Tag Archives: ADD

Is Neurofeedback an Effective Intervention for ADHD?

Is neurofeedback an effective non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD? According to Dr. Russell Barkley it doesn’t measure-up.

“Neurofeedback does not have convincing evidence of effectiveness for treating ADHD when appropriate and rigorous scientific methods are used.” He wrote this as a means of reflecting a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of research that had been published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Research.

The results reported on 13 trials. The evidence from well-controlled trials with “probably blinded outcomes currently fails to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD.”

Huh…well, that’s interesting.

While I am a proponent of rigorous scientific inquiry, I’m also a firm believer in personal experience. And my experience is different from the results presented in this article.

Six years ago I was desperate. Two years earlier I had been diagnosed with ADHD.  I started out taking meds, but I didn’t like the side-effects. All things being equal I kind of wanted to go natural. I did supplements, inconsistent exercise and a lot of hoping. Of course that didn’t work.

And then, two years later, at the behest of my wide, I tried neurofeedback. At first I didn’t have much hope. I stuck with it and, after about six months of treatment, there was actually a difference that I could see, feel and experience.

My Doc, Erik Olesen, explained that neurofeedback was an effective treatment for repairing the flow of neurotransmitters, especially for people that had experienced brain trauma of some type. I came to understand that brain trauma could either cause ADHD-like symptoms, or could exacerbate existing symptoms of ADHD.

I had suffered a traumatic brain injury during my freshman year in college while playing baseball. While pitching in one of the final games of the year I took a line drive going 120 mph off my temple. I took the full force, broke the zygomatic arch, and spent a week in the hospital. They had to wait four days for the swelling to go down before they could repair my broken bone.

Prior to that I had experienced a number of “mini traumas” while playing high school football and from taking the back-swing from a baseball bat to the side of my head when I was in elementary school.

With each blow my brain would take a mild shock and careen into the side of my skull. The line drive to my temple was more like a sledgehammer that forced my gray matter to curl into a Mavericks sized wave that came crashing.

According to Erik the neurofeedback treatment could likely repair the damage these events had had on my brain.

Connecting nodes to my forehead and temples, he would lead me through a series of exercises. I could actually watch my brain waves working on the screen of a specialized PC – and after a few months I could see the improvement.

More to the point, I experienced subtle differences in my behavior. My concentration and focus improved. My emotions were more in check. I was feeling less depressed. I was happier.

Now, was the neurofeedback reducing the effects of the brain trauma, which in turn was lessening the negative impact of ADHD? Was it repairing my ADHD directly? Frankly, I didn’t care.

If brain trauma had exacerbated the effects of ADHD and neurofeedback was reducing this effect, then, in my book, the process was an effective treatment of ADHD.

Had I never had a brain trauma, would the treatment be as effective? I’ll never know. I just know that for my situation it was effective – at least I could experience an improvement overall.

Isn’t that what really matters? My belief is that I was born with different wiring in my head, and only God can actually “cure” ADHD. All any treatment can do is help to minimize the effects of ADHD.

Can neurofeedack help you or a loved one that has ADHD? Maybe it will. I think it depends on the context of your situation. Is it worth a try? I think so – but I’m not a doctor. I can only go on my experience.

The ADD Death Spiral, Part One

My belief is that having ADD is a blessing.

For whatever reason, the configuration of my brain has unique wiring. My neurotransmitters fire differently. Certain executive functions are challenging. Focus. Organization. Follow through. Sustained attention. You know, the stuff that teachers, employers and other authority figures value.  These things are tough for me – and for most with the blessing.

Blazing Mind will be filled with all the positive things that ADD contributes – creativity, agile thinking, humor, passion.

This article isn’t about those things. Like so many things in life, there is a dark side to this blessing. Well, this dark side has many, many shades of gray. This one I call The ADD Death Spiral.

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Like soil erosion, it happens gradually. We begin with clarity, feeling positive. Maybe we’ve started a new job or a new project, a new romance. Life feels good. We feel validated. Endorphines are pumping, our mind blazes bright and fast.

Then one day we forget a deadline…forget to take our meds…don’t study…blurt an unedited thought that doesn’t land properly. Discord occurs. The brightness dims.

