“Hello, I would like to schedule a time to talk about some of the things I have noticed about your son, do you have time next week?” Every parent dreads the call from the teacher to discuss their child’s behavior. Often these discussions of behavior lead to conversations about ADHD and ADHD treatment. This story is too common with 1 in 10 American children being diagnosed with ADHD and most of those are boys. (1)

The CDC considers ADHD one of the most common childhood disorders, but we know just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s normal. (2) Is ADHD real, or is it just something they say to medicate kids who can’t comply to the school environment? I’ll probably offend parents on both sides with my perspective on the problem with ADHD treatment and diagnosis.  I’m going to talk about it today and I go into it in more depth in my video from my series, “A Different Perspective.” What I really want to do is help parents question and do more research on ADHD treatment and diagnosis to make the informed decisions for their child. As a parent, I understand how important these decisions are. Every parent wants to see the best for their child just like I want the best for my daughters.

The Problem with ADHD Diagnosis and ADHD Symptoms

Everybody knows someone with ADHD, but do you know how they diagnose ADHD? Whether you use traditional ADHD treatment or are looking for a holistic approach to ADHD, you need to take a look at how they diagnose ADHD. They don’t use a physical test like a blood test or an X-ray. There is no test because they don’t know what causes ADHD. They do an evaluation based on a set of symptoms and then determine ADHD treatment. What are the symptoms of ADHD that they evaluate?

ADHD Symptoms of Inattention According to the CDC (2)

• Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
• Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
• Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
• Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
• Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
• Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
• Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
• Is often easily distracted
• Is often forgetful in daily activities

ADHD Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity According to the CDC (2)

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting their turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

Do I Have ADHD?

Did you just look at that list and realize you have ADHD? Most people would! For a child to be diagnosed with ADHD they would exhibit 6 or more of the symptoms. If you were wondering how many for an adult, it’s 5. How many of us experience these symptoms regularly? Many people I know and work with do. Does that mean we need ADHD treatment?

I’m not saying that ADHD isn’t real. But in my clinical experience, I would say at least half are examples of over diagnosis and that the others need to be looked at with a different perspective than traditional medicine can offer. I am empathetic to the parents whose children are experiencing very real and frustrating symptoms. Want to know why I am so empathetic?

I was one of those kids and, no matter what my parents did, my skin felt like it was crawling, and I tried to stop it. Nothing helped. That wasn’t because my body lacked medication though. I actually had a severe egg allergy that was overstimulating my nervous system. The traditional medical thinking is looking at managing ADHD symptoms and not finding out what is causing them. They manage those symptoms with ADHD medications but even they admit they don’t know how those medications work.

Are Side Effects of ADHD Medication Worth It?

Medications come with side effects and that includes ADHD medications. Many of the parents who have come to our clinics are there because they know the side effects are unacceptable and there has to be another answer for their child. Some of the side effects and risks of ADHD medication that have been reported include sleep disorders, addiction, heart disease, growth problems, tics, psychosis and even suicide. They even admit they don’t understand how these drugs work.

The “experts” say that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disease which explains why they don’t understand how the medications they prescribe to children work. The drugs that are often prescribed are causing a biochemical change through serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters like histamines. When I look at that I understand that they aren’t making neurodevelopmental changes. They are making biochemical changes. From my clinical practice, I have learned that ADHD isn’t neurodevelopmental and often it’s neuro-stimulatory. We have to find out what is causing the brain to be overstimulated.

Just because ADHD medication leads to a child that is sitting still and focused doesn’t mean it is the best care for the child. Health care should not mean long-term use of prescriptions. That’s why many parents search out how to help a child with ADHD without medication. There are multiple factors that can contribute to ADHD symptoms.

Factors That Contribute to ADHD Symptoms

Food Can Be Poison

Would you put junk gas in your car? So many people give their kids junk food and expect them to function well. We know that processed foods aren’t good for us, but we still eat them. How do you expect your body to respond? The preservative, artificial flavor and artificial colors have been connected to ADHD, hyperactivity and other behavioral concerns. One of the first things I tell patients is that it’s important to avoid processed foods and inflammatory foods. If your child starts the day with a big bowl of processed cereal that causes hyperactivity, that can make school very difficult.

Even healthy food can be bad for you. I’m allergic to eggs. That is what was causing my immune system to respond and make my skin feel like it was crawling all the time. My mind would go a million miles a minute and it was hard for me to think through all the clutter. It was healthy eggs and not just junk food! Allergies cause a histamine response. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that affects that brain and the rest of the body. That’s why we recommend getting all of your allergies tested including what some people mistakenly call “sensitivities.” Before you sign off on ADHD treatment consider if the food your child is eating is harmful.

