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Essay/Term paper: Attention deficit disorder

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Science Reports

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Attention Deficit Disorder


For centuries children have been grounded, beaten, or even killed for
ignoring the rules or not listening to what they're told. In the past it was
thought these "bad" kids were the products of bad parenting, bad environment, or
simply being stubborn, however it is now known that many of these children may
have had Attention Deficit Disorder, or A. D. D., and could've been helped. A.
D. D. is a syndrome that affects millions of children and adults in the United
States and is a very frustrating and confusing syndrome that often goes
undiagnosed.
While there is no clear-cut definition of A. D. D., it's known that it's
a genetic disorder that affects males more often than females, in a 3:1 ratio,
and is marked by a classic triad of symptoms, which are impulsivity,
distractibility, and hyperactivity (Hallowell 6). There are two general types
of A. D. D., the stereotypical, high-energy, hyperactive group, and the less
known underactive ones that often daydream and are never mentally present
anywhere. Typically, people with A. D. D. are very likable and are usually very
emphatic, intuitive, and compassionate, however they have very unstable moods
that can range from an extreme high to an extreme low instantly, for no apparent
reason. Usually, they procrastinate often and have trouble finishing projects,
while conversely, they can hyperfocus at times and accomplish tasks more quickly
and efficiently than a normal person could. Often they have short tempers and
lack the impulse to stop themselves from blowing up over minor details
(Hallowell 10).
Although A. D. D. has just recently been discovered and there is still
relatively little known about it, it has an interesting history. In 1902,
George Frederic Still first thought that the dilemma of problem children was a
biological defect inherited from an injury at birth and not the result of bad
parenting. In the 1930's and '40's stimulant drugs were first used to
successfully treat many behavior problems due partly to Still's hypothesis. In
1960, Stella Chess further boosted research in the field by writing about the "
hyperactive child syndrome." She stated that the behavior problems weren't a
product of injury at birth, but instead were inherited genetically. Finally, in
1980, the syndrome was named A. D. D., due in large part to Virginia Douglas'
work to find accurate ways to diagnose it (Hallowell 12).
Formally, A. D. D. comes in two types: A. D. D. with hyperactivity and
A. D. D. without hyperactivity (Hallowell 9). However there are several other
subtypes that are used to diagnose the syndrome and aren't formally recognized.
The six most interesting, though not necessarily most prevalent, are A. D. D.
without hyperactivity, A. D. D. with agitation or mania, A. D. D. with
substance abuse, A. D. D. in the creative person, "high-stim" A. D. D., and
pseudo-A. D. D.
The first subtype, A. D. D. without hyperactivity, is the most
frequently seen subtype. A common misconception about A. D. D. is that it's
only present in hyperactive people, while in this subtype the people are
underactive, even languid. These people are the daydreamers that drift off to
their own world during class or during conversations. This type is most common
in females and the core symptom is distractibility. This, while being the most
frequent, is also the hardest to diagnose because it seems that the people
simply "need to apply themselves" or "get their act together (Hallowell 153)."
The second type, A. D. D. with mania or agitation, can often be mistaken
for manic-depression due to the high energy levels involved in both and the
rapid changes in mood. However, on can distinguish between the two by their
response to medication. People without a favorable response to lithium, the
drug prescribed to manic-depressives, quite likely have A. D. D. A difficult
twist to diagnosis is that the two may coexist. This occurs when the person
cycles between mania and A. D. D. (Hallowell 169).
The third subtype is A. D. D. with substance abuse. Substance abuse is
one of A. D. D.'s hardest "masks" to see through because the abuse itself can
produce A. D. D.-like symptoms. Often when a person with A. D. D. has
substance abuse problems they unknowingly are self-medicating themselves with
the drugs. They do this when they choose to use the drug continually simply
because it clears the static from their mind (Hallowell 174). The three
substances used most by A. D. D. sufferers are cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana.
With cocaine, the person feels focused and alert as opposed to the average state
of being high and out of control, because the cocaine acts as a stimulant, much
like Ritalin, to the part of the brain that's dysfunctional in A. D. D.
(MacLean 11).
The fourth subtype of A. D. D. is A. D. D. in the creative person. At
first, one might think A. D. D. would hinder creativity but, in fact, many
elements of A. D. D. favor creativity. One of these is the disarrangement of
thought the A. D. D. sufferer lives with and, in order to be creative, one must
get comfortable with disarrangement. Also, a cardinal symptom of A. D. D. is
impulsivity, and what is creativity other than an impulse gone right (Hallowell
177)? A. D. D.'s ability to hyperfocus at times also can contribute to
creativity because a person can fiercely attach to an idea and work it to the
end. The only real disadvantage to creativity in A. D. D. is harnessing these
elements to carry through with the brilliant ideas.
"High-stim" A. D. D. is the fifth and most interesting type of A. D. D.
"High-stim" A. D. D. occurs when a person seeks out highly stimulating, and
often dangerous, situations to avoid boredom. In the person with A. D. D., a
high-risk situation provides extra motivation which has been proven to help the
person focus. Often a child with this type of A. D. D. will pick fights with
others to spice up a situation without necessarily being angry (Hallowell 179).
The sixth and final subtype of A. D. D., pseudo-A. D. D., isn't actually
A. D. D. at all. Instead, it's just the mistaken impression that A. D. D. is
just the way life is for everyone. The reason for this false feeling is that
life itself is much like A. D. D. with its fast pace, high stimulation, violence,
anxiety, etc. The way one can tell between pseudo-A. D. D. and genuine A. D. D.
is the duration and intensity of the symptoms (Hallowell 193).
There are five basic steps to treating A. D. D. The fist is diagnosis
which, in itself, can provide great relief. The second is education because the
more one understands A. D. D., the better one can understand how to solve the
problems it creates. The third step is providing structure, which is important
in reducing the inner chaos and providing a sense of control. The fourth step
is having someone to provide encouragement, instructions, and reminders to the
person with A. D. D. The fifth, and final, step is medication, which helps by
correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain. Unfortunately, this doesn't work
for everyone and it should not be used as the only treatment (Hallowell 14).

Some common medications for A. D. D. are Ritalin, Dexedrine, Cylert,
Tofranil, Norpramin, and Catapres which all have their own, individual positive
and negative aspects (MacLean 11). Also, one must beware of controversial
treatments that have overstated or exaggerated claims, that claim to treat many
ailments, and/or claim that they have been unfairly attacked by the "Medical
Establishment (CH. A. D. D. 1)."
With increased knowledge and acceptance of A. D. D., society can help
itself in at least two major ways. One, it could lessen the prison population
because a large number of inmates have undiagnosed A. D. D. and, given proper
treatment can overcome their problems to live a productivelife. Second it could
tap into a large, unused base of intelligent people with undiagnosed A. D. D. to
help further mankind. Overall, A. D. D. isn't something to be overlooked and
pushed aside due to the many benefits understanding it would give.



WORKS CITED

CH. A. D. D. "Controversial Treatments for Children with Attention Deficit
Disorder." Online. Internet. 1995

Hallowell, Edward M. and John J. Ratley. Driven to Distraction. Simon and
Schuster. New York: 1994.

MacLean, Marvin E. "Medications and A. D. D." The Journal of Bio/Behavioral
Dynamics. September, 1995: pg. 11.

 

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