I think we have all known children who seem to be unable to sit still for more than a few seconds. They are constantly operating at a level of intensity that can wear us out just watching them! While some of this can be written off to “youthful exuberance,” in some cases it seems that it goes beyond the norms of a high-energy child. And what about the guy at the office that never seems to be able to settle down and concentrate on the task at hand? He jumps from one thing to the next, and never completes anything he takes on. He seems to be a very bright man, but what causes all of these patterns that drive him and everybody else a little crazy? Both of these individuals could be suffering from a psychological disorder known as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic development disorder, or group of disorders, that begins in childhood and may carry on into adult life for many patients. It is associated with impulsive behaviors, distractibility, inability to focus on tasks, and hyperactivity. ADHD can have negative effects on many aspects of life, including self-image, interpersonal relationships, and school or work performance.
ADHD is currently the preferred term for this illness, but it has gone by other names such as hyperkinetic disorder (HKD), attention-deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity, and minimal brain dysfunction. ADHD may appear in toddlers as young as 2 or 3, but it is difficult to definitively identify at that age. It is estimated that ADHD affects 3-9% of all children, and approximately 50% of cases remain active into the patient’s adult years. Hyperactivity seems to dissipate for most folks as they enter adulthood, but impulsive tendencies and inattention problems typically remain, and may even worsen. ADHD is much more common in boys than in girls. In order to warrant a legitimate diagnosis of ADHD, even in adults, the symptoms must have been present before the age of seven.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?
The typical symptoms of ADHD are generally put into three main classifications: Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Many of these are shared by both children and adults, with a few noticeable differences. Kids generally exhibit the following:
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty staying focused on tasks or activities
- Easily bored
- Difficulty following directions
- Difficulty paying close attention to details
- Hard time following through and completing things they start
- Difficulty organizing thoughts and projects
- Failure to listen when spoken to
- Forgetful in daily activities
- Often loses things such as clothes, books, or toys
- Often avoids or procrastinates tasks that are difficult or disliked, especially multi-step projects such as school work or chores
- Constantly moving (running, jumping, etc.).
- Excessive talking, shouting, singing, or laughing
- Climbing and running at inappropriate times
- Difficulty staying seated
- Difficulty playing quietly
- Boundless energy. Some kids are described as “driven by a motor”
- Constant fidgeting and squirming
- Interrupts or “butts” into conversations or activities
- Difficulty waiting his turn
- Blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed
The symptoms in adults with ADHD are usually a bit more subtle and internally subjective. For example, instead of running around in a frenzy, an adult patient might struggle with disorganized thoughts, or have a hard time sitting for long periods of time at the office, or may tend to interrupt others or be impatient and demanding in relationships. This can often cause problems in marriages and on the job. One of the most frustrating things that many adult ADHD patients have shared is that they often have been puzzled most of their lives by their own behavior. Nothing ever seems to go as well as hoped, and there is no apparent reason for it. One man said he had felt all his life that he was “just a pace or two out of step with the rest of the world.” Another said he had always felt that if life were a jigsaw puzzle, he was missing one piece that made him feel incomplete. Many adults with ADHD state that they are constantly comparing themselves with others, and wishing they could figure out what was wrong with them. It leaves them feeling angry and confused. Sometimes the “inattention” symptoms get worse in adults the older they get, because their lives seem to get exponentially more complicated as time goes on. This may happen to many healthy people as well, but it is amplified in folks with ADHD.
While we’re on the subject of adults with ADHD, here are a few tips that have helped some patients to better cope with their illness:
- Be honest with your spouse about your difficulties and frustrations. An understanding mate can help you work together as a couple on communication, problem resolution, and constructively handling conflicts. Just being open and talking about your struggles can be very therapeutic.
- At work, be open and transparent with appropriate individuals, especially those that may be willing and able to help you deal with the issues related to your ADHD. Some folks have had found certain actions to be helpful. Some suggestions are:
- Ask for a private office, or a cubicle that’s out of the way in a quiet place
- Repeat back instructions from your superiors so that you are clear on what they mean
- Break up bigger projects into reachable, measurable, goals.
- Make a to-do list, and prioritize it daily
- Ask for organizational help or reminders from your secretary or office assistant.
- Take breaks throughout the day; collect your thoughts and take some deep breaths.
- Anything that you can do to reduce stress in your life is definitely going to help you deal with ADHD
What Complications Can Result From ADHD?
If ADHD is not dealt with constructively, other behaviors and conditions may arise. Many of these can be avoided if there is intervention in the earlier stages of ADHD. Common complications include:
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD): This is an observed pattern of rebellious and hostile behavior towards authority figures, found most often in boys. Many ADHD boys develop these patterns. I don’t want to over simplify this issue, but in my opinion, this is often a cry for help from boys who are frustrated by the puzzling aspects of their ADHD. My advice is to “nip it in the bud,” as Barney Fife used to say on the old Andy Griffith show. Sometimes a little love and undivided attention are all that are needed to turn this situation around.