Maybe we were forgiven, even given a pass. After all, our natural talents or winning personality are still attractive. Then it happens again. This time we don’t show up for a meeting, say something really thoughtless, leave a mundane task half done.

Trust is lost. Resentment starts to build. The shine others once saw in us begins to dull. And we know it.

That’s when the death spiral can really kick-in. We came into whatever situation we’re in with a nod toward low self-esteem…and yet we are optimistic and positive that we will overcome this time. We’ll get it right! This time, breakthrough!

Our attention begins to wander. More tasks are begun and never completed. We forget simple things, like feeding the dog or returning a call. The mundane stuff builds up. Boredom sets in. Our optimism is replaced by a low-grade depression. “Here we go again,” you might say. Or, my favorite, “Damn, I thought I was doing better.”

One of the basic truths of ADD sets up solid as we attempt to summon more energy: The harder we try, the worse it gets. You hear Yoda’s wizened voice, “With ADD there is no try.”

We spiral.

The depression gets a little thicker, clouds mounting, pregnant with cold rain. We want to be anywhere than here, because staying here is just a reminder of how much we truly do suck. “I can’t do anything right…why bother? Move on…I didn’t want this jobrelationshipsituation anyways!”

The bottom hits. It comes differently for each of us, but it does come. Maybe it’s just more disconnection from someone we love. Maybe we get reprimanded at work, maybe even let go. A pile of incomplete projects get higher, like twisted rusted metal in a junk yard.  It feels hopeless. The spiral has brought death to yet another dream, job, relationship.

The spiral tightens and maybe we shake our fist at God, “Why did you do this to me?”

The answer is always the same. And we don’t want to hear it.

We can’t bear hearing it again because…heavy sigh, maybe two…being responsible isn’t our strong suit.

No one did this to us. God didn’t curse our existence. He gave us challenges because it was pre-determined that we had the wherewithal and gumption to overcome them. What we must face would cause week-knee’d normies to quiver and faint.

There is a formula to fending off the death spiral. I’ll present that in Part Two.

 

Re-connect, Re-construct, Reconcile.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Creative Types, people with ADD, and other oddballs can be a bit idiosyncratic.

We tend to have a different outlook on life, maybe have difficulty connecting with our internal editors, maybe we can also be somewhat difficult.

All true. We definitely have a perspective. And we’re not always the best team members. Someone has to blaze trails, right? This personality trait often works well in art, but doesn’t always work in relationships. God knows I’ve had my trials – and have been a trial to countless others. Funny, I’m a very social person – I like people. But I also have mastered the practice of isolation.  Frankly, it’s getting to me.

So, this year I have decided to re-connect, re-construct and reconcile with people. The monastic life just isn’t working anymore.

Let’s see what happens. Can I maintain my abnormality and also have meaningful connections with normies and abbies alike? Sounds like an interesting experiment.

Blazing Mind vs. Efficiently Organized Normal Mind

I have a difficult time with mundane office tasks. Most who would look at my desk would say that I’m insanely disorganized, with stacks of papers on my desk, a mish-mash of office supplies and post-its slathered amid the stacks.

To the untrained eye this would appear incongruous with an organized mind. Well, this blog is called Blazing Mind not Efficiently Organized Mind. That’s right…I hate filing. When I have used a filing system in the past I’d eventually pull files from the chest and stack them on my desk. I’d trade papers for files filled with papers.

A Blazing Mind isn’t necessarily a conventionally organized mind. My thoughts could be all over the place for a while (like the papers on my desk), but within a few keystrokes I could find the zone and write for hours on end, copy that would need little re-writing, stuff I’d be proud enough of to hand over to my wife for editing.

Organized thought comes in a flash, like ball lightning, an electric explosion that comes from the wild blue yonder. When I finish, my desk is still a mess – my kind of mess. I know where stuff is, just like I know that ball lightning will come again at some point.

Most people with ADD can relate. The neatly prim and proper desk with everything in its place just feels so unnatural. Typically we’re expected to keep our desks like this, with the boss getting aggravated when our true nature takes its rightful place and the desktop is buried. How inefficient is that? After all, it’s going to take a while to clutter up the desk again, right? Wouldn’t it be better to keep the clutter and maximize the Blazing Mind?

And that’s the point. Think abnormally. Don’t conform. Let your mind blaze. That’s where the sweet spot will be, right there inside the Blazing Mind zone. Don’t try jamming the square pin inside the round hole. Just find your own groove and find the flow of the positive river.

