The Known, Theorized, and Scientifically Debunked Causes of ADHD

ADHD is a profoundly complicated and widely misunderstood disorder that afflicts millions of teens across the nation. Unfortunately, misinformation and outdated perceptions of ADHD are plentiful. Unfortunately, this socially ignorant epidemic of spreading misinformation regarding the disorder only further complicates the lives of ADHD-suffering teens and their families alike. 

At Clearview Girls Academy, one of our prime objectives is to educate parents in all matters relating to the treatment of troubled teens. In an earnest attempt to further expand our educational resources for parents of troubled teens, this article is to inform, educate and separate fact from fiction regarding the scientifically proven, potential but unproven, and outright debunked causes of ADHD. 

Who Can Be Affected by ADHD?

Any man, woman, or child from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds can develop ADHD. However, while the development of ADHD can, in fact, occur during adulthood, studies show that children (ages 3-17) are significantly more likely to be affected with boys twice as likely to develop ADHD than girls. While most children affected by ADHD learn to live with or even outgrow their disorder, others (typically those who fail to receive the adequate treatment they require) are prone to struggle with their ADHD-related symptoms well into adulthood. 

Genetic and Physiological Causes of ADHD

New research shows that those born with ADHD produce abnormal levels of dopamine. More specifically, recent studies have found that those who are genetically predisposed to attention deficit disorders have a deficiency in their dopamine production, which in turn, negatively affects their anterior frontal cortex - the section of the brain that is responsible for cognitive abilities, such as the ability to focus or pay attention. 

According to this particular study, if a person has ADHD, there is a good chance they were born with their condition. It is revolutionary studies like these that seem to all but suggest genetics is the most viable and common cause of the development of an ADHD disorder. 

Environmental and Sociological Causes of ADHD

In addition to genetics, environmental factors have also been thoroughly investigated and scientifically validated. And according to recent studies, there may be something to this sociological theory. While it has yet to be certifiably proven, there is evidence from psychological studies that suggest children born with low birth weight and babies who suffered extreme stress during the birthing process are more susceptible to developing an attention deficit disorder. 

Additionally, research suggests there might be a direct correlation between smoking and drinking alcohol and the prenatal development of ADHD. Similar studies also indicate that exposing a fetus to harmful toxins, like those caused by drug abuse or exposure to lead, could also increase the child’s chance of developing psychological disorders, including ADHD.  

Pesticides May Also Be Linked to ADD/ADHD 

While perhaps less viable than the aforementioned potential causes, there is some evidence that suggests a possible link between ADHD and pesticides. In 2010, a pediatric study that included urine analysis showed children with higher pesticide content had a higher likelihood of suffering from attention deficit disorder. Additionally, another study conducted within the same year showed that pregnant women with a high level of pesticides in their urine were more likely to have a child born with ADHD. 

However, it should be noted that these particular studies merely suggest a possible link but were unable to verify the linkage between pesticides (prenatal or otherwise) and the development of attention-deficit symptoms or disorders with scientific certainty. 

Scientifically Debunked Causes of ADHD

Unfortunately, thanks to falsely reported misinformation regarding the developmental causes of ADHD, there are many widely held beliefs that, according to several studies conducted by the psychological authority, NIMH, are scientifically proven to be patently false. 

The following is a list of now-debunked causes and links to ADHD

  • Overconsumption of sugar/simple carbohydrates
  • Lack of educational resources and institutions 
  • Allergies, including food, airborne, etc. 
  • Addiction to video games or other media-related distractions
  • Problems at home (including poor parenting, negative relationship dynamics, living in an impoverished neighborhood, etc.)

We should also note that avoiding sugar, limiting television/screen time, or parental abilities may not share a link with the development of ADHD; they may cause behavioral problems within a child that could be mistaken for tell-tale symptoms of ADHD.