Not All Attention Problems Are ADHD

Curious and high-spirited young children can’t focus their attention on anything for long, some more so than the others. But, is the inability to pay attention always a sign of ADHD?

By Arun Sharma

Not All Attention Problems Are ADHD

Getting distracted easily, not awaiting their turn, showing restlessness, behaving impulsively are some signs that every child exhibits at some point in time. Being inattentive, or getting easily distracted, is one of the many symptoms of children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). So, can all attention deficit problems be attributed to ADHD? Not at all. Let’s look at some other issues that can also cause children to be inattentive.

Anxiety: Impaired attention, including impulsivity and restlessness, are some of the common symptoms of anxiety in children. Generally, those children who favour certain routines tend to become anxious and manifest such symptoms when they are forced to change their routines or introduced to new ones.

Tiredness and fatigue: Young children are always active, which can make them tired. Also, conditions like poor nutrition and irregular sleep pattern can cause children to feel tired. Being exhausted can make a child cranky and decrease her attention span.

Hunger: Many children are unable to understand signs of hunger and demand food when hungry. Going without food can decrease blood sugar levels, which can cause exhaustion and make a child inattentive.

Poor nutrition: During childhood, the brain and body develop at a rapid pace. To help them develop and function normally, it is necessary for a child to eat nutrient-rich food. Eating protein-deficient food, processed food, or low-fat diet can affect a child’s ability to be attentive, which can worsen over time.

Dehydration: As children usually remain active and have a higher metabolic rate, their bodies tend to use more water than adults. So, they should be made to drink water at regular intervals, as even very low levels of dehydration in children can cause them to behave inattentively.

Lack of physical activity: Physical exercise isn’t just vital for a healthy body, but also for the brain, as it increases information-processing ability and the power of concentration. Therefore, lack of exercise affects a child’s ability to focus or be attentive.

Distractions in the environment: Gadgets like computer, smartphone, and TV are now a part of our daily life. In most homes, children spend a lot of time every day in the company of either one or all of these gadgets. Spending too much time with screen devices can make a child less attentive.

Obsessive–compulsive disorder: Children suffering from this disorder are often obsessed with some thought or the other, or performing certain rituals or actions. As a result, instead of paying attention to goings-on or those trying to engage their attention, they remain preoccupied with their compulsions.

Stress or trauma: Children who are experiencing stress or the after-effects of a trauma tend to be hypervigilant or suffer from a sense of insecurity. As a result, their ability to pay attention decreases.

Hearing problem: Problems related to hearing are not visible to the eye. As a result, when a child with impaired hearing does not respond to what is being said, onlookers may think that he is not paying attention.

Learning disorder: Children with undiagnosed learning disorders like dyslexia or dyscalculia usually do not show interest in studies, which may be construed as inability to pay attention in the class.

Boredom: Children living in an environment where they feel intellectually underchallenged or disinterested can feel bored. Owing to this, they may turn disruptive or stop paying attention.

Epilepsy: Children suffering from absence seizure can also be mistaken for being inattentive. Absence seizures affect the awareness of individuals by causing them to blank out. During the seizure, the individual may appear to have a blank expression, stare into space or flutter the eyelids. Absence seizures are usually of very short duration, lasting only a few seconds.

A correct diagnosis of the cause for a child’s lack of attention can only be made by an expert, after collecting sufficient information. So, observe your child for an extended period, and if you sense that your child is unable to focus or pay attention, get in touch with a specialist to diagnose the correct cause.

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