Treatment of ADHD
by Karen Donahue, M.Ac.
estimates of the prevalence of ADHD suggest that 3-5% of all school age
children in the US are afflicted with ADHD.
Of that group, 70 % of these children also have learning
disabilities. This leaves us with
the mind-boggling questions of why and what do we do about it.
How are parents to come to terms with this when even the experts
cannot come to agreement about diagnosis, treatment, and the pathogenesis
of the disorder? Current theories
recognize that there is a psychosocial component to the disorder but the
morphosis of that component is not known - is it the ADHD that causes the
psychosocial disruptions or is it the psychosocial problems that
contribute to the ADHD. What
is the best treatment for this disorder?
Much of the
research has indicated that the incidence of ADHD in boys is greater than
that of girls. Recent
literature is showing that there are two subsets of ADHD -- impulsivity
and inattentiveness. The boys generally will fall into the impulsivity
category and the girls into the inattentive category.
The nature of impulsivity makes ADHD easier to recognize in boys
than in girls. Impulsive behavior
is disruptive in the classroom and will be attended to.
The shy withdrawn behavior exhibited by the inattentive subset does
not draw attention. It may even be
thought of as desirable behavior by over-worked and underpaid teachers.
What is it
that distinguishes a child that is just shy from the child with ADHD?
In Understanding Girls with
AD/HD, Kathleen Nadeau et al. cites behaviors that can signal parents
and teachers that there may be a problem. They
these solutions, it is important to get the child diagnosed as early as
possible and provide them with a comprehensive treatment plan.
There remains some controversy over whether ADHD stems from a
neurological disorder or a psychosocial behavioral disorder.
There is research implicating that differences found in the
thalamus and the putamen of the child with ADHD may account for the
disorder. These studies as yet are
inconclusive. There are also
studies that show experience (or behavior) can incur an alteration of
brain chemicals and genes in animals. Whether
the origin is neurological or not, it is clear that there are learning,
psychological and social functioning issues that need to be addressed.
interventions are commonly used for those with the hyperactive component
of the disorder. As Michael Brown's article in the Journal of Counseling and Development states, the medication
"decreases inappropriate behavior but it does not improve appropriate
behavior without additional intervention." There are other factors to consider in choosing the pharmaceutical
route. These are controlled
drugs that are stimulants -- they can cause problems with sleep as well as
damage the liver and kidneys when taken on a long-term basis.
Is this really how we want to treat a population that is already at
risk for addictive behavior? What
are the alternatives?
Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer in addressing the problems associated
with ADHD. There is
acupuncture, Eastern nutrition, herbs, movement (T'ai Chi), Qigong
(breathing exercises) and tuina massage. In TCM, by treating the organ system you treat the emotions
associated with that organ. Many
of the emotional and the physical symptoms that contribute to the
manifestation of ADHD are routinely treated with acupuncture. The
emotional factors are frustration -- associated with the liver energy,
anxiety -- associated with the Spleen energy, and fear, which is
associated with the Kidney energy. The
physical symptoms: hearing difficulties, asthma, sleep apnea, rheumatoid
arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, PMS, migraines, chemical
sensitivities all respond well to TCM therapies.
root cause is behavioral or neurological TCM looks at the body, mind and
spirit as one interactive system. When
the body and mind are in harmony, the spirit is calm and the person is
able to perform to potential. TCM
is certainly no panacea but it will help to enable the child, adolescent
or adult plagued with ADHD to better utilize the resources within
If you have
questions or would like to share your experiences with ADHD please contact
the author via email: Karen_Donahue@alum.wellesley.edu.
holds a BA in Psychology from Wellesley College and a Masterís degree
from the New England School of Acupuncture. Her practice includes Chinese
and Japanese styles of acupuncture, Tuina massage, Tíai Chi instruction
and Eastern nutritional counseling. She
is licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. Karen's background includes several years teaching T'ai Chi,
meditation, and working as a behavior specialist. She is currently involved in research on acupuncture in an
occupational health setting and ADHD. She
can be reached at: Karen_Donahue@alum.wellesley.edu