As a chiropractor that focuses on the health and function of the nervous system I completed special training to understand and work with individuals with ADD/ADHD from a brain and body first approach (hold the meds please). Let me explain a bit about the brain and ADD.
The brain is composed of different parts and the most important for many issues regarding ADD is the prefrontal cortex (PFC); the most evolved part of the brain that sits right behind your forehead. There are two halves to the PFC, a right side and a left side. In terms of function you can think of the left side like a gas pedal and the right side like a brake.
Behavior, impulse control and overall focus are heavily regulated by the PFC. The ability to think through the consequences of our behavior and actions–choosing good friends, interacting with other people, dealing with difficult kids, spending money intelligently, driving safely on the freeway–is essential for creating a successful life. Without proper PFC function it’s difficult to act and behave in consistent, thoughtful ways and impulses can take over.
ADD, also called ADHD, typically occurs as a result of neurological dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex; the right and left brain are not communicating efficiently and at the same level. Astonishingly enough when people with ADD try to concentrate, PFC activity decreases rather than increases as it does in the “normal” brains of “normal” individuals. This is how people with ADD can lack that internal voice of reason, have a short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, and hyperactivity (although only about half the people with ADD are hyperactive), impulse control problems, difficulty learning from past errors, and procrastination.
Here are some common characteristics of ADD that show its connection to the PFC:
The Harder You Try, The Worse It Gets.
Research has shown that the more people with ADD try to concentrate, the worse things get for them. Instead of increasing as it should, the activity in the PFC will actually decrease. The photo above shows how the brain of someone with ADD decreases in function with increased concentration. The dark spots, or what appears to be holes, reflect areas of the brain that are not connecting and firing (working). This means that when a person adds more pressure on a person with ADD to perform, he or she often becomes less effective. The harder they and the more stressed they are the worse it gets so it is much more effective to use praise and encouragement that are highly interesting or stimulating and relatively relaxed.
Short Attention Span
A short attention span is the hallmark. People with ADD have trouble maintaining their focus and effort over prolonged periods of time. Their attention tends to wander and they are frequently moving to another idea, thinking about or doing things other than the task at hand. Yet one of the interesting things with this brain configuration is that people with ADD do not have a short attention span for everything. People with ADD can pay attention just fine to things that are new, novel or highly stimulating, interesting, or frightening for them. These things provide enough intrinsic stimulation that they activate the PFC so the person can focus and concentrate.
As mentioned above the right side of the brain is like a brake; the right PFC sends inhibitory signals to other areas of the brain to quiet stimulation from the environment so that you can concentrate. When the PFC is underactive you don’t get the braking effect and too many stimuli bombard the brain as a result. Distractibility is obvious in the person with ADD; in the classroom, during meetings, or while listening to someone, the person with ADD tends to notice other things going on and has trouble staying focused on the topic at hand. People with ADD tend to look around the room, drift off, appear bored, forget where the conversation is going and interrupt with unrelated information. Their distractibility and short attention span can cause them to take much longer to complete their work.
Lack of impulse control gets many ADD people into trouble. They say inappropriate things to parents, friends, teachers, and others. Poorly thought-out decisions also relate to impulsivity. Rather than having the voice of reason and thinking a problem through, many ADD people want an immediate solution and act on the idea that comes to mind. For adults with ADD impulsivity causes these people to have trouble going through the established channels at work; they often go right to the top to solve problems, rather than working through the established system.
The relative lack of activity and stimulation to the PFC craves more activity. Many people with ADD unconsciously seek conflict as a way to stimulate their own PFC. They do not know they are doing it, they do not plan to do it and they deny that they do it. Yet they do it just the same. Hyperactivity, restlessness, and humming are common forms of self-stimulation.
Though we often look at the more negative side of ADD and how it creates problems I want you to understand that there are also gifts present when properly addressed. Being able to think outside of the box and multi-task may get a child in a classroom into trouble with the teacher but allows an entrepreneur to be extremely successful in getting ahead of the competition. ADD is not a disease but rather a different brain configuration. They are like MAC’s in a world of PC’s.
At the Spinal Vitality we have the B.L.I.S.S. Program to help you understand your brain and create a treatment plan that is targeted to your brain’s unique needs. Call us today at 949-616-5470 or visit our website to schedule an appointment.