Dr. H Answers Your ADHD Questions

Dr. H Answers Your ADHD Questions

Our host responds to listener emails this week about ADHD and…  medication and addiction, anxiety issues, sensory processing disorder symptoms, OCD and the pandemic, and more.

Thank you to all of our listeners who sent in an email! A special shout out goes to awesome Distraction listener, Gray, who shared his thoughts with us in a voice memo!

If you have a question, comment or show idea we want to hear from you! Write an email, or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to [email protected]

Dr. Hallowell’s books mentioned in this episode:

Delivered from Distraction

Driven to Distraction

Learn more about our sponsor, OmegaBrite CBD. Distraction listeners can SAVE 20% on their first order with the code: Podcast2020. Shop online at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

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 can be found 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.

Hello and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thank you so very much for joining me. We have a growing audience and we hope it continues to grow. Please tell your friends about us, assuming you like what we’re doing. Today’s show we’ll be doing one of my favorite episodes, responding to your emails and questions. If you listen to these questions and enjoy them, please send us your questions. As we normally do in these episodes, my producer, the inestimably wonderful, Sarah Guertin will read to me your emails so I can respond. Without further ado, let me invite Sarah to read me the first email.

Sarah Guertin:

Hey. Happy to be here. All right. This first email says, “Hi, Dr. Hallowell. My son was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD in September. He also has sensory processing disorder, but now I’m wondering what he truly has since his symptoms are very similar between SPD and ADHD. Since learning this, I’ve read eight books and changed his school. While he is better, I want to be sure to give him all the support and resources for him to navigate well through life’s journey. I struggled to know how to best help him in what he really needs. He has had three years of occupational therapy, but we’ve hit a wall. What is the best way to get them on a path of treatment that is right for him? He is attending a school for kids with learning differences though I’m not sure I can afford to keep him there as I’m a single self-employed mom. He’s a happy, amazing kid aside from the struggles he faces with the differences, but I don’t want to make things worse. I love your podcast. It has helped me understand and sometimes given me ideas. Any advice for the bumbling parent? LB.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, LB, first of all, you’re anything but bumbling. Any parent who reads eight books and changes the school and paying a tuition she can barely afford, I’d say is anything but bumbling. I would say you’re a candidate for mother of the year. As for your son’s problem, you didn’t mention medication. You said he’s had occupational therapy for the sensory processing disorder, I assume, but I didn’t see any mention of medication. Sensory processing disorder by the way is not the one I would put at the top of the list in terms of ease of helping to improve. You want to make sure you really go after the ADHD. Often the SPD, the sensory processing disorder, will follow. You’ve been doing the OT, the occupational therapy. You’ve kind of nailed that one. You said, “We’ve hit a wall.” I’m not sure what you meant by that.

I can guess he’s stalling out. He’s not doing well. The three hallmarks of the treatment of ADHD are number one, education. You want to know what it is and what it isn’t. I’d recommend my book Delivered from Distraction, which came out in 2005, but the information in it is still current. I’ll have a new book for you in 2021, but as of now Delivered from Distraction. Read that so you really understand what ADHD is and what it isn’t. For example, it is not a deficit of attention. It’s an abundance of attention. Simply need to control it. I don’t see it as a disorder. I see it as a trait. It can become a disorder or it can become a superpower depending upon how you manage it. You begin with education and letting your son know that he’s got a race car for a brain, a Ferrari for a brain, but the problem is he has bicycle brakes. We need to somehow strengthen the brakes.

You want to get him in a good frame of mind so he doesn’t feel like he’s being fixed. So he doesn’t feel like he’s being remediated. So he doesn’t feel like he’s fundamentally defective, which is what the term ADHD implies. Instead, tell him he’s got a Ferrari engine with bicycle brakes. There are many ways of strengthening those brakes. As I say, you start with education. Then a trial of medication makes a lot of sense, unless it goes against your brain for some reason. Most parents say, I don’t want to use medication, but they don’t really know why they don’t want to use medication. Their reasons are rooted in wrong information or lack of information or both. Talk with your doctor. I would recommend a trial of medication. Remember, a trial of medication is just that. It’s a trial.

If it does anything you don’t like… If he turns purple, you just stopped the meds. He’ll go back to his original color. You don’t want to proceed as if it were a permanent intervention. If it works and by work I mean he gets improved focus, improved control over his engine with no side effects, other than appetite suppression, without unwanted weight loss. If you get that result, which you can achieve 80% of the time, then it makes everything else so much more easy to do. People often say to me, why don’t we do a year or two of non-medication treatment before starting medication? I say fine. I’m happy to do that with you. I’ve written books about that, but it’s sort of like saying, why don’t we do a year or two of squinting before we try eyeglasses?

