What Really Causes ADHD?

side profile of mother reading to her daughter Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is now recognized as a common childhood disorder that can continue into adulthood. While diagnosing ADHD has become more common, understanding ADHD causes remains a work in progress.

“There is no single test for diagnosing ADHD and there is no single ADHD cause,” notes Loren R. Dribinsky, MD, a psychiatrist at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass.

“We know that genes are one of the most important ADHD causes because ADHD runs strongly in families,” adds Scott J. Hunter, PhD, director of pediatric neuropsychology at the University of Chicago. “What we don’t know is how other possible factors influence those genes or make children’s brains more vulnerable to ADHD.”

Many theories about ADHD causes have been considered over the years, including:

• Lack of good parenting
• Stressful family situations
• Excessive exposure to TV and video games
• Lack of structure at school

Quite a few of these theories have been abandoned and new theories have replaced them. “One reason why we don’t know all the ADHD causes is that we can study genes and brain changes, but it is very hard to study environmental triggers,” explains Dr. Dribinsky.