ADHD and Accepting Help, Hormones, Meds and More

ADHD and Accepting Help, Hormones, Meds and More

What do you do when someone you love with ADHD won’t accept help? Do hormonal changes affect medication? What are the different types of ADHD treatment available? These are just a few of the questions Dr. H addresses in this week’s podcast as he responds to emails we’ve received from our listeners.

Please continue to reach out to us with your questions and episode ideas! Write an email or record a voice memo and send it to [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at omegabritewellness.com, and by Landmark College offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at lcdistraction.org. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. In today’s episode, I will be doing one of my favorite things, answering questions and responding to emails from you, our treasured valued, esteemed, and just magnificent listeners. As we usually do with these episodes, my wonderful producer, the lovely, brilliant, so very faithful and good and true, Sarah Guertin is joining me today to help out. Okay, Sarah, who are we starting with today?

Sarah Guertin:
I kind of sound like a dog. Maybe that’s why we get along so well, you like dogs. I’m loyal.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You don’t look anything like it though.

Sarah Guertin:
Well, thank you anyway. Okay, so today we are starting with an email from a listener named Mary. She writes, “I enjoyed listening to the mini Distraction/What’s in My Toolbox podcast.” That was quite a while ago you did that one, but she says, “My son is almost 20. He was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at age eight. He is a wonderful human being and very loved, but struggles daily and spends much of his time shut away in his room. He has friends and enjoys his time with them, but shuts himself away when at home. Throughout his life he has shunned any form of help, despite huge encouragement. He won’t accept our help or help from external sources, i.e., he rejected to help at school, left college as lecturers couldn’t help him, won’t let us teach him practical things, gave up on driving lessons. The list goes on. How can we overcome this barrier? If it was in his toolbox, he’d fly.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Mary, your son, this is not uncommon, particularly among young men. He had a hard time early on, and he’s adopted avoidance as a coping style. That’s really the coping style that I hate to see, because it’s out of fear. He doesn’t want to fail. He doesn’t want to look stupid. He doesn’t want to embarrass himself.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
He’s, as you say, a wonderful human being and very loved, but he’s hiding from the world. How do you bring someone out of hiding? How do you coax someone or persuade someone that it’s worth taking a shot? This is where creativity comes into play, even bribery, but if you can find something to interest him in, something to get him to stick his head out of his hole long enough to smell life and get excited by something, anything. It could be a project, could be a relationship, could be a sport, could be a puzzle. Could be something online, some chat rooms, some group of people, some game, anything to get him involved in life.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That’s, I would say, the measure of a successful life is have you found the game you love to play? Have you found something you love to play? Whether it’s a business or a profession, once you get in the game and love the game, then the wins and the losses don’t matter. The victory is loving the game and looking forward to taking another shot. Right now your son, bless his soul, is dropped out of the game, because he’s afraid of embarrassing himself. He’s afraid that he doesn’t have whatever it takes, and it’s your job and the job of whoever you find to help you, and there are lots of people who can do it, doesn’t have to be a mental health professional could be, but it could be an uncle, an aunt, a grandparent, a friend, a relative, a music teacher, a gym teacher, a drill instructor in the army if he decides to enlist.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You don’t know who it’s going to be, but that’s the project, and approach it with a creative mind. Try not to fall into the trap of getting frustrated and fatalistic and just kind of giving up on him, not that you’d ever do that, but just feeling in your heart that it’s never going to work out because chances are, it will work out. Chances are, if you keep at it, if you keep coming toward him with different offers of different projects, different treasures, different goodies, one of these days, he’s going to get in a mood where he’ll snatch, he’ll reach out, his eyes will widen and his heart will beat. He will come out of hiding long enough to taste some kind of success, some kind of approval of others, some kind of engagement on his own in a way that it’s more valuable to chase that feeling than to hide and avoid feelings altogether.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I promise you if you keep at it with a team of people, not you alone, with a team of people, and they can be a ragtag bunch of, doesn’t have to be professionals or experts of any kind, just people who are interested in him, care about him, know something about something to get him hooked on life, to find a game he loves to play, and then you’re off to the races. Then you’ve got it made. Then he’s doing this thing we call life until he can’t do it anymore. You’re in a tough place right now, but a place that is fraught with possibility, as long as you keep at it. Good luck and do me a favor, come back to us in a few months and tell me what’s going on. I’d love to follow you along, Mary, in your journey with your son. Thanks so much for writing to us.

Sarah Guertin:
Okay. This next one is about hormones in girls and ADHD. It starts, “Hello, Dr. Hallowell, I am a divorced parent of one daughter who is about to turn 13. She started middle school last year. She was diagnosed with ADHD several years ago due to struggling in the classroom. She had no issues with peers or coaches though. After trials of a handful of medications that were either ineffective or had negative side effects, she responded well to guaifenesin and she has been taking it ever since.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Guanfacine, that probably is.