Why not go to the proven intervention that is safe and effective? Why wait because it makes everything else you do more effective. Then the third element… We have education. We have trial of medication, 80% of the time it will help. The third element is coaching, which includes everything from how to get up in the morning and get dressed, to how to make your bed, to how to plan your homework, to how to listen in class, to how to take notes if you’re old enough to do that, to how to hand in papers on time, to how to stop procrastinating. All that comes under the heading of coaching. That can be done by an ADHD coach. The de facto coach is you, the parent, usually the mother. The problem with that is as the child gets older the coaching comes to feel like nagging.

What a hired coach does or a hired tutor does is what a mom would do minus the nag factor. Those would be my recommendations, but start with the recommendation of getting rid of yourself designation as a bumbling parent. You’re anything but. Educate as to what ADHD is. I recommend my book Delivered from Distraction. Consider your pediatrician for a trial of stimulant medication. Then bring in the coaching, addressing whatever the target areas of need are. Hope that makes sense, LB. Please give us follow up. Love to hear how he’s doing as time marches on.

Sarah Guertin:

This email is from Diana. She wrote in part, “Hello, Dr. Hallowell. First, let me say how much your work has personally and professionally impacted my life. Back in 2015 when I first started learning about how my daughter might have ADHD and that I myself might also have ADHD, it was your book Driven to Distraction that launched and guided me through this world of self discovery. Your book also enabled me to effectively advocate for the accommodations my own children need at home and in school, as well as giving those same tools to the students in my classroom, as a science teacher. In the more recent past and present, however, it has been your Distraction podcast that has opened up the flood gates to the multitude of other resources, which have skyrocketed my growth about ADHD since my diagnosis, and now too the diagnosis of my daughter, testing of my son for ADHD and navigating the most effective treatments for us all.

The reason for this email though, is not entirely to share my appreciation for you, but to ask for advice about, and possibly connections for writing my own book about my experiences with ADHD. Thus far, I have nearly an hour’s worth of voice memos with full pages of the book laid out along with ideas for more content and a broad framework for scope and scale of the book. Unfortunately, this is where I begin to flounder. Since I have no clue how to make connections in the publishing realm, do you happen to have any advice for this or contacts I could pursue in this endeavor to write my book? Your help and advice would be most greatly appreciated and valued. All my best, Diana.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, Diana, what a wonderful email. What a wonderful goal you’ve set for yourself of writing a book. That’s fantastic. One of the best ways to treat ADD is to develop a creative outlet. The reason I write so many books is if I don’t have a book going, I get depressed. I’ve found in working with people with ADD over the years, the ones who do best always have some kind of creative outlet, whether it’s writing or gardening or cooking or investing in the stock market. There’s some kind of creative outlet, an outlet that allows you to be spontaneous and access your unconscious and create. It is something that our brains really need to do. If we don’t do it… It’s like a cow that doesn’t get milked. We just get all stuck up, plugged up. Good for you. Wonderful goal.

Now what you’re going to need is structure. You can do that by hiring a coach. You’re also going to need an agent. It’s very hard to sell a book as an unpublished author if you don’t have an agent. It’s possible, but it’s extremely difficult. You can go online and Google agents and literary agents. The best ones or in New York or Boston, although there were agents all over the place. If you find an agent, you see, they’ll take on the task of helping you get the book written. Then selling it. What you can do once you have an agent is write, what’s called a proposal. The agent can sell the book based on the proposal. It has to be a fairly detailed, for someone who hasn’t been published, a fairly detailed summary of what the book will include.

Once your agent sells that proposal, then you get an advance. That’s a sum of money that you get to support you while you write the book. Now, if the book doesn’t earn back the full amount of the advance, you don’t have to pay it back. It’s called an advance on royalties, but it’s really a gift. You don’t get royalties until the book earns out as it’s called, until it earns back the amount of money of the advance. In the unfortunate case, it doesn’t earn that much money, you’re not on the hook. The publisher takes the risk, which is really quite wonderful. The agent usually takes 15% of the advance, but you don’t have to pay the agent anything if he or she does not sell the proposal. That’s in a nutshell the best way to get published.

