I was stunned to read the following: "Between 2003 and 2007, there was a 22% increase in ADHD prevalence in the United States - today, about 9.5% of school-age children have ADHD."
A 22% increase in only four years. What could possibly be contributing to this increase?
Fuhrman identifies risk factors for children, many of which apply to adults, including poor nutrition, excessive television watching, and inadequate omega-3 intake.
But what about the psychological contributors to ADHD?
A Deficit of Attention
Many of my clients who have ADHD received a deficit of attention from their parents early in life.
They may have grown up in chaotic environments where mom abused alcohol or dad raged violently. Or maybe mom and dad were so busy working, they simply never spent time together as a family. Whatever the reason, they didn't have mom or dad there to teach them important emotion- and attention-regulation skills.
And without these skills, it's hard to succeed in life. Perhaps most significantly, those with ADHD struggle with relationships. They often have a hard time reading other people and, though they seek stimulation, they may feel overwhelmed and anxious in social situations. They may sweat, blush, and shake when faced with group situations or public speaking. And they may worry and even obsess about how others perceive them, often assuming the worst.
Wait a second...am I talking about ADHD or social anxiety?
As a specialist in social anxiety, I've seen a signficant overlap (what we call "comorbidity" in psychobabble terms) between ADHD and social anxiety.
It turns out that 30-40% of those with ADHD also struggle with an anxiety disorder, according to PsychCentral.com.
There are a number of potential reasons for this overlap, including:
- The stress and social impacts of one condition causing the other to develop. For example, being teased in school for being forgetful or easily distracted could cause one to feel socially anxious around peers throughout life.
- Heightened sensitivity, e.g. a tendency to become overwhelmed in social situations due to anxiety, leading to forgetfulness and distractability.
- An "atypical" brain structure, i.e. both ADHD and S.A. contribute to and develop from brain wiring that's different from the "neurotypical" population.
Living with both ADHD and social anxiety ain't easy. But here's the good news -- many treatment methods address both issues.
Let's look at treatment through the lens of interpersonal neurobiology, which looks at the way our mind (i.e. thinking and feeling patterns) and relationships actually alter the structure of our brains. In recent years, science has discovered that, contrary to what we once thought, the brain is plastic and changes throughout our lives in response to our experiences.
What does this mean for ADHD and S.A. treatment? Essentially, we have the power to alter the connections in our craniums so that we are calmer and more attentive. And what's good for the goose is good for the gander -- working on increasing attentiveness conveniently strengthens the part of the brain -- the insula -- that soothes anxiety.
Brain tools we can use to live more fully in spite of ADHD and S.A. include:
- Individual pscyhotherapy
- Group psychotherapy
- Mindfulness practices
- Developing supportive relationships
- Randy McCommons, personal communication, 2012
- "When Anxiety and ADHD Occur Together" by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/when-adhd-and-anxiety-occur-together/
- "More About Interpersonal Neurobiology" by Daniel Siegel. http://drdansiegel.com/about/interpersonal_neurobiology/