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ADHD Is Not About Self-Control

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are complex, and even if the child appears to be able to be able to show self-control at certain times, there is more to the story than what appears at first sight. ADD and ADHD are situational and how the child responds to various stimuli is individual. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to ADD and ADHD. This is where the Self-Control Theory falls short.

Criticism of the ADHD as a Lack of Self-Control Theory.

In psychology and psychiatry there are often unfortunate choices of words. Words which have meanings and connotations in everyday layman's language are used in ways that encourage the listener or reader to think of the words from the normal dictionary understanding. The technical meaning or definition gets lost.

An example of this is the word “disorder” in ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This has incorrectly been understood by students as disease, illness or sickness. Very few researchers in the field of ADHD research understand, or have read, why and how that word “disorder” is used technically. The result is that we can read in peer reviewed scientific papers ADHD described as an illness or a disease, without the peer reviewers noticing it, nor any reaction by others who read the article after it is published.

ADD and ADHD are not diseases or illnesses. Diseases and illnesses can have ADHD-like behavior as symptoms, but AD/HD is something different.

The bad choice of words continues by respected researchers saying that ADHD is a lack of self-control. There is a popular theory that ADHD is the result of a development delay in self-control and self-regulation. While this is true of some children, they are a minority. ADHD is much more complex than these researchers are prepared to accept. This type of loose talk from people accepted as experts does great damage to the public understanding of what ADHD actually is.

The various ADHD theories each give us pieces to the puzzle in understanding the condition. If however we take one puzzle piece and see it as the complete puzzle itself, then serious errors arise. This error (considering this part of the puzzle is the answer to the puzzle itself) has been promoted by Russell Barkley. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on ADHD and has been an active academic in the field of ADHD for many decades.

Barkley is a typical scientist who twists and oversimplifies his reasoning to suit his paymaster and is used here as an example of this “type” of researcher.

His theory however fails on some basic scientific and philosophical principles.

  • Not seeing the difference between cause and effect.
  • The cause needs to be cured, not the symptom.
  • Machines are made with identical parts. Children are not machines.
  • Children are individuals, not little clones.
  • Each person has a unique metabolism, biochemical and genetic makeup.
  • Brains and neurological processes in brains are complex. Science has still not understood the complex workings of the brain.
  • The human brain is the most complex thing in the universe.
  • There is still no proof that a soul, a “ghost in the machine” or a “me” separate, but integrated with the brain, does not exist. This missing part is the “psyche” in psychology.
  • Theories are tested by testing the paradigm.
  • The theory's basic assumption needs to be tested, not planning research to confirm the theory's unsubstantiated presuppositional assumptions.

Barkley appears to have an emotional deficit problem himself. When he delivers his “words of wisdom,” the man has an arrogant attitude towards people with ADHD. He tries to be a clinically objective scientific observer, but seemingly has no ability to empathize and mentalize in his relationship to his research "objects" (the children being studied).

A basic truth is, that if a person does not understand what s/he is observing, then it is highly likely that the interpretation of the observation will be faulty. This is one of Barkley's main faults. This fault is not unusual in the academic community.

Barkley has managed to bring the science of ADHD a full circle back to the first "scientific" mention of what we know today as ADHD, from 1902.

The descriptions of behavior from a 1902 presentation at the British Royal Academy of Physicians, are pretty much a description of problematic ADHD today. Especially with the emotive choice of words like “self-control.”

George Still, the physician who presented these initial lectures on what was to become ADHD, in 1902, called it a "defect of moral control" and "volitional inhibition." These were not scientific observations, but Still's opinions. In those early days George Still mixed behavior patterns with symptoms and defined that as a disorder.

He could not see a difference between a child acting hyperactively because it was emotionally traumatized, and a child with Conduct Disorder (CD). Conduct disorder has a different mechanism than most of the other 100 causes of ADHD.

Barkley believes that the fundamental deficit in individuals with ADHD is one of self-control, and that problems with attention are secondary. He emphasizes that during the course of development, control over a child’s behavior gradually shifts from external sources to being increasingly governed by internal rules and standards. Controlling one’s behavior by internal rules and standards is what is meant by the term “self-control”. While this is true, why it happens is somewhat more complex than a myopic mind of a pharmaceutical industry's sycophant's self interests can fathom.

Russel Barkley describes ADHD as “The triad of inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive problems may constitute one of the most well-studied childhood disorders of our time.”

The sad thing about ADHD is that it has become one of today's least understood conditions of the human psyche, in both adults and children. It has become the most over diagnosed, under diagnosed and misdiagnosed modern children's condition, all at the same time. If these researchers would try and research the ADHD phenomenon as it really is instead of trying to simplify it ad absurdum, we would not have this confusion.

This is because researchers such as Barkley are suffering paradigm blindness. With their inability to understand another researchers opinion, and are locked into a state of denial. They deny any research results which question their hypothesis.

Although these researchers are aware that ADHD behavior can be caused by infections in the brain, brain injury, exposure to environmental toxins and traumas at birth, they continue to ignore the common sense approach of treating the cause. Instead they are hyperfocused on suppressing the symptoms, even to the extent of using mind bending drugs on young developing minds.

The ADHD stimulant drugs do work for a majority of ADD/ADHD individuals, but they do not cure or contribute to a healing process. However they do have side effects, which no physician can predict for the individual patient. These are only known by hindsight. These drugs suppress the symptom and do nothing to the underlying cause, which remains as untreated as before. ADHD Drug treatment must continue throughout life. A cure has a lasting result. Many ADHD researchers like Barkley have a financial interest in promoting pharmaceutical drugs, and so publish scientific papers justifying the pharmaceutical industry's stand.

There is a hypocrisy in their reasoning. When discussing their results they assume children are supposed to be similar in their responses. However they are aware that the amphetamine stimulant drugs for ADHD, are unique to each patient.

  • No doctor can predict which drug is best for that specific patient.
  • No doctor can predict which dosage is optimum for that patient.
  • No doctor can predict which side effects will develop, and how strong they will be.
  • No doctor can predict if a side effect will develop later.
  • The dosage for each patient varies during their life. Adjustments have to continually be made over time.

They speak as if they know the scientific facts about ADHD. If something can be considered a scientific fact a mechanism must be described, and this must be tested. There is no single mechanism and so they do not know what causes ADHD. In other words their “facts” are really speculation.

There is nothing wrong with speculating. That is how science advances; speculating, testing, speculating, testing, etc. What is dangerous is when they try to take control of the situation. We who have ADHD or have a child or spouse with ADHD need more than controversial speculation. Especially when there are solutions available.

In the media the stimulant drugs are often presented as the cure. Stimulants only work for a few hours and are therefore not a cure, but suppress symptoms for those few hours, and the hyperactivity is back unchanged, apart from a side effect or two. A cure must address the cause and treat the cause. There are remedies for ADHD, adapted for the specific cause.

This situation will remain so as long as these researchers are in denial to the many causes of ADD and ADHD. This is where we need to be proactive, and not wait passively for these scientists to agree with each other. They have their own agendas, which are not in our interests, but in promoting their careers.

The page the 101 causes of ADHD is a place to start as a guide to finding your personal solution. The actual cause is the key to the cure.

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