ADHD

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    ADaniel G. Amen, MD, Psychiatry, answered
    How does ADD/ADHD affect the brain in women and girls?

    Boys tend to have ADHD where girls tend to have ADD without hyperactivity. As a result, they are less likely to be diagnosed, says Daniel Amen, MD, psychiatrist and brain imaging expert. Watch as he discusses the signs of ADD in women.


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    ADaniel G. Amen, MD, Psychiatry, answered
    ADD is the most common learning and behavior problem in children. It is also one of the most common problems in adults, and has been associated with job failures, relationship breakups, loneliness, a tremendous sense of under-achievement, drug abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Despite its prevalence, many myths and misconceptions about ADD abound in our society. Here are just a few of them:
    MYTHS
    • ADD is a flavor-of-the-month illness, a fad diagnosis. It’s just an excuse for bad behavior.
    • ADD is over-diagnosed. Every child who acts up a bit, or adult who is lazy, gets placed on Ritalin or Adderall.
    • ADD is only a disorder of hyperactive boys.
    • ADD is only a minor problem. People make too much of a fuss over it.
    • ADD is an American invention, made up by a society seeking simple solutions to complex social problems.
    • Bad parents or bad teachers cause ADD. If only our society had old-fashioned values, there wouldn’t be these problems.
    • People with ADD should just try harder. Everybody gives them excuses and coddles them.
    • Everyone outgrows ADD by the age of 12 or 13.
    • Medication alone is the best treatment for ADD, and has few side effects for most people.
    FACTS
    • ADD has been described in the medical literature for about one hundred years. In 1902, pediatrician George Still described a group of children who were hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand that ADD is a medical disorder and labeled these children as “morally defective.”
    • Less than half of those with ADD are being treated.
    • Arkansas and Alabama had the highest percentage of children treated, while California had the lowest. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that there was no evidence that ADD is overdiagnosed in our society.
    • Many people with ADD are never hyperactive. The non- hyperactive or “inattentive” ADD folks are often ignored because they do not bring enough negative attention to themselves. Many of these children, teenagers, or adults earn the unjust labels “willful,” “lazy,” “unmotivated,” or “not that smart.” Females, in our experience, tend to have inattentive ADD, and it often devastates their lives.
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  • 1 Answer
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    ARobin Miller, MD, Integrative Medicine, answered
    Does exercise help children with ADHD focus better?

    Exercise is good for the mind, body and soul. In this video, Dr. Robin Miller describes how it might even benefit children with ADHD.

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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    Many times, the bad behavior of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a misguided attempt to get some precious attention. Fuel your child up with the highest octane energy you can early in the day. Spend a few minutes being entirely present with your child. Look them in the eyes, touch them lovingly and listen closely to your child. This intense presence will give them what they need and head off desperate pleas for attention. Sometimes just a few minutes will prevent large energy draining hassles.
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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    Here is a list of tips for parenting kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
    1. Advocate for your child. This means you need to "spin" your child's behavior to friends, family and teachers. Has your child's antics been any worse than our leading politicians? Probably not. Imagine the spinmeisters on talk shows who try to get their politicians elected. Do the same for your child.
    2. Coach your child to name and feel ok with all their emotions. Kids act bad when they are mad, sad or "ascared." When you coach your child to tell you what she feels, her bad behavior will heal.
    3. Look inside yourself. Sometimes kids act out unexpressed conflicts of their parents. Are you struggling with depression, anxiety, rage? Get help for yourself and your kids will shape up.
    4. Think of yourself as a coach. Your job is to coach your child to success in social, emotional and educational settings. Sometimes the answer is practice, practice, practice. Don't get discouraged if you have to repeat yourself over and over again.
    5. Ask yourself: "If my child's most frustrating behavior was meant to teach me something -- what would it be?" Many parents find themselves half distressed and half impressed at their child's indifference to people pleasing. Sometimes this is just the lesson parents need to learn in their own lives -- many parents have become imbalanced in attending too much to seeking approval from others.
    6. Forget about the competition. Your child can still strive to be outstanding without it being about comparisons to other children. ADHD and spirited children are sensitive to tension produced by parents' competitiveness and the fear based motivation inhibits them.
    7. Keep yourself alive! It takes a lot of energy to keep up with ADHD and spirited kids. You need to become your own energy source. Feed your own passions. If you are married, work to increase your intimacy with your partner. If you are single, keep your own love life alive.
    8. Honor the kernel of self-reliance in all acts of defiance. Every time your child doesn't do what you asked them to do, ask them for an explanation. Honor their independent thinking and consider what part of it you may want to incorporate into your discipline. Continue to insist that your child respect your rules while demonstrating respect for their own rhythm and logic.
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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    The old attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) story goes like this: My brain is broken, it has ADHD and therefore I can expect to have lots of problems. The new ADHD story goes like this: My brain has a difference called ADHD and we now know that we can change the brain, so if I need to I will work hard to increase my brain's capacity. Neuroplasticity is a recent scientific breakthrough that shows us that we can change our brain by what we do and how hard we exert ourselves.