You’ve done the hard part, which is gathered up your experience. Now you’ll have to sort through your voice memos and develop an outline, and a table of contents. That’s what usually goes into a proposal. Good for you for doing it. It’s a wonderful thing to do. You’ll feel very gratified and you will help an awful lot of people if the book manages to get published or you could self-publish. Now you can do eBooks on Amazon. There’s a whole way of doing that as well. You don’t have to rely on a New York publisher picking up your book. I hope that answers your question and good luck. You have to be crazy to write a book. It’s no way to make a living. It’s a good way to torture yourself. I’ve been writing them for many years now. I just finished my 21st book. I guess it’s a fine madness, if you will. It’s not a way to feel good, but it is a way to feel very fulfilled and satisfied.

Sarah Guertin:

“Hi, there. I listen to your podcast on Spotify to help with my ADHD, OCD, and insomnia, which is an ongoing issue. I think I have other underlying problems, but that’s another story. I’m constantly learning about it. I’m doing online courses to understand my brain and others and how it all works, but I’m stuck. As a result of COVID became isolated with all my usual helpers and I’m scared. I’m 24, female in Melbourne, Australia. I live out of home at the moment in a share house on a noisy street and can’t concentrate. I’ve decided to move back home because it seems to be my only option for a healthy and financially stable lifestyle. I am currently having a meltdown. My parents both obviously have undiagnosed ADHD along with my younger sister, but she has been diagnosed. The house is full of clutter. I’m slowly trying to organize my old room, which is full of the classic hoarding of old clothes from all people from my family.” She has another sister, too.

“I suffer from OCD and like things to always have a place. I love self-learning and love how my brain works most of the time. I think I’m a genius to be honest. I just cannot seem to understand what is a good decision. Do I move home where the clutter is never ending and don’t think it will ever be perfect? Will I be overwhelmed with a house full of ADHD? I can’t think. I’m trying to be positive. I help people often. I’m kind and actually enjoy organizing, but this is so much that I’m currently living out of my car because I’m stuck in between the two houses. I’m stuck. I’m anxious. I need help. What actions do I take? What advice do I listen to? Where do I look for help? Thank you for your help so far. Your podcasts make me feel safe wherever I’m sleeping at night.” She put in parentheses a different bed every night. “I hope you are well. I appreciate the work you do. Hailey.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, Hailey, what a wonderful email. What an amazing young woman you are. Gosh. I can’t remember the last email where someone said, “I actually think I’m a genius.” I love that you think you’re a genius because you are. Genius just means extraordinarily talented in some domain or another. I can tell just by reading your email, you are. What you need is what most of us with ADHD need, namely, some structure. You need to take all these wonderful ideas and images and thoughts and feelings that are ping-ponging around in your brain all day and most of the night and shape them, direct them, organize them. Like I say, ADD, you’ve got a Ferrari engine for a brain, but with bicycle brakes. Your Ferrari is zinging all over the place. You can’t decide on where to land. I think you need somebody to work with you, whether that could be a friend, if you can’t afford a professional help or a coach, probably it cost something, or an actual medical professional to take you on and help you construct a game plan so to speak.

It’s very hard to do it on your own. I would not. As for moving home, I assume the price is good. That’s an advantage. If you could create a space of the house that’s yours and if you could have it neat and tidy, then the chaos going on around you wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. If you all love each other, even if you’re a little chaotic, that’s fine. We can deal with chaos as long as there’s good feeling. You want to have good feeling. That force of connection is very formative as long as it’s positive connection. You say you suffer from OCD. It sounds like that can help you actually if you use that to get organized and have things in place. I think you really do need someone to sound off your ideas with and make some plans and set some goals. We really do well when we have goals.

Then someone to hold you accountable. That also helps if you could be held accountable. You have enormous potential, believe me for a 24 year old woman. I can just tell from your email, how much you’ve got going on inside that really zinging and zagging and zigging and zagging mind of yours. If you got some help and then I would certainly consider a trial of medication. You didn’t mention that in there, but you’ll need an MD to help you with that. When the meds work, they’re amazing. They really work wonders. If they don’t work, you just don’t take them.

The stimulant meds are in and out of your system very quickly. You can find out pretty fast if the meds will be helpful to you. If they are helpful to you and they help about 80% of people, then it makes all the rest of the interventions that you need so much easier. When you can focus, it’s like when you have eyeglasses. You can learn and do everything more felicitously. How’s that for a word, felicitously. Thank you so much for writing to us, Hailey. Please keep us posted on your progress. Let us know if we can help you in any other way. You are a genius. Don’t forget that.

