Center for Conscious Living

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Your Life

Even as you click a link to this article, you wonder what new and completely unrelated, contradictory data about ADHD you are about to read. You have looked everywhere and seen it all. How do these seemingly contradictory bits of information fit together and what can you do to 1) determine if you or your loved one “really” has ADHD and 2) help yourself or your loved one to lessen the negative effects of ADHD or ADHD-like behaviors on you and others?

The good news is that there is research being done continually by competent people who are interested in solving this seemingly unsolvable problem. The bad news is that the information that comes out of the various facilities does not always match!

A Group of Traits, Not a Disease

By definition, the trait cluster we call attention deficit hyperactivity involves problems with paying attention and following through on tasks. The individual, whether an adult or a child, may forget to finish assignments, appear to "space out" and fail to attend to instructions, talk out of turn or have trouble sharing, forget important jobs and appointments, be overly emotional at times and rejecting and distant at others, have a violent, unpredictable temper, engage in risky or unacceptable behavior, and appear to exist in a very here-and-now time frame. These tendencies may mean that the individual has ADHD or they may indicate some other problem. Some people with these and similar symptoms have learning disabilities or mood and anxiety disorders. Interestingly, such a trait cluster also correlates highly with creativity! A good diagnostic interview with some testing by a trained professional is needed to determine what the problem is and how to treat it.

So what are the facts?

  • 1) ADHD is real—differences can be seen between electro-encephalographs of individuals with and without ADHD symptoms that indicate that there really is a phenomenon that we choose to call “ADHD” and it originates in the brain.
  • 2) for some, ADHD can be difficult to deal with without psychostimulant medications—if an individual does not know how to behave a certain way, and his or her brain is “wired” differently from most other folks', then the use of medication is one way to bypass this problem and elicit desired changes.
  • 3) There are alternative treatments for those who wish them.

    Alternatives to Medication

    However, due to the fact that positive traits such as creativity often accompany the trait cluster we label ADHD, medication may have undesirable effects as well as desirable ones. What we have not consistently done in the past was to find lasting, non-biochemical means—without medication—to make these changes, thus avoiding the loss of desirable traits. Modern research has begun to hint at several possible ways to do this. One is via clinical hypnosis combined with psychotherapy of the more traditional sort—the use of hypnosis offers a more direct path, so to speak, into the mind to help make changes in deep-rooted behaviors. This can be done with or without medication as a starting point. Another relatively new technique is via what is termed “neurotherapy” or “brainwave biofeedback”, using the fact that the ADHD individual has a different EEG as a starting point to teach him or her to alter the brainwaves and thereby the behavior. The two methods can also be used in combination. These methods are essentially similar in approach, using either biofeedback machinery or hypnosis as a way of accessing parts of the brain-body system that have not been available to change using traditional psychotherapy or behavioral interventions alone.

    Bad News about Medication Therapy

    Why should you look at alternatives to psychostimulants if it works so well? For some individuals, medication is the superior treatment. Psychotherapy takes effort and willingness to change, and they may not be able to do the work yet. For some, the side effects of the medication are minimal, and they really are better off remaining on medication for some time. For some, though, psychostimulants produce uncomfortable side-effects which are often not as noticeable on the drug as when it is withdrawn, leading to the deceptive idea that there are, indeed, no ill effects. For example, one patient was quite depressed while on Ritalin, not realizing until it was withdrawn and the depression immediately lifted, that the medication had been the cause. For still others, creativity or other positive traits may be suppressed along with the negative traits we seek to minimize. There are also individuals who for one reason or another do not respond to medication or cannot take the medication.

    Professional Help in Humanistic Setting

    Providing answers and offering treatment alternatives is the goal of the Center for Conscious Living. If needed, we perform a thorough assessment of the situation. Dr. Low, the licensed clinical psychologist at the Center, will help you to develop a treatment plan which will enable you to make the best adaptive change in your ADHD symptoms. You participate in the choice of whether to use medication under the supervision of a physician. She can also make referrals to sources of biofeedback if you prefer. We offer diagnostic testing, consultation, and individual as well as family therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment for ADHD and ADHD-like syptoms.

    References:

    Low, C.B. (1999). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Dissociation and Adaptation (A Theoretical Presentation and Case Study). American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 421:3, pp 253-261.

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