- Conduct disorder is characterized by extreme antisocial behavior, including fighting, vandalism, stealing, and hurting people or animals. Needless to say, these patterns need immediate attention.
- Learning disabilities: These can make a difficult situation even worse for both children and adults with ADHD. Most patients already feel less-than, and difficulties at school or work caused by learning disabilities only rub salt into the wounds. Recognizing these in your children or in yourself can take some of the sting out. Help is available to overcome many of these learning difficulties.
- Tourette’s syndrome: Many children with ADHD are at a greater risk of developing this neurological disorder that results in uncontrollable muscular and oral tics. Tourette’s victims are often ridiculed for their “strange” behavior, and this can only worsen the already wounded self-image of many ADHD kids.
- Depression is very common for both juvenile and adult ADHD patients. It is found most often when there is a family history of depression.
- Substance abuse: Adolescents and adults with ADHD have a greater chance of developing a drug or alcohol problem than most folks. It is a common complication, and many ADHD patients have shared that they feel like they need “something to take the edge off.” The official term for this is “self-medication.”
- Accident-prone: Many ADHD victims have a higher than normal incidence of accidents and injuries. In children, this may show up as an unusual number of falls, cuts and bruises, and broken bones. Kids with ADHD are often distracted and clumsy. Adults with ADHD are much more likely to be involved in automobile accidents. They too are distracted, and may not be able to concentrate effectively on driving.
What Causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, but some of the dynamics of the disease are becoming clearer as research continues. The most likely culprit is structural changes in the brain. Several factors have been identified:
- Low levels of dopamine, a chemical that is involved in transmission of messages to parts of the brain that deal with movement, attention, and motivation, are often found in ADHD patients. However, recent studies have indicated that more than a chemical imbalance is at work here. Scans show that the brains of ADHD children may have abnormal neural pathways that normally carry the messages. The combination of inadequate dopamine and dysfunctional pathways both contribute to ADHD. The triggers for these abnormalities are not yet known.
- Heredity plays a role as well. About 25% of all children with ADHD have a family history of the illness, and most of the time, when one identical twin is affected, the other has ADHD too.
- Some researchers believe that allergies to food and food additives play a role. This is controversial to some who claim that there is not sufficient clinical evidence to support such a hypothesis. However, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence from parents who have seen definite improvement in their children with ADHD after eliminating allergens from their diets.
- Environmental toxins are strongly suspected to be a factor in ADHD. This includes mothers who smoked, drank, or used other drugs during pregnancy. Exposure to lead, PDBs, and other poisons may also trigger ADHD in children.
What Treatments Are Available for ADHD?
The most common mainstream solution is to pump children (and adults) with drugs that are supposed to help alleviate the symptoms. I feel strongly that this is a big mistake, and a very irresponsible way for the health care industry to deal with ADHD. The risks far outweigh any potential benefits as far as I am concerned. The results are often not impressive, and the side effects are frightening from many of these drugs. The list of possibilities is long, but suffice it to say that many serious complications, some of them life threatening, may result from using these medications. In addition, many of these drugs are addictive, especially in adults who generally are prescribed higher doses.
Digestive tract and liver/gallbladder cleanse – Mag O7 digestive tract oxygen cleanser
Heavy metal cleanse – ZeoMax – Life Detox Foot patches – chlorella
Oregasil Oregano Oil – candida cleansing
Gluten-free and dairy-free diet
Max Stress B Nano-Plex – Liquid B Complete
Ancient Mineral Magnesium Oil
Glyconutrients – Glyco-Essential 7
Emotional Freedom Technique
NAET (Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique
Wild Salmon Oil or Cold-water Fish Oil
Organic multi-vitamin/mineral complex – intraMAX or intraKID
Vitamin C – non-corn source – Ultra Absorbic C
I believe ADHD patients, both children and adults, are much better served through such treatments as behavior therapy, family therapy, cleansing and detoxification, natural supplementation, healthy diet and support groups for both those who suffer with ADHD and their families. Dealing with ADHD is not easy, and at times it can be a huge burden to bear, especially as a parent of an ADHD child. But addressing the issues in an informed, compassionate manner, with the support of other knowledgeable empathetic persons, is a far better option than drugging up the patients with dangerous substances that do nothing to get to the behavioral roots of the problem.
Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH is a Naturopathic Physician, Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Clinical Herbalist in Houston, TX and Founder / CEO of Oasis Advanced Wellness. Under her leadership, Oasis Advanced Wellness is known and respected as one of the leading companies in providing safe, non-toxic, hi-tech natural health and wellness solutions along with cutting-edge health programs. Dr. Lanphier is the author of five health and wellness e-books including Optimum Health Strategies…Doing What Works. Lanphier is Editor and contributor to the worldwide Free E-newsletterAdvanced Health & Wellness We invite you to visit us at Oasis Advanced Wellness, the PMS-Progesterone-Menopause Resource Center, the Acne Resource Center, the Skin Care Resource Center, the Glyconutrient Resource Center, the Allergy-Asthma-Sinus Relief Resource Center andwww.oasisserene.com