ADHD Theories – Neurological Disorder
Each of us is responsible for our own health. ADD (Attention Deficit
Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) occur in
all countries and in all races, it is universal in humankind. Yet in
different parts of the world ADHD is treated differently.
In the USA it is still stimulant drugs as main treatment of choice.
In Australia it is a holistic approach including therapy, diet,
education of parents and adjustments in schools, but stimulants are
relegated to use as a last resort in severe cases. In China nutrition is
an important factor and medication does not feature.
To understand ADHD theories in depth requires years of study and
understanding a vocabulary that is specific to that particular niche.
Words, which are used in everyday language, can have specific meanings
and nuances, which differ not only from normal usage, but even from
usage in another branch of science.
However there are areas where the average intelligent person can
have an opinion on a subject, even if it differs from an expert in that
subject. This is in considering paradigms. Paradigms are basically our
subconscious understanding of the world around us. An atheist and
someone who believes in God will respond to and understand the same
Our personal experiences also shape our paradigms. If we take vitamin
supplements in winter and do not get the flu, then we are open to
accepting nutrition as a way of strengthening our immune system. We may
then be less willing to take a flu vaccine even if the authorities may
urge us to do so.
The popularity of alternatives to medication is much a result of
negative experiences with drugs, and positive experiences with
alternatives, be they some form of therapy, or supplements. This in
spite of some researchers and doctors who say we get all the nutrients
we need in our daily diet and do not need vitamins and minerals.
We do not have to be intimidated by scientific sounding gobbledygook.
It is legitimate to ask for explanations from the experts. If the
expert is evasive, then it is probably because s/he is not so sure of
him/herself. If the expert tries to evade by putting us down, then s/he
is probably too arrogant to see his/her own mistakes.
Paradigm blindness, comorbid with arrogance, is the greatest threat to scientific advancement, especially with attention deficit. This is explained in Attention Deficit Scientist Disorder (ADSD).
All theories start with assumptions, which set the paradigm through
which the results from the study will be interpreted. The contents of
the theory can be perfectly logical and correct step-by-step, but if the
original assumption is wrong, then the theory will be wrong. There can
still be many truths buried in it, each of which adds to our
understanding of this controversial condition, but the final conclusion
will be erroneous.
Seeing ADHD as a neurological disorder is the result of an original
assumption that it is a disorder. That assumption defines how the
evidence is interpreted. When the evidence is correct, the
interpretation needs to be considered with a positive critical approach.
The choice of following one assumption in one direction or another is a
personal choice. There are equally qualified experts on both sides of
This interpretation is based almost exclusively on the unproven assumption that the patterns seen in the brain are the cause of the attention deficit. The brain imaging could be recording a symptom,
or the brain’s response, to attention deficit in many of the cases.
Boredom intollerance is one of the causes of ADD and ADHD behavior, and
can be expected to give precisely the results we see in brain imaging.
ADHD and ADD are officially categorized as a neurological disorder
characterized by hyperactivity, forgetfulness, mood shifts, poor impulse
control, and distractibility and is always present from childhood.
In neurological pathology, it is currently considered that there are
physiological causes for ADHD. It is a chronic syndrome caused by
abnormal brain functioning for which no medical cure is available, but
daily maintenance dosing of stimulant drugs allows the sufferer to lead a
It is believed that when a person develops ADHD, the executive
functions of his/her brain are impaired. Executive functions include
things like paying attention, ability to concentrate on a task or “stay
on task,” self-motivation, problem solving, organizing and planning.
Brain scans have in recent years been used as evidence for this
theory. The fact that ADHD type of behavior correlates with brain
disorders does not imply that a brain disorder is the cause. A certain
brain scan can show brain activity caused by some other condition.
Depression for example results in a decrease in the volume of the
brain. Synapse density decreases. The brain scan from the depressed
person and an ADD/ADHD person can be identical. On the other hand a
disorder in the brain can cause ADD or ADHD behavior. In young children
depression can result in ADD or ADHD like behavior patterns.
The historical picture of ADHD as a disorder dates from 1902 when the
British physician George Still described a condition similar to ADHD,
which he called a defect in moral control. The disorder’s names evolved
through minimal brain damage and minimal brain dysfunction to
hyperkinetic or hyperactive. The focus was until recently on children
and in particular in school.
Sitting long hours at school in a classroom is a relatively recent
development in society. This is a particularly unnatural activity for
young children. ADHD is a disorder in this area.
The second area it is a disorder is in an adult who chooses a career,
which does not fit an ADD or ADHD personality. Working in an open plan
office can be particularly taxing for a person with attention deficit.
The main authority on clinical diagnoses of psychological behavior, the DSM-IV-TR
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition
Text Revision), defines ADHD is a genuine disorder, but it does not
manage to define what a disorder is.
The arguments against ADHD being a neurological disorder say:
- ADHD is a diagnosis based on a manual and there are no laboratory or radiological tests or specific physical features by which it can be diagnosed.
- Diagnostic criteria have changed frequently, on the average every eleven years.
- There is no psychiatric curative treatment, so long-term therapies are required, yet there are alternative therapies based on cognitive behavioural therapy and coaching, which do work.
- The rates of diagnosis and of treatment substantially differ between countries and cultures.