    Even now we hear ADHD stories in which a child who has the diagnosis is told that the harder he tries the more he grows his brain. This increases his motivation. He is highly motivated and works hard, he thinks of himself as a brain athlete and indeed he does change his brain and goes onto lots of success. No longer will we tell kids their brain is broken, so they think "why try?" and lose their motivation.

    Because they stop trying they begin to fail and they lose self-esteem and the opportunity to grow their brain. Imagine the difference between telling a child that has a brain disorder compared to telling him that he can be a brain athlete and can re-wire his own brain if he works hard enough. If you tell your child a different story, you will get a different outcome. Sometimes we think of stories as reflecting reality or even misrepresenting reality (i.e. "he's just telling stories"). We are learning that the stories we tell can create reality. It's time for the discovery of neuroplasticity to be the major theme in our ADHD stories.
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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    Of all the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stories I hear, the most common is of a child who, shortly after his or her parents divorce, gets a diagnosis of ADHD. In some of these ADHD stories the kids may actually have ADHD, but more often the diagnosis is being made because the child's performance in school has dramatically fallen. The problem with diagnosis is that in most cases it does not rule out alternative -- even if quite obvious -- causes of emotional disturbance and falling grades. You don't have to be a well-trained psychologist to realize that a child whose parents go through a divorce is going to undergo dramatic upheaval and stress which would predictably influence behavior and academic performance negatively. However, this is often overlooked and the diagnosis ADHD is applied.

    Another of the most common ADHD stories I hear regarding unreliable ADHD diagnoses is when boys hit puberty. Rather than recognizing that this normal developmental shift may impair a boy's concentration and motivation in school as his interests and hormones change, doctors notice only the symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness and make the diagnosis of ADHD. The blinders that many professionals wear cause them to overlook the obvious cause of dramatic changes in behavior as a boy hits puberty. Related to this common cause of misdiagnosis is the failure of professionals to determine that the symptoms of ADHD have been present since the age of 7.
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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    The main problem with the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is that the child internalizes that they have a deficit and a disorder. They come to think of themselves as somehow fundamentally flawed. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy. Lots of research has shown that in the classroom, kids live up to their teachers and parents expectations. If the diagnosis conveys expectations that these children will be behaviorally disturbed, the children are more likely to actually act behaviorally disturbed.

    Additionally, many of the symptoms of ADHD can result from low self-esteem which the diagnosis may play a role in creating in these children. For example, if I'm told I have a fundamental deficit, I may adopt a "why try?" attitude which decreases my motivation and decreases perseverance. We know that 50-75% of academic success is dependent on factors such as persistence and motivation. So we are increasing the likelihood of academic failure by giving this diagnosis.

    In addition, the diagnosis can convey that the child cannot control his own behavior. A child may be less likely to exercise control because they believe the diagnosis is something they have that makes them act in disruptive ways. This can lead to a "my ADHD made me do it" syndrome which decreases a child's behavioral control.
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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have a strong intuitive connection to nature and organic life, more so than abstract book learning. The image of a child with ADHD staring out the window in a classroom can show that he is paying deep attention -- but to the natural world outside of the classroom that he can glimpse from the window. Even solid empirical research has shown that children with ADHD show improvements in symptoms after play in green nature. This isn't just because they're getting exercise. The effects are not shown for example if they play on a concrete basketball court.

    This is a tremendous gift to the world and it may be children with ADHD who go on to have careers in conserving the environment, keeping the water clean or as marine biologists. In their connection to the natural world, they may represent a much-needed force in the world to protect the environment that has been destroyed by considering the natural world to be exploitable and expendable.

    Children with the diagnosis of ADHD have a preference for learning about the world through hands-on engagement. They like to be immersed in the topics they are learning about. They are often very curious about the natural and organic world, feeling a deep connection to it. This gift for engaged experiential learning is often overlooked because existing educational systems focus on abstract learning and rote memorization. What looks like a "deficit disorder" can be viewed as a mismatch between a preferred way of learning and current standards of teaching and assessment of learning.
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    ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered
    It is very difficult to teach or train people to be creative -- a gift with which your child is naturally endowed. It is much easier to train someone who is creative to be disciplined, and to pay attention to details than it is to teach someone who is focused and disciplined to be creative. Your child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has the potential for excellence if they can learn to apply discipline to paying attention to details and following through in translating their imaginative flights into completed projects.

    However, parents should recognize that the best career for your child is one that uses his gifts rather than one that patches over his or her weaknesses. In this way, your child will likely be happiest in non-traditional fields or pursuits that capitalize on creativity, innovation and social connections. In general this means that parents who expect their children to go to the top schools and become professionals might do better to change their expectations so their children feel free to live the lives that best use their gifts. However, parents can have appropriate expectations and these may include every mother's dream -- even a child becoming a doctor! One of the gifts of ADHD is an intuitive connection to the natural organic world. The human body and anatomy is part of the living organic world, and I've seen that some of the best doctors have overcome the limits of ADHD to be excellent intuitive doctors that capitalize on their gifts of interpersonal connection and intuition. If a child can get through the rigors of advanced schooling often they can become exceptional in their chosen field if the subject area is one of intense interest. But an ADHD child whose parents want them to become a lawyer and the child has no interest in that content area is burdening the child with expectations that will make it difficult for that child to offer his or her natural gifts to the world.