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Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., in his controversial book The Myth of the ADD Child, insists that ADD is a diagnosis aimed at forcing children to behave in a particular, narrowly defined manners.2 He claims that children have different learning styles, respond to stress in various ways, and that the condition has been radically overdiagnosed and overtreated. He encourages a wide variety of nondrug interventions including adjustment of the classroom setup, more kinesthetic learning, project-based learning, martial arts classes, visualization, and meditation.

A similar viewpoint is held by Peter Breggin, M.D., author of Toxic Psychiatry and The War Against Children. Dr. Breggin, a psychiatrist who refuses to prescribe Ritalin for his patients diagnosed with ADD, holds a strong belief that there is no evidence that symptoms associated with ADD constitute a diagnosis or a mental disorder. He voices strong concerns about the possibly damaging long-term effects of Ritalin.3

Still a third health professional, child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley Greenspan, writes in his book The Challenging Child that a number of attention problems are due to visual, auditory, motor, and special processing difficulties. Children with all of these individual difficulties, according to Dr. Greenspan, are often misdiagnosed with ADD.4

As homeopathic physicians, we do not believe that it is helpful to lump so many people with widely differing symptoms into one syndrome and treat them all with similar drugs. Having seen several hundred children with mild to major behavioral, learning, and attitude problems, we believe that these children need to be handled as individuals with unique problems rather than treated stereotypically. We also favor a treatment approach, homeopathy, that lasts for months or years, not just a few hours.

What About Neurotransmitters?

Most physicians and mental health professionals attribute ADD to an imbalance in transmitters within the brain, often serotonin. Many studies have attempted to correlate ADD with specific neurotransmitter abnormalities. A group of researchers from the University of Georgia reviewed these neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological theories and studies.5 They concluded that although there is evidence of neurological differences in children diagnosed with ADD, no definitive mechanism has been found for these differences. The authors recommended a differential diagnosis of ADD, learning disability, and conduct disorder. They suggest that it may be more accurate to view the syndrome as a cluster of various behavioral deficits, including attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which share a common response to psychostimulants. In other words, a neurotransmitter imbalance is an impressive way to explain ADD, but remains questionable.

An Overstimulated Society

One correlation which is clear to us is the increasingly rapid pace of our highly technological society and a growing number of children diagnosed with ADD. We live in an extremely overstimulated society. Children spend hours playing Nintendo rather than romping through the woods or playing outside. Many are glued to the television set. Movies are speedier, scarier, and more violent than ever before. There is a growing atmosphere of hurriedness, intensity, and urgency. Many children and teenagers do not leave home without their beepers for fear of missing something for even a moment. We eat fast, play fast, and channel-surf. We eat in fast-food restaurants known to decorate their premises in jangly colors so that their customers will eat quickly and move on to make space for the next shift. People look for caffeine and drugs of all kinds to make them go faster and stay up longer. They buy double espressos to pick them up more quickly. They use highly caffeinated amphetamine-like herbs, including ma huang and guarana, that contain seven times as much caffeine as coffee. Our society places little value on tranquillity, quiet, solitude, and the simple joy of being in nature.

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About The Author
Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP, MSW is a licensed naturopathic physician board certified in homeopathic medicine. She graduated with a degree in ...more
 
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