Sarah Guertin:
Sorry, guanfacine. Okay. “However, her reactivity, anger and impatience, at home only mind you, are at an all-time high and have been for a year or two. As she enters adolescence and is experiencing hormonal changes, I am wondering whether that has an effect on how medications for ADHD work. Do you recommend a medication re-evaluation? Of note, she presents much more like a boy with ADHD than how girls typically present. Thank you for any thoughts that you have, Chloe”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yeah. By all means I recommend a re-evaluation of medication. Guanfacine worked for a while, but it’s not working so much at home because of her reactivity, anger and impatience. Do hormones play a role? Yes, indeed they do. They very much do. You want to revisit medications. 80% of people with ADD can get an excellent response to medication. By that, I mean, target symptom improvement with no side effects. No, no, no, no side effects other than appetite suppression without unwanted weight loss.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But remember, there’s more to this than just medication. We have many more tools in the toolbox than just medication. You might want to consider one of my favorites. It’s a real breakthrough, the Zing method. We’ve had podcasts about this in the past. It’s a specialized form of exercise that you do for 10 minutes twice a day, that bolsters the cerebellum part of your brain at the back. It turns out the cerebellum is very involved in executive function and mood and cognitive issues. If you do these for 10 minutes twice a day, three to six months, 85% of people get really excellent results.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
To learn more just go to a website, distraction.zingperformance. That’s Z-I-N-G performance.com. That’s distraction.zingperformance.com. You don’t use medication at all. You may take medication while you’re doing Zing, it’s not contra-indicated, but this is a completely non-medication treatment for ADHD. It’s based on breakthrough science from Jeremy Schmahmann at Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Schmahmann’s not part of the Zing group at all, but the Zing people took advantage of Schmahmann’s research in developing their program, which I think is very, very promising. I recommend that.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Then the other standards of non-medication treatment, physical exercise of all kinds. My friend, John Ratey, in his book, Spark, showed what an incredibly powerful tool exercise is for sharpening up your mental faculties. Getting enough sleep, meditating, eating right, in other words, avoiding junk food, avoiding sugar, trying to eat whole foods and not use drugs and alcohol to help you get by. Then coaching is another standard in helping with ADD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You’re talking about good news in that she’s symptomatic only at home, which means she can hold it together away from home, which is a good sign, but we want to help her at home, as well. Her race car brain is running away with her, and she’s having trouble putting on the brakes. That’s ADD, race car brain with bicycle brakes. You want to strengthen those brakes in whatever ways you can. I would suggest revisit medication, see if stimulants might work this time, but in meanwhile, investigate the Zing program. Go to distraction.zingperformance.com, and then look at physical exercise, meditation, sleep, eating right and coaching.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Also, don’t forget my favorite element in the list, which is positive human connection, the other vitamin C as I call it. A lot of people aren’t getting enough vitamin C these days because of the pandemic, but we need to connect with each other one way or another, so make sure your daughter is doing that, as well. Thank you so much for writing in and please give us follow-up. Love to hear how she’s making out.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
In this anxious back-to-school time, everyone is looking for ways to reduce the edge of anxiety. One good way to try is by taking OmegaBrite supplement, Omega CBD, OmegaBrite CBD, as well as the OmegaBrite fish oil product. Both are good for emotional reactivity and can take the edge off of that. They’re fully natural, very healthy, really developed by a top-notch company. OmegaBritewellness.com, and you can get 20% off your first order by using the code podcast2020. Enter that, get 20% off. OmegaBritewellness.com. Okay, now let’s get back to the show.

Sarah Guertin:
Okay. Since we’re on the subject of medication, we have another question from a listener about medication. Jean wrote, “Thank you. Please talk more about Ritalin and other best medications for ADD. I have side effects, and it takes months to get my medication changed.” I was thinking maybe you could just give listeners a quick overview.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Is that what you were thinking, Sarah?

