Attention disorder has physical cause

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Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are four times more likely than average to suffer mental problems in later life, researchers have found. They said ADHD was a physical disease and there was a difference between the disorder and ordinary bad behaviour.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are four times more likely than average to suffer mental problems in later life, researchers have found. They said ADHD was a physical disease and there was a difference between the disorder and ordinary bad behaviour.

Professor Eric Taylor of the Institute of Psychiatry in London told the British Association of Science that not enough children with the disorder were being medicated. He said 1.4 per cent of British children - about 70,000 - had acute or "hyperkinetic" ADHD, which should be treated with drugs such as Ritalin. Only one-third of them were receiving the drug, which improved their ability to concentrate, he said. In the US up to 6 per cent of children are receiving it.

A further 3.4 per cent of British children, 180,000, had a milder form of ADHD, which could be treated with psychiatric methods, he said.

His studies found that bad parenting was not the cause of ADHD, although a "chaotic" lifestyle could be a trigger for the pattern of bad behaviour typifying ADHD, which Professor Taylor described as being "impulsive, inattentive, disorganised and [emotionally] volatile". Ignoring the problem could have serious repercussions, he said. ADHD sufferers were four times more likely to suffer mental illness, including manic depression, and engage in antisocial behaviour. "Brain scans show that people with ADHD have less development of the right frontal lobe, parts of the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. It's not a problem that depends on the society; the Chinese and South Africans have reported it."

ADHD was not a purely negative condition, Professor Taylor added. "Billy Connolly has identified himself as having it, so has Robin Williams."

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