Thursday, December 30, 2010

All About ADD and ADHD

What is ADD/ADHD?
Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD/ADHD, is a psychological term currently applied to anyone who meets the DSM IV diagnostic criteria for impulsivity, hyperactivity and/or inattention. The diagnostic criteria are subjective and include behavior which might be caused by a wide variety of factors, ranging from brain defects to allergies to giftedness. ADD, as currently defined, is a highly subjective description, not a specific disease.

Confusion and controversy is caused by the tendency of some mental health professionals to assume that everyone diagnosed with ADD has some mysterious, irreversible brain defect. This assumption has its roots in the very first group of severely ADD people ever studied, who suffered from encephalitis, or a swelling of the brain. We also have learned that birth defects and brain injury from toxic chemicals such as lead often cause ADD. However, over the last several decades the ADD diagnostic criteria have been so broadened as to include many people with no brain defects at all. Experts in the fields of temperament and creativity have objected that perfectly healthy people are being classified as disordered. Huge numbers of these new types of people being added to the diagnostic pot have changed the way ADD is viewed in some circles, including people like Thom Hartmann, who popularized the idea of ADDers being "Hunters in a Farmer's World". On the other hand, many argue that such people aren't ADD in the first place. Both may be correct. This website was started with the first viewpoint in mind (hence the title), but as time passes I find myself more likely to just say that many so-called ADD people are simply not ADD in the classic sense.

Profiles of ADD

Sara is quiet 40-year old woman with three kids. As a child she got average grades and was not a discipline problem. Her imagination was so vivid that she daydreamed a lot and had trouble focusing on the teacher, and she was harassed by her parents for being so far away and "in the clouds". Her entire life has been marked by disorganization and procrastination. Her IQ is 152 but she feels stupid. She loves her family but is overwhelmed by the daily routine. Sara has the rarest MBTI temperament: INFP. This temperament is associated with the best writers in history and is said to have the "soul of an artist". She naturally focuses on her inner world and is inspired by imagination. Unfortunately, this perfectly natural temperament trait has caused her to feel different from others and to be looked down upon. She has been unable to find her niche, and she suffers from anxiety and depression, both of which cause an inability to concentrate and mental fogginess. She is also a perfectionist, a trait associated with giftedness, which is one reason she cannot seem to get started on the many artistic projects she dreams up in her head. Her natural tendency to think divergently causes her to be disorganized and her house is always a mess. She has a strong tendency to blame herself and to try and meet everyone else's expectations, which is one reason she is so depressed. Her depression makes it even more difficult to accomplish anything, so a vicious downward cycle has left her feeling completely overwhelmed and worthless. She also has a fatty acid deficiency that became severe after her three pregnancies, which has seriously increased her depression and inability to focus.

Doug is a twenty year old college student suffering from sleep apnea triggered by allergies. Because he is always extremely tired, he has trouble concentrating and learning new things. He's also unorganized and depressed because he's so tired. Note that a brain scan would probably show abnormal glucose metabolism that researchers would cites as "proof" of brain damage, even though it really shows a lack of sleep and accompanying depression and anxiety. When his sleep condition is treated his "ADD" clears up.

Jessica was a very unhappy, colicky baby for her first year. She rarely slept and cried constantly. As a toddler she was hyperactive and had constant temper tantrums. In kindergarten she is simply impossible: unfocused, impulsive, and constantly getting into fights with other children. Her moods are unpredictable, and she complains of headaches. She also has a chronic stuffy nose and dark circles under her eyes. Jessica's real problem is an allergy to wheat, milk and food colors. When her allergies are treated she becomes an entirely different child.

This is somebody who would be labeled with having ADD, but doesn't actually have it:
Ryan is a seven-year old boy who is naturally active and has an IQ of 120. His mother is very passive and neither one of his parents have ever disciplined him appropriately. They nag, yell and threaten, but NEVER follow up with a consequence. As a result, Ryan is a major behavior problem in school. He constantly talks when he's not supposed to, gets into fights, and refuses to do schoolwork. When he doesn't get his way he throws a tantrum. He lies about other kids, tattling on them to the teacher. He's not very fidgety, he just likes to run and chase balls. He doesn't have motor problems, and is actually pretty coordinated. Ryan is essentially a spoiled brat. He, like most kids, also has a fatty acid deficiency which exacerbates his negative behavior.

There are two major types of ADD at this time (this aspect of ADD keeps evolving): ADD with hyperactivity (the traditional type of ADD) and ADD without hyperactivity ("inattentive" type). Here are the DSM IV diagnostic criteria in a condensed form:

Inattention (must meet six of the following to a degree that is "maladaptive"):

Often fails to give close attention to details or makes mistakes in schoolwork;
difficulty sustaining attention in tasks;
seems not to listen;
fails to follow instructions or finish work;
difficulties with schoolwork or homework;
loses things like school assignments, books, tools, etc.;
easily distracted;
forgetful about daily activities.

ADD with Hyperactivity (must meet six of the following to a degree that is "maladaptive"):

fidgety in a squirmy sense;
doesn't stay seated;
runs or climbs excessively (or feelings of restlessness in older children);
difficulty playing quietly;
often "on the go" or acts if "driven by a motor";
often talks excessively;
blurts out answers to questions;
difficulty waiting in lines or waiting turns;
often interrupts or intrudes on others.

For information on how ADD is diagnosed, how ADD brains differ from regular brains, common misconceptions about ADD, and more, visit this website, which I got all of this information directly from. Please visit this website and take 5 minutes to read it. It really is fascinating.
Born to Explore - what is add

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