[SPONSOR BREAK]

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Before we get to the next question, I’d like to take a moment and talk with you about our wonderful sponsor, OmegaBrite CBD. As many of you listeners know I’ve been taking OmegaBrite CBD supplement for the past few months. It’s the newest supplement from OmegaBrite Wellness, creators of the number one, Omega 3 supplements for the past 20 years, which my wife and I have taken for quite some time now. We really swear by them. OmegaBrite’s founder, Dr. Carol Locke, graduate of Harvard Medical School, and her team set the standards for purity, safety and efficacy in the world of Omega 3s and have now brought that same commitment to excellence with their CBD supplement. I love the CBD because in my own case, it’s helped me with my reactivity, my natural impatience. I can be very impatient, reactive, peremptory. Since I’ve started the CBD, that’s sort of been blunted. I’m not like that. It hasn’t taken away any of my mental fastball at all. I encourage you to give it a try. You can find OmegaBrite CBD online at omegabritewellness.com.

As a special for Distraction listeners, the OmegaBrite folks have given you a 20% discount off your first order, but you have to use the promo code, podcast 2020. That’s pretty simple. Podcast 2020. Go to omegabritewellness.com. Order up some OmegaBrite CBD and some fish oil. While you’re there, you can also pick up some vitamin D. They also make that. Put in podcast 2020 and you’ll get 20% off.

[SPONSOR BREAK END]

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

All right. Sarah, what does the next email have to offer us?

Sarah Guertin:

“Hey, Dr. Ned. I don’t have a question. I just wanted to give my thanks to you. I’m a 28 year old from Australia who is only just diagnosed with ADHD late last year. I failed out of university when I was 21 and went through a lot of self hatred and depression, not understanding why I couldn’t cope. I decided to come back to university and subsequently found out about the ADHD and my whole life suddenly made sense. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I spent some time feeling really down about it. Earlier this year, I discovered both you and Peter Shankman. Both of your perspectives on ADHD have completely changed my mindset and life. It’s allowed me to really appreciate my strengths. I’m now managing my weaknesses properly. I wouldn’t give my ADHD away if I could. I’m also getting nearly exclusively A’s on all my assignments as well and have regained a fire in my belly that had all but died out.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent. I was writing to you just to tell you that when I’m having a bad day or I’m feeling lost, I often go to your podcast and listen to an episode. I really like your short episodes where you give your thoughts on a topic. There’s something about the way you talk about your experiences that calms me down and makes me feel like everything is and will be okay. Thank you for doing what you do. I really appreciate it. Regards, TCM.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Oh my goodness. What a wonderful email. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m really glad that I’m able to help you calm down and think that everything will be okay. I think what you’re finding is the truth of my little aphorism, never worry alone. I was taught that by my teacher way back when I was a resident. Dr. Thomas Gutheil. He used to say to us, it’s okay to worry. In fact, it’s a good thing to worry. Just don’t worry alone. I think you must find in listening to the podcasts, a companionship, an affiliation that always makes us feel better. When we’re alone, we globalize. We catastrophize. We lose hope. When we’re in connection, it doesn’t have to be in person like the podcast isn’t in person, we feel the energy. We feel the whatever it is that has not yet been discovered, that happens when a person connects, even just by listening because you’re inputting even though you’re listening. You’re also adding to my words with images, associations, thoughts, feelings.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

If I started to describe the lake where my kids and I used to go growing up, you’ll think of a lake that you go to. That in and of itself will be calming and pleasant for you. You’re clearly on your way to doing wonderful things. I’m so glad you discovered Peter Shankman. I’m so glad you discovered me. Both Peter and I think of ADHD as something that if you manage properly can really enhance your life in a unique and wonderful way. I’m glad you’re discovering that. I’m glad you’re discovering the pot of gold at the end of this particular rainbow because it’ll be with you for the rest of your life. Thank you for writing in. I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement of me, which I need just like anybody else. Thank you again, TCM, from all the way from Australia where so many wonderful people live. Sarah, we have another one?

Sarah Guertin:

This next email is from Steven. He wrote in part “Dr. Hallowell, I’m 42 years old and was diagnosed with ADD at 39 by both a neurologist and psychologist. Before the diagnosis. I did well in college, earning three degrees, including a doctorate. I’ve been successful enough in the work world. Though, in retrospect, I see how strengths associated with ADD helps me and hindered me through the formal education process and how an earlier diagnosis would have been helpful. As I age my increasing difficulties with ADD correlate 100% with attempts to balance parenthood, my wife and I have three young children, career and related responsibilities. I’m convinced that I successfully self-medicated prior to marriage and children with long hikes distance running, long bike rides and time outdoors. That’s a bit harder to come by now. I need additional help. I’ve been taking generic Adderall for just over two years, either 10 milligrams XR, or single, or double dose of five milligram tabs as needed.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the medications impact. I tried generic Ritalin prior with a slightly lesser result. I find that when I skip a day of medication, I’m 100% okay, especially, if I’m not at my desk job. Self-medicating with exercise works better anyway, sometimes, but on the second day of not medicating, I become noticeably irritable, starting in the morning, far sadder than circumstances warrant and I’m generally a less agreeable husband and father.

