ADD Disbelief

I recently spent a weekend with my brothers and sisters, all highly educated and “enlightened.” When they found I had narrowed my medical practice to Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, they were highly skeptical of the whole notion of ADD. Two of my four sisters have significant ADD! They are also highly hyperactive, like me. My other sisters and brother laughed when they doubted they were hyperactive or had ADD.

A majority of the general population doubts the diagnosis of ADD. In children, many think the problem is bad parenting or “bad” children. I’ve heard so many times, “they just need a good whipping.”

Really! Someone is born, or even acquires a brain dysfunction (like traumatic head injury), and you are going to beat them! Seriously, think about it. Would you beat a Down’s syndrome individual if they behave badly? If you did, you would be arrested for abuse and probably make the local news. Yet, a kid who cannot sit in a desk or can’t quit talking when admonished are punished.

It’s my experience that behavior of all types is viewed differently from external disabilities. In fact, a whole division of government was formed to legally protect the disabled. Why are the brain-challenged not protected? Interesting question.

I recently witnessed a parent with a hyperactive 3-year-old tell the child “quit,” “stop,” “sit down,” and other admonishments at least 50 times in her 10-minute visit. Imagine the impact on this kid hearing those admonishments from his mother, father, grandparents, teachers, employers, his entire life!! People that love him! What about people who could care less about this kid? What a tragedy!

Let me start with a few basic facts:

  1. Many types of brain dysfunction can be visualized on SPECT nuclear or MRI brain scans. Pioneered by Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Nora Volkow, imaging of dysfunctional brains can demonstrate many abnormalities, including drug-induced damage.
  2. The brain is an organ. As any organ with cells, it is subject to many internal and external factors that affect behavior and cognition. Hormones, drugs of abuse, vitamins, and adrenaline are a very short list of brain-directed substances that affect behavior and cognition. Even aging brain cells react differently than young brain cells.
  3. Many medications, hormones, vitamins, minerals, and devices can improve brain function. Why would someone object to improving brain function?

I have spent my life learning. Even with my experience and knowledge, I doubt I will change many viewpoints about personal behavior or personal intelligence. I know how much I have learned since limiting my practice to only Adult ADD and I can say, without hesitation, it is the most rewarding treatment I have ever rendered. If someone MIGHT have Adult ADD, I urge those who care to search and find a physician with interest, training, and expertise in the field.

Stanford A. Owen, M.D. Certified, Internal Medicine, Nutrition, and Psychopharmacology

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