Is ADHD/ADD a Genetic Disorder?

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects around 5% of the global population. Among school-age children, ADHD prevalence can rise to as high as 12%[i].

The cause of ADHD can be multi-factorial, leaving people to ask if you are born with ADHD or does it develop later, and whether ADHD is genetic or environmental[ii]. Research indicates there is evidence of a genetic basis, with multiple genes potentially involved[iii], with heritability estimates ranging from 75% to 91%[iv].

Early intervention and treatment are essential in improving ADHD symptoms and reducing the vulnerability to developing comorbid emotional disorders.

The Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for those diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or other brain-based conditions. Our brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation treatment can help our ADHD/ADD patients reduce symptoms and develop more successful lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD/ADD and its associated symptoms, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can impact all the major areas of a child’s life.

Although there is no definitive cause of ADHD[v], patients with ADHD tend to show abnormal brain functioning as compared to neurotypical individuals, which can severely hinder their ability to pay attention, focus, and/or control impulsive behaviors.

While it may appear that people with ADHD are lazy, unmotivated, or simply not trying hard enough, it is important to note that, in many cases, individuals do not have the typical functioning brain networks needed for normal or optimal functioning.

Early intervention and treatment can help improve brain functioning, reducing, or resolving symptoms.

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD generally fall into three categories: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Those with inattentive symptoms may struggle to pay attention for sustained periods, may be easily distracted or forgetful, and may have difficulty with executive functioning, which includes planning, organization, prioritizing, and time management.

Patients with impulsivity symptoms may not only have difficulty with behavioral control, but impulsivity can also contribute to distractibility. People suffering from these symptoms may have difficulty sustaining focus because their impulsivity can prevent them from ignoring distractions.

Individuals with hyperactive symptoms may struggle with restlessness, excessive talking, difficulty staying seated for prolonged periods, and may be more likely to have impulsive behaviors like interrupting others. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can manifest differently for each patient.

Below are some of the most common symptoms for different presentations of ADHD.

ADHD: (Inattentive presentation)

  • Inattention
  • Easily distracted
  • Lack of sustained focus on non-preferred tasks
  • Difficulty finishing tasks such as homework without supervision
  • Poor short-term memory (i.e., difficulty following a series of instructions)
  • Often forgetful, such as forgetting homework or turning it in
  • Poor listening skills

ADHD: (Hyperactive-impulsive presentation)

  • Impulsive (acting without thinking of the consequences, blurting out answers, interrupting, having trouble waiting for one's turn)
  • Hyperactive (fidgety and/or difficulty sitting still)

ADHD: (Combined presentation)

  • Inattentive symptoms along with hyperactivity/impulsivity

ADHD: (Unspecified ADHD)

  • Significant clinical impairment but does not meet full criteria of ADHD symptoms

Is ADHD a Genetic Disorder?

There is substantial evidence to suggest that ADHD is genetic.

In fact, researchers have identified up to 7,300 common genetic variants that influence ADHD. These genetic variants were often located in genes expressed in the frontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for attention and working memory.

Other variants have been found in genes expressed in midbrain dopaminergic neurons. These neurons play an important role in controlling voluntary movement and reward processing. Dysregulation in these parts of the brain contributes to core ADHD symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.[vi]

So, are people born with ADHD? Not exactly. Rather, people can be born with a genetic predisposition for ADHD, and symptoms may not appear until childhood or adolescence.

Is ADHD Hereditary?

Evidence strongly suggests that predisposition to ADHD is hereditary in some children, meaning that susceptibility to ADHD can be passed down from parent to child. Also, research has shown that ADHD can run in families, and some studies have found that a child with ADHD is about four times more likely to have a relative who has also been diagnosed with the condition.

Twin studies have further supported the conclusion of the genetic component of ADHD. CHADD has reported that twin studies have found: “seventy percent of the variation in ADHD traits is influenced by genes, and the remaining thirty percent is due to environmental factors. This means that ADHD is affected by both genetic and environmental factors and probably by the interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Some environments might protect people from genetic risk, while others might lead to the expression of that risk.” [vii]

Other Causes of ADHD

In addition to genetics, scientists are actively studying other potential causes and risk factors of ADHD.

These causes generally affect brain development and include brain injury, exposure to environmental risks during pregnancy or at a very young age, alcohol, and tobacco use during pregnancy, premature delivery, and low birth weight, as well as complications during labor and delivery such as hypoxia (reduced levels of oxygen). Researchers are still exploring the exact mechanisms and causal relationships. [viii]

Can Children Grow Out of ADHD?

ADHD is typically considered a neurodevelopmental disorder that persists into adulthood in many individuals. Some individuals may experience a reduction in symptoms as they age, particularly in hyperactivity, but it is uncommon for children to entirely “grow out of” ADHD.

However, the presentation of symptoms and their severity can change over time. One study has found that hyperactivity and impulsivity often decline over time while symptoms of inattention generally persist. Other studies show that about two-thirds of childhood ADHD cases persist into adulthood[ix]. So, while growing out of ADHD completely may not be possible for most individuals, early intervention and treatment can significantly improve symptoms.

Is ADHD Curable?

Although there is currently no recognized cure for ADHD, the Drake Institute has helped many ADHD patients improve to a level that they no longer meet diagnostic criteria for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

How Does The Drake Institute Diagnose ADHD?

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding, and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.











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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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