Toxins Are Everywhere

Our world is full of toxins! While the body is designed to remove toxins, there are so many toxins we are exposed to that it is hard to keep up. These toxins affect the immune system, your gut and your brain. At birth many parents allow their children to be vaccinated with toxins. Our crops are covered in pesticides. There are thousands of chemicals that are banned in Europe that might be in your personal care products. Water is full of toxins like chlorine, fluoride, pesticides, and medications. And, yes, medications are toxic to our bodies. These toxins can add to your child’s ADHD symptoms.

Parenting

Parenting can be a contributing factor to ADHD symptoms. I’m not saying every time because there are clinical causes of ADHD, but it can be why we are seeing such increased rates of ADHD. If your child can sit still and focus on their video games for a long time, they don’t have ADHD. I know this can be a difficult topic, but parenting can be a contributing factor. Watch my full-length video on ADHD to hear more of this story and why I think parenting can play a critical factor.

Ways to Reduce ADHD Symptoms

Avoid Processed Foods and Reduce Sugar Intake

Cutting processed foods from your family’s diet is important to your child’s health and can reduce ADHD symptoms. The chemicals and food dyes in processed foods have been linked to hyperactivity and a wide array of concerns that will impact their long-term health. Processed foods are also full of sugar which is another food that should be avoided. Sugar is very excitatory and causes inflammation, which can lead to behavioral problems. While we are talking about that, parents should never give their child energy drinks. There are so many ingredients that are harmful to children and the stimulants in energy drinks can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

Get Your Child Tested

Getting your child tested is one of the first steps to understanding what is exciting, or stimulating, your child’s nervous system. A proficient doctor will start with an allergy test to see what foods are causing inflammation in the body. After an evaluation, they could also suggest testing to see if there are any undiagnosed infections in the body that are contributing to your child’s symptoms.

Find Ways to Reduce Stress

Our lives are getting busier which means children are more anxious and under more stress. By high school, the average teenager has more stress than the 1950’s psychiatric patient exhibited. (5) Stress has a toxic effect on the body and can cause the brain to be rewired. Chronic stress can be a contributor to behavioral problems and can cause children to have difficulties in school.

Reduce Exposure to Toxins and Skip Vaccines

A high toxic load can throw off so much in the body including behavior and mood. Find ways to reduce your family’s toxic load by minimizing the toxins they are exposed to. Choose organic foods and buy a water filter to reduce that exposure. We have articles to help you find healthier personal care and household products options.

You make 100’s of choices a day that can add to your toxic load and that includes the decision to vaccinate. There are so many reasons to skip vaccines and how they contribute to ADHD is one of them. There have been numerous studies that show that vaccines can cause brain inflammation or brain overactivity. If you have been giving your child vaccines, it’s time to stop.

Support Your Child’s Healthy Development

Give your child the best version of yourself and be a supportive parent. Be careful what you say to your children because your words can affect your child for the rest of their life. What you say to them will become their inner voice.

Make sure you are giving them an environment that offers discipline and also gives them room for activity and exploration. ADHD symptoms can also be signs of boredom. Kids aren’t meant to sit still, and they should not be expected to act like mini-adults. Capture their brains with what interests them and when they are bored, allow them to explore.

Get Regular Chiropractic Adjustments

Your body is like a Swiss Watch and the nervous system is an important gear in that Swiss Watch. Chiropractic adjustments remove stresses on the nervous system that can be inhibiting the body from properly functioning and its ability to heal. Spinal misalignments can impact your child’s ability to focus and their behavior. Studies have shown that regular chiropractic adjustments can improve ADHD symptoms and a we can help you find a chiropractic clinic. (6)

Health Care Shouldn’t Be Taking Drugs Long Term

Parents need to stop listening and start learning so they can protect their children. ADHD is very real, but there is a problem with ADHD treatment and diagnosis. The human brain wasn’t designed to need drugs but if your child is exhibiting behavioral concerns, it can be a sign there is a problem. Finding out what is causing the symptoms can help reduce ADHD symptoms and the need for ADHD treatment.

Many people want to find how to help a child with ADHD without medication. They are smart to be looking for different answers. ADHD is real, but it needs a different perspective.

Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn

Watch Dr. Patrick Flynn’s video for more information on The Problem with ADHD Treatment and Diagnosis.

The Problem with ADHD Treatment and Diagnosis Resources:

  1. https://www.additudemag.com/statistics-of-adhd
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html
  4. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/141/6/e20173872
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/200804/how-big-problem-is-anxiety
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20451152