researchers hope that children learn better how to deal with these intense emotions. As a result, ADHD may develop less violently in the future and children have fewer problems in their daily lives.

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Is there anything that can be done to prevent ADHD?
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Health care professionals and students

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