Sarah Guertin:
It’s my job to produce, so this is me producing you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, I will do as I’m told. In fact, I would love to do your bidding and this writer’s, this listener’s bidding. It says it takes months to get my medication changed. That should not happen. These medications, stimulant medications, can be changed daily if need be. It certainly shouldn’t take months. There’s something wrong with that picture. Maybe have a sit-down with your doctor or nurse practitioner or whoever you’re working with and try to set up a system where you can make changes more quickly, because to wait months for a stimulant medication change is just insane. There’s no need for that.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Now the stimulant medications, of which Ritalin is one, are basically divided into two categories. Those that are methylphenidate-based, Ritalin, Focalin, Daytrana patch, Concerta, Ritalin LA, those are all based on the molecule methylphenidate, which came into use in the early 1950s. Ritalin is the best known among those. By the way, do you know where Ritalin got its name? The man who developed it, developed it to help his wife with her tennis game, so she could focus better. Her name was Rita. Hence, Rita-line is where the name came from.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Then the other group of stimulants are based on the molecule amphetamine. Now amphetamine was used for the first time to treat what we now call ADHD in, guess what year? 1937. Most people think it’s some new development in the past couple of decades. Not so at all, it’s been around for what is that, like 80 years. That’s good, because nothing lasts that long unless it is safe and effective. Now the best-known amphetamine-based medications are Adderall, Adderall XR stands for extended release, Vyvanse, which is another extended-release and Mydayis, which is the longest-acting of the amphetamine-based medications.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Those two groups, the methylphenidate-based and the amphetamine-based, make up the bulk of stimulant medication that we prescribe for ADHD. They still remain, in my opinion, the gold standard. Those are the best, when they work, they’re the best. They’re not definitive treatment, but they are symptomatic treatment. They’re like eyeglasses, and eyeglasses are pretty darn good if you’re near-sighted, and stimulant medication is pretty darn good if you have trouble focusing, if you have ADHD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The major side effect of both groups, and the side effects are the same, the major side effect is it cuts your appetite. You have to be careful not to lose weight that you don’t want to lose. Other side effects are much less common, but they include insomnia if you take it too close to bedtime, elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure. Some people get jittery as if they’ve had too much coffee. Some people the opposite, oddly enough, become somnolent. Some people just don’t like the way it makes them feel. They feel like they lose a bit of their personality. They lose their spontaneity, their sense of humor.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Any of those that happen, you just stop the medication. You can stop it on a dime. You don’t have to taper it. If it does anything you don’t like, if you turn purple, stop it, and you’ll go back to your original color. One of the great conveniences of these medications is that they’re in and out of your system in a matter of hours. That’s why I say you certainly don’t have to wait months to make a change. If one doesn’t work, another might. If Ritalin doesn’t work, Adderall might. The fact that one medication doesn’t help you, doesn’t mean that the other grouping won’t. How do you know in advance which one to try? It’s trial and error. That’s where we are. You try one. You try the other. As I said, you can go through a number of these in a matter of days. You don’t have to spend months doing the trial and error. About 80% of people who have ADD will find benefit without side effects from one or another of the medications.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Then there are the non-stimulant medications, which don’t have the stellar track record of stimulants, but they’re great if they work. At the top of the list in that group, in my opinion, is Wellbutrin bupropion, which also has effectiveness as an anti-depressant and as an anti-addiction medication. It’s marketed as Zyban to help people quit smoking.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
There’s a quick, quick overview about stimulant medication and medication in general. Work with a doctor who knows what he or she is doing. That’s the key to it all. Work with a doctor who has lots of experience in treating adults and children who have ADHD. If you do, you can really exhaust the possibilities, certainly in a matter of a couple of months at most. You may be one of those people like me for whom medication does not work. My medication is caffeine, coffee. That’s the world’s medication, but I don’t leave home without it. It’s something that I find very beneficial. Well, thank you so much for writing in and asking about that. Sarah, do we have another question?

Sarah Guertin:
We sure do. Do you remember the mini episode you did a few weeks ago… it was a little bit more than a few weeks ago… where you asked listeners whether you should stick to only talking about ADHD?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. Whether I should stick?

Sarah Guertin:
Yes. Yes. We had said in a recent episode that we got a lot of listener feedback where they all said, “No, you should talk about whatever you want.” I wanted to let you know that that has continued. We are still getting emails where people are telling you, “Yeah,. Speak your mind.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, it’s funny, because I thought about that. Whoever wrote that to me, telling me to shut up and dribble, he was, or she was trying to help me. I appreciate that. He or she was saying, “You’re going to hurt yourself if you go outside your behavioral perimeter, if you go outside your designated area of expertise.” I took it to heart enough that I wanted to ask people about it. I also am grateful to the man or woman who sent me that, because they were trying to help me, and maybe he or she is right. Maybe there are people when I go off to other topics that think, “Oh, shut up and dribble.”

Sarah Guertin:
Well, they’re not emailing us if that’s the case.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Good, good, good, good.

Sarah Guertin:
But I wanted to share one with you. It’s a little bit long, but I thought it was particularly powerful, so I wanted to read it to you. It says, “Hi, Dr. H, I was catching up with the podcast when I heard the episode where a listener suggested that you should stick to what you know and leave more provocative topics alone. I’ve never sent an email to your show before, but I absolutely had to this time. I’m a Black woman with ADHD. I also have two sons with ADHD, and I’ve appreciated your work for many years now. I’ve often felt invisible as a woman of color with ADHD. Although there are plenty of us out here, we often get overlooked for one reason or another.

Sarah Guertin:
I’ve been absolutely floored and thrilled to witness more conversation happening about race in this country. I’ve been especially happy to witness it coming specifically from some of my favorite ADHD experts. I’m beginning to feel seen in a way I never have before. We are living in unprecedented times where the people at the very top are willfully and intentionally corrupt, bigoted, illogical and hateful, and it is costing lives every single day. Now is not the time for anyone to be silent or to simply stick to polite topics that won’t ruffle feathers. I want to know what kind of people the experts I’m supporting (with my time when I’m listening to their podcasts and my money, when I buy their books and go to conferences). I want to know who they are. I don’t think you can call yourself a decent person and not speak about the things that are happening in our country.

