MYTHOLOGY 201


ADHD MYTHOLOGY 2011

LESSON 201

 

This article follows up on Lesson 101 and further addresses many of the widely held but false beliefs about ADHD introduced in the previous discussion.  My reference for this lesson is the excellent book More Attention, Less Deficit authored by Ari Tuckman, PsyD, Speciality Press, Inc., 2009.  {PsyD is an abbreviation for a Doctoral degree in Psychology.}  This book is primarily devoted to discussion of “Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD.”  I would rate it as deserving 3 ½ – 4 stars. 

 

Dr. Tuckman's book presents modern scientific concepts about ADHD very well, and his extensive discussions about managing problem symptoms of the condition is excellent.  This is the greatest strength of the book.  His commentary about medication treatment is not very sophisticated;  he is a psychologist who cannot prescribe medication for people who have ADHD, so one would not expect this area to be a strong point of a book like this.

 

He does address cause(s) of ADHD very well and quite directly debunks a lot of the baloney and overt Quackery we find creating folie en masse in this field.  Please refer especially to his summaries on this matter pages 60 to 63.

 

1)   “Bad parenting” does not cause ADHD.  “Bad parenting” does not cause ANY major Neurobiological condition.  These conditions include Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as “Manic-Depressive Disorder”), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), TS (Tourette's Syndrome), or any form of Autism and related “Autism Spectrum Conditions,” among many other well-known and widely-studied disorders which are generated by genetic and developmental abnormalities of brain anatomy and chemistry.

 

2) Diet and Food Additives have been decisively proven to have no influence whatsoever generating symptoms of ADHD.  This entire theory was conjured up in the late 60's by Dr. Ross Feingold, a pediatric allergist at a Kaiser facility in California, and amazingly became a widely accepted theory even by some serious academic physicians well into the 70's until carefully designed and controlled research proved the entire notion to be wrong.  Diet has no effect whatsoever on ADHD symptoms (unless you are eating lead, or feeding lead to your children).  “Additives” have no effect on ADHD symptoms.  Sugar has nothing to do with ADHD symptoms.  *

 

3)  Modern Society as a presumed cause of ADHD symptoms has been debunked and dismissed as silly since the early 70's.  The increasingly rapid “pace” of our personal life in modern times is not experienced by any of us as a sudden change, and ADHD has been found to be just as frequent in seemingly primitive village societies as it is in modern cities and suburbs.

 

There is no evidence ADHD is becoming more prevalent now compared to 10 or 20 or 30 or more years ago.  It is being diagnosed more frequently now than in the past because parents, grandparents, teachers, and physicians are far better informed than any of us were many years ago, when behaviors we now identify as suggestive of ADHD were just labeled “bad,” and children who were hyperactive and/or inattentive were sent to the Principal to be paddled, and then on to “Reform School” if they did not respond to physical punishment. 

 

4)  Natural Selection for a Different Time – the old “Hunters and Farmers” theories are still sometimes mentioned by people who enjoy reading “fantasy science.”  The basic notion is something like adolescents and adults who have ADHD are historically displaced “hunters” who are now forced to live in modern world which favors “farmers.”  Dr. Tuckman addresses and dismisses this foolishness quite cleverly.     

 

His closing comments about the brain-based differences between individuals who have ADHD and those who do not are very well summarized.  Distinct differences in the anatomy and physiology (chemistry) of the brain comparing  ADHD and “normal” individuals were first reported in 1991, and subsequent research has expanded on and refined these findings. 

 

Lesson 301 will delve much deeper into ADHD mythology and complete this section of our web-based presentations.  I will discuss some of the myriad Quack remedies in Lesson 301, including many other old myths about the cause of ADHD as well as some of the goofiest proposed “cures.”  I bet some of you don't know how convinced many folks were in the 70's and early 80's ADHD was caused by fluorescent lighting, and how influential this unproven theory became for a while.  Many schools were forced to eliminate use of fluorescent lighting in classrooms because administrators and politicians embraced this foolishness.

 

I guarantee the section on Quack remedies will be fun to read.  “Nature's Alternatives to Ritalin” websites once dominated cyberspace, starting way back with the old Compuserve before the Internet got into full swing.  Well-meaning, otherwise seemingly sophisticated men and women and parents and grandparents actually embraced many of these scientifically absurd “treatments” for a long time, and many folks still do, because of 1) a distrust of physicians' judgment;  2)  an aversion to modern medications;  3) parents' fears about “toxic side effects” and “long-term side effects,” often in part due to successful anti-medication propaganda promoted by the so-called “Church” of Scientology;   4) a desperate wish for a “natural alternative.” 

 

I have a great story to tell about magnets in Lesson 301.

 

·   There is a serious “downside” to this historical discussion.  As a direct result of Dr. Feingold's unsubstantiated and unproven theories about the cause of ADHD, many tens of thousands or even millions of children with this disabling condition were NOT treated with truly effective medications in the late 60's, all through the 70's, and even for a few years in the 80's.

 

Pediatricians who were employed at Kaiser Foundation clinics routinely prescribed the “Feingold Diet” for ALL newly diagnosed ADHD children.  This bizarre diet essentially forced mothers to ferret out “organic” foods from all sorts of sources and to avoid including ANY artificial coloring or preservatives in the food they fed their kids.  Obviously, these mothers could not serve “pure” kale and ochra plus freshly slaughtered hedgehogs to just one or two kids in the family.  Everyone in the family had to eat these foods.

 

When this diet failed (as it always did) to reduce or eliminate ADHD symptoms, the blame for failure always fell on Mom for not eliminating all natural salicylates or food coloring agents or some other presumed toxins, OR on the child for sneakily eating or drinking some forbidden substances at school or at a friend's house.  You can imagine the consequences of this borderline insanity, which for many children and families were far worse than merely delaying effective treatment for ADHD for months or, usually, years.