Is ADHD Real?

I get asked the following question very frequently by my Baltimore clients with regards to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):  Is ADHD real?

Short Background

Inattention in ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is characterized by difficulty in paying attention, difficulty organizing tasks, and frequent boredom.  Adults may have trouble completing school or maintaining employment.  Hyperactivity in ADHD — in children — manifests as trouble sitting still, staying quiet, or running around with very high energy.  Hyperactivity in adults tends to be more a feeling of restlessness and irritability.  You can have more of the inattention symptoms, more of the hyperactivity symptoms, or both.  So its also possible to get a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) minus the hyperactive component.

There are alot of adults who were never diagnosed as children.  Yes — you CAN still be ADHD/ADD as an adult.  The symptoms often quiet down some (especially the hyperactivity) but they are still there.

Is ADHD Real?

ADHD is one of these issues where EVERYONE can find real evidence to justify their own position.  The authorities who say it is a medical disease CAN point to brain scans and also to high genetic inheritability for boosting their case that ADHD is a medical issue.  There is some evidence for chronic B12 deficiency.

The naysayers – correctly – point out all the environmental and nutritional factors involved including diet, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and lack of variety in educational methods.  They point out that the human body did not evolve sitting at a desk 8 hours per day while eating sugar, additives, and reading non-stop.

My position is that there are clearly medical ADHD cases, clearly environmental/nutritional “ADHD” cases, and a whole mess of people in the middle between the two poles.

Further complicating the picture — several depression symptoms overlap with ADHD including low motivation, distractability, and poor memory!

To me the more important consideration is – regardless of the truth of the diagnosis – what do you need to do to alleviate your symptoms?

I don’t care about the label — I care about how you feel and think.

A sensible method to proceed would be to research if the following are right for you:

  • A high protein diet (ADHD usually does better with more protein – especially at breakfast)
  • Less food additives and artificial junk
  • B12, B6, magnesium, potassium, omega-3 fish oil
  • Exercise & meditation — especially a moving meditation like Tai Chi
  • Organizational and study skill methodologies to help structure thinking and tasks

Generally speaking anything that helps mental focus, memory, and energy HELPS BOTH ADHD & DEPRESSION.  Generally speaking anything that improves the nutritional and physiological underpinnings of ADHD-like symptoms will improve your life WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE “REAL” ADHD.

I prefer that clients attempt natural remedies – but sometimes fixing these symptoms the natural way takes 10x as much work as popping a pill.  I am not anti-medication even though I have a holistic focus to my practice.  If you can reduce or eliminate ADHD symptoms through diet, exercise, structuring your day, study skills training, cognitive therapy, herbs and vitamins, etc. — more power to you and I always encourage this.

If on the other hand these natural remedies are not enough — or they just seem too overwhelming — why not find out if Ritalin, Adderall, or some of the other medications can help you without too many side effects?

You have to decide your feelings on the matter and what sorts of medication side effects you can tolerate.  I often tell my clients that the old 80/20 rule applies here — what will give you 80% of the benefit for 20% of the effort?

Here is an interesting nutrition and diet website with some sub-categories of ADHD proposed:

It might be rather hard to follow all of the advice on this website – but any of it might help.  It’s also similar to a diet some bipolar clients have tried with good results.   This website is indirectly hawking an alternative ADHD treatment called ATTEND (which I have not studied) and they are a bit too negative on medications – but the information and classifications are excellent.

I also like Dr. Amen’s work at  See the ADHD page – but it looks like they have “improved” the website and taken down most of the herbal and nutritional recommendations (which is very annoying).  They see different types of ADHD depending upon brain scan – which you can usually guess at by your symptoms.  B12, B6, Omega-3 fish oil, good multi-vitamins, protein at breakfast… these were some of their main recommendations.

If you are looking for adult ADD or ADHD help in the Baltimore Maryland area I would love to help you.