Redefining Stress

How to train your brain to conquer anxiety and depression

ADD and ADHD: The Same?

Are ADD and ADHD the same?

My book, The ADD Answer, has enjoyed an enormous amount of response the world over probably because it represents a no-nonsense approach for the families at home dealing with the problem. I focused on the primary disorder as being labeled Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because I was most concerned with the neurological / psychological issues and the confusion of what "attention" problems come from, the brain signature for ADD in particular. There are things you can do for yourself that can be tremendously helpful. I give you this brief history of the book because in my last posts I started reverting to ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Disorder) as being synonymous with ADD, since they have been linked in the DSM-IV. My readers have caught this generalization and made it clear that I have compromised my original position I took in the book. I appreciate the feedback and intend to return to my clinical opinion that ADD should stand alone.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

While it is true that many children become hyperactive in their attempts to wake up their brains with new stimuli and shifts from routine activities, I do not feel that the hyperactivity itself is an intrinsic component of the disorder and is not evident from brain scans or neurological tests. It may be more of an anxiety reaction to the primary disorder than inherent in the problem. To attach a related behavior would be like diagnosing "depression with or without tears" or "mental retardation with or without behavior problems."

As one of my readers pointed out, David indicated that the combination does a disservice to the underlying issue. These children might have both, but those with just ADD are not naturally disruptive. Having a diagnosis of ADD myself, I cannot recount any time in my life that anyone would describe my behavior as hyperactive. To some extent the issue can be harmful to include. I have to evaluate many medical and psychological reports for this disorder and this statement is not rare, "The tests were inconclusive as to the presence of ADD, but the patient was placed on Ritalin anyway. He has responded well." The assumption is made that since the patient got better on drugs, the diagnosis was right. What a crock! Ritalin is a stimulant and juices up everybody, as many students have found these drugs to be very helpful around exam time and is on the black market for high dollar now days. Some athletes have found these very helpful in performance enhancement.

According to the research, the wide majority of those diagnosed with the disorder are boys. In fact, one of the signs on one of the item lists for ADD diagnosis was the item, "Being a blond-headed male." This is likely the result that boys are more hyperactive than girls and caused enough trouble to be evaluated. But this places girls and less assertive boys at a clear disadvantage of being helped with ADD or other psychological problems. In my clinical experience the less active students are left to their own devices to handle their problems for problems in concentration and focus. As their grades decline more restrictive labels are placed on them, such as "withdrawn, lazy, dumb, etc." And this creates a new issue. There is a tendency for these students to become depressed and the whole process gets confused with the real cause for the mood problems. Worse, the child may not recognize the underlying neurological or metabolic issues and accept the labels. Without help, he or she may resign themselves to lives with instituted restrictions on academic pursuits or personal achievement.

As I have read other books about these problems I continue to see the overgeneralizations to the ADD/ADHD problem, even those who add more issues, including a variety of new factors that might affect concentration (grief, rebellion, criminal attitude, etc.) I fear that the disorder will become so expansive that everyone will come under its umbrella, such as depression has become associated and treated for common sadness. If my mind rambles into associations with conspiracies, I could make a case for those money-grubbing drug companies trying to make all of us start taking uppers (stimulants like Adderal and Ritalin). We would have us hooked on both lowers and uppers (sedatives like tranquilizers).

Just to digress to a point that will not get me any votes for "Most Favorite" among drug companies, I want to make a point in regard to my mission to protect our children once more. On March 27, 2009 in the Washington Post, an article was printed: "In August 2007, the MTA researchers reported the first follow-up data, which by then no longer showed differences in behavior between children who were medicated and those who were not. But the data did show that children who took the drugs for 36 months were about an inch shorter and six pounds lighter than those who did not....
"With the MTA having followed the children for eight years, the latest data have confirmed that there are no long-term differences between children who were continuously medicated and those who were never medicated. Some of the data were published online yesterday in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry...."

Although I made this point in the book, it concerns me that I have absentmindedly (my ADD) blurred this issue in my later writings. I want to emphasize my passionate mission to help those with attention problems, regardless of the label. We have trouble enough without the added burden of adding more confusion and diluting the resources available to us. I need someone to kick my butt when I start becoming a cause for confusion instead of clarification.

 

G. Frank Lawlis, PhD, is principal content and oversight adviser of the Dr. Phil Show.

more...

Subscribe to Redefining Stress

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?