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What is ring of fire attention deficit disorder (ADD)?

In ring of fire attention deficit disorder (ADD), there is a pattern of overall high activity in the brain. Those with this type tend to have difficulty “turning off” their brains and typically feel overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions. This type tends to do much worse on stimulant medications alone.

Ring of fire ADD can be related to some form of allergy, infection or inflammation in the brain, or it can be related to bipolar disorder. There are some subtle differences between ring of fire ADD and bipolar disorder in the scan data as well as some differences in the presentation of a person’s symptoms. For instance, kids with ADD tend to have their problems all of the time, whereas kids with bipolar disorder tend to cycle with their mood and behavior problems. Adults with bipolar disorder have episodes of mania while adults with ring of fire ADD do not -- their behavior issues tend to be consistent over long periods of time.

Of note: It is possible to have both conditions -- in fact some research studies suggest that as many as 50% of those with bipolar disorder also have ADD.

Ring of fire ADD single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scan findings show patchy increased activity in many areas of the brain, which looks like a “ring” of overactivity. There is some variability in ring of fire patterns from individual to individual. In differentiating between bipolar and ring of fire ADD, it is important to consider the SPECT scan data in addition to the person's clinical history.

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