Hyperactive? Spirited? Behaves badly? Gifted? A human tornado? Or perhaps a child diagnosed with ADHD. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a medical classification used to identify individuals who are unable to concentrate and learn. When this condition is present in physically overactive individuals, especially children, it is known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Professionals often use the acronyms ADD and ADHD interchangeably, and according to the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by Psychologists and Psychiatrists) the ADHD diagnosis is awarded whether or not the person is diagnosed with hyperactivity.
The label Attention Deficit Disorder often misleads people into thinking that ADD is characterized by a child's inability to pay attention. It is actually the child’s inability to control his or her attention. Yet it is not uncommon to see a child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD to be totally engrossed, for long periods, in a favourite activity such as colouring, solving a puzzle or playing video games. The difficulty can come from paying attention to tasks that require effort and do not provide immediate gratification.
Common beliefs about the causes of ADHD include watching too much TV, excess amount of sugar, food allergies and poor parenting. While all of these will adversely affect a child’s health, and possibly trigger hyperactivity, they do not cause ADHD since ADHD is a developmental failure in the brain circuitry. Research suggests that heredity plays the biggest role; 80% of those diagnosed have a genetic predisposition to ADHD. Other factors associated with ADHD are premature birth, maternal alcohol and tobacco use, exposure to high levels of lead in early childhood and brain injuries, especially to the pre frontal cortex.
The main behaviours that characterize ADHD are Inattention; Impulsivity; Hyperactivity Associated characteristics can include aggressive or violent behaviour, disorganization, daydreaming, poor self-esteem, poor peer/sibling relationships, sensation-seeking behaviour, poor coordination, memory problems and obsessive thinking/ behaviour.
Many of the above behaviours can also be present in people suffering with depression and anxiety disorders. Why then are these symptoms and behaviours combined to form a “disorder?” Dr. Richard Bromfiled, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School explains: “ADHD exists as a disorder primarily because a committee of psychiatrists voted it so. In a valiant effort, they squeezed a laundry list of disparate symptoms into a neat package that can be handled and treated.”
Children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are often intelligent, unique, and fascinating. However, these children often end up in “Special Education” programming for their learning or behavioural problems. In addition, they are prescribed medications that do not offer permanent solutions. One of these medications is Ritalin. Health Canada statistics indicate that the amount of Ritalin consumed in Canada in 1997 represented more than a five fold increase since 1990, including a 21% jump in the last year of that time period.
Having a hyperactive or disruptive child who has difficulty learning is certainly a legitimate cause for concern. The problems arise from the arbitrary diagnosis and suppressive treatments used to address the condition. The clinical diagnosis of ADHD, based on the DSM IV, is an intricate task. It involves a careful examination of the child’s medical and developmental history, observations of their behaviour over a sufficient time period (at least six months) and the administration of different neuropsychological tests. “There is a great deal of evidence for co-morbid conditions and the so called mimic syndromes (i.e. conditions that look like ADD/ADHD but are clinically different in their etiology, treatment, and prognosis). Consequently, the clinician must consider several sources of information besides the developmental history from parents to piece together the puzzle to sort out which characteristics are primary, and which ones may be secondary and tertiary problems. Such a multi-level analysis will frequently lead to a multi-component treatment program that addresses each significant component."
Some authorities believe that many behaviour and learning difficulties are associated with deficiencies of fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6 in the diet. The typical North American diet is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids, thus it is the Omega-3 deficiency that is believed to contribute to the difficulties. Omega-3 rich foods include flax seed oil, salmon, sardines and mackerel.
HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE FOR ADD/ADHD
Regardless of the contributing factors to your child’s ADD/ADHD, Homeopathy offers a unique approach to its treatment and a long history of success. Since homeopathy treats the person, not the disease, there is no need for your homeopath to know that your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. By explaining the child’s personality, behaviours, moods, sleep patterns, appetite, fears and idiosyncrasies, the homeopath will be directed to the indicated remedy.
“Like cures like” is homeopathy’s foremost principle. This means if a given substance can produce symptoms in a healthy person, it can cure those symptoms in a sick person when administered in infinitesimal doses. For example, the root of veratrum album (white hellebore) a highly poisonous plant, causes violent purging that leads to severe dehydration, mirroring the symptoms of cholera. In a tiny, or homeopathic dose, veratrum album can cure those symptoms and restore health. Similarly, arsenic can produce violent abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, burning pains, fears and paranoia. Yet a Homeopathic dose of Arsenic (arsenicum album) is a very important remedy in curing many digestive, respiratory and psychological disorders.
Homeopathic remedies are made from natural (in many cases harmful) substances, from plants, minerals, animal products and even microorganisms that cause disease. In preparing the homeopathic remedies these substances are diluted to minuscule doses, rendering them harmless.
Two of my patients diagnosed with ADHD are prime examples of homeopathy’s curative powers and its ability to address each person’s individuality. While both were diagnosed with ADHD, they were two unique individuals with little in common. Child A: Difficulty focusing in school; impulsive behaviour; aggressive bordering violent behaviour; disruptive in class; good appetite; good sleep; slight asthma; cravings for cold milk. Child B: Difficulty focusing in school; clumsy with poor coordination; accident prone; restless; continuously moved around; poor appetite; restless sleep with nightmares; aversion to fruit; bedwetting problem.
In addition, both children had a different medical history. Child A was vaccinated against all common childhood illnesses, while child B was not; child A had her tonsils removed, while child B did not. The children were given two different homeopathic remedies; child A was given tuberculinum, while child B - arsenicum album. Both showed considerable improvement after one dose. Child A was calmer, less aggressive and able to concentrate at school. Child B became less restless, had improved appetite and sleep. Six weeks later, both children were given a second dose of the remedies. Both children’s health further improved. Child A was able to concentrate for longer periods at school, and did not have her monthly asthma attack. Child B stopped having nightmares, and the daily bedwetting was reduced to less than once a week.
Child C: One mother brought her seven-year-old son Michael to me three years ago. Michael was diagnosed with ADHD, and was prescribed Ritalin. It had started with the teacher and subsequently the school principal complaining about his restlessness in class, coupled with a strong suggestion for Michael to see a psychiatrist and “get some help.” His mother explained that ever since Michael started taking the Ritalin, his personality had changed. He no longer reacted in his usual predictable way to which his mother was accustomed. “He has lost his spark. He says and does things that makes me think another person has taken over his body.” Michael had also lost his appetite, as well as some weight since going on the drug. While he was paying more attention at school, he was no longer his happy, responsive and loving self. He had become withdrawn and pensive. The one hour consultation revealed that the triggering cause of Michael’s inability to concentrate at school was the disharmony between his parents. After two doses of argentum nitricum, Michael was calmer, and his grades started to improve gradually. Under the guidance of his pediatrician, Michael discontinued the Ritalin. With 2 additional doses of the indicated homeopathic remedy Michael was back to his former happy self, and this time able to concentrate at school.
• G.L. Flick, Ph.D., ADD/ADHD Behaviour-Change Resource Kit, The centre for applied research in education, 1998.
Dr. Bromfield, Ph.D.