ADHD and Eastern Medicine

We can see the number of children who suffer from Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) increasing significantly around us. According to the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (2010), the most conservative estimates indicate that ADHD affects over 1 million Canadians (including adults), or an average of 1-3 children in every classroom. ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by a lack of consistent attentiveness, impulsivity, and distractibility. Criteria for diagnosing a person with ADHD may include, for example (from the DSM-VI): often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli; often fidgets with hands or feet, or squirms in seat; often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities; and often leaves seat in the classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected.

If left without treatment, the afflicted person may encounter many difficulties during childhood. Research shows learning difficulties in at least 20% of children with ADHD, and inappropriate behaviour in about 30%. Although the main symptoms diminish or may even disappear once they move into adolescence and adulthood, some are still reported as having poor communication with other people, severe depression, a low participation rate in school activities, and difficulty with relationships. Personality disorders, antisocial behaviour, drug use, and low self-esteem are some of the problems which may also be encountered.

Considerations regarding the cause of ADHD may include: birth and childhood environment, first life experiences, premature birth, drug use or stress during pregnancy, as well as brain damage, abnormal secretion of neurotransmitters in the brain, and side-effects from other drugs. Genetic factors are also regarded as a cause of ADHD, since boys are 8 times more likely than girls to experience it.

Methylphenidate, a stimulant to the central nervous system, is generally used as a treatment by Western medicine, but side-effects such as nervousness, agitation, anxiety, and insomnia may occur. It is a long-term treatment, requiring 2-3 years for full effect. Once the condition is stable for more than a year, the possibility of recurrence will be low.

In Eastern medicine, the underlying cause of ADHD is regarded as an imbalance of Yin and Yang. Children usually have a lot of Yang energy, for example heat for growth. If this heat is excessive, they have a tendency to be impulsive or to be easily distracted. On the other hand, if they have a lot of Yin energy, for example cold or fluid, then they have a tendency to be sluggish and lack attention. The children who suffer from ADHD usually have excessive heat in the internal organs originating from a deficiency especially in relation to the heart, liver and gall bladder. Thus ADHD treatment should involve clearing this heat and strengthening the heart and liver. Furthermore, restoration of the function of all internal organs and regulation of Yin & Yang should also be involved for successful treatment without recurrence. Additional supports for basic treatment include psychological treatment to help stabilize emotions, changes in the home environment, dietary adjustments, and home education.


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