Dare to be Abnormal

From the time we were small the powers that be have attempted to squelch individual voice and crush the uniqueness of soul to achieve a grand scale social proof.

They wanted us to be “normal”. Square hole square peg. Things gotta fit.

It’s easier to manage normality. To keep the streets safe and taxes paid normality must rule the day. I mean, what would happen if we each chose to be abnormal? Mayhem, chaos and anarchy! A world run amok with artists, shit-disturbers and radicals!

It would be a world ruled by ADHD!!

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

To tell the truth I’ve got no beef with normality. We need quiet quaint tree lined streets with well manicured lawns, houses occupied with mom dad two point three kids a cat and a dog and a mortgage paid on time every month. We need law and order and the American Dream. We need social systems that work. That world can be run by the 90-95% of the population that qualify as normal.

Where does that leave the 5-10% that aren’t normal, that are round pegs in a square hole world?

Right where we need to be. Inventing. Creating, Rebelling, Shouting. Laughing out loud. Manufacturing chaos and mayhem. Questioning. Pushing against social proofing. Living on the edge. Leaping off cliffs into the clouds below. We are the dazzlers and jesters and minstrels and adventurers discovering new lands.

We put dreams into action.

You don’t have to have ADHD to be a part of the Abnormal Crowd, but it helps. Those of us blessed with ADHD are accustomed to being the oddballs and misfits and dreamers of dreams. It requires a large dose of uncommon sense to live in this world, a world in which normalcy feels awfully uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, because of all that early conditioning and soul crushing, the unique ones must battle through depression, esteem issues and being ostracized to simply become who they were meant to be.

Abnormal.

Therefore, I say to my brothers and sisters who dare to break free from normalcy, do so. Do so with uncommon gusto. It takes courage to be abnormal. You can do it.

Dare to be abnormal. Dare to be what God made you to be.

Let Freedom Ring

Rules, structure and ADHD go together about as well as champagne and castor oil. So it seems.

When rules and structure are imposed it can feel suffocating and frustrating, like we’re caught in a vice and the freedom is slowly being crushed from us, our essential life force dripping slowly into a pool on a cold concrete workshop floor.  Having ADHD, we often fight against rules and structure like we were engaged in a death-match. It can feel like our very existence is at stake.

A remedy is to turn to our art, whatever that may be. Whether it is words on paper, paint on canvas, or the soft click of knitting needles gliding smoothly through good Irish wool – we can seek refuge and hope to find our state of flow.

The irony, of course, is that a primary purpose of art is to dive into the swirl of chaos and bring it form. The difference is that there isn’t some external critic or authority imposing their brand of structure. It’s just you and your art, and the structure you choose to apply.

It’s your unique, authentic brand that’s important; as is your attempt to ride the timeless flow of the Positive River. You and your art. Your world, your rules. Enjoy your art.

It’s freedom. Let freedom ring.

The Debate: Blessing or Curse?

Over the years I’ve browsed many blogs and other stuff on the web that focused on ADHD. I’ve heard a lot of folk bitch and moan about having ADHD. Yeah, it can really suck sometimes. No doubt. But, I prefer to think that having ADD is a blessing. After all, if just 5% of the adult population shares this unique condition, there must be something special about it…and me.

I like this post by ADHD coach Lynne Edris. She’s responding to a dude who is bemoaning his fate. I understand his feelings. At first, after being diagnosed, I did a lot of whiny “why me” schtick, too. However, I like Lynne’s take because, throughout my book I extoll the blessings (followed by tools) of possessing the condition.

She is right. How well we do with the condition comes down to our state of mind. Everything in life is a state of mind!

Will there be struggles? Of course there will be struggle! Being human means we will face difficulties every single day! No one, whether they have ADD or not, is immune! Life is hard enough…why make it worse by bitching about the hand we were dealt?

Instead, why not turn the tables? Why not choose to believe that ADD is a blessing? Believe it or not, having ADD blesses us with abilities that “normies” don’t have! I once heard an advertising executive say that creativity was the ability to make diverse connections. Those of us with ADD are experts at making connections that others cannot yet see. That’s an advantage!

