Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that affects 3 to 5 percent of American children. It interferes with a person’s ability to stay on a task and to exercise age-appropriate control over their behavior.
As discussed in a previous blog, the diagnostic criteria for ADHD may be slightly revised in the upcoming publication of the DSM-V that is slated to come out in 2013. Despite that, the basic ADHD symptoms will largely remain consistent.
The current diagnosis of ADHD requires at least 6 of 9 symptoms of inattention that are causing significant problems for the child and have lasted more than 6 months.(1) Common symptoms of inattention that are part of the DSM diagnostic criteria include the following:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Often does not follow through with instructions and often fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (eg, schoolwork, homework); often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (eg, school assignments, pencils, books, tools, toys)
- Often is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, tools)
- Often is forgetful in daily activities
To receive the diagnosis of ADHD for the “hyperactive/impulsive” subtype, it requires least 6 of 9 symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity that are causing significant problems for the child and have lasted more than 6 months. Common symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity that are part of the DSM diagnostic criteria include the following:
- Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
- Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents and adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
- Often has difficulty quietly playing or engaging in leisure activities
- Often on the go or often acts as if driven by a motor
- Often talks excessively
- Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
- Often has difficulty awaiting turn
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
The most significant criterion for the diagnosis is that the symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity must cause significant impairment in two or more settings (school, home, work, etc.) for more than 6 months. In other words, practitioners need to be careful not to give out the diagnosis too indiscriminately. Just because a parent or teacher is concerned that the child does not act like a “perfect little adult”, does not mean that the child should immediately be put on stimulant medications without careful consideration. The ADHD symptoms must be significant enough that they are causing marked problems in the child’s ability to perform at school, socially, or in an after school activities like sports, dance, or music lessons.
For example, if little Suzie is an innately intelligent child, yet she is getting C’s in school because she cannot sit still and focus long enough to score higher on her tests, then her inattention is significantly impairing her academic progress. Since the diagnosis is currently a clinical diagnosis, that means that there are no blood tests or brain imaging tests that can help make the diagnosis. The diagnosis, according to the DSM-IV criteria, is largely based on parent and teacher report and doctor observation. This is how most primary care pediatricians make the diagnosis.
There are PhD trained pediatric neuropsychologists who are experts in brain development and the associations with learning and behavior. This special group of psychologists can conduct very formal standardized tests for areas of brain functioning related to attention difficulties. In the Phoenix valley, Dr. Zigler and the Nicholls Group are excellent neuropsychologists who are trained to make these more formal ADHD evaluations. To learn more about the details that a common neuropsychological evaluation may entail, visit this page of Dr. Zigler’s website.
Homeopathy for ADHD Symptoms
Homeopathy is a safe, gentle, and effective treatment for kids suffering from ADHD symptoms and has no known side effects. Homeopathy works by stimulating the child to rebalance and self heal. There are several scientific studies on the use of homeopathy to treat ADHD, including an outcomes-based study where homeopathy compared very favorably to methylphenidate (Ritalin).(2) Another double-blinded randomized control trial demonstrated positive results with homeopathy.(3) In addition to both parent and teacher standardized ADHD symptom scores improving by more than 50% with homeopathic treatment, they conducted very sophisticated neuropsychology testing at baseline and after treatment in these studies. In the research, they found highly statistically significant improvements in visual detection of details, impulsivity, and divided attention with homeopathic treatment. They also found statistically significant improvement in auditory short-term memory, a trend to increased stability of mood, and better reactions to unexpected events.
(3) Frei H, Everts R, von Ammon K, et al. Homeopathic treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled crossover trial. Eur J Pediatr. 2005 Dec; 164(12):758-67.