ADHD - Information on Symptoms with Natural Treatments and Prescription Alternatives

ADHD Info, Symptoms, Treatment and Alternatives Learn to cope with ADHD whether you are a child or an adult.
ADHD Info, Symptoms, Treatment and Alternatives Learn to cope with ADHD whether you are a child or an adult. | Source

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.

Diagnosing ADHD

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
  • Fidgeting
  • Restlessness
  • 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

Supplements

  • 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

Herbs:

  • 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


Natural Mind and Memory Supplement - Increases Mental Performance & Clarity - Supports Brain Function - Made with Pure Ginkgo Biloba & St. John's Wort - 30 Capsules - Biogreen Labs
Natural Mind and Memory Supplement - Increases Mental Performance & Clarity - Supports Brain Function - Made with Pure Ginkgo Biloba & St. John's Wort - 30 Capsules - Biogreen Labs

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.

 

Share Your Experience

Do you think you might have ADHD?

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© 2013 Christin Sander

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Comments 12 comments

midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

I have this too, and found a blessing in the form of technology...it keeps me prioritized and organized throughout the day so that I'm not under focused or hyper focused. A great share, and I'm putting this on the Community Page.


richardbrown81 profile image

richardbrown81 3 years ago from Spokane, Washington

I like your coverage of ADHD. I have a sever case of ADD. I have learned how to manage it with out medication. There is plenty of clinical research available concerning non-medication treatments for ADHD and ADD. these disorders are not the same thing. when people with ADHD try to concentrate they become physically active. when people with ADD try to concentrate they go into a trance. 30 minutes of exercise a day is more effective then medication at the end of 2 weeks and 90% more effective after 6 months. the genetic componet is strongly associated with novelty seeking gene when combined with PTSD; the likelyhood of displaying symptoms of ADHD or ADD skyrockets. i have found zen meditation, and visualization techniques very helpful. I control the trance or "daydream" by actively visualizing what is being said to me. This keeps my mind active, focused, and is an excellent memorization method. also a high protien diet is helpful, this my be due to my "ring of fire" type ADD.


tebo profile image

tebo 3 years ago from New Zealand

Medication can always be a problem especially working out how much to give a child/adult. I have tried my son on some and they never really worked out that well due to getting the doses right. I am quite interested in your herbal suggestions. Thanks for the info.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Christin, I shake hands with you on this well-written hub. I have ADHD too, and yes, this little affliction is best managed without drugs if possible. I used to be on Ritalin but realized that with a proper schedule, discipline and frequent use of lists via modern technolog (eg IPAD) this can be dealt with. Thanks for sharing. Will pass this awareness around.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

This was very interesting. I have a friend with a child who has ADHD. Thank you for sharing, lots of good advice..


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 3 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks for reading and commenting Carly. I can certainly appreciate the reasoning and difficulty of that decision. I am glad you took the time to try before using medicine. My problem with these medicines is that so many just blindly take them without knowing anything about them. I can completely understand as a method of last resort. Unfortunately, I've seen 2 year old kids medicated for ADD and I'm sorry, but I just don't agree with that aspect. I think if a child is suffering in school, that's a different thing altogether. There is never a one size fits all solution to any condition -


CarlySullens profile image

CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

This is a great hub. My son was diagnosed with ADHD. As an art therapist, I did all the alternatives you suggested. However, he still was unable to maintain a steady focus in school and he was starting to fall behind from his peers. His inability to focus disable him from getting good grades. Although he is very smart he could not perform well on tests and had difficulties with fine motor control like writing. Last year he almost had to repeat the 3rd grade.

His awareness of what his peers thought of him began to decrease his self esteem. He began to view himself as 'dumb.'

I had to ask myself the hard question, am I giving my son the best care? Am I too holistic to not medicate him when he may very well benefit from the medication?

Once his self esteem and self worth was being diminished by the ADHD, I knew I had to make a difficult choice to at least try the medications.

My pediatrician prescribed him Ritalin. It didn't work, he had some negative side effects like paranoia. She then prescribed the lowest dose of adderall.

He was significantly different. He could now focus. He could now sit and read. He could do his homework by himself without me helping focus on each problem and task. It was like day and night.

This summer I will take him off the medications and try the next school year again without them. However, if he needs the medication again, I will not hesitate to give it to him.

Some brains just need that extra synthetic medication to help it function to it's full capacity.


MaeMG profile image

MaeMG 3 years ago

I understand completely. After being medicated for a period of my life because of ADHD, I'm glad to see others have taken a possible alternative. It's a choice to go a non-medicated approach and it is a hard road, because you have to develop habits, systems that work for you, and figure out how to apply this to your life. It can be done though. I'll definitely look into those herbs and supplements.


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 3 years ago from Canada

Christin, I absolutely agree with you that these medications are over prescribed and that pharmaceutical companies are not to be trusted. How wonderful for you and your son that you are able to forgo medication to handle your symptoms. We do a medication detox for my daughter once a year once school is over and I keep hoping that this is the year we can go off medication. So far no luck, but hope springs eternal. Thanks for responding.


ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 3 years ago from Midwest Author

I myself have ADHD and so does my teenage son. I would never personally medicate. I know there are instances where it can be necessary, but I think too many people are too quick to jump on that bandwagon without knowing the risks. Amphetamines and even Ritalin are potentially dangerous. Yes I am anti-medication unless it is absolutely necessary. I also understand no two cases are alike. I feel people should be informed about the dangers of medications and doctors far too often do not discuss this in detail and people blindly trust that medicines are the best option when they may not be.

I am not *always* anti-medication - I know there are exceptions and I don't judge anyone who decides that is the path they need to take. I am very skeptical of pharmaceuticals though because they are in it for their bottom line, not to heal people. If they truly wanted to heal people we'd have cures now for things - rather than just ways to chase symptoms and keep people always on medicines.


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 3 years ago from Canada

This was a very well written hub which I was eager to read as two of my three adopted children have ADD. I worry a little bit about this hub coming off as anti-medication. We have made a lot of changes to our lives including following the Feingold diet - no wheat, dairy, processed food etc and have a set routine, lots of physical activity, everything you mention here and it really hasn't altered the symptoms for one of my children. Although one child is able to be medication free thanks to these changes, the other requires medical intervention for her safety. The impulse control and personal safety issues far outweigh the side effects of the medication. Out of curiosity do yourself or your children have ADD? I find people have drastically different perspectives depending on where they are coming from. Please don't take this as an attack. Your hub was superbly written, just slightly anit-meds.


kaiyan717 profile image

kaiyan717 3 years ago from West Virginia

I like how you establish non-medication treatment, the side effects are quite horrid and putting a child on them seems counter productive. Voted up

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