ADHD – or Is It Trauma?

Some people sit down to read the morning paper and others, like me, sit down to read their RSS feeds. =o)

This morning the headline which caught my attention before all others was, “Diagnosis: ADHD-or Is It Trauma?” and it was written by Maia Szalavitz for MSN Health & Fitness.

It piqued my interest because I firmly believe children are more often inaccurately diagnosed with ADD or ADHD than they are accurately diagnosed. And putting your child on drugs to calm them down is not going to teach them how to cope and be calm on their own. Especially if your child truly does not have ADD or ADHD. Right? (Now, I’d like to note I do believe some people probably do need medicine for this and that is fine, I have no qualms with it. What I argue is diagnosing a child, because children are supposed to run around and have short attention spans it is how they develop and learn.)

In this article an adoptive Mom discusses how her child was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7 and she hesitated to have him further evaluated or to give him medicine, because, “She knew that Dylan had been starved and neglected by his cocaine-addicted mother.” Her argument was that due to the trauma in his early life, he was behaving inattentive and hyperactive.

“Though we tend to think of traumatic experiences as rare, in fact, by age 16, seven of 10 children have been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event-such as a natural disaster, severe car accident, child abuse or the loss of close family member-according to a study of a representative sample of more than 1,400 children living in North Carolina published in 2007.”

I can attest to this being true. By the age of 16 there are more than a handful of traumatic events in the timeline of my life. To this day my Mom says they should make a Lifetime made for TV movie about my life.

In fact, I have very early memories of traumatic events and can describe everything right down to the amount of light, the smell and the textures in certain memories of mine. If only my long term memory were as bad as my short term memory these days. =o)

How do you handle a child who has been molded early on in their life by experiences which were far less than stellar? I honestly am not sure if it is possible. I spent a year of my recent life trying to sort things out with a psychiatrist. While medicine certainly took the edge off my extreme emotions; it can’t make the reasons go away.

The article at one point discusses some of what this adopted child had witnessed before the age of 7.

“Dylan had seen his mother use drugs and had witnessed a stabbing. In response, his developing brain-in an effort to protect himself-would have tried to predict which adult moods were most likely to erupt in violence.”

“These children are hypervigilant because they are looking for dangers or threats,” says Frank Putnam, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “They become exquisitely attuned to sights, sounds and especially facial expressions or tones of voice that might be linked with impending trouble.”

“Hypervigilance can look like hyperactivity or inattentiveness in school because these children are paying attention to “distractions” like the teacher’s face or another child’s movements, not their schoolwork. A slammed door might prompt them to jump from their seats—and cause a “fight or flight” response that might seem aggressive or defiant.”

How do you break a cycle like this? Can time, patience, love and understanding really get through? I’m not so sure. I hate to sound like doom and gloom, but once your brain as been molded and developed with those acute responses, how do you change it?

I often find myself saying “well in my world” when I’m talking about life. How selfish it must seem to outsiders to hear me say something like that. But the truth of the matter is there is a “my world” my own internal world; it does exist. And no, you’re not invited. Why would you want to enter? I’m still trying to find a way to keep the doors nailed shut.

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2 Responses

  1. fastfastlane says:

    “And no, you’re not invited. Why would you want to enter? I’m still trying to find a way to keep the doors nailed shut.”

    Wow, thanks for saying what I’ve never been able to so well.

    I myself have had trauma through early life … lost 4 immediate family members by the age of 15, amongst other things. Interesting theory.

    All that I know is that I’ve at least come to terms after becoming recently aware that I have always had difficulties with being easily distracted along with other symptoms of creative ADD.

    I think the important thing is to be aware of what affects you rather than being diagnosed with any specific ‘illness’ to be able to accept it and deal with it. My major turning point was the awareness — the acceptance comes much easier from there, which in turn is the means to cope with it.

  2. Christy says:

    You are spot on! Being aware is definitely the first step. And really, I don’t expect anyone else to understand me, but I do hope those who love me can accept me. Of course I must learn to accept myself.