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Causes of ADHD and ADD Explained

May 10th 2010

Attention Deficit Disorder diagnostic criteria and a disease are also two separate things and need to be kept apart for clarity. The Diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD have never been objectively validated. There is no physiological validation for the diagnosis ADHD.This is stated in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-IV) the manual used to justify ADHD as a disorder.

Symptoms and a disease are not the same and need to be separated. If two people each have a headache, and feel the same intensity pain, they can get the same advice, “take an Aspirin and rest.” If the first had a normal headache, that would be sufficient, as the cause is trivial and the headache is gone after the rest. If the second has a brain tumour, then the cause needs to be found and removed; it cannot disappear by masking with morphine.

ADHD is a real condition that really exists, but that does not make it a disease.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a disease as: ‘a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.

According to that definition AIDS is a disease, caused by an identifiable virus HIV, but ADHD is not a disease, since no physical cause is known.

The belief that ADHD has a genetic base as a primary cause is obviously false, as other factors can cause ADD or ADHD like behavior. To state that scientifically, there must be an identified defective gene. None have been identified. it is still speculation.

The samegene that has been proposed as the cause of the “disorder” is proposed as a “genius gene” by people looking at the condition from another perspective.

Through the ages famous, successful, innovative, creative and brilliant people have shown ADHD like “symptoms”. Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln and Einstein to name a few.

Before discussing ADHD further, it might be helpful to put the oversimplification of ADHD psychiatry in a scientific context.  In a review article titled, “Toward a philosophical structure for psychiatry,” published in 2005 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatrist Kenneth Kendler the co-editor-in-chief of Psychological Medicine wrote:

“We have hunted for big, simple neuropathological explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them. We have hunted for big, simple neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them. We have hunted for big, simple genetic explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them.”

Kendler K.S. Am J Psychiatry 162:433–440.

Attention Deficit, as a “disorder” started in the 1970s and 1980s and has now reached epidemic proportions. Much thanks to the DSM-IV diagnosis from 1990. Chemical imbalance in the brain caused by DNA, is an inherited trait. Inherited traits (DNA) are present in parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. They do not appear spontaneously under normal circumstances. They do not increase to epidemics in one generation.

Another fact against a simplified “it's a gene” attitude is that the incidence of Attention Deficit “Disorder” is epidemic in the United States, but not in Europe. The majority of the United States population has European ancestry. It is not a problem in Africa either.

Maybe the Europeans with ADHD emigrated to the United States, leaving an ADHD deficient population behind?

Obviously DNA is not the primary cause for ADHD, although it might be valid in some cases, as a potential genius gene, or a gluten intolerance.

DNA is not the only thing transferred from parent to child. Behaviour patterns are also passed on from parents to their offspring. Behaviour patterns are not only learned from parents, but also from society in general. The effect is synergistic, implying that the effect from the family can be enhanced or suppressed by behaviour patterns in society.

In past generations the influence of society could have an inhibiting effect on a certain behaviour pattern from the family; today the stimuli in society override those behavioural checks and balances.

With the prevalence of ADHD as it is now, we should ask ourselves what has changed in the last generation that was not there in the previous generations, besides the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria.

We also need to take consideration of the fact that ADHD is epidemic in certain parts of the world, mainly the USA, Canada, Australia and to a lesser extent in Europe, and not in others.

Three major differences are food and environmental factors, stimuli and families in Western society.

- Parenthesis -

Statistics are often used in scientific research to clarify concepts and distil out of a fog of data some relevant clues or information. There is unfortunately a trap that many researchers fall into. If a researcher plans the research and the statistical methods from within their paradigm, then there is a risk that the results will be a reflection of the paradigm and not the real world.

Unless the procedures are tested to avoid paradigm blindness, for example the idea of falsifiability is tested, then the research results should be taken with a pinch of salt. A falsified test is done to see if the result can be predicted. If the predicted result is found in the falsified test, then it is obvious that something is wrong in the basic structure of the test, or the underlying ideas and presuppositions. A note: science should not be oversimplified ad absurdum to make the scientist’s life easier, which it sometimes is. Even the falsifiability needs to be assessed.

- End of parenthesis -

Food eaten in the West has changed drastically during the last two generations. Additives, pre-processed foods and fast food have all had a profound impact. The obesity epidemic has increased in parallel to the ADHD increase.

Stimuli youth are subjected to today, in the West, are of a different character than those youth were exposed to two generations ago. The increase in stimuli as well as the intensity of them has increased in parallel to the increase in ADHD and obesity. Today there are more ‘passive’ stimuli, sitting at a computer or play station, in front of the TV, etc. than in past generations. Over stimulation of the brain, coupled with under stimulation physically is not a healthy lifestyle. Much of these stimuli are aimed at a short attention span market.

The family used to be a hub from which the family members interacted with the world. That has broken down over the last three generations with both parents working, some parents having two jobs, the increase in single parent families, and divorces to name some aspects of the family breakdown. This breakdown in families has increased in the last three generations, but especially in the last two.

The causes of ADHD and Attention Deficit behavior are many and various, with different mixes of causes for each individual. That is why a competent professional doctor or psychologist, who understands and can screen for the various factors causing the behavior, knows the alternative ADHD treatments available, and has the competence to lead the patient in the right direction, is an invaluable support to guide the family.

The ideal is a natural ADHD remedy, and treating ADHD without medication.


ADD and ADHD is never an excuse for bad behavior. There are solutions to the various causes for the type of behavior described as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

Many artists, musicians, scientists, leaders, actors and actresses were not successful in spite of an attention deficit personality, but were successful because of an attention deficit personality.

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