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"Can a child have ADHD if there's no history of it in the family?"
My son has ADHD. Why? No one else does.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a psychiatric condition characterized by three core symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Hyperactive behavior is often characterized by such symptoms as excessive movements, energy, or restlessness. Impulsivity is characterized by difficulty in taking turns, difficulty waiting, and difficulty controlling urges. Finally, inattention can manifest in many ways including distractability, forgetfulness, difficulty with academics, and poor attention span. It has been noted that often ADHD is clustered within families and genetic influences are though to be very important in the pathogenesis of this disease. Studies have shown that the heritability (contribution of genetic factors to development of the disease) of ADHD is somewhere between 60-90%. Although genetics can be very influential, only selected disorders that are determined by genetics alone, and ADHD is certainly not one of these. As in all cases where genetics make up an important part, but are not entirely responsible for a given disease, in ADHD the interaction of genetics and environment produce the disease. In your son's case there were likely some genetic factors that caused a predisposition to ADHD. However, these factors were likely expressed in an environment that was not sufficient to produce an actual disorder in other family members. What matters most in your case is not the genesis of your son's disorder, but rather the fact that he is affected and needs to be adequately treated to achieve his full academic and social potential. This is best done in consultation with trusted psychiatrist or child psychiatrist (depending on your son's age). A psychiatrist will be able to give you an idea of the factors, genetic and otherwise, that can contribute to the development of ADHD and will also be able to clearly define what the best treatment modality for your son would be. In cases like this, there is no substitute for an in depth conversation, in person, with an experienced physician.
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