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Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia Among Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Tyler, a five-year old boy was nicknamed “Twister Tyler” after being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) about four months ago. He is currently enrolled in a special education (SPED) school to accommodate his academic and social needs. During the initial pre-enrollment interview, Tyler’s mother said that her son used to study in a regular school but had to be transferred after the teachers complained about the boy’s disturbing behavior in the classroom. She said that the teachers found it hard to control Tyler every time he would roam around the classroom and grab his classmates’ belongings. She added that her son found it hard to pay attention during class and did not participate in group activities. At home, Tyler would leave his toys all over the house and climb over furniture and other high places. Even at a young age, Tyler’s mother already knew that her son was a handful, unlike other children his age. After careful consideration, she decided to seek a doctor’s opinion and found out about her son’s condition.

ADHD is still a relatively new condition that has yet to be understood by the public. While a number of professionals have guested in health-related television shows to explain ADHD, many are still clueless about the nature, symptoms, and possible treatments for this condition. Those who are uninformed about the true nature of ADHD often unknowingly label children with this condition as being simply “hyperactive.” Others are even considered as “abnormal children.”

Parents who suspect that their children might be positive for ADHD should strongly consider having them examined by a specialist. Diagnosis of ADHD can only be made by doctors who have thorough knowledge of this condition. These parameters are usually used by doctors to determine if a child is ADHD-positive:

l A child exhibits behaviors common among those with ADHD;
l A child exhibits disturbing or hyperactive behavior that is uncommon in other children of the same age; and
l A child exhibits disturbing or hyperactive behavior for more that six months.

Parents must exert efforts to understand ADHD and should avoid labeling a child without proper evaluation by a doctor. Labeling will just create a stigma on children which will cause a wrong concept of themselves. It is sometimes difficult to properly diagnose children as having ADHD since a lot of other conditions also exhibit the same symptoms. Symptoms of ADHD include inability or difficulty paying attention and sustaining attention, difficulty remaining seated and constantly fidgeting, and problems with interrupting and waiting for turns. These symptoms are also exhibited by children who suffer from stress and depression and those with behavioral problems. It is therefore necessary to exhaust all possible information about the child and his behaviors through evaluations and interviews before making a valid diagnosis.

A lot of parents, mostly those who have children with ADHD, often wonder how their kids acquired the condition. Based on recent studies done by Dr. Joseph Beiderman, Dr. Dennis Cantwell and Dr. Florence Levy, heredity plays a major role in developing ADHD. Other studies also show that infant exposure to toxic substances such as nicotine and alcohol and injury to the brain, especially the frontal lobe, from trauma or tumors can also lead to kids having ADHD.

Hyperactivity is one of the most noticeable characteristics of children with ADHD. It is said that this behavior results from a problem in an executive function of their brain. This executive function is identified as response or behavior inhibition. Because of their difficulty in inhibition, their sleep behaviors are affected. Moreover, children with ADHD are sometimes prescribed medications containing stimulants which also prevent them from being able to sleep. A lot of these kids with this condition, thus, are susceptible to having insomnia.

Like most people who suffer from insomnia, children with sleeping disorders also exhibit anxiety as a result of their lack of rest. Their mood and performance in school are most affected by this problem. When a child with ADHD is suspected to be having problems with sleeping, it is best to consult a doctor immediately. The doctor may prescribe medications to address this problem and determine what other management can be provided. It will also be helpful to teach the child relaxation techniques and proper sleeping habits such as avoiding rigorous activities before sleep.

The importance of ADHD awareness and its accompanying complications should be emphasized not only to those afflicted with the condition but to parents and other individuals concerned. Awareness leads to the proper management of the condition and appropriate response to the situation. Forcing a child with ADHD to sit quietly for hours in class, expecting them to perform or behave like most children their age and reprimanding them constantly because of their peculiarities will only lead to a feeling of stress and anxiety. With all the compounding problems that children with ADHD already suffer, the least thing people could do to help is to avoid adding up unnecessary and inappropriate demands. Through proper treatment and appropriate management, sleeping problems, anxiety and stress that result from or relate to ADHD can be lessened or prevented.