Sarah Guertin:
The same way more ADHD experts are talking about how race affects diagnosis and treatment, I hope to hear more speaking out on how poverty and lack of access to mental health resources also affects diagnosis and treatment. It’s especially vital that people with a platform use their reach for good, which is exactly what I’ve witnessed you doing for years now. The person who sent you that email does not speak for me, and I suspect they don’t speak for a significant portion of your listeners. Please keep speaking about the things that matter, especially when they’re messy and have potential to ruffle feathers. Respectfully, Candy”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh, Candy, what a wonderful email. I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement, and also for what you’re seeing happen in your own life. I mean, you’re twice invisible. You’re a woman with ADHD, the biggest underdiagnosed group, and you’re of color with ADHD, also an overlooked group. You have two forces that lead you to fade into the background. I’m so glad you’re standing out and standing forth and standing up and saying, “Hey, here I am finding your voice, finding your identity, laying claim to your truth, your story, your place in this world, your place at the table.” Gosh, it’s wonderful, because, I mean, I’ve been trying to bring people with ADHD to the forefront for my whole career. I’m now 70 years old, and it’s wonderful to see it happening in the two groups you represent, women and color. Both groups are hugely overlooked in our society in general, but in the ADHD diagnosis in particular.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
People of color who have ADHD, women of color who have ADHD are so at risk not to fulfill their destiny, not to fulfill their potential, not to find the encouragement, the guts, the platform, whatever the propulsion, to stand up and be counted, and then help others stand up, because that’s the next step which you’re doing in writing in and helping others stand up. I mean, because this diagnosis, unlike so many diagnoses in medicine, this is good news. Things can only get better when you find out you have ADHD. They can only get better. Often your life changes dramatically for the better. You’re really on the precipice of making good on all your potential. You’re on the precipice of finding the superpower hidden within ADHD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Don’t get me wrong, it can be a terrible curse, as well. That’s why it’s so important to diagnose it, because undiagnosed ADHD can all but ruin your life. Sometimes indeed ruin your life, whether it’s through incarceration, or addiction, or job loss, what have you. But when you learn to get the right help, you can begin to tap into the superpower that’s often there, the Ferrari engine, when it gets its brakes, can start winning races. That’s what you’re doing. No pun on race, because you’ve also got that going. People of color are finally being recognized more accurately, and we old white men like me are understanding better what it’s like to go every day and if you see a police officer, wonder is he going to pull you over, and if he does, what are you going to do?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I really, in all my naivete, and I grew up in the ’60s when we were fighting for civil rights, but in all my naivete, I sort of thought that had been taken care of. Then my gosh, even just the past months, learning how wrong I was, that it’s anything but taken care of, and that we old white men like me need to start learning that we haven’t solved this problem, to the point where many of us, including me, were unaware of the details of what it’s like subjectively to live as a person of color in this country. Then if you throw in poverty, which is another way of being unnoticed, invisible, discounted, rejected, unheard, then you have a third factor folded into the mess, as you say, the messiness of life. If you’re a person who has little money, you’re of color, and you have ADHD and you don’t know it, boy, oh boy, is the deck stacked against you.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But if you start listening to people like you, Candy, and if you hear your stirring example, and if you say, “Okay, let me go find someone to get my ADHD taken care of,” now that in and of itself is a problem. How do you gain access? How do you gain access to care? Experts in ADHD are not easy to find. For one reason or another, they’re is rare as hen’s teeth. I live in the Boston area, so there were plenty of experts around here. But if you go outside of the academic centers, they’re hard to find, particularly ones who take my approach, which is a strength-based approach saying, “This is a trait, not a disorder. It can be a terrible disorder, but it can also become a superpower if you manage it right.” We’re very hard to find.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The most economical way of gaining access to me is by one of my books, which are cheap on Amazon. That’s like $10 for Delivered from Distraction. Now for some people, $10 is not cheap. It’s a big reach. There are also libraries. There are places where you can read books for no charge. This podcast is free of charge, as well. My website has a lot of information on it, drhallowell.com. That’s also free of charge.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
It is the truth that shall set you free in this case. It really is. Once you understand the basic symptoms, which creativity, originality, entrepreneurial-ism, powerful brain going all the time, a desire to be free, desire to not necessarily play by the rules, but make it up as you go, all of those positives that you can’t buy and you can’t teach, immense curiosity, coupled with the negatives, which is trouble getting organized, trouble being on time, trouble showing up where and when you’re supposed to, trouble following through, and trouble focusing when you’re not interested. When you’re interested, you can hyper-focus, but when you’re not interested, your mind wanders, goes elsewhere. What that all sums up to is trouble achieving and a tendency to underachieve and then get fired, lose jobs, lose relationships, and so on and so forth.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But if you can identify that, if you can see yourself in that list of symptoms, and then go to an MD who has some experience with this, and you don’t have to go to an expensive specialist, go to some MD, you could bring my book with you, could say, “I’ve gone through this. These are the symptoms I’ve got. Could you give me a trial of stimulant medication?” As long as they’re comfortable with it and comfortable with the diagnosis, they’ll do that. That’s sort of the first step, getting a trial of medication and then learning about the condition, learning about what it is, owning it, metabolizing it, learning about it well enough that you can teach someone else about it. This is life-changing.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Chances are, once you do get it, your earning power will increase because you’ll be able to marshal your God-given talents and resources and start leading others of your group, of your race, of your ethnic grouping, whoever you are, lead and help them free, I say, break the manacles that that can be holding you back. When you start leading others to do that, helping others to do that, it’s a great feeling. St. Francis said, “In giving, we receive.” It is so true. When you can help someone else, and when you can see their life change, and when they say, “Gosh, thank you. Man, that feels good.” You have it in your power to do that, Candy. You have it in your power to lead a whole bunch of people, because you’re representative of a group that is underserved, for sure, people of color, women of color who have ADD.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Thank you so much for writing in. I’m glad you are encouraging me to speak my mind. I am someone who values telling the truth, certainly in doing that with my work with ADHD. I hope and pray whoever leads this country in the coming years, what we need is coming together. What we need is forces of unification. Often that’s done best at local levels. I like to think that everyone knows how much we need each other now. Everyone knows that what we need to do is come together. I kind of believe that we’ll find a way to make that happen. Candy, thank you so much for writing in. I can’t thank you enough.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, that’s going to do it for today. If you have a question you’d like me to address in a future episode just like the ones I answered today, please write an email or record a voice memo, and send it to us at [email protected] That’s the word, [email protected] We love getting these questions. We really love them and make them commentary, not just questions. Put in your opinions, your thoughts, your speculations. It’s a great way for our audience to get to know each other.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thank you so much for joining me. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is the meticulously brilliant Scott Persson, never misses the sound. Our producer is the very imaginative, but also very careful to detail, Sarah Guertin.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at OmegaBritewellness.com.

