Updated 17 July 2017

More questions on ADHD

What follows are questions about the causes, diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and ADD.

What are the causes of ADHD and ADD? And what other conditions could mimic ADHD?
BY YVONNE BEYERS for YOU Pulse magazine

Question: What are the causes?
Abnormalities in the brain may be hereditary, caused by a brain injury or fetal alcohol syndrome. ADD and ADHD occurs six times more frequently among boys than among girls and it seems to be transferred especially from father to son. It could be however that many instances in girls are not diagnosed because most girls with the condition are quiet dreamers. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome are brain-damaged because of the mother's alcohol abuse during pregnancy. This may result in various problems including ADD and ADHD.

Question: What percentage of children really need Ritalin?
If more than two children in a class of 40 (approximately five per cent) use Ritalin, parents should see the warning lights and ask questions. YOU Pulse has discovered that in some schools Ritalin is prescribed to up to a third of the class while only one in 20 children really need it. It's not in the interest of a child without ADD or ADHD to take medicine that affects the level of neurotransmitters.

Question: Will my child amount to anything in life?
Most children with ADD or ADHD react well to medicine and other treatment and will be able to lead a full life as adults. People with these disorders have many positive traits. They may be:

  • Creative and good lateral thinkers - many become excellent researchers
  • Inquisitive and true explorers
  • Active and energetic
  • Enthusiastic, spontaneous and keen to try new things

Question: If it's not ADD/ADHD, what is it?
It could well be emotional or serious learning problems. Some children are hypersensitive and become fidgety whenever something touches their bodies. Other possibilities include low muscle-tone, slow development, bipolar disorder, a kind of epilepsy or lead poisoning, to name a few. The child might also be growing up in a chaotic household.

This article was compiled with the assistance of Professor André Venter, Dr Adri van der Walt and many scientific papers. It is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the September 2007 edition of YOU Pulse / Huisgenoot-POLS. The current edition is on sale now.

Other questions on ADHD


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules