What Causes ADHD in Children & Adults?

Pinpointing the causes of ADHD in children and adults is a difficult task. However, uncertainty regarding the exact cause of ADHD doesn’t prevent the disorder from being treated properly!

After all, neurodevelopmental disorders share an important commonality: the patient’s brain. Brain dysregulation is at the core of the symptoms associated with ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and the sooner this dysregulation is addressed, the sooner patients can experience symptom relief.

And while many physicians resort to stimulant medications in order to treat ADHD, our clinic has shown that the preferable treatment protocols are those that address the underlying cause of the symptoms and provide patients with the tools to self-regulate and develop healthier brain functioning.

For 40 years, the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine has pioneered non-drug, non-invasive treatment protocols for a variety of neurophysical disorders, including ADHD, Autism, Stress related disorders such as General Anxiety, Panic Attacks,  Depression, PTSD, high blood pressure, and muscle tension headaches.

While the cause of ADHD is often multifaceted, we do believe that knowing some of the most common causes of ADHD can help parents make more informed decisions about treatment options—decisions that will ultimately affect the well-being and health of their families.

In this article, we’ll discuss common presentations of ADHD, ADHD risk factors, and how the Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies to provide therapeutic relief for ADHD symptoms.

For immediate assistance, please don’t hesitate to fill out our contact form or call us at 800-700-4233 for a free consultation. Our medical staff is standing by and is happy to help in any way we can!

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with an inability to focus, pay attention, sit still, control impulses, and self-regulate.

One thing that’s important to note, however, is that the presentation of ADHD can vary greatly from one person to the next.

While some may have hyperactive symptoms and exhibit behavioral problems in school or at work, others may only struggle with attentional deficits.

Indeed, patients with ADHD are often categorized into 1 of 3 distinct subtypes of the disorder: Predominantly Inattentive presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive presentation, and Combined presentation.

Symptoms of these subtypes break down as follows: 

ADHD – Inattentive Presentation

Inattentive ADHD symptoms typically include:

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

ADHD – Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation

Hyperactive-impulsive presentation symptoms typically include:

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

ADHD – Combined Presentation

ADHD combined presentation symptoms typically include:

  • The presence of both inattentive symptoms along with significant hyperactivity/impulsivity

What is ADHD Caused By?

ADHD causes may include:

  • Brain Anatomy
  • Genes
  • Head Injuries
  • Premature birth
  • Prenatal exposures
  • Environmental Toxins
  • Possible hypoxia at childbirth

Important to note, however, is that this is not a definitive list and that it only represents the most common causes of ADHD in adults and children.

In fact, the causes of hyperactivity in children are also theorized to be influenced sometimes by diet as well.

Brain Anatomy

Brain anatomy and brain physiology plays a significant role in the development and presentation of ADHD, as the brain is required for aspects of cognition, including: executive functioning; attention; and concentration.

Additionally, the brain is responsible for a whole host of other functions, including:

  • Self-monitoring
  • Learning
  • Working Memory
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Behavior
  • Problem Solving
  • Spatial Perception
  • Langue Processing
  • Sleep & Wake Cycles

However, if the brain becomes dysregulated, these functions can become impaired and start to operate at a reduced capacity.


When it comes to the development of ADHD, there appears to be a genetic and hereditary component as well, meaning that if your parents or grandparents have difficulties with sustained attention, then there’s a better chance that these difficulties will be inherited by their children.

Because of this dynamic, siblings and other close family members of individuals with ADHD are also at increased risk for developing the disorder.

Head Injuries

Children and adults with a history of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may be more prone to developing ADHD according to a study in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry. [i]

This study found that 1 in 5 children have experienced a mild head injury, and approximately 50% of them reported ADHD symptoms.

What’s more, the study compared the genetic risk and origins of ADHD in 418 individuals with a history of TBI and 3,193 individuals with no history of TBI.

The authors concluded that a genetic link was significantly less likely to be present in those with a history of TBI, suggesting that their ADHD symptoms were likely tied to their TBI.


According to research from Norway, prematurity is a risk factor for developing ADHD. [ii]

In the study, researchers found that individuals born at least 4 weeks premature were significantly more likely to develop ADHD symptoms. This study also found that this association was stronger among girls than boys.

This association has been known for quite some time, and as more research and data is collected, it is likely that the importance of this association will only strengthen with time.

Prenatal Exposure

According to some research, mothers who abuse substances like alcohol, nicotine, or even acetaminophen (Tylenol) increase the risk of their children being born with ADHD or some other neurodevelopmental disorder.[iii]

Environmental Toxins

Although rare, toxins in the environment can sometimes be a catalyst for the development of ADHD. For example, some studies have shown a connection between incidents of lead exposure to the presentation of ADHD symptoms.[iv]

Treating ADHD at the Drake Institute

While the causes of ADHD can vary from person to person, the subsequent brain dysregulation that is created by these conditions is at the “root” of the problem. This is why addressing this underlying dysregulation, rather than simply attempting to compensate for these issues with medications, is at the core of all our ADHD treatment protocols.

Our clinical experience has shown that the best path towards symptom reduction is providing patients with the tools to self-regulate and to foster improved brain functioning.