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Exercise and ADHD Are a Winning Pair

Exercise and ADHD Are a Winning Pair

Dr. John Ratey, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, bestselling author, and Ned’s writing partner of many years, joins our host to talk about all the positive effects exercise has on your brain, including helping you focus.

Learn more in Dr. Ratey’s book, SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, or on his website, JohnRatey.com.

Please reach out to us with your questions and episode ideas. Write an email or record a voice memo and send it to [email protected].

Thank you to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And by Landmark college offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at lcdistraction.org. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Dr. John Ratey:
Everything that you can think of in terms of exercise has been looked to show a positive effect on attention measures. Okay? Yoga, dance is very good. Certainly racket sports and soccer, basketball, anything you can think of improves the attention.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Hello, and welcome to Distraction. This is Dr. Ned Hallowell with a very special episode. Not that they’re not all special, but this one is especially special. And it’s because I have my dear friend and former teacher, writing partner, squash partner, mentor, and just all-around delight in my life, Dr. John Ratey, coming to us all the way from Los Angeles.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
A little background on John. John is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and he’s the author of a number of books. He really has paved the way first in the treatment of aggression and then in the development of exercise as a really powerful treatment modality in psychiatry. In 2016, he was honored as the outstanding psychiatrist of the year for advancing the field by the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society. He’s an all-around wonderful man and truly an imaginative out-of-the-box thinker who also has very stellar academic credentials. So it’s an honor, a delight and a true pleasure to welcome my dear, dear friend, Dr. John Ratey.

Dr. John Ratey:
It’s great to be with you all and great to be with you Ned. About calling in from sunny Los Angeles and missing you and missing both family and our getting together in your backyard and all that, but I’m delighted to be talking about attention deficit disorder and all the stuff that we’ve known over the years and have written about and talked about.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, let’s just jump right into an area of where you are a world authority, namely exercise. John wrote a book called Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, and really brought to the general public the fact that physical exercise is not just good for your heart and your bones and your blood, but it’s actually really good for your brain. Do you want to enlarge on that, John? Because I don’t think most people are aware of just how it helps your brain.

Dr. John Ratey:
Sure. Right, most people don’t realize it, but when you exercise, you are using more of your brain. When we move physically, we are using more of our brain than in any other human activity. And the way we think about the brain today is that the brain is like a muscle. The more we use it, the better it gets. And exercise challenges, moves, makes the brain really work. And this is especially relevant for people with attention deficit disorder.

Dr. John Ratey:
One of the things that was in all of our findings, from Driven to Distraction onward, is we always talked about the benefits of exercise. We could see it, patients could see it, parents could see it. I just had, I did a course… [Mary Jane Beach 00:04:32], who you may remember, Ned.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh yes.

Dr. John Ratey:
She was in the course.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Oh wow, wonderful.

Dr. John Ratey:
Recalling, really, our first talks down at the Cape with her parents’ group, where we picked up a lot of information, including how beneficial exercise was.

Dr. John Ratey:
But now we know, we can unpack it. What happens? Well, when we fire our nerve cells so much, we release a lot of neurotransmitters and especially we release dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin a lot. And it sort of acts like exercise, acts like a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin so that when we move, we release these neuro-transmitters, which then has an effect on our attention system throughout the brain. So it stands to reason that exercise is a very good treatment or co-treatment for attention deficit disorder.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
As well as depression and anxiety, right?

Dr. John Ratey:
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Spark was written all about the psychiatric benefits of exercise, including very much so depression and anxiety, addictions, certainly attention. And a big boat of benefit is its effect on aging. It’s really the number one anti-aging tactic that one can have along with, by the way, connecting. Those two together are at the top of any wellness pyramid or list that you can find. That’s because exercise really does so much in our brain.

Dr. John Ratey:
One of the things that it causes, when we use our brain, we release a substance called BDNF, Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor. Well, we know a lot about this, basically a neuro-hormone, a growth factor, in the brain because it acts in the brain like fertilizer. Meaning it keeps our brain cells young and perky as well as it makes them do what they’re supposed to do, and that is to grow and grow in our information. So when we’re-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
So exercise makes you grow new nerve cells, new brain cells.

Dr. John Ratey:
But that’s the second part of the neuroplasticity. The big big effect of neuro-plasticity is making our hundred billion nerve cells more growth worthy, more growth oriented.

