ADHD Development Delay in Self-Control | Self-Regulation
According to this theory, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are the result of
developmental delay in self-control or self-regulation, or a
developmental problem with a lack of self-control and emotional
This theory is worth considering as one part of the puzzle; as an alternative theory to understand and explain the complexity of what ADHD is, how it is caused and how it is to be treated. It is a valid help as long as it is not considered the main cause, or reason for ADHD. If it is considered as the main idea, then it does more damage than good. To read about what is wrong with this theory, read ADHD is not about self-control.
Everyone experiences difficulties in self-regulation to some degree. We have all experienced problems with concentration because of being bored, tired, hungry or distracted by something. We have all had times when we were excessively restless or overactive, could not sit still and pay attention, became impatient, or were too easily excited and too quick to respond.
With ADHD this inability to self-regulate leads to significant difficulty in one’s ability to function at home, at work, in school, or in social situations.
A Thought about an ADHD Perspective
Something to keep in mind and ask is, from who’s perspective is this “inability to self-regulate?”
I am an ADD personality, and am boredom intolerant. The ADHD hyperactive boredom intolerant will act out (be hyperactive) while the ADD person will be active in their mind, thinking on something more interesting than class work, while sitting still, or maybe quietly fidgeting with fingers and toes. A non-ADHD (normal) person is boredom tolerant and so is able to sit still and pay attention in class.
When I was bored in class (many years ago as I am now a retired chemist) I had a good self-regulation. When I was bored I tuned out and had an interesting thought time (self-regulated away boredom). I never had any problem with my ADD. Some of my teachers had though, but I did not. I was focused (not inattentive) and happily hyperactive in my mind, but inattentive as to what the teacher was saying.
One of my daughters had an understanding teacher, who would notice when she had drifted off into her own world. The teacher would mention my daughter’s name between sentences, and regain a personal contact with her, bringing her back into class.
This is something about ADHD children. They behave, and are able to concentrate for relatively long periods, when taught in a one-on-one session. The teacher who can connect with the ADD/ADHD child in class, can help the child stay focused in spite of the child finding the school subject boring. The personal touch means a lot.
Self-Regulation and ADHD
The brain is responsible for self-regulation, activating, integrating, managing, organizing, planning, and carrying out complex behavior. These are called “executive functions” of the brain and are operations within the brain that promote and allow for self-regulation or self-control. Other executive functions are nonverbal memory, verbal memory, internal talk, self-motivation, arousal states, problem analyzing and solving, and thought and behavioral sequencing.
According to this delay in self-regulation theory, the developmental delay in the person with ADHD is in the undeveloped internalization of the ability to self regulate his or her behavior. ADHD is a results of a difficulty of behavioral self-control interacting with the executive functions.
If a person’s ability to regulate behavior and attention is not developed or matured, then the person can respond to stress by being either hyperactive and ADHD or by “tuning out” and being ADD. This theory suggests that as ADHD people do not age appropriately, so they do not develop progressively internalized capabilities of self-control.
While this is true of some children, but many children respond to supplements which deal with specific functions of the brain. The relatively quick response to these supplements without any developmental training, shows us that these other children were lacking certain nutrients in their diet. These supplements have been shown to be at least as effective as the stimulant drugs that are usually prescribed. The advantage is that supplements are natural products, without side effects.
Stress, anxiety and depression deplete the body of certain vital nutrients. Suffering these conditions, which is usual with ADHD, requires extra supplements of these nutrients, which in these amounts, we do not get enough of in our normal western diet.
Studies have shown that a combination of Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and B-vitamin help restore normality and calm in children with ADHD, enabling them to focus on school work.
There are other products on the market specially formulated with a range of natural, side-effect free, nutritional supplements to boost specific brain functions. Examples of these which have been scientifically tested and found to work as well or better than stimulant medicines are Attend for attention, Memorin memory aid and Extress, a natural stress remedy.
A Developmental Delay of Self-Regulation
According to this theory, these difficulties in self-regulation are the result of delays in development rather than a stopped development. It is considered that individuals with ADHD get better as they get older, but will continue to remain behind their non-ADHD peers.
There are studies, to support this theory. Children who are one year younger than their classmates are statistically more likely to show ADHD symptoms.
These studies did not look at other reasons for the differences and ignored other ways of interpreting the results and ignored other aspects of ADHD which were not reflected in these studies. One point to note is that stress and depression also cause the brain volume to shrink. ADHD children are especially susceptible to experience anxiety, depression and stress, and this could have been one explanation for the brain volumes. Incidentally, the brain volume increases again after the stress, depression or anxiety disappears.
An example of delayed development becoming a problem is in preteen children who show signs of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). Some children around six or seven years old behave in a hyperactive manner and become unruly and disobedient. Then at about eight or nine years of age this behavior dies off and they become normal children again.
This dysfunctional behavior can be explained by the child being stressed by school before they are ready, as they have not completed their development to the level of their peers. This behavior would then be a type of self defense coping mechanism. When the development phase has been completed the child calms down as s/he can then cope.
The young child in its first two years has no internal self-regulating mechanism, and this develops around 18 to 30 months. The child learns self regulation through interaction with parents and carers.
During the following four years the child develops more internalized processes of behavioral self-control, which is supported by externally applied motivation, rules and guidance. After that this development is a maturing process, through the preteen years, puberty and on through adolescence.
By the time the person has become an adult the ability to control one’s behavior through one’s own internalized self-regulation should be developed. This self-regulation is, in a mature adult, on a subconscious intuitive level and is a part of a normal harmonious life.
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 Theoryfalls 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.