Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) affects a large number of children and adults in the United States.
As prevalent as it is, though, ADD remains to be a topic under constant debate among scientists.
Some believe it’s a physiological brain disorder that is caused by a genetic component. Others declare that ADD lacks any supportive evidence and should not even be considered a disorder.
Differing opinion come about because science admittedly has only limited understanding of the underlying mechanisms that trigger ADD.
As diverse as the opinions are about the causes and mechanisms of ADD, the assortment of treatment options is just as varied.
Consider some of the standard and exploratory treatment options available to you and your child.
Standard (Evidence-Based) Treatment Options
First-line therapy usually consists of psychostimulants—Ritalin, Methylin, Metadate, Dextrostat, Dexedrine, Concerta, and Adderall. These stimulants, among other things, cause more blood flow to the part of the brain that is important for attention.
If psychostimulants don’t work for you, second-line therapy utilizes antidepressants—Bupropion, Desipramine, Nortriptyline, and Venlafaxine. Should none of these proof beneficial, Clonidine is a third-line medication that could be helpful. Or, your physician may also try a combination of multiple drugs. Though, as those with ADD have different responses to medication, finding the right combination for you with the highest effectiveness and lowest side effects can take a while and carry certain risks.
CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) is often incorporated with drug treatments. Psychotherapy is not only an important option but mandatory for long-term treatment success. What is more, it can also be used as the sole treatment for ADD without the addition of medication, depending on the severity of the ADD presentation.
Psychotherapy can help you talk about your thoughts and feelings, explore negative behavior patterns, and learn ways to self-regulate your emotions. As you learn to build on your strengths and cope compassionately with day-to-day problems, your self-esteem begins to increase despite your disorder. In addition, therapy can help your family to understand you and give you support in a way that promotes change.
Educational Support & Social Skills Training
Educational intervention and skills training lend support to treatment options for children in the classroom setting. Organizing this environment with routines and structure is important. Stimuli need to be reduced as much as possible, and your child should sit close to the teacher.
In such a setting, your child can successfully learn and practice social behaviors that are necessary to develop and keep good relationships. Social skills include listening, asking for help, keeping eye contact, identifying the meaning of body language and gestures, waiting for their turn, or responding to teasing. You should also practice these types of skills with your child at home.
Exploratory (Experimental) Treatment Options
Nutritional & Dietary Treatments
Research has shown that there exists a connection between the consumption of certain foods and drinks and ADD.
For example, some of the dietary approaches that could help you include diets low in sugar and refined carbohydrates and high in protein or diets that eliminate allergens or manage sensitivities to foods or additives. A nutritionally-focused approach that uses supplementation for nutritional deficiencies or weakened biological functions may also be beneficial for you. Plus, some treatment options address heavy-metal toxicity and various digestive-system issues.
A promising newer therapy, neurofeedback, involves teaching you to effectively control your body functions through the power of your mind. It can help you learn how to access and stay in specific states of physiological arousal, such as a state of relaxation and calm. This learning process is gradual.
By placing sensors on your head and giving you feedback on your brain activity via a video game or sound, you can monitor and learn to control your brain waves. When your brain produces alpha waves (relaxed and calm state), the video game moves faster and you gain points. However, high beta waves (too aroused and too alert state) obstruct the speed of the game without accumulating any points. As you receive feedback about your brainwave activity, the video game teaches you to relax and produce alpha waves.
Tomatis Method of Sound Stimulation
Through auditory stimulation, the Tomatis method can help those with ADD by fine-tuning the way they listen. This is important for improving the overall process of sensory integration—the interpretation and organization of data the brain receives from the senses.
The Tomatis method could help with your ADD in a number of ways. 1) It trains the listening function, sharpening one’s auditory discrimination (i.e. pitch, tone length, tone-burst or ramping, etc.). 2) It optimizes the listening function by training the ability to attend to the relevant speaker, versus getting distracted by other sounds in the nearby surroundings. 3) It affects the integration of auditory and visual content of any relevant interaction which is important to attend to. 4) Other sensory-integrative processes (vestibular-kinesthetic and tactile) are stimulated and integrate along with the auditory and the visual inputs which lead to further maturity in the ability of sustaining attention. Often, those with ADD are found to have an immature listening function. If this is the case, your ability to pay attention could be considerably diminished.
The aforementioned treatment options are just some of many that exist. With more research tools and methods at their disposal, scientists are starting to learn ever more about ADD and the role the brain plays in it. In time, this research may lead to a more concise and effective treatment method for ADD.
For the time, though, it appears that no single treatment of all treatment options can alleviate all of your ADD symptoms or can be of help to everyone with this condition. Instead, it is usually a combination of therapies and tools that can make a difference.
Taking time to at first thoroughly assess and discuss these options with your healthcare professional is a crucial step to helping you and your child to control your ADD. While research helps identify subgroups for which some alternative treatments strongly show efficacy, the same approaches may not provide everyone on the ADHD spectrum the same level of success