Dr. John Ratey:
Another part that we learned in 1999 is that we humans are making new brain cells every day. And the number one effect on promoting new growth of new brain cells is exercise. And this is study after study we’ve had. And in Spark, I talked about a thousand different articles on exercise and its effect on the brain and made it palatable for people, hopefully, and how it works because it works magnificently.

Dr. John Ratey:
The best way to make a person ready to learn, that is ready to take in information, sort it and log it in is a bout of exercise because it makes our brain cells really ready to log in the information to grow.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The cover of Harvard Magazine, which I receive every month as a Harvard grad, arrived today. And it had an elderly gentlemen on the lawn in a pushup position with a little toddler sitting on his shoulders. And the caption was, “Why exercise keeps you young.” It was very fitting for today’s conversation.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Then the next question is: what kind and how much? So people listening, I’m sure nobody would disagree with anything you’ve said, how could they? But then they say, “Okay, how do I get in the habit of exercising? Is it enough just to walk around everyday?” How much and what kind and how do I keep doing it consistently?

Dr. John Ratey:
Those are all very important questions. How much is, if you look at what Health and Human Services tell us, and that’s a combination of looking at all kinds of evidence, they say 150 minutes a week of exercise. What does that mean? That’s about 30 minutes every day or so. And what they say is that we should get our heart rates up to about 60 or 70% of our maximum, which means if it’s walking, it’s fast walking, it’s walking, pushing yourself a little bit, though. There’s no denying that walking itself is great. Walking will get you more focused and more ready to pay attention. Lots of studies showing that, that just walking on a treadmill and not really sweating but pushing yourself a little bit, getting a little bit breathless that your test scores go up about 20, 30%. A big part of that is the attention system is locked in and we have all kinds of evidence from all over the world, really, about exercise making people attend better and stay with it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I just wanted to confirm, you said 150 minutes a week?

Dr. John Ratey:
Yes. That’s the recommendation. Now, for boosting your attention system, you can do even very little. You could do five minutes of something like jumping rope or squats or pushups. Any of those will get your heart rate up and you’ll do a little bit, more than just moderate, if you do it for five minutes straight, and that will give you a burst of attention. The deal is the longer you do it, the better your attention will be. But you have to program yourself to do it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
In this anxious back-to-school time, everyone is looking for ways to reduce the edge of anxiety. And one good way to try is by taking OmegaBrite supplement, Omega CBD. OmegaBrite CBD as well as the OmegaBrite fish oil product. Both are good for emotional reactivity and can take the edge off of that. They’re fully natural, very healthy, really developed by a top-notch company. OmegaBriteWellness.com. And you can get 20% off your first order by using the code Podcast 2020. Enter that, get 20% off OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Okay, now let’s get back to the show.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I recommend to people there’s an app called the Seven Minute Workout.

Dr. John Ratey:
Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Most people can afford seven minutes, but it’s a pretty vigorous workout for seven minutes.

Dr. John Ratey:
Oh, it is. It is. It’s 30 seconds on a bunch of different exercises with a short rest period in between. So it gets you moving and takes you through jumping jacks to squats, to push-ups, to lunges, to crunches, to planks, all the usual suspects for aerobic kinds of exercise.

Dr. John Ratey:
Most of the studies had been on measuring aerobic exercise, that is running, walking, swimming, biking, climbing, whatever, to get your heart rate up to see the change in the attention measures that they do with tests. However, more recently in the past 15 years, we’ve done a lot of work on looking at weight training, strength training with exercise. Strength training more than weight training. Just by moving your muscles and challenging them, you have this great effect on your brain. Almost as much as you do with aerobic training.

Dr. John Ratey:
That leads to what kind of exercise to do. Well, something that you’ll come back to, something that you’ll do again and again and again. The all-time best prescription for exercise is something that you like to do, that you do outside and you do with somebody or some group because that connection has so many other positives to it, but it also keeps you honest. It also keeps you coming back and doing it.

Dr. John Ratey:
Now this can be anything. It can be Zumba, it can be biking, it can be walking. Because this all challenges your brain, it makes your brain work best.

Dr. John Ratey:
Now, how to be motivated and how to stay motivated once you start? In January every year, people join gyms and the [inaudible 00:15:06] and go for a month and then stop. What happens? Well, what you need to do is remember how you feel the day that you exercise. So right after you exercise, that day you note to yourself, like, “Note to self. I feel better today. I’m more productive today. I’m happier today. I’m more altruistic, I’m less angry, I’m less hopeless today.” Because that is the only way to sort of get you to continue.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
I don’t think it’s the only way at all. I’ve been exercising for 40 years by playing squash with the same guy on Tuesday afternoon. And, and for me, reminding myself how great I feel, that doesn’t do it. I’m too much of a hard sell. But showing up for a friend, I can’t let him down. I have to be there. So to me, the key in making it sustainable is combining it with a human connection, with a friendship. And you and I, we used to play squash on Sunday mornings for a number of years until that place closed down. I think this thing of solitary exercise, I know I don’t like it. I know a lot of people do it, but to me, to make it sustainable, I think the best way is to combine it; a group who likes to play tennis or a group who likes to run together, or a group who likes to swim together or in my case, play squash.

