Gabor Mate ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a reversible impairment and developmental delay that begins in childhood, rather than being a hereditary condition. It has its roots in the stress of multigenerational families as well as the societal conditions that exist in a stressed society. Dr. Maté provides hope for adults with ADD and parents wishing to support their children in Scattered Minds.
Q. It appears that neither a brain scan nor a blood test can reliably diagnose ADD/ADHD. In the meanwhile, what are the unmistakable signals that someone should seek treatment?
A. People usually seek diagnosis after noticing a litany of symptoms in themselves: frequent, involuntary, and frustrating tuning-out or absence of mind; difficulty concentrating unless very interested in something; being bored easily; starting one thing but moving on to another before finishing the first; problems keeping order physically in one's room, on one's desk, in one's car; difficulty being on time; poor impulse control, manifested in speak
Q. What are the various therapy options? Which do you think is the best?
A. As I mention in the book, there are numerous solutions available, and they do not have to be mutually exclusive. Some people may benefit from medicine, but it should never be the only treatment option. Contrary to popular belief, ADD is not a genetic illness, but rather stems from early childhood stress during the critical years of brain and personality development. As a result, counseling to resolve family issues and self-esteem issues is always necessary. Physical self-care, exercise, a well-balanced diet, excellent sleep hygiene, and participation in outdoor activities are all essential. Mindfulness methods, such as meditation, are difficult for the ADD mind to master, but they are tremendously beneficial.
Q. You claim that ADD isn't an inherited condition. Are you implying that it isn't biological?
A. Definitely not. It's a frequent misconception that everything biological is caused by genetics. What happens in a person's life, in her family, in the culture surrounding her, and so on, has a significant impact on biology. Genes, for the most part, don't predetermine or "cause" anything; instead, they lay out a variety of possibilities that could occur given the proper (or wrong) environmental inputs. Our brains are heavily influenced by social and psychological relationships, particularly in early life. In fact, the brain is constantly in contact with its surroundings throughout its life. As a result, anything can be biological without being etched in genetic stone.
Q. My son exhibits many of the behaviors and challenges you describe as characteristic with ADD. However, I'm hesitant to seek a "official" diagnosis for him, primarily because I don't want to burden him with a label that will follow him throughout his school years and beyond, subjecting him to stigma and stereotyping. I don't want him to live his life believing he is defective or sick. So, what do you think?
A. Forget the label, in my opinion. You can still work on the environment to make it more suitable to the child's growth if you detect these features in the youngster and don't want him to be diagnosed and labeled. What it looks like will vary depending on his age and his needs, but in general: look at the family's (internal and external) pressures, the quality of the relationships he's surrounded by, the amount of structure and security the family setting gives, and so on. Because ADD children are temperamentally sensitive animals – which is what predisposes them to the disorder in the first place – they are frequently the canaries in the coal mine. When something in the surroundings is slightly off – for example, tensions in the marriage connection – these children's emotional alarms will be triggered far more quickly than other children's. It takes bravery to face all of those questions, but if you do, and alter what you can, the child will respond positively immediately.
Q. To be honest, I've looked at the environment and all of the things you've listed as potential stressors, and I'm not seeing it. We appear to be a typical, healthy, functioning family, or at the very least, not any more stressed than the average modern parent. Despite this, my child has ADD. Are you implying that there's anything I'm missing?
A. First and foremost, if my insight does not resonate with you, there is probably little sense in consulting my book for assistance. If, on the other hand, you're interested in continuing your research, there are two things you should think about.
One possibility is that, like many individuals, you are simply unaware of the stress you are experiencing. People are typically considerably more anxious than they realize because they're so used to it, as I explored in When the Body Says No. As a result, individuals don't recognize or notice their stress because it appears to be normal to them.
The other is that, as I previously stated, children with ADD are often extremely sensitive – sometimes to an excruciating degree. A sensitive seismometer counter will detect smaller seismic disturbances than a less sensitive instrument, and sensitive children will pick up on environmental stresses that may not effect a more stolid or calm child. As a result, a sensitive youngster requires less stressful input to create emotional anguish. And I argue in the book that ADD characteristics like tuning out and distractibility emerge as emotional defense mechanisms against such suffering.
All the more incentive, then, to examine the child's environment carefully in order to identify underlying tensions that might be addressed.
Q. I'm hesitant to medicate my child for ADD because I don't want to risk turning her into a zombie simply to improve her academic performance. So, what do you think?
A. I go into great detail about medication in the book, so I recommend that you start there – specifically Chaper 31.
The first thing to remember is that the goal of medication should never be to control behavior or to improve grades or other external outcomes; instead, it should always be to assist the kid in functioning in the world and feeling better about herself. Improved performance may result as a result of this – and if so, that's fantastic – but the focus should be on improving the child's personal life experience. That implies medication should never be pushed on a child or delivered in the face of a child's adamant opposition; instead, it should be given with her agreement and participation. And the youngster should never get the sense that taking medication earns her approval or acceptance from the adults in her life. Because healthy growth (which is what the ADD child requires in the long run) requires a trustworthy, loving, non-coercive relationship, any short-term gains would be vastly outweighed by the terrible long-term effects.
Second, if you do decide to go the medical route, there's no reason to persist with a drug that has unfavorable side effects, such as the "zombification" you're concerned about. Because each medication is unique and every brain is unique, different drugs will have varied effects on different people. There are additional dosage changes that can be explored in order to eliminate negative effects.
Overall, despite my reservations regarding their overuse and misuse, I am not opposed to the use of drugs to treat ADD. I've prescribed them – and taken them – and found that they can be beneficial if given and taken in a judicious, targeted, and informed manner. They'll never be "The Answer," but they can undoubtedly help if it's understood that the long-term goal should be healthy growth rather than symptom treatment
Q. I'm an adult with attention deficit disorder. Some individuals believe that persons with ADD are just brilliant and misunderstood, according to what I've seen in internet forums. Whether that's true or not, I'm concerned that treating my illness may eliminate or "flatten" some of the qualities I appreciate, such as spontaneity, creativity, and delightful flightiness. Are my fears justifi
A. Not at all, I'm pleased to say.
First and first, it's called a "disorder" for a reason – and I make it plain in the book that I don't consider it a sickness, but rather a disorder – and that reason is because it dis-orders things in one's life, creating a lack of order or workability. So, simply put, does it cause chaos in your life? If it doesn't, and your life and personality are working for you, there's no need to fix anything. If, on the other hand, you observe that certain areas of your life have regular and unwanted outcomes, it's something you should investigate.
Second, so-called "ADD qualities" are not the same as the positive attributes you're referring to, and fixing one will not prevent you from addressing the other. It's a widespread fallacy, based on the fact that people with ADD are often highly sensitive - yet it's your extreme (inborn) sensitivity, not your ADD, that drives your creativity. Artists with ADD are sometimes concerned that they will lose their capacity to think quickly and freely, which they deem essential to their creative process. When you properly address the ADD component, however, that does not go away. The most problematic characteristics, such as impulsivity, impatience, interrupting people, forgetfulness, disorganization, or tuning out, do go away or become more tolerable. Those aren't the functions of a creative mind; rather, they're the functions of an immature brain locked in its infancy; in fact, they can be obstructions to your actual creative self-expression. Addressing your ADD symptoms should help you get some of it out of the way, allowing you to be more productive in your life and creative endeavors. After all, it's not about "changing" your personality, but about making life more bearable and pleasurable.