WHAT IS ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders among children. There are different estimates regarding the prevalence of ADHD. The APA estimates that 5% of American children have ADHD, while the CDC estimated that in 2011 11% of US children had received a diagnosis at some point in their lives. This means that 1 in 5 high school boys and 1 in 11 high school girls in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD. The disorder also occurs in adults, both those who had ADHD as children and those who didn’t.
Globally, ADHD diagnosis and treatment rates are on the rise. The reasons for this are unclear, but may include a higher awareness of the disorder in general, and in particular among certain groups (such as girls, racial groups, adults), as well as recent changes in guidelines for diagnosing ADHD published in the DSM-5 psychiatric manual.
There are three types of ADHD recognized by the DSM-5: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and combined type. A diagnosis is made by a mental health professional based on the occurrence of symptoms in the past 6 months. These symptoms should be observed in more than one environment (for instance both at home, in school, in social situations). ADHD is often diagnosed when a child reaches school age (6-12), as the symptoms become more noticeable and interfere more with their daily activities.
Some of the symptoms of inattentive ADHD include:
Lack of attention to detail
Problems staying focused on tasks or activities
Does not listen when spoken to
Difficulty organizing tasks and work
Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort
Frequently loses things needed for daily life (keys, glasses, wallet, cell phone, etc.)
Becomes distracted easily
Forgets daily tasks
Some of the symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive type include:
Fidgets with hands or feet
Unable to remain seated
Runs or climbs when inappropriate
Unable to play or do leisure activities quietly
Always “on the go”, as if driven by a motor
Difficulty waiting for his or her turn or in line
Interrupts or intrudes on others
ADHD was traditionally considered a disorder which only affected children, and in most cases it disappears when they reach adulthood. However, in recent years ADHD among adults has been gaining more attention. In the US around 4% to 5% of adults are affected by ADHD. According to studies, approximately 80% of children who have ADHD do not report symptoms as adults. Some new research suggests that there is a different type of ADHD, called late-onset ADHD, where symptoms of ADHD only begin to appear past the age of 17.
ADHD impacts many different facets of life, including school, work, family and social relationships. According to the FDA, studies have shown that children with untreated ADHD have more emergency room visits and are more likely to have self-inflicted injuries than those receiving treatment for the disorder. Untreated adolescents with ADHD are more likely to take risks, such as drinking and driving. They also have twice as many motor vehicle accidents as those who are treated.
The causes for ADHD aren’t clear, but there is evidence that some of it is genetic, and it often runs in families. Other possible non-genetic factors include cigarette smoking, alcohol, or drug use during pregnancy, low birth weight, and brain injuries. Research doesn’t show a link between food with sugar or artificial additives
TREATMENT FOR ADD/ADHD
Neurofeedback has been used as a treatment for ADHD in clinics for over 40 years, and in some studies it has even been found to be as effective as medication in treating symptoms of inattention and impulsivity. It can be used together with other treatment options, such as behavioral therapy or medication.
People with ADHD have been found to have different brainwave patterns than those who don’t have the disorder. They often have more Theta (slow, drowsy, mind-wandering waves) activity than usual, and less Beta (fast, focused, problem-solving) activity than other people. Neurofeedback, or EEG biofeedback, is a form of non-drug therapy which helps train the brain to change its activity patterns over time.
Neurofeedback uses an EEG device (a cap or headset) to read the patient’s brainwaves and translate them into visual or auditory cues. The patient receives feedback in real time on his brain activity, so he can see or hear immediately when he’s focused or when his mind wanders. The feedback part of neurofeedback is usually a video or a game (for a peek at how the Mind Body Myndlift home neurofeedback system feedback Mind Body looks.
Since neurofeedback is a form of brain training, it requires persistence and regular training over time. The usual recommendation for a full course of therapy for ADHD is 30-40 sessions done twice or three times a week for 30 minutes each session. Patients usually start to see results after 8-10 sessions, and the full course of sessions is recommended to ensure that the results are long lasting. Neurofeedback doesn’t introduce any drug into the body or transmit anything, making it a very safe form of treatment. Most clients experience very few or no side effects.
A meta-analysis of studies of neurofeedback for the treatment of ADHD published in 2009 states that neurofeedback is an “Efficacious and Specific” (Level 5) treatment for ADHD, very effective in reducing symptoms of inattention and impulsivity and somewhat effective in lowering hyperactivity
However, since many studies of neurofeedback therapy for ADHD have had methodological flaws (for instance: small sample sizes, different forms of neurofeedback, no control group, or not randomized), there are a number of large-scale studies currently underway trying to strengthen the body of research on neurofeedback.