A good summary of ADHD.

I’ve not written about ADHD in awhile, but I still regularly get emails from folks who stumbled across some of my past entries on the topic via Google searches. Most of these emails are looking for basic information on what ADHD is and I have a handful of different links I send out in reply. In the future, however, I may just send them a link to this entry at Retrospectacle:

ADHD was found to be the result of a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter—here, norepinephrine. Like all neurotransmitters, norepinephrine is synthesized within the brain; however norepinephrine synthesis requires dopamine as an intermediate step. Specifically, the basic building block of each norepinephrine molecule is dopa; this molecule is converted into dopamine, which is then converted into norepinephrine. This is the normal process. Theoretically, if this dopa-to-norepinephrine synthesis is altered (say by certain genes), low levels of norepinephrine and ADHD-like symptoms could occur. Conversely, drugs which provide extra levels of norepinephrine relieve the symptoms of ADHD.

Its likely that the full spectrum of ADHD symptoms is not solely attributed to the prefrontal cortex, but rather entire pathways which interact together. These pathways do include the frontal/prefrontal areas (attention, impulse control) but also the limbic system (regulates emotions), the basal ganglia (this is the brain’s “router,” directing information), and the reticular activating system (affects attention and impulses, motivation). Since these areas communicate with each other, its likely that neurochemical problems in one area may affect others.

It’s a good overview of the current understanding of ADHD and how to treat it and it provides links to sources with greater details on a couple of topics covered. As for me, I’ve been off the Adderal I was taking back when I had insurance for over two years now, as has Courtney, and while we’re both coping with our ADHD better than we had prior to counseling and medication, it’s still a struggle at times.

For example, every so often I struggle with impulse control where I get it in my head that I have to purchase something new. I’ve been battling that particular issue for the last few days as I’ve been lusting to go out and buy a Playstation 3 or a Nokia 770 or a new video game or something, anything, new that I can play with for awhile. I understand why I get into these phases, it’s because the new toy acts as a stimulant for awhile as I sit down and learn how to master it. It takes a lot of internal argument to convince myself not to give in to the impulse. With the PS3 that’s not too hard as I just have to look at my checking account balance and compare it to the cost of a PS3 and I can quell that impulse pretty quickly. The Nokia 770 is a bit harder to douse as Buy.com is selling them for $140 ($130 if you use Google Checkout) and that’s not entirely beyond my means though I really shouldn’t spend the money. The fact that it would be exceptionally useful at work right now with all the downtime I have to fill doesn’t help convince me not to get one.

When I was on my ADHD medication these bouts came around much less frequently and were much easier to overcome than they are when I’m not on my medication, but I’m definitely doing a lot better than I did before I knew I was ADHD. I’ll probably get through this latest round of impulse control without spending any money or at least I should be able to make it to my birthday on the 25th of August where that itch will be scratched by a gift or two and some b’day cash I can spend freely. These are the days, however, when I wish I could afford to be back on Adderal.

Anyway, the article is a good overview and worth checking out. I found it via Pharyngula.

21 thoughts on “A good summary of ADHD.

  1. This is a comment I left on DOFs site a while back:

    I am not at all a fan of most kinds of ADD or ADHD meds.  I have taken multiple kinds in my days and all had the same effect.  Turned me into an impotent (short term at least), mindless, soulless, zombie.  I never understood the purpose of wanting to change the characteristics of your child just because you’re too lazy to deal with him/her.

    I hated myself while on them but I never understood why.  Every once in awhile I feel as though the effects of the meds come back, when I feel my personality drifting away.  Sometimes I still act just as I did on the meds around my fiance.

    For a couple days I stopped taking them and my parents wanted me to keep going.  I told them what it did to me and they hardly listened.  My pops said he would take it to see what the effects were.  He wouldn’t directly admit it but it had the same effects on him.

