Spiritual Health

Health - Spirituality
By: - at January 10, 2013

ADD and ADHD fact or fiction?

ADHDFor every parent their child's education and performance in school is a central concern.  Parents worry about a future plagued by poverty for their children and get very frightened when their child does not do well in school.  As a society academic performance is a benchmarking tool used to predict future performance and professional success.  American culture dictates that young people need to do well in school to get into a competitive college that will ultimately yield a well compensated career.  Antisocial behavior, poor grades, violence and hostility are early indicators of serious developmental problems that can follow a child around well into adulthood.  Parents will do almost anything to give their children any advantage as well as to correct any disadvantage facing their children.  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder, known acrimoniously as ADHD and ADD, are the two most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders in children and young adults.  Often these disorders serve as an explanation for a child's academic failures and often educators are the first to suggest the possibility that a troubled student may need to see a psychiatrist.  Before jumping to conclusions based on accounts of teachers and guidance counselors, parents facing these types of concerns need to educate themselves about some hard truths surrounding arguably the most over diagnosed disorders among young people.

Executive Function - The source of ADD/ADHD
The cause of ADD and ADHD is from the lack of something called executive function.  Executive function is explained by using an orchestra as a helpful metaphor where the conductor of an orchestra is executive function and the rest of the brain functions as the musicians.  Think of how an orchestra would sound if each musician was playing whatever and when they wanted.  The musical piece would not sound the way it should and would most likely sound like a bunch of noise.  When an orchestra is functioning correctly, the conductor gives cues and makes sure that each musician is playing in time resulting in the sweet sound of symphonic success.  Inside the mind different signals and functions work independently or in concert depending on what tasks the brain needs to do.  Executive function calls on different brain functions and processes depending on the situation and makes sure that brain functions are operating effectively and efficiently.  Goal oriented behaviors, responding appropriately to new and stressful situations, learning, and the ability to adapt to surroundings all rely on executive function.  Think of someone who has ADD or ADHD lacking direction, not intelligence.  Without  executive function functioning properly human beings would lash out an act like primitive humans like Australopithecus. Our brains would make decisions and actions all at once making the human race even more impulsive, dangerous, unpredictable, and almost impossible to condition or predict.  Our brain processes would act independently as if other brain functions acted separate from one another.  The human brain is an extremely synergistic environment where many brain processes simultaneously occur.  ADD and ADHD have similar symptoms but the major difference is that ADHD includes more hyperactive behavior such as jumpiness.  ADHD patients experience outbursts, are impulsive, sometimes violent, and confrontational to other students and teachers.  ADD patients experience a generally socially withdrawn attitude,  motivational problems, experience periods of depression have the same source: lack of executive function.  ADD or ADHD is successfully diagnosed when the source of these undesirable behaviors stem from lack of executive function, 

Note: Autism, Schizophrenia, depression, Tourette's syndrome, and obsessive compulsive disorder are other behavioral disorders caused by the lack of executive function and often are misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD

The reason behind this that often the symptoms of ADD and ADHD are misdiagnosed as other mental health conditions.  The reason for this is that there is a great deal of overlap between different mental health conditions and their symptoms.  Depression is sometimes misdiagnosed as anxiety, and bi-polar confused for schizophrenia to name a couple examples.

Similar Symptoms
Mental DisordersAmong the mental health community there is some concern that many individuals are being wrongfully diagnosed due to the overlap of ADD and ADHD's symptoms with other behavioral disorders all in the name of parental concern and fear for their troubled child's future.  It is extremely important that the appropriate channels are used in the diagnosis where educators, health professionals, and parents are all equally involved before any sort of treatment is started.  This concern comes from the medications used for treatment which are primarily controlled narcotic stimulants such as amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, dexmethylphenidate, or lisadexamfetamine.  These class of drugs fall under the Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule II controlled substances and are central nervous system stimulants.  This classification indicates a high potential for dependence and abuse.  Other drugs in this category are opiates, heroin, and its derivatives like common prescription pain killers.  Before agreeing to a medication routine set by a psychiatrist, other options should be discussed and all side effects as well as risks need to be considered.  The most common brand names for ADD/ADHD medications are Adderall, Ritalin, Dextrostat, Focalin, and Concerta.  There are other non-narcotic options such as Straterra that work similarly to antidepressants by regulating the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

ADHD TreatmentIn addition to medications, cognitive therapy can be used to teach the brain how to respond differently and more desirably to situations where the individual was struggling.  Most commonly therapy along with a medication schedule is the best approach to dealing with ADD/ADHD symptoms.  In addition to traditional therapy, using cognitive therapy can drastically improve a child's condition if it isn't responding favorably to medication.  Cognitive therapy is also used in the treatment of panic disorder, personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.  The objective is to retrain the mind so it functions properly and to increase the likelihood that medication will not be needed for the rest of the child's life.

Medications are harsh on the body and the most common ones are narcotic stimulants.  The effects of the drugs are similar to cocaine or other central nervous system stimulants, and can raise anxiety levels thru the roof.  Patients often complain about heart palpitations, chest pains, and irrational thoughts as well as behavior.  Doctors sometime recommend that patients do not attempt to take their full dose of medication on the first day of treatment.  Breaking the pill in half for the first few days is a popular suggestion.  Some additional downsides to medication are the potential for abuse.  Many students sell their medications, often trade them for street drugs, and sell them for money.  Recreational drug use is extremely dangerous to someone who has been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.  Ironically if left untreated, ADD and ADHD lead to drug abuse, problems with the law, and social withdrawal.  When it comes to choosing medication it is a very slippery decision and must be monitored by parents, teachers, and physicians alike.

There are other medical professionals who see ADD and ADHD as a social phenomenon caused by the increasing demand to perform.  Students today are under more pressured than ever before with college attendance at an all time high, universal access to education and information, and an incredibly competitive job market.  It is not uncommon for college students who are struggling in school to seek help by calling their family doctor to get medication.  To strengthen the argument that ADD and ADHD may be caused by social factors more than a chemical imbalance, is that adults are now being diagnosed for the first time. These types of disorders were thought to only affect children and young adults, but now an increasing amount of adults are now being diagnosed.  The growing demand to perform at the workplace with the fear of losing a job in a recession lingering, begs to question if this is another way for Americans to seek out another shortcut to make life easier.   Having incredible energy, focus, and motivation all thanks to a pill is an attractive proposition.  I have seen friends claim they had ADD just to get the medication because they needed some help getting through school.  They didn't think they were ADD and only wanted to be diagnosed with it so they could get the medication Aderall.  By using the pill when my friend studied, his grades started getting better and he no longer worried about getting kicked out of school because he was on academic probation in college.

Do you think ADD/ADHD are real disorders or products of an unrelenting society obsessed with performance and success?  Please share any comments or testimonials involving your personal experiences with ADD or ADHD.





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