A “Natural” Treatment for ADHD

-Neil Petersen

Do you ever get ads trying to sell you such-and-such natural supplement that will treat ADHD? You can thank targeted advertising for that.

It occurred to me, though, that there’s one “natural” ADHD treatment that definitely isn’t a scam … nature.

OK, so it might be a stretch to call nature an ADHD “treatment.” But I do think if you want to get natural in your ADHD management, there’s something to be said for skipping the supplements and going for the real thing – the good old-fashioned outdoors.

For example, here’s one way you can incorporate nature into your ADHD coping toolbox: doing work outside.

As I’ve talked about in many previous posts, people with ADHD often have an especially hard time focusing when they are in unstimulating environments. That’s why things like working in public spaces with background noise or listening to music while you work can be useful ways of getting your ADHD brain into gear. Working outside serves the same purpose – feeling the breeze, hearing the birds, and all that pleasant nature-y stuff can help ease your brain into a more alert state compared with sitting in a quiet room.

Of course, working isn’t the only thing you can do outdoors – if you only go outside to cross items off your to-do list, you’re probably missing out!

After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good walk, run or bike ride in the open air? These are all great ways to clear your mind. And clearing your mind is no small feat when you have ADHD!

Maybe it’s no surprise that some research has even suggested spending time in green outdoor spaces as a way of temporarily improving ADHD symptoms. For example, one study found that children with ADHD concentrate better after going for a walk in the park – and that going for a walk downtown or in an urban neighborhood doesn’t seem to have the same effect. That study only looked at kids, but as far as I’m concerned, we never outgrow nature!

So if you’re looking for something natural and green to add to your ADHD treatment plan, skip the weird herbs and try the free alternative: nature. It’s the best “natural” ADHD treatment there is!

3 Counterintuitive ADHD Coping Strategies

-Neil Petersen

ADHD doesn’t always make sense. At least, it doesn’t always make sense the way you expect it to.

If the common-sense ADHD coping techniques aren’t working, maybe it’s time to try the non-common-sense strategies. Here are 3 counterintuitive ADHD coping strategies.

  • Working in noisy places: If people with ADHD have trouble concentrating, clearly the solution is to work in quiet places to avoid getting distracted, right? Well, sometimes silence helps, but not always. Lack of stimulation can make it even harder for people with ADHD to focus, in which case working in a more lively environment rather than a silent, empty room can actually help.
  • Listening to music: Along the same lines, you might expect that listening to music would be distracting for people with ADHD. However, for some people with ADHD, listening to music can provide stimulation and stave off boredom, making it easier to stay on task.
  • Procrastinating: Procrastination is a double-edged sword – too much of it can cause a lot of problems. On the other hand, people with ADHD procrastinate for a reason: doing things at the last minute can provide the extra shot of adrenaline the ADHD brain needs to kick into gear.

You might notice that all three of these strategies have to do with finding the optimal level of arousal for the ADHD brain.

Traditionally, we think of a calm and low-stress environment as being ideal for concentration. For people with ADHD, though, lack of stimulation makes it harder to stay on task. When the ADHD brain gets bored, it automatically checks out and goes to find something more interesting to do, whether we want it to or not.

So keeping the ADHD brain happy by working in more interesting environments, listening to music, or adding a little pressure by doing things at the last minute can actually be conducive to concentrating.

Of course, this will be different for different individuals with ADHD. Ultimately, it’s about finding what works best for your brain. But as a starting point, these three strategies are definitely worth a shot!

D’you have other counterintuitive ADHD coping strategies? Please share them below!

Behavior Modification And ADHD

-Lauren Walters

According to minddisorders.com, “Behavior modification is a treatment approach, based on the principles of operant conditioning, that replaces undesirable behaviors with more desirable ones through positive or negative reinforcement.  Behavior modification is used to treat a variety of problems in both adults and children. Behavior modification has been successfully used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), phobias, enuresis (bed-wetting), generalized anxiety disorder , and separation anxiety disorder , among others.”  In this particular article, we will focus on the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder through behavior modification principles.  This opening paragraph has focused on what behavior modification is.  In the remainder of these paragraphs, I will focus on the four hallmarks of an effective behavioral intervention plan for individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The Four Hallmarks For An Effective Behavioral Intervention Plan

According to adhdandyou.com, there are four hallmarsk for an effective behavioral intervention plan.  They are based on the following information:

  • Consistency: Parents or caregivers and/or teachers must show consistent adherence to a specified behavioral plan and be willing to implement it in virtually all circumstances. In addition, the child should understand that the consequences of the plan are in place and will be enforced by all adults and at all times.
  • Immediacy: Once a behavior has occurred, the consequences should be immediately administered. A time lag between the behavior and consequence results in a weak association between the two, rendering the intervention ineffective.
  • Specificity: Parents or caregivers and teachers should be explicit about which behaviors are being targeted by the intervention and the specified consequences—whether reinforcement or punishment—of each behavior. Stating “Your careful attention to your math problems has earned you 10 minutes of screen time” is much clearer and more explicit than saying “Good job on your homework.”
  • Saliency: To maximize effects on behavior, consequences should be meaningful and noticeable to the child. Consequences that go unnoticed or that hold no value for the child will have negligible effects on behavior.

