Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has enormous psychological and social consequences
Approximately one third of the world’s population experiences chronic symptoms of inattention, distractibility, impulsivity or hyperactivity that meet requirements for a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD is the most common mental health problem among young children and may affect as many as 5% of school-aged children. Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty sustaining attention and carrying out simple tasks at school and at home, intense feelings of restlessness, erratic movements of the legs and hands, and excessive talking that disrupt the normal social or school environment. Some individuals experience mainly inattention and distractibility, others are unable to control impulsive behavior or have difficulty remaining still, and a third group exhibits symptoms of both inattention and impulsivity. Symptoms of ADHD can be mild, moderate or severe in intensity depending on how much distress they cause and to what extent they interfere with your ability to function at work, in school, in a relationship or in society.
Roughly half of individuals diagnosed with ADHD in childhood continue to experience symptoms of inattention or impulsivity into adulthood and throughout life. ADHD has many different causes including genetic factors, trace mineral deficiencies, birth trauma, exposure to environmental toxins alcohol, tobacco or lead during fetal development, and early childhood abuse and neglect. Some cases of ADHD may be caused by an abnormal low level of ‘arousal’ in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain required for normal attention. Neuroimaging studies have shown that the symptoms of ADHD correlate with abnormal patterns of regional brain metabolic and electrical activity. A specialized kind of electroencephalography called QEEG is used to “map” electrical brain activity. A persisting pattern of relative under-arousal in the frontal cortex—the part of the brain that is necessary for sustained attention—is present in 90% of individuals diagnosed with ADHD. Using QEEG analysis to determine the specific pattern of abnormal brain electrical activity associated with ADHD may help guide the selection of the optimal EEG biofeedback training protocol.
Conventional treatments of ADHD and their limitations
Stimulant medications are the principle pharmacological treatments of ADHD in the U.S. and other Western countries. The widespread use of stimulants to treat ADHD has become very controversial because it interferes with normal growth in children, increases the risk of drug abuse and may have long-term toxic effects on brain development. Behavioral modification is a widely used and often effective treatment of ADHD in children aimed at re-enforcing desirable behaviors and eliminating disruptive or inappropriate behaviors.
Limitations and safety issues associated with conventional treatments
The widespread use of stimulants to treat ADHD has become very controversial because it interferes with normal growth in children, increases the risk of drug abuse and may have long-term toxic effects on brain development. Chronic amphetamine use in childhood is associated with delays in normal development. One-third of all individuals of all ages who take stimulants for ADHD report significant adverse effects including insomnia, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain. And cases of stimulant-induced psychosis have been reported. Stimulants and other conventional treatments of ADHD in adults are probably only half as effective as they are in children. Adverse effects of non-stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD include hypertension, decreased appetite, nausea, fatigue, liver toxicity, insomnia, and seizures. A meta-analysis of 6 controlled trials concluded that stimulant therapy started in childhood reduces the risk of subsequent substance abuse by as much as one-half. In contrast, stimulants started in adolescence or adulthood increase the risk of future substance abuse. Non-stimulant medications and extended-release stimulants are less likely to be abused.
Non-medication treatments of ADHD
The limited effectiveness of available mainstream treatments of ADHD invite serious consideration of non-medication approaches. Natural supplements used to treat ADHD include the herbals Ginkgo biloba, Panax quinquefolius, Pinus pinaster, Bacopa monnieri, as well as omega-3 essential fatty acids, acetyl-l-carnitine, Chinese herbal formulas, multi-nutrient formulas, and the minerals zinc and iron. While most natural supplements are safe when a quality brand is used at the recommended dosage, some herbals or other natural supplements may have serious adverse effects when taken at inappropriate high dosages or in combination with certain prescription medications. In addition to biological treatments such as natural supplements and prescription medications, many non-biological approaches may be beneficial for treating ADHD including EEG biofeedback, exercise, meditation and mindfulness training, Anthroposophic medicine, and ‘green play’ environments.
If you or your child are currently struggling with ADHD and taking a medication that isn’t decreasing your symptoms of ADHD, you are experiencing adverse effects, or you simply can’t afford to continue taking a medication that is working you will benefit from my book Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Integrative Mental Health Solution—safe, effective and affordable non-medication treatments of ADHD. In the book I provide practical information about a variety of safe, effective and affordable non-medication alternatives that will help you—or your child—feel and function better such as herbals, vitamins and other natural supplements, whole body approaches, meditation and mind-body practices, and energy therapies.
Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): The Integrative Mental Health Solution will help you
• Understand ADHD better
• Take inventory of your symptoms
• Learn about a variety of non-medication approaches for treating ADHD
• Develop a customized treatment plan that makes sense for you
• Re-evaluate your treatment plan and make changes if your initial plan doesn’t work
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