Attention deficit disorder is the subject of two widely challenged debates in medicinal practice and theory. One, the argument for ADD being a clinical and mental disorder, is in favor of medical treatment, claiming the diagnosis is attributable to brain damage or neurological defects. The second gives an alternative idea behind ADD, stating that people showing traits of the disorder often exemplify characteristics such as creativity, inventiveness, and even giftedness. As a rising percentage of children are being diagnosed with the disorder, more and more research has been called for, in an attempt to find an actual cause. ADD is classified as multi-factorial, meaning that multiple reasons are generally attributed to its development and diagnosis. A diagnostic criterion includes hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. The intent of this paper is to provide arguments and evidence on both sides of the issue, followed by standard and alternative methods for dealing with ADD.
The history of attention deficit disorder goes back to World War 1, when a number of soldiers who experienced head injuries demonstrated hyperactivity as a side effect. It was then that ADD was classified as a disorder related to either brain damage or a defect of some kind. It has been proven, however, that this is false. ADD or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can also be attributed to giftedness. Studies show that ADD is genetic and it runs in families. Years ago, only children exhibiting severe affects of hyperactivity were diagnosed, mostly because they suffered brain damage or trauma. Today, the diagnostic criterion has been expanded so that any underachiever, or inattentive child fits the bill. Subsequently, millions of kids in America are getting labeled as ADD. Most studies show that 3 to 5 percent of the population possesses attention deficit disorder.
Symptoms related to the DSM-IV criteria, which includes inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, can show themselves in different ways. The two major types are ADD with hyperactivity, and ADD with inattention. The diagnostic criteria includes:
failing to give close attention to details or making careless mistakes
appearing not to listen when spoken to directly
not following through on instructions and failing to complete tasks
avoiding, or not liking, tasks that require sustained mental effort
losing things necessary for tasks
leaving your seat in situations where remaining in seat is expected
feelings of restlessness or excessive activity
difficulty engaging in leisure activities quietly
feeling as if “driven by a motor”
blurting out answers before questions have been completed
impatience – or difficulty waiting
interrupting others in activities or conversation
Traditionally, children diagnosed with ADD have been prescribed with medications previously hailed as miracle drugs. Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Cylert are examples of the powerful stimulants used to correct the disorder. Ritalin, which is in the same family as cocaine, has parents worrying if the quick fix method is the best approach towards the problem. Side effects of Ritalin are weight loss, loss of appetite, head and stomach pains, possible liver damage, and mild depression. CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a national organization founded by adults and parents with children diagnosed with ADD. They oppose alternative methods of treating ADD, claiming that these methods are unsupported and lack sufficient evidence and scientific results. They are strong supporters of a multimodal treatment approach, which is a mix of medical, educational, behavioral, and psychological interventions.
Attention deficit disorder is increasingly being challenged as a disorder. New studies show that ADD can in fact be representative of creativity, inventiveness, and a different type of temperament. People tend to believe that children with ADD cannot pay attention. This is not true. Interest is needed before the child will focus on anything, and once the interest is sparked these kids can become so involved in what they are doing that they become unaware of their surroundings. Researchers call it hyper-focusing, which means they concentrate on something to exclusion of everything else. It can be hard to decide of this is a positive or negative aspect of ADD. Thomas Edison, the inventor of 1000 things, has been dubbed the poster child of ADD. He is known more than any other historical figure for having exhibited classical hyperactive ADD behavior. Other notables include Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.
Most often medication is used to manage the symptoms of those diagnosed with ADD or AD/HD. Psychostimulants are most widely used, along with antidepressants and antihypertensives. When a child loses interest, some drugs act so that the child now finds boring subjects interesting. These medications increase attention and decrease impulsivity, hyperactivity and aggression. (CHADD, 1996) There is a debate, however, that these drugs are being prescribed at an alarming rate to an increasing percentage of the population. One article commented on a psychiatrist that regularly prescribed Ritalin to kids age 3 and up for attitude and behavioral modification.
Alternative methods recommend a change of diet, education, and discipline. Some studies have revealed that there is link between Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies and ADD. Certain aspects of nutrition have also been attributed to ADD. Americas diet today does not include many important nutrients that allow our brains to function as they were meant to. Many neurological problems have been associated with lack of certain vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Allergies have been known to cause similar symptoms as well. Beneficial alternatives include home schooling, exercise, and alternative forms of discipline, meditation, and nutritional supplements. The pine bark extract, Pycnogenol, has been known to work wonders on those who exhibit signs of ADD or Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency.
The evidence that attention deficit disorder is a problem that needs to be addressed is clear. Yet, the cause of ADD is still unclear. The fact that ADD may be caused by a number of factors, such as genetics, temperament, and nutrition, makes it that much harder to identify and deal with. The educational system may need to take steps in order to compensate for the disorder, and possibly consider a different teaching approach for kids that are diagnosed. Studies show that kids diagnosed with ADD learn in a very different manner than those who excel in the school system today. Medicinal quick fixes may help to manage the problem, but experts are beginning to agree that there is something to ADD that we have overlooked as a society.
Finally, ADD can affect every aspect of your day to day to life. If you believe you are ADD, consult an expert psychiatrist and see about getting evaluated. ADD has a diverse face and can be mistaken for other problems such as depression and anxiety, so take care when getting help. Advancements are moving ahead by leaps and bounds, in both medicine and the field of study. The evidence that a growing percentage of people in America have attention deficit disorder is becoming apparent. As a society we owe this issue its due attention. Until we can find a cause or institute a change as a whole, the solution is dependent on the individual actions of those diagnosed with ADD. A boys will is the winds will, and the thoughts of the youth are long, long thoughts, by Robert Frost, who daydreamed so much he was expelled from school.
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