ADHD - Information on Symptoms with Natural Treatments and Prescription Alternatives
A true disorder? or symptoms of larger problems?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a childhood developmental issue and the symptoms typically appear at a young age. It is characterized by several different symptoms, the most common being impulsive behavior, an inability to concentrate, mood swings, and hyperactivity.
The Centers for Disease Control states ADHD diagnosis has risen sharply over the past ten years, with an estimated 3% rise per year since 1997. The American Psychiatric Association states that 3-7% of school aged children now have ADHD.
So what are your thoughts? Do you believe ADHD is a real disease? Or do you think it's symptomatic of our current sedentary, plugged in lifestyles and an abundance of processed junk foods? I'll leave that to you to decide, but the information here may surprise you.
What Causes ADHD?
There is no consensus on an exact cause for ADD, but there are several contributing factors that have been identified.
A strong genetic component has been identified. Brain function differs in those with ADHD. The genes that control neurotransmitters produce imbalanced levels of norepinephrine and dopamine.
Some studies have suggested a strong link between food additives and ADD. Although additives like food dyes and preservatives are not proven to be a direct cause of the disorder, they greatly exacerbate symptoms.
Another culprit may be prenatal exposure to alcohol and nicotine. Research has proven an association between mothers that smoked and drank during pregnancy and the development of behavioral disorders and learning disabilities in their children.
Lead exposure within the first 3 years has also been linked to hyperactivity issues. Lead is extremely toxic to developing brain tissue and has been shown to have lasting effects on behavior. It should also be noted that lead exposure is problematic in lower income areas, and that is also where there tends to be the highest prevalence of ADHD disorders in children.
Can Adults Have ADHD?
In short, yes. Adults that have the disorder carry it over from childhood. It's been estimated that nearly 60% of children with ADD will also have it as adults. Other adults struggle with ADHD and are never diagnosed because they are unaware of the problem. It's estimated that less than 25% recognize the condition and seek help. *According to The National Institute of Mental Health, 4.1% of US adults have ADHD, and of those cases 41.3% are classified as “severe”.
Symptoms of ADHD
ADD has a wide variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms are an inability to focus or concentrate, a tendency towards impulsive and even reckless behavior, and difficulty starting and finishing tasks. People with the disorder often bore easily, struggle with feelings of frustration, and may have a “short fuse”. Children with the disorder are more likely to display hyperactive characteristics like excessive talking and being disruptive. Adults with ADD tend to struggle less with the hyperactivity portion of the disorder, quite possibly another reason many are unaware they have it.
Adults with ADHD are 300 times more likely to deal with substance abuse issues. They often struggle to hold jobs due to poor work performance. Self-esteem issues and depression often accompany adults with the disorder. Other overlapping conditions may include sleep disorders and anxiety.
There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. Diagnosis comes by comparing behavior patterns against criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association.
The American Psychiatric Association Criteria for ADHD Diagnosis
- Careless mistakes, not paying attention to details
- Difficulty paying attention
- Not listening when spoken to
- Failure to complete tasks
- Trouble with organization
- Easily distracted
- Regular forgetfulness
- Excessive Talking
- Difficulty waiting for ones turn
- Blurting out answers
- Interrupts conversations
If these symptoms continue for 6 months and become more frequent and severe, occur before age 7, and cause damage to home, work or school functions a diagnosis of ADHD may be given.
Conventional Treatments for ADHD
The most commonly used treatments for ADHD are stimulant medications, psychotherapy or a combination. Drugs like Adderall, an amphetamine, are commonly used. These drugs pose the risk of abuse and addiction, not to mention numerous potentially dangerous side effects. Ritalin, a common drug used for children is not an amphetamine, but it does have similar qualities and effects in the body.
Dangerous Side Effects of ADHD Drugs
The list of side effects for Adderall and other amphetamine drugs used for ADHD is incredible – and not in a good way. Nervous system damage including Tourette's syndrome, seizures and stroke have been reported. Other symptoms include dizziness, depression, racing heart, diarrhea, hair loss, impotence, weakness, blurred vision, irritability, insomnia and many more.
Ritalin, a drug most commonly used in children, has an equally impressive (or not) range of side effects including racing heart, dizziness, sore throat, headaches, aggression, restlessness, muscle twitches, dangerously high blood pressure, chest pain, shortness of breath, vision problems, and headaches. More serious side effects include convulsions, migraines, Tourette's syndrome, Neuroleptic malignant syndrome or NMS, cardiac arrest and cerebral hemorrhage.
Keep in mind this is not a full list of side effects for these drugs. A simple search on “drugs.com” will give you a full rundown of every potential side effect and it is indeed lengthy.
Coping with ADHD
A proper diet free from processed foods and simple sugars along with regular exercise vastly improve and reduce ADD symptoms. Vigorous exercise is a completely natural way to expend excess energy and it naturally calms body and mind. Processed food additives like dyes and certain preservatives have been linked to increased negative behaviors. Elimination of these foods is vital to properly managing this disorder, especially in children.
Regular sleep and a set daily schedule are also beneficial. People with ADHD need structure in order to thrive in both school and work. This structure helps those with ADD effectively manage daily living skills. It's more difficult to forget vital tasks if you have a set schedule, checklists, and other organizational tools at your disposal.
Proper coping skills can often negate the need for risky medications. Also, many children who are highly energetic are often misdiagnosed because the symptoms of ADHD can also appear normally at various stages of childhood. Always seek a second opinion and work to manage the underlying symptoms. Medication may not always be the best solution.
Alternative Treatments for ADHD
Always consult with an expert herbalist when coming up with a formula and dosage, particularly if you are wanting to try alternative remedies in children.
Supplements and Herbals to Alleviate Symptoms
- Acetylcholine: A 2011 Swedish study showed that children with ADHD have almost 50% less of this protein which is vital for attention and learning.
- Dimethylamino ethanol (DMAE): dimethylaminoethanol is a naturally occurring chemical produced by the brain. It is a mild central nervous system stimulant.
- Zinc: Studies have shown that many children with ADHD are also zinc deficient
- Bacopa - an Ayurvedic memory enhancing herb
- Ginseng - Mild stimulant effect, good for memory
- Ginkgo Biloba - aids cognitive function and improves concentration
- Gotu Kola - assists in the production of neurotransmitters, improving brain function and memory
- Kava Kava - mild sedative that enhances feelings of wellbeing and eases anxiety
- Passionflower - Increases levels of GABA in the brain enhanicing calmness and promoting relaxation
- Skullcap - Has a calming effect on the central nervous system and increases blood supply to the brain
Mind Matrix has an excellent blend of herbs that I find help me focus and stay sharp during repetitive tasks at work. I really like Ginko Biloba and took it alone before trying this blend. It's my new favorite. You only have to take 1 or 2 capsules per day and it runs around $15 or so for up to a month's supply. Don't take my word for it though, check out the other reviews.
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© 2013 Christin Sander
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