Several different factors influence the development of ADD/ADHD:

Chemical Imbalance

Research has shown that there is a difference between the neurological function of those with ADD/ADHD and those without it. The neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine have been linked to memory, awareness, concentration, reasoning, judgment, and perception, and an imbalance of these important neurotransmitters may influence an individual’s cognitive function.


While there is some question as to how much of a link there is between diet and ADD/ADHD, studies have shown that removing processed and packaged foods high in sugar and sweets can decrease the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Not only can the “crash” associated with sugary foods add to impulse control problems, but it may also make it more difficult to concentrate. Creating a diet based on whole fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates as well as specific nutrients such as B-complex vitamins appears to increase the chances of improvement in those with ADD/ADHD.


Those with a family history of ADD/ADHD are more likely to develop the disorder themselves, although it is unclear whether this is due to genetic inheritance or environmental factors.

Developmental Difficulties

It is possible that a child does not have ADD/ADHD at all. Instead, they may simply be behind developmentally, and eventually they will catch up. Everyone develops at a different pace, and it is important to understand the difference between an actual ADD/ADHD diagnosis and normal developmental issues.

Structural Differences

Research has shown a possible difference between the brain structures of children with ADD/ADHD and those without the disorder. Although more research needs to be conducted, preliminary study has shown that some people with ADD/ADHD have forebrains that are about 10% smaller. The forebrain is the area in the brain that controls thoughts, behavior, and emotion, and this difference in size could account for the impulsivity and behavioral problems experienced by children and adolescents with ADD/ADHD.

Brain Damage

Several pre-natal factors can cause damage to the brain of the developing fetus. These include maternal drug abuse, toxemia, radiation exposure, and infectious disease. After a child is born, other conditions can precipitate brain damage that may lead to ADD/ADHD such as extreme and prolonged fever, meningitis, head injury, and lead poisoning.

It is most likely that a combination of these factors has an influence on the development of ADD/ADHD and its symptoms.

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