5 Common Myths on Attention Deficit Problems
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Paris Kidd
Attention issues remain one of the most misunderstood and incorrectly treated cognitive and behavioral problems today. This has given rise to many myths about attention issues and the behavioral and learning problems often associated with them. Knowing the facts about this common condition is one of the first steps to finding the most effective solutions for yourself or your child.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the common misconceptions surrounding attention deficit issues…
Myth #1: ADD/ADHD is a Fad Diagnosis
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is recognized as a medical condition by the American Psychiatric Association, with the diagnostic criteria discussed in their authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-5). Sometimes called ADD for short, ADHD can be expressed in a variety of patterns in the brain.
Many experts believe there are multiple types of ADHD, but there is general agreement that “inattention” or attention difficulties and “hyperactivity-impulsivity” or behavioral difficulties are hallmarks of this disorder. Many children don’t meet all the formal criteria for ADHD, so physicians and parents must cooperate closely to develop the best corrective program for each child.
Myth #2: Everyone Outgrows Attention and Behavioral Problems
It’s been assumed that everyone outgrows attention and behavioral deficits by the age of 12 or 13. However, many people never outgrow it and have symptoms that interfere with their daily lives for decades. Approximately half of the children diagnosed with ADHD will have ongoing problems in adulthood.
Many adults live their entire lives completely unaware they have attention and behavioral deficits that might be correctable. Others may become aware of their own attention problems while seeking help for their child. Treating adult attention deficit and/or hyperactivity starts by understanding it’s a real health problem that can have a negative impact on you, your family, and others around you.
Myth #3: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity is a Minor Problem
Attention issues are a serious societal problem, as revealed by these dire statistics:
- 33% never finish high school compared to the national average of 8.7% (25% repeat at least one grade)
- 52% of untreated teens and adults with these problems abuse drugs and alcohol; 19% smoke cigarettes (compared to 10% of the general population)
- 46% of untreated hyperactive boys will be arrested for a felony by age 16, compared to 11% for controls
- 21-25% of those incarcerated have been found to have ADD/ADHD, according to several studies
- 75% have interpersonal problems
- 60% have a higher risk of being involved in a bicycle collision, and a higher than average percentage have motor vehicle accidents, speeding tickets, citations for driving without a license and suspended or revoked licenses
- They get injured up to 5 times more than others and have more medical visits and emergency room visits.
Myth #4: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Diagnosis is Only for Boys
Although it’s about three times more commonly diagnosed in boys, this disorder also affects girls. Those who struggle with inattentive ADD are typically quiet, introverted, and appear to daydream a lot. Girls tend to have inattentive ADD as much as, or even more than, boys.
Those with inattentive ADD often go unnoticed because they don’t draw attention to themselves and usually exhibit fewer behavioral problems. Many of these children, teenagers, and adults are unjustly labeled as “lazy,” “unmotivated,” or “slow.”
Myth #5: Medication is the Best Treatment for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity
FDA-approved medications can help people with attention deficit problems, with or without hyperactivity. But, as with other health problems, a comprehensive approach gives a better chance for lasting recovery. Although the approved medications may be helpful for some people, they aren’t effective for everyone and have the potential to cause side effects.
Unfortunately, many healthcare providers treat their child and adult patients with a shot in the dark approach, which typically involves throwing a high-powered stimulant medication at the symptom and hoping for the best. Unless the patient has had a full medical assessment, the chances for poor response and/or serious side effects can be substantial.
Parents should closely supervise their child’s recovery from attention, behavioral, and learning issues. In addition to medication options, there are many natural alternatives that can help improve attention and behavioral deficits.
5 of the Best Natural Ways to Improve Attention & Behavior in Kids & Teens
1. Get Moving
Research shows that physical exercise has substantial, measurable benefits in children and adults with attention problems. Physical activity tends to increase the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is involved with attention span, focus, follow-through, and motivation. A 2019 review in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that exercise minimizes attention deficit symptoms and even enhances cognitive performance in children with the condition.
2. Reduce Screen Time
Using devices or playing video games for hours on end can be harmful and habit-forming. Excessive screen time has been linked to a greater risk of problems with inattention. A 2019 study published in the scientific journal PLOS One found that children with more than 2 hours of screen time per day had a 7.7-fold increased risk of meeting the criteria for ADD.
3. Try an Elimination Diet
Some foods may make attention, learning, and behavior problems worse. To determine if you or your child has a food sensitivity, try a 3-week elimination diet by getting rid of the most common food allergens – artificial dyes (including red dye #40), preservatives, sugar, and artificial sweeteners, gluten, corn, soy, and dairy. In a 2011 study, published in The Lancet, one such elimination diet decreased attention problems in 70% of the children tested.
4. Practice Brain Safety
Common accidents, like falling off a ladder, getting into a car crash, or taking a tumble down the stairs can cause a head injury, which increases the risk of problems with attention and concentration. According to research, people with attention deficit and behavioral issues are more prone to having head injuries, particularly student-athletes. Brain safety basics include avoiding high-risk sports, wearing a seat belt when in a vehicle, and always wearing a helmet when on a motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, snowboard, skis, or rollerblades.
5. Address Sleep Problems
Did you know that kids with attention deficit, learning, or behavior problems have higher rates of daytime sleepiness compared with kids who don’t have the condition? According to a study in the journal Sleep, half of such kids have sleep-disordered breathing compared with only 22% of kids without the condition. Sleep issues are also common in adults with attention problems, so be sure to investigate anything that might disrupt your sleep.
Though these natural treatment ideas may help you or your child, what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to treat your condition with a comprehensive approach that includes education, support, exercise, nutrition, personalized supplements, and proper testing.
With over 30 years of clinical practice, the Amen Clinics uses the least toxic, most effective means to assist children and adults with attention, cognitive, or behavioral problems. To learn more about the full range of services at Amen Clinics, or to set up an appointment, please call 888-288-9834.
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