Conclusion

To end this specific article, behavioral modification for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is based on four principles, that include consistency, immediacy, specificity, and saliency.  To be specific, consistency is essential for an effective behavioral intervention plan to be implemented.  Two, once a behavior has occurred, the consequences should be administered immediately.  Three, the consequences of the behavior should be specified, whether they consist of reinforcement or punishment.  Last, consequences should be noticeable.

Can You “Grow Out Of” ADHD?

Research shows ADHD can causes lasting changes.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is typically thought of as a childhood illness. When you use a search engine to look up signs and symptoms of the disorder (for instance, shortened attention span, impulsivity, excessive speech and restlessness) or treatments (such as behavioral therapy and medications), many of the websites focus exclusively on children. ADHD in adults is often ignored entirely or left as a mere footnote.

It’s not surprising that the literature is so sparse—for whatever reason, ADHD seems to be more common in children than adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 10.2 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD. Meanwhile, a study conducted in 2009 estimated that only 2.5 percent of adults met the diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

Still, the number of adults living with ADHD is greater than the number of adults who live with obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. In fact, recent research shows that some adults with ADHD did not even have symptoms in childhood.

These days, more and more researchers recognize the necessity of studying ADHD beyond childhood and adolescence. If so many children live with ADHD, why do so few adults have the diagnosis? Can ADHD, much like certain forms of epilepsy, be outgrown? Or does the damage associated with ADHD stick around for the long term despite what clinicians once believed?

Unfortunately, research published last August in the scientific journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry points toward the latter.

Young adults diagnosed with ADHD as teenagers have a smaller caudate nucleus

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, U.K., and the University of Oulu, Finland, aimed to determine whether or not young adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD as teenagers had significantly different brain structures than their neurologically healthy peers.

The data was based within the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort, a research project that has followed thousands of children born in 1986 from birth to adulthood. The researchers focused on 49 young adults within this cohort who were diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 16 and were now aged from 20 to 24 years. Only one participant had been prescribed medication. These participants were compared to 34 young adults who hadn’t been diagnosed with ADHD or any other developmental disability.

The researchers compared brain scans between the two groups and found that, compared to the group of healthy controls, individuals who had been diagnosed with ADHD had reduced gray matter in the caudate nucleus, a brain region that contributes to a wide variety of cognitive functions including memory.

The surprising thing, however, was that this brain difference was present regardless of whether or not the participant still met the diagnostic criteria of ADHD. In other words, young adults who had been previously diagnosed with ADHD in adolescence but no longer demonstrated clinically significant symptoms still had smaller-than-average caudate nuclei than people without a history of ADHD.

Young adults with a history of ADHD have disrupted memory, brain activity

To determine whether or not these structural differences resulted in cognitive impairment, the researchers took a subset of the participants (21 with a history of ADHD and 23 controls) and had them perform a memory task while in an fMRI scanner. FMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, is a neuroimaging technique that allows researchers to evaluate neural activity in various brain regions by measuring deoxygenated blood.

The results? One-third of the young adults who had been diagnosed with ADHD in the past failed the memory test compared with only one participant in the control group. Even the participants in the ADHD group who managed to pass still performed worse than the controls by an average of 6 percentage points.

Not only did people who had a history of ADHD perform worse on the memory task than controls, but their caudate nucleus was significantly less sensitive. Specifically, when controls were faced with a difficult memory question, their caudate nucleus demonstrated increased activity. When the participants who had been diagnosed with ADHD received more difficult problems, their caudate nucleus maintained the same level of activity as before, seemingly unable to adapt to the more challenging circumstances.

Graham K. Murray, Ph.D., the lead researcher with the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, explained:

“In the controls, when the test got harder, the caudate nucleus went up a gear in its activity, and this is likely to have helped solve the memory problems. But in the group with adolescent ADHD, this region of the brain is smaller and doesn’t seem to be able to respond to increasing memory demands, with the result that memory performance suffers.”

Once again, participants who had “recovered” from ADHD and participants who were still diagnosed with ADHD were no different. Both groups had altered activity in the caudate nucleus, and both groups performed poorly on the memory task.

What does this mean?

Even though it is less common in adults than children, ADHD can still affect adults. Not only can adults still meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, but adults who are technically “recovered” from ADHD may struggle with certain cognitive tasks, experience less-than-healthy neural activity and have irregular levels of gray matter in certain brain regions. ADHD doesn’t disappear just because symptoms become less obvious—its effect on the brain lingers.

Of course, this study is only one example of the research that is currently revolutionizing how we view ADHD. Two very recent studies—one led by Jessica Agnew-Blais, Sc.D., at King’s College London and the other led by Arthur Caye at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil—found evidence that some adults with ADHD never even experienced symptoms as children. In other words, it’s possible that there is such a thing as adult-onset ADHD. Researchers have yet to determine whether or not this form of ADHD is biologically distinct from the childhood form—after all, there are countless ways in which the brain can malfunction and interrupt a person’s ability to pay attention or retain memories.

The results of this study—and studies like it—stress the importance of treating developmental disabilities and mental illnesses not as a series of symptoms, but as physical illnesses with objective markers. We must understand how various illnesses and disorders impact the brain. With this knowledge, our ability to diagnose—and treat—these illnesses will increase tenfold.

-Courtney Lopresti, M.S.