I could go on and on about why I’m glad I was born with this condition. Suffice it to say, I think it is a blessing. And, I think the quicker we embrace and learn to use our wiring to our advantage, the better our lives will be.

Is ADD the new, hip affectation?

This is kind of weird.

During the course of my day, week, month I run into a lot of people. More often than not conversations turn to, “What have you been up to, Jim?”

When I tell them I just published a book on creativity and ADHD, I’m shocked at how many people say, “You know, I have ADD, too!”

We’ll engage in the conversation – “So, how does it manifest for you?”

More often than not people describe their busy, frentic lives. Overwhelmed and over-committed, they often describe the multiple projects, tasks, obligations, yadda yadda yadda they have going on.

I have no doubt that these good people are portraying their lives accurately. Speed, after all, defines the age we live in. Everything is going fast and faster and too damn fast.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that 11% of children age 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD since 2011, and it is estimated that 4% of adults actually deal with the condition on a daily basis. As we’ve come to learn, ADHD is typically hereditary, and if a child has the condition, a parent or grandparent likely has it, too.

So, I ask my colleagues, “So, how has it manifested in your kids?”

“My kids? They don’t have it!”

I nod and smile. “Well, it sounds like you have a hyperactive lifestyle. If you’re not enjoying it, maybe you could slow it down a bit.”

I’m not sensitive about folk claiming to have something that they do not possess. It’s interesting how “ADD/ADHD” has become a descriptor and not just a diagnosis. Maybe that means more people have become more accepting that it actually exists. There are many out there that don’t believe ADHD is real, after all.

Of course, it is real. To be effective in life, those with ADHD need to manage the condition and channel their strengths in accordance to how they are wired. And for those who live an ADHD lifestyle? They could probably use some of the tools we use to manage our ADHD. Can’t hurt.

In the meantime, if people around you claim to have ADD, and you know they don’t, let it be okay. Take them out for coffee and invite them to slow it down. It’ll be good for all involved.

Makers Make (and then revise)

When people ask me what I do, and then I tell them I’m a writer, it draws an interesting response from many.

“Wow…I’ve always wanted to write!”

Of course, my response is typically, “That’s terrific. Why don’t you write?”

“I don’t have time…I’m not that good…I don’t know what to write about…” You get the picture.

Well, writer’s write. That’s what makes someone a writer. They sit before a blank screen, fingers poised above the keyboard, and then fill the page.

Once the page is filled the job is just beginning. Writer’s write, and then re-write.

A good friend who writes sci-fi books told me once, “My first draft is always crap. The re-write is the attempt to clean up the crap.”

It’s true. We aren’t perfect. There was only one Mozart (who could hear and see the symphony in his mind and write the music from brain to hand, perfectly). Us mortals – and especially those of us blessed with ADD – must absolutely entertain one or more re-writes.

I actually enjoy the re-write process. The work takes shape. It’s like a master blacksmith who pounds with his heavy hammer, refining and shaping, refining and shaping, until he has his finished piece. It’s a process.

So…MAKE. And then revise. It’s the process and path every craftsman must take.

Weed Slog Syndrome

I live and die by deadlines. As a writer I’ve abided by due dates my entire career. As someone with ADD this has been no easy task because sometimes Weed Slog Syndrome hits and there isn’t much I can do about it.

Weed Slog Syndrome?

It’s a combination of overwhelm, brain fog, and the inability to focus. You feel like you’re slogging through a mud marsh filled with ten foot tall weeds. Caffeine doesn’t work. Supplements don’t work. Even the adrenaline that sudden urgency typically brings is not present. You’re just slogged.

Well, I just got slogged. I haven’t missed a deadline in quite some time, but I did this week. Let me tell you, it made me spin.

I suck. I’m gonna get fired. It’s not my fault (my favorite). Maybe you know this script?

I made a mistake. I got a date wrong. What I wrote was pretty good. Of course, that was negated because I missed the freaking deadline.

I gave myself permission to kvetch for a bit. I think that’s better than swallowing and spinning on my self-anger. It’s a release.

And then I asked God for His grace to cover me, to forgive my humanness. And then I accepted that I had made a mistake, and that whatever consequences occurred, I would accept them with humility.

Getting Slogged isn’t an excuse. It’s like playing a football game in the snow. It’s messy, but you still have to plow through to the finish.