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Is ADHD just an excuse for bad behaviour or poor parenting, or a legitimate neurological disorder? 

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“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~Unknown

‘That boy is so hyper, he really needs to lay off the red cordial.’

‘She can’t concentrate at all; she always has her head in the clouds.’

‘That kid just needs a good smack! ‘

‘Those parents are just too lazy to discipline their kid.’ Haven’t we all thought or said these things at one time?  

I have, but the joke’s on me. You see, I have ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, so I have more than likely been ‘that kid’ at some stage. Therefore, I decided to do an article on this topic as I feel it’s one that I’m somewhat ‘qualified’ to speak about considering I’ve had the disorder since childhood. I was only diagnosed this year though, and it was such a relief as it answered so many things, I had questioned about myself for many years. It is my hope to dispel some common misconceptions surrounding this disorder and to give you suggestions on where to find more in-depth information. 

What is ADHD? First of all, it isn’t a case of kids just behaving badly. It isn’t caused by parents who are too lazy to discipline their kids. It is in fact a neurological disorder which, according to Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D. in an article on the website, “is a developmental impairment of the brain’s self-management system, its executive functions.” This is caused by a faulty electrical system in the brain which means that the electrical impulses that send messages through the brain from neuron to neuron are interrupted as not all the neurons are connecting.

I liken it to a dot-to-dot puzzle – the purpose being to join all the dots with lines to discover what the picture is, but if you don’t connect some of those dots, you get a picture that doesn’t quite look how it should. The picture is still there, and you can still tell what it is meant to be, but it isn’t a whole, complete picture.

What are the symptoms of ADHD? There are 3 types of ADHD which all have different symptoms. The symptoms, of ADHD will differ in each individual and they present differently in males and females.

Type 1 – Primarily hyperactive-impulsive type,
Type 2 – Primarily inattentive type (previously called ADD) and
Type 3 – Primarily combined type. (Hooray for me, I’m type 3!)

1. Fidgets a lot and can’t seem to sit still, acts as if driven by an inner motor, talks excessively, acts impulsively without thinking about consequences, impatient at waiting, interruptive, and can’t seem to play quietly.

2. Has difficulty focusing on task, has a hard time completing things they’ve started, has difficulty paying attention, forgetful, loses thing often, easily distracted, has trouble being   organised and has poor time management skills.

3. A combination of Type 1 and Type 2.
Of course, this isn’t a complete list of symptoms, but you can find more detailed information here. Statistically speaking, boys are more often diagnosed with Type 1 and females are more often diagnosed with Type 2. Unfortunately, this means that many girls are not diagnosed as they tend to be the ones who fly under the radar because their symptoms aren’t as glaringly obvious. Interestingly, contrary to the term “attention deficit”, ‘hyper-focus’ is also a symptom. 

What causes ADHD? There is no one definitive answer for this question. In all the reading I have done I have come across several possibilities. The first one I would recommend looking at is diet as many symptoms of ADHD, behavioural disorders, and health issues can be linked to food additives (and in some cases the naturally occurring chemicals such as salicylates) in the foods we consume. For example, food intolerance expert, Sue Dengate, in her book ‘The Failsafe Cookbook’, lists various conditions that are potentially caused by, or exacerbated by additives in foods such as asthma, ADHD, ASD, eczema, IBS, sleep apnoea, tics and even colds and flu. For more information you can head to her website here.  

It’s worthwhile reading the numbers and names of the ingredients in the foods you buy and taking note of your child’s behaviour when they eat certain foods. Some of the additives known to cause hyperactivity in children with chemical sensitivities are 102-104, 122-124, 160b, 421, 620, 627 and 951. This is just a small selection. If you would like to know more, head to Sue Dengate’s Fed Up website or Facebook group. Or, if you can, try to get your hands a book called ‘Additive Alert’ by Julie Eady. It is out of print now though, and sadly the author passed away some time ago, but you could try looking for them second-hand online or in op shops.

There are others who believe vaccines can cause neurological damage. I am having trouble getting information on that though as much of the information I have been using for my research about vaccine injuries is disappearing from the internet, and even from the internet archives. Make of that what you will. I will continue my search though as people need answers and help, and it’s my mission to help.

Other research suggests that it could be trauma based or is a genetic condition that gets passed down through the generations. “Researchers suspect that a gene involved in the creation of dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s ability to maintain regular and consistent attention may be traced back to ADHD.” Says writers from ADDitude Magazine.

I have also read that exposure to certain chemicals while developing in the mother’s womb can be contributing factors, and some studies suggest that iodine deficiency can be a cause. 

I am not an expert, but in my way of thinking, it’s possibly a combination of all these factors in many cases. I believe that the additives in food play a large role in exacerbating symptoms if a child already has ADHD, but on the flip side of that, I do believe that the additives can cause some symptoms in a child who doesn’t actually have ADHD.

Sadly, though many specialists don’t look at diet, they go straight from diagnosis to medication. Imagine, a child being medicated with psychoactive, stimulant medication for a condition they don’t truly have, while their brains are still developing? Perish the thought! 

My final thought – embrace the ADHD, after all, no matter the cause, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. If harnessed in the right way, it can be a gift.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. How come they can concentrate for hours on end while playing computer games then? Dots fully connect then.
    I’d say the computer games are causing the adhd through withdrawal in those cases?

  2. Hi Tony
    That’s a really good question. It’s one I get asked a lot in my practice. I used to teach human cognition and developmental psychology at university and now I’m a psychologist in private practice. Now, there is a big difference between top down and bottom up attention. In ADHD, The person really struggles with directing their attention on to tasks that need completing, especially when there’s nothing inherently engaging or “grabbing“ about the stimuli. Think filling out forms, doing chores, or practising something really hard like writing complex sentences. Now none of us really like all that stuff but we were able to summon up enough energy in our frontal lobes (via a connection box called the basal ganglia) to curb our impulse to flee and drive our attention to the task at hand. We reap the rewards there after. Kids with ADHD especially like things like computer games, screens, and similar things because they grab your attention – so this is bottom up or stimulus driven attention. So for them having something grab their attention is a real welcome relief from having to drive their attention from the top down all the time. So when you see a kid really engrossed in a video game but they can’t concentrate at school you’re looking at two very different cognitive processes. Of course it is fair to say that practising anything makes you better at it so just letting somebody with ADHD (or anyone else for that matter) just play video games all day is not likely to do anything to help , but it is a nice break now and then. As they say in psychology and everything else “nothing too much”.

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