Dr. John Ratey:
Right. No, there’s no question that that human connection makes it so worthy and bringing you back to it. And that’s why the reason why something like CrossFit has been so popular, because it’s a group. You get into a group or the running group, the walking group or playing squash, yes. I remember that very well. And then I ruined my arm after 25 years. But nonetheless, I loved it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
That brings up another question that as we get older, and you and I are both in our seventies, as we get older various injuries crop up. But that still should be no reason to give up exercise. There are still ways for just about anybody to get exercise if they’re resourceful.

Dr. John Ratey:
Exactly. When you talk about ADD, and people all over the world have been watching after this and trying to understand what kind of exercise, how long. So everything that you can think of in terms of exercise has been looked to show a positive effect on attention measures. Yoga, dance is very good. Certainly racket sports and soccer, basketball, anything you can think of improves the attention.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Just another idea to throw out there in terms of connection is working with a trainer. And as you know, John, I worked with this wonderfully grumpy, brilliant Russian trainer named Simon for some 15 years. You did it for a little while with him, yourself. And that’s another way of getting you to do it. If you’re you’re paying someone, you have to show up. So again, it’s a human connection. You hire someone but it’s another way of getting you to do the exercise. I think part of your message is it doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise you do, as long as you do it.

Dr. John Ratey:
Yes. And if you’re constantly… Or not constantly, but if you’re pushing yourself to do more or do better, like for instance even playing squash, it’s competitive so we wanted to do better each time. We’d push ourselves a little bit to beat one another, or you mainly beat me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
But you’d start every game by saying, “I’m going to beat you today.”

Dr. John Ratey:
We had fun, though. It was over and we were laughing and we were talking. We didn’t hold it against one another.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
No, not at all. It was wonderful. It was wonderful. It was wonderful.

Dr. John Ratey:
I do exercises all the time now. You can do it with COVID, you can do it in your house. There’s plenty of different YouTube to follow or just do it with your mates. But it doesn’t do the same as a squash. Are you playing squash now, Ned, with COVID?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
No, the courts aren’t open, but my wife Sue, her gym closed, much to her distress, but she has this group and this trainer named Derek and they do it on Zoom. She’s in the living room this morning, doing these burpees and squats and pushups and weights. She’s a half an hour in her gym clothes on Zoom, and Derek is marching them through their paces and you hear the voices of all the other members. In spite of COVID and the gym closing, she’s still got her group and she does it four times a week and loves it. She wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Dr. John Ratey:
Because it does so much for the way we feel and the way we can attend and reducing stress and anxiety, which we know happens. It also boosts our mood because it changes our brain chemistry.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes, yes.

Dr. John Ratey:
The chemicals that I mentioned, but also on the endorphins in the endocannabinoids.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Don’t forget oxygen. I mean, that’s another brain enhancer and you get a lot of oxygen when you exercise.

Dr. John Ratey:
You sure do. You also produce more oxytocin.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Yes.

Dr. John Ratey:
Which is the love and bonding hormone. We produce more of it when we exercise. So when you’re finished exercising, you will feel more likely to be more altruistic, to be kinder, to be more interested in bonding from a biologic perspective. There’s a lot that happens in the brain, all for the good.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Well, my wonderful, brilliant friend, John Ratey. Thank you so much for gracing us with your really expert top-of-the-line knowledge on exercise. The take-home points, find something that you want to do over and over again. And however you find it, with a squash mate or a trainer or self-motivation remembering how good you feel when you do it, but just find a way to get yourself to do it because it’s one of those things that everyone praises but not enough people do. You could say the same for meditation, by the way.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
In any case, thank you. Thank you, thank you for joining us today. For more information on John, go to his website, JohnRatey.com. That’s J-O-H-N-R-A-T-E-Y.com. Johnratey.com. You can read about his books on the brain, on exercise, on attention deficit disorder, on diet and nutrition. He has a wonderful book called Go Wild about the paleo approach. He’s creating all the time and he has ADD and that’s what ADD people do.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
And please reach out to us with your questions, comments and show ideas. We really depend upon them. We need your input and we’re looking for it all the time. Send us an email or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to us at [email protected] That’s the word “connect,” [email protected] We really love to hear from you and your questions. We often put a show together based entirely on your questions, which I try to answer. sometimes they stump me, but I usually can find some answer or find someone who does know the answer.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
You can also follow the Distraction Podcast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Give us a like and a follow to stay connected with the show. We truly appreciate it as we’re trying to in the social media world.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is the brilliant and always on time Scott Persson and our producer is the inevitably perfect, depressingly so, perfect. The sweet and lovely, brilliant, talented Sarah Guertin. This is Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for this time.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested and it works. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

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Riding the Wave of Emotional Overdrive

Riding the Wave of Emotional Overdrive

Dr. Hallowell checks in to see how our listeners are holding up during the quarantine. He shares some simple advice about acknowledging your feelings of anger, annoyance, frustration and other negative emotions, as an important part of your mental well-being. Dr. H tweaks his adage, “Never worry alone” to “Never complain alone” as we muddle through this difficult time.

Reach out to us! Write an email, or record a message using the voice memo app on your phone and send it to [email protected]

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin (@sarahguertin) and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Learn more about our newest sponsor, OmegaBrite CBD! Dr. Hallowell takes the supplement every day because it’s safe, 3rd party tested, and it works. Shop OmegaBrite CBD online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Do you know a high school or college student with ADHD or other learning difference? Tell them about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently. Find out more HERE.

