By Dr. David Velkoff
When it comes to ADD or ADHD, there are the facts and then there are the myths. It is far too often the case that the truth gets clouded over by false, misleading information.
The truth is that ADHD is a complex, very real disorder that afflicts 3 to 5 percent of the population of the United States. The truth is that there are many children, adolescents, and adults, who are currently struggling with ADD & ADHD in school or at work because they have never been successfully helped. Furthermore, they may have been misinformed about how they could be helped, and not been given an option of being treated without drugs.
The truth is that while ADD or ADHD is a serious disorder, there are effective, non-drug treatment options for those afflicted that can reduce symptoms over time.
Unfortunately, those who get caught up in the misinformation and the ADHD misconceptions tend to also avoid treatment, as they have been convinced that they either do not need treatment or that they will overcome the disorder on their own. In some cases, this misinformation can even cause the afflicted to simply become too embarrassed to ask for help, as they are fearful of being judged and unfairly mischaracterized as being “lazy” or “unmotivated.”
As such, it is our goal and mission to clear up 10 of the most common myths and misconceptions about ADD or ADHD, as we want our readers to be able to fully understand the facts about ADHD or ADD that could be helpful to family members.
Fact: ADHD has been recognized by both the National Institute of Health and the American Psychiatric Association as a neurodevelopmental disorder.
Of all the myths about ADHD, this one is probably the most frustrating, especially since there have been numerous studies involving neuroimaging that have explicitly illustrated that children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have neurophysiological abnormalities that appear in their brain scans compared to brain scans of typically developing children..
These findings include abnormal functional connections in brain maps of ADHD children that are linked to symptoms. So even though ADHD children can be quite intelligent, sometimes gifted, they have neurobiologic limitations with brain functioning that are visibly apparent in these brain scan studies.
In sum, the ADHD myth of not being a real disorder is false. ADHD is a real medical and psychiatric disorder with brain differences that cause impaired processing resulting in symptoms.
Fact: Brain maps of ADHD children show underactive or dysregulated frontal lobes. A child can still stay focused on very stimulating, preferred activities such as video games, television, legos, etc., even though their frontal lobes are underactivated or dysregulated.
You do not need your frontal lobes working optimally to stay focused on video games. Stimulating, preferred activity (e.g., electronics) can hold their attention to the outside stimulation even if the frontal lobes are under functioning.
However, homework may not hold their attention normally with dysregulated frontal lobes even if the child is bright. You need your brain regulating normally to sustain focus on non-preferred, non-stimulating tasks which include many of one’s academic tasks.
Fact: If the ADHD child or adolescent seems lazy, it is the result of the disorder, not the cause. When their brain functioning is dysregulated, resulting in slower and inefficient processing of information, trying harder is not going to fix it or make much of a difference so they naturally lose their motivation.
The ADHD child was not getting back an appropriate return for their efforts so they can lose their motivation to try hard. Effort alone is not enough if the frontal lobes are dysregulated. If they receive treatment to improve brain functioning, enabling their efforts to produce successful results, then their motivation improves.
Fact: ADHD is a neurobiologic disorder. Poor parenting can cause more difficulty for the ADHD child but it doesn’t cause it. Conversely, excellent parenting is helpful but doesn’t resolve ADHD by itself.
Parents of ADHD children are under much more challenge themselves because their child, neurobiologically, is not able to be fully receptive to the best of parenting efforts. Helping the parents with supportive parenting methods, while the child’s neurophysical disorder is being treated/improved, is the optimal treatment.
Fact: Even though about half of children with ADHD are hyperactive, approximately half of ADHD children are not hyperactive and struggle primarily with the inattentive symptoms. Inattentive ADHD children are not disruptive nor do they cause behavioral problems, so they are more likely to “fly under the radar” for a while before being diagnosed.
The inattentive ADHD child may not be diagnosed until they require excessive teacher redirection, demonstrate frustrating battles with homework, or fall significantly behind academically.
Sometimes, gifted inattentive ADHD children will actually perform well academically in elementary school, but then suddenly get overwhelmed in middle school due to their lack of executive functioning abilities that are necessary when you now have multiple teachers.
Fact: Drugs are not the only treatment for ADHD/ADD. There are other non-drug treatments that can help ADHD/ADD. Neurofeedback, combined with behavioral modification and a healthy diet, can be a very effective treatment option for many patients.
The clinical practice of medicine should always use the safest, effective treatment first, which is why the Drake Institute uses brain map guided neurofeedback as our primary treatment for ADHD/ADD. We have helped many ADHD patients reduce or eliminate their dependency on medication as they improve from the neurofeedback treatment.
Though there are patients who may require medication at times, such as if they are significantly out of control and may be a danger to themselves or others, or are markedly disrupting the classroom or family life. However, drugs should be the last option when necessary.
Fact: Research as shown that as many as two-third of children and adolescents with ADHD/ADD do not outgrow the disorder, and will continue to have problems associated with ADHD as adults.
Adults with ADHD may have a lifetime of mental health challenges. ADHD adults have higher divorce rates, more alcohol and drug problems, employment problems, lower incomes, and increased vulnerability to anxiety/depression.
Some ADHD hyperactive children will outgrow the hyperactivity but may continue to struggle with the inattentive symptoms and executive function problems into their adulthood.
Fact: Having focusing problems doesn’t automatically mean it is due to ADHD.
ADHD or ADD is not the only cause of focusing or concentration problems. A child without ADHD, who suffers with anxiety, can also have impairment with concentration. The clinical presentation of lack of focus in children with anxiety disorders can look identical to inattentive ADHD symptoms.
A thorough clinical evaluation can differentiate between the two disorders in order to develop the most appropriate treatment plan. Depression can also cause focusing problems that are not a result of having ADHD. However, ADHD and anxiety disorders, as well as ADHD and depression, can run together in the same patient.
Fact: ADHD is a serious medical or psychiatric disorder that, if left untreated, can rob an individual of a successful, fulfilled life.
Many neuroimaging brain studies of ADHD patients have shown abnormalities or impairments in brain functioning that limit one from developing their full capabilities. If left untreated, they will be more vulnerable to underachievement, low self-esteem, missed opportunities, relationship problems, and alcohol and drug problems as they get older.
The ADHD child’s difficulties also increases stress for parents. Normal day to day living tasks can be very difficult. Schools can provide accommodations, more individualized instruction, sometimes supportive aides, they can “lower the bar”, but school programs do not treat disorders.
Fact: Medications only temporarily suppress symptoms and can cause unwanted side effects. Once the ADHD drugs wear off, the symptoms typically return.
Furthermore, with stimulant drugs, the patient can develop a tolerance to the dosages whereby it becomes less effective over time, in which case the dosage may then have to be increased.
Since 1992, the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine has provided treatment for ADD and ADHD without the use of drugs or medications. It is through our experience and expertise that we can confidently speak to these ADHD and ADD facts. ADD or ADHD is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that should not go left untreated.
By utilizing advanced qEEG brain mapping and neurofeedback, the Drake Institute can obtain an assessment of the patient’s brain’s specific dysregulated areas and administer individualized neurofeedback treatment/training protocols to stabilize these areas to reduce symptoms.
Our neurofeedback treatments enable the patient to improve brain functioning which can reduce symptoms, in contrast to taking medications whereby the improvements can dissipate when the medications wear off.
Are you or someone in your family struggling with ADD and ADHD? If so, please call the Drake Institute to schedule a no-cost screening consultation today.
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Spanish News Feature
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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Behavioral Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Behavioral Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Behavioral Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”