    The problem with ADD is that ADD brains have less frontal lobe activity during simple tasks such as homework and reading than normal brains.  Which is why it’s hard for those with ADD to concentrate on tasks.  Daniel Amen uses a SPECT (Single Positron Emission Computed Tomography) scanner to map brain activity during sample activities he said it appeared some children were missing their frontal during activities that would use the frontal lobe.

    The other problem is that when you get video stimulation your brain secretes dopamine.  This keeps your body begging for more, but with ADD you run out quicker.  Thus having the effect where you keep watching TV and you don’t know why, even if nothing is on.

    Some things I learned from DOF, such as writing everything down and storing it in a very accessible database are important for those with poor short term memory and/or ADD.  I also recommend a diet high in natural whole foods, and plenty of exercise, for the body as well as the mind.  The same doctor from above seemed to find that children with ADD and diets high in sugar and refined foods did worse than those with healthy diets and exercise.

  2. Webs writes…

    I have taken multiple kinds in my days and all had the same effect.  Turned me into an impotent (short term at least), mindless, soulless, zombie.

    From what I’ve read if that’s the effect the meds had on you then it’s a strong possibility that ADD isn’t what you’re suffering from. At least that’s the understanding I’ve taken from the books I’ve read.

    For me the meds helped me to focus much better than I can on my own. We were warned that there might be some personality changes, but they were minor and nothing along the lines you describe. It also helped me to be productive for longer period. Part of the reason my posting activity on SEB is lower than in the past has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t usually have access to the net during the day when my ability to focus is at it’s highest. By the time I get home at night after driving an hour and a half in rush our traffic I’m mentally exhausted and have a hard time coming up with stuff to write about. If I were on the medication I’d probably be able to contribute quite a bit more to SEB than I have been lately.

  3. The thing is I was characterized in Junior High School as having ADHD, by a psychologist, and then a Doctor that prescribed the pills.

    If I were on the medication I’d probably be able to contribute quite a bit more to SEB than I have been lately.

    Have you tried anything else?  I have heard some great things about meditation.  When I actually did meditation it felt great and seemed to have some effect.  After reading “YOU: The Owner’s Manual” I have a little more drive to give meditation another shot.

  4. Meditation falls into the same camp as prayer for me. It just doesn’t work. Tried it in the past back when I was studying martial arts. I’ve never been able to do whatever the hell it is you’re supposed to do.

  5. I know the connection between the two, but there are quite a few studies that correlate meditating, with low risk of heart disease, heart failures, blood pressure, etc, as well as mental health.

    For some reason my Dad has some weird fascination with Buddhism and taught me to meditate as a way to get away from the drugs.  I did it for awhile and while I did it I felt great and was able to concentrate somewhat better.

    But it certainly is something you have to enjoy otherwise what’s the point.

    Which medication were you taking that seemed to work?

  6. What I meant was that prayer and meditation are similar mental states that I am unable to attain. Not sure why, but I just can’t do it. A fact that no doubt contributed to my eventual switch to atheism.

    I started off on Ritalin to see how it would affect me, but officially Courtney and I both started with Concerta which worked for awhile and then seemed to degrade in its effect. The drug that seemed to work best for both of us was the aforementioned Adderal.

  7. Webs: I know the connection between the two, but there are quite a few studies that correlate meditating, with low risk of heart disease, heart failures, blood pressure, etc, as well as mental health.

    I think it’s relaxation, the idea is to disconnect youreslf from stuff on your mind, that lowers stress, which in turn lowers heart rate. Perhaps certain philosophies just generally help people relax or disconnect from earthly troubles.

    I did it for awhile and while I did it I felt great and was able to concentrate somewhat better.