Episode image by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If you’d prefer to read the episode, a transcript is below:

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

And by Landmark College, offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at LCDistraction.org. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Hello, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell, with a mini episode of Distraction. As we soldier on through the Coronavirus pandemic that has settled in upon the nation in a sort of viral fog, we get many, many messages reassuring us that things will work out. And urging us to be positive in our approach and to buck each other up. Those messages have certainly been coming from me, as well as almost everyone else who offers messages.

But I wanted to just sound a little bit of a permission, if you will, to complain. You don’t have to go around pretending that everything’s fine, everything’s going to work out, things are terrible. Businesses are failing, right and left. People are going out of business, people are losing their livelihoods, not to mention their lives. Short of the loss of life, which is of course tragic, much more common is the loss of business and economic hardship. I just think you got to be able to complain about that, acknowledge it before you get on to the positive thinking and all that.

There’s nothing negative about acknowledging a problem. In fact, there’s something very good about acknowledging a problem. It’s also good for the soul and the nervous system, in general, to let off steam, to say, “God dang, this is awful. I don’t like this.” And complain, get mad at God, get mad at whoever you get mad at.

Say, “Why? What did we do to deserve this?” Of course, the answer is “Nothing.” This is not a punishment, this is a phenomenon of viral behavior that maybe could have been prevented, but whatever. We are in the midst of it and it’s pretty darn yucky. It’s pretty darn awful. I just want to reassure you that it’s okay to say that. Feel it, say it, complain together. One of my motto’s is “Never worry alone.” Well, never complain alone. Find other people, complain together. Raise a protest against nature, against viruses. Then, of course, get on with the business of helping each other out and trying to move in a positive and constructive direction.

With this mini episode, I just wanted to give you permission to do the obvious, which is to complain, be upset, acknowledge how up against it so many of us are. Then look around and try to find the solutions that will, with the passage of time, lead us out of this viral fog. Until then, I look forward to connecting with you soon. This is Dr. Ned Hallowell for Distraction.

I’d like to thank our new sponsor, actually our new old sponsor, who resigned up, OmegaBrite CBD, for supporting this podcast. I take it every day and I highly recommend it. It’s formulated by Dr. Carol Locke, of Harvard Medical School and her company OmegaBrite Wellness, who have created the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years, which I also take, as does my wife, Sue. OmegaBrite CBD is safe, third-party tested, and I am here to tell you it works. I honestly just started it about three weeks ago and it has definitely made me feel more even. Find OmegaBrite CBD online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Okay, remember to reach out to us with your comments, share your thoughts with us by writing an email or recording the voice memo and sending it to [email protected]. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our recording engineer and editor is the always impeccable and delightful, Pat Keogh. Our producer is the lovely and always full of ideas, Sarah Guertin.

The episode of Distraction you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD, formulated by OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Listen to this episode!

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We Were Made For These Times

We Were Made For These Times

Today’s theme is, “Don’t give up!”

Ned shares a message of strength and hope while reflecting on the essay, We Were Made For These Times, by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Dr. Estes is an American poet, psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist; and author of the New York Times Best Seller, Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Do you have a question or comment? Write an email or record a message using the voice memo app on your phone with your question and send it to [email protected]

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin (@sarahguertin) and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Learn about our sponsor, Landmark College, HERE.

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How Dr. H Manages His ADHD

How Dr. H Manages His ADHD

Our host, who has ADHD and dyslexia himself, reveals some of the tools he uses to effectively control his ADHD.

What’s in your ADHD toolbox? Let us know and we might share it in a future episode! Write an email or record a message using the voice memo app on your phone with your question and send it to [email protected]

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin (@sarahguertin) and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Learn about our sponsor, Landmark College, HERE.

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Is There an ADHD and Alzheimer’s Connection? And Other Listener Questions

Is There an ADHD and Alzheimer’s Connection? And Other Listener Questions

Dr. Hallowell addresses listener questions regarding ADHD and balance; Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease; natural treatment remedies and vitamin recommendations.

Thanks so much to our listeners Caroline, Anna, P.G. and Helen for sending in your questions!

Do you have a question or comment for Dr. Hallowell? Write an email or record a message using the voice memo app on your phone with your question and send it to [email protected]

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin (@sarahguertin) and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Learn about our sponsor, Landmark College, HERE.

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Surprising Impact of Family Relationships on Your Health

Surprising Impact of Family Relationships on Your Health

You might not expect that your family has a greater impact on your health than your spouse does. The results of a study that tested the extent to which the emotional climate in family relationships and intimate partnerships are linked to long term health were even surprising to our host! Ned breaks down what it all means in this week’s mini Distraction.

Link to Journal of Family Psychology study: Family versus intimate partners: Estimating who matters more for health in  a 20-year longitudinal study

Please reach out to us with your questions and show ideas! Record a voice memo or write an email and send it to [email protected]. Our producer is Sarah Guertin @sarahguertin, and our editor/recording engineer is Pat Keogh.

To learn more about how our sponsor, Landmark College, helps students with ADHD succeed click HERE. See their beautiful campus in Putney, Vermont at an Open House on Friday, December 6th and Friday, January 10th.

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