With the help of advanced treatment technologies like qEEG Brain Mapping, Neurofeedback, and Neuromodulation, patients at the Drake Institute can work towards a healthier pattern of brain function, which will in turn facilitate better focus, attention, and decision making.

Furthermore, by addressing the underlying brain dysregulation, our treatment’s effect of improving brain regulation can become wired into the patient’s nervous system, resulting in long-term symptom relief that typically doesn’t require regular office visits in the future.

Best of all, our treatment protocols are 100% non-invasive and drug-free, so patients treated at our facilities don’t have to worry about experiencing the negative side effects that can be associated with stimulant ADHD medications.

Brain Mapping

At the core of everything we do at the Drake Institute is qEEG brain mapping, which provides our medical professionals with a “window” into how the patient’s brain is functioning and where the dysregulation is occurring.

Once the patient’s brainwave activity is mapped, the results are then processed through the FDA-registered normative data to identify deviations from what’s considered “normal” activity.

In patients with ADHD, this dysregulation often affects the following regions of the brain:

  • Frontal Cortex
  • Limbic System
  • Basal Ganglia
  • Reticular Activating System

Once the area of the brain where the dysregulation is occurring is identified, a custom treatment protocol using neurofeedback and neurostimulation can be developed on a patient-by-patient basis.

This treatment method ensures that every patient receives the treatment he or she needs and yields much better results than a “one size fits all” approach.

These areas are then targeted through Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation to produce healthier brain functioning and activity.  

In short, qEEG brain mapping ensures patients receive exactly what they need to start experiencing symptom reduction as soon as possible.


Neurofeedback treatment is a non-invasive, non-drug treatment protocol used to retrain the patient’s brain for more optimal functioning.

All that’s required are a few sensors that are placed on the patient’s head to record his or her current brainwave activity. These sensors provide real-time feedback into how the patient’s brain is functioning.

Patients are then provided with positive “feedback” whenever their brain enters in to more optimal patterns.

While this “feedback” can be delivered in a number of ways, this process helps the individual identify when their brain is working at either a reduced or normal capacity, and with this information, patients can then learn to self-regulate to produce healthier patterns of activity.

For example, in one such treatment protocol, the patient’s brainwaves are converted into a video game involving a car driving down a highway.

When the patient’s brain shifts into a healthier functioning frequency, the car moves and stays in the proper lane and an auditory tone goes off. This tone is then repeated every half second, so long as the patient is focused and the car remains steady.

This treatment protocol trains the patient to hold onto and stabilize the healthier brainwave pattern, which eventually leads to symptom relief.

With enough practice, this response becomes wired into the patient’s nervous system, and unlike ADHD medications, subsequent improvements typically do not require continued maintenance.


The Drake Institute also uses Neuromodulation therapy to support, enhance, and accelerate therapeutic improvements gained through biofeedback and neurofeedback.

First used to facilitate neuroplasticity and recovery from brain injuries like strokes, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has shown to have positive effects on the treatment of a variety of conditions, including ADHD.

Neuromodulation and neurostimulation technology is so effective that they are now used around the globe in many world-renowned medical centers, including Harvard University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, and UCLA School of Medicine.

Like neurofeedback, neuromodulation trains the neurons of the brain to fire at a more optimal pattern. What’s more, neuromodulation and neurostimulation can also increase the speed and efficiency of information processing!

How does Neuromodulation work?

Once the dysregulation is identified through qEEG brain mapping, neuromodulation is used to stimulate and guide the brain to mimic healthier functioning. Essentially, neuromodulation begins to “show” the brain how to function in a healthier and more adaptive way.

Over time, neurostimulation “retrains” the brain to fire in more optimal patterns, resulting in a reduction in ADHD symptoms.

A Note on ADHD Medications

Stimulant ADHD medications are a common treatment protocol for those afflicted with ADHD; however, it’s important to note that these medications do not treat the root of the problem (brain dysregulation), and carry the risk of possible side effects, including:

  • Nervousness
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of appetite
  • Suppressing growth rate
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Psychotic reactions
  • Insomnia
  • Increase in blood pressure and palpitations
  • Risk of substance abuse

And for many individuals taking ADHD medications, there’s a possibility that they will develop a tolerance, meaning that a higher dosage may be needed to maintain the same level of symptom reduction.

And when the dosages increase, so does the likelihood of the patient experiencing one or more of the negative side-effects mentioned above. Furthermore, if the individual stops taking the medication,  the ADHD symptoms may return.

However, with the help of non-drug treatment protocols like brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neurostimulation, patients can be successfully treated without medications.

Contact the Drake Institute Today

If you or anyone you know is suffering from ADHD or any other type of neurodevelopmental disorder, please don’t hesitate to call us at 800-700-4233 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.

Our medical director, Dr. David Velkoff has decade’s worth of experience and supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs to ensure children receive the exact care that they need.


[i] https://traumaticbraininjury.net/2018/08/14/concussions-may-contribute-to-a-unique-form-of-adhd-in-children/

[ii] https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/premature-birth-linked-increased-risk-adhd/

[iii] https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/10/26/peds.2016-3840

[iv] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-genetic-destiny/201410/foods-toxins-and-adhd

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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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