    I can’t really explain that, perhaps it cleared your mind which for you helps concentrate, I have quite low concentration generally but enough to get by; I spend a lot of time confused with more than one competing idea at once, but it’s gradually clearing as I ‘distil’ and seperate them (as one would with chemicals)

    Les: What I meant was that prayer and meditation are similar mental states that I am unable to attain

    Me too, and for me not seeing clear reasons why people should discouraged me (and sometimes it seems people do these things only for blind and shallow benefit). As far as I can gather, the first time’s hardest with a few things, particuarly of this category, it needs to build a momentum where the person at least thinks something’s happening (placebo power of belief)

  8. The big three I tried were Adderal, Effexor (I think I spelled it right), and Ritalin.  But like you mentioned before, I wonder now if I even have ADHD, or was mis-diagnosed.  Well unless I get a lot of money, or Americans get free health care, I won’t be looking into anytime soon.

    I think it’s relaxation, the idea is to disconnect youreslf from stuff on your mind, that lowers stress, which in turn lowers heart rate. Perhaps certain philosophies just generally help people relax or disconnect from earthly troubles.

    Your probably right on that one.  My mind is always crowded with ideas which probably just contributes to my memory retention and concentration.

    I spend a lot of time confused with more than one competing idea at once, but it’s gradually clearing as I ‘distil’ and seperate them (as one would with chemicals)

    I found the best way to clear the mind is with Google Notebook.  Got something on your brain, note it and move on.  Found an interesting site, note it and move on.  If I can clip things and note things without always needing a pen and paper, I can free up brain space for other stuff… like porn!  LOL

  9. Millions of American school children are placed on mind-altering stimulant medications for ADHD. Is there any biological basis for calling ADHD a mental illness? What test exists to diagnosis ADHD? What criteria are used to diagnosis a child with ADHD?

    Medications like Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Dexedrine, Strattera, Focalin and Metadata all have undesirable side effects and can damage a person’s organs.

  10. I used to have problems with focus, but basic training fixed that right quick. I think it is just human for the mind to wander and to lack focus. It only comes through training the mind can we learn to over come what is built into us. Trying to learn many things at once is an asset when we are young and trying to grasp things like speech and walking at the same time, but when we move to higher level thought it can be a hindrance to us.

  11. The thing is I was characterized in Junior High School as having ADHD, by a psychologist, and then a Doctor that prescribed the pills.

    I was called bi-polar at seven, but the mood swings couldn’t have been due to being “touched” by my mom’s boyfriend. They are so quick say you just need pills, instead of finding out what the real problem is. It makes as much sense as AA does.

  12. I kinda felt the same way Timmeh, but the human body is so complex, then you add emotions and psychology onto that, and it can be sometimes impossible to find out the real problem.  But I wish my parents wouldn’t have taken the quick way out and tried to diagnose my issue(s).  I still wonder if it’s ADHD or something else.

  13. It often doesn’t meen anything to merely label people, these things can occur on a spectrum, and each person has to be taken as unique, it’s overly simplistic to lump people together (though still need to notice paterns)

  14. I’m sure that some people do have a real conditions. I just think the problem is that they throw those terms around like my sister at a bar.

  15. Perhaps everyone has at least a little bit of everything, just to different extents (and some can hide these things). Those that do throw it around are abusing it, but that action itself has no bearing on whether or not they actually have the condition (that is, if you can draw a clear line anyway). Also note a lot of conditions share symptons, so misdaignosis can be a problem, or someone may just happen to be a certain type of person naturally – different medical professionals will use differing labels to categorize an ambiguous case

  16. What the fuck is causing all of the ADHD?  When I was in school I don’t think it was even known to exist.  Has it always existed but it wasn’t recognized?

  17. There has been a sharp increase in interest in psychology this century, with overall increasing university numbers, and a natural fascination of the mind that’s nolonger quite so bound by stuffy victorian views, I’d say more is being recognised and people are being more open, but also that all those new psychology students+psychologists need research projects, hence some ‘unique’ conditions may recognised that are really spin-offs of a more general category. As I see it, specific differences as well as broad similarities both contribute towards your overall picture of a person.

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