According to new research conducted at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is more than one disorder. It is an entire family of disorders, much like the multiple subtypes of cancer.
The research, which highlights various versions of the disease, each with differing impacts, demonstrates that there is likely not going to be a "one-size-fits-all" approach to treating patients. It also suggests new methods for characterising any given individual are going to be required for improved diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of the disease. The research also indicates that scientists need to shift their thinking when it comes to conducting research aimed at understanding the cause and impacts of ADHD, and consider the vast variety of human behaviour in non-affected children as well.
"Traditionally, physicians and psychologists have diagnosed patients through the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as the DSM," explained scientist Damien Fair of OHSU.
"The problem with this approach is that it often relies on secondary observations of parents or teachers, where even if the descriptions are accurate, any given child may be behaving similarly, but for different reasons. Just as if there might be many reasons why someone might have chest pain, there might be many reasons why a child presents with ADHD. However, unlike diagnosing countless other well-understood diseases, there is no one test that can differentiate individuals when it comes to psychiatric and developmental conditions like ADHD. The data here highlights ways to recognise such individual variability and shows promise that we might be able to identify why any given child presents with ADHD, thus allowing for future examinations of more personalised treatments," he says.
To better understand ADHD's variations, Fair and colleagues compared test results for several cognitive skills among a large sampling of ADHD patients and a control group. The testing focused on memory, inhibition, attention, comprehension, and several other categories.
Although, overall, the ADHD group did more poorly than the control group on all the measures, they noted that in some areas, certain control group patients outperformed the ADHD patients. However, in those same areas, other ADHD patients outperformed the control group. Simply put, not all study participants – ADHD and control - consistently showed the same strengths and weakness. Furthermore, they found that ADHD patients can be subcategorised depending on their deficits and relative strengths, showing unique subgroups among all children with ADHD.
REHACARE.de; Source: Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)