One solution is to medicate daily, without exception.” Then he put this in bold. “But I’m hoping that my experience isn’t a sign of addiction. If it is what actions should I take? Finally, I’m otherwise healthy and fit. I rarely drink alcohol. I use no other drugs, recreational or prescription. I’m not prone to addictive behaviors. I take Omega 3 supplements per your suggestion. I do find that if I take an XR pill in the morning, I feel a drop-off late afternoon. I usually work through such or take a five milligram tab at onset of drop-off, especially if I plan to work or have meetings that evening, but taking medications too late in the day does affect my sleep.” It kind of goes on from there, but that’s the general question that he’s asking.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Steven, you’re obviously an incredibly talented person as so many people with ADD are. I’m really glad you got diagnosed and you got on medication. The fact that you feel funny after two days does not mean you’re addicted at all. It just means you’re suffering from some residual side effects, but you’re not addicted. If you were addicted, you would go into withdrawal. You’d have cravings. You’d become irritable. I do think it means you need to tweak the medications. What I would suggest is switching from Adderall XR to Vyvanse. Amphetamine is the active ingredient in both, but with Vyvanse the drop-off is smoother. I’ve found with most of my patients when they switch from Adderall XR to Vyvanse, they don’t have that crashing, as it’s called, period when the medication is wearing off. You’re managing it properly, by the way, to use the five milligram immediate release Adderall to temper that. I’m glad that’s working well for you.

Of course, exercise is the best of all in terms of self-medicating. Continue with the exercise. You might add in some meditation, which you can do five or 10 minutes once or twice a day. Don’t forget the vitamin C, vitamin connect. Stay connected with the people you care about. That all will help with these raggedy feelings that you can get. Push exercise. Push meditation. Push human connection. I would tweak the medication in the way I just suggested to switch from the Adderall XR to Vyvanse. Keep the immediate release Adderall toward the end of the day, but don’t take it too late or you will get insomnia as you’ve experienced. Thank you, Steven. Please stay in touch with us. Let us know what progress you make. Sarah, do we have any more?

Sarah Guertin:

This last one is a voice memo that we received from a listener named Grey. Grey reached out to us several months ago, Ned, when you did your meatloaf episode. He wrote to us and told us that he is a fan of meatloaf as well. Here’s what he recorded.

Grey:

“Hello, Dr. Hallowell. Greetings to you again. This is Grey, your meatloaf pal. I have a four year old daughter. We are working our way through classic kid appropriate music. We’ve been listening to The Sound of Music recently. After listening to Maria and I Have Confidence a few times, it dawned on me. Have you ever heard a better or more musical description of ADHD? Someone who has trouble following rules, but is a joyously good person and is determined to succeed despite repeated negative feedback. Perhaps you can name a future book, chapter, holding a moonbeam. I would love to hear your comments. Thanks.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, thank you, Grey. Thank you for continuing our meatloaf association. I hope you are experimenting. There are as many recipes for meatloaf as there are cures for hiccups. Sometimes meatloaf will give you the hiccups. One of my favorite meals. I love to pair meatloaf with a baked potato. I don’t know about you. Then a nice salad or peas, but I don’t often get to have the peas because no one in my family likes them. I love them. I don’t know how you feel about peas. They go well with meatloaf and a baked potato. Anyway. Yes. Holding a moonbeam. Yes. That’s wonderful. I’m so glad you’re introducing your daughter to the world of ADD in such a positive way, which is indeed how it is. I think that’s terrific.

I love the image. Wanting to do well and do right, but not really inclined to be a conformist and paint within the lines. She’ll be carving out her own painting as the years go by. With a wonderful father like you and I’m sure a mother as well, it will all be coming up roses and moonbeams for you all. Thank you. Thank you so much, Grey. Please keep me posted both about your daughter and about your experiences in the world of meatloaf.

All right. If you have a question you’d like me to address in a future episode and it can be about anything including meatloaf or moonbeams or kangaroos in Australia, write an email or record a voice memo on your phone just as Gray did. Send it to us at [email protected].

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to like the Distraction podcast page. We post links to episodes, relevant articles and the occasional cute dog video, which I’ve got to make another one of those soon. It’s a good way to stay connected with the show and other Distraction listeners. We’re on Instagram and Twitter. Please give us a like and a follow on there as well. Now, if I knew how to do any of those things, I’d do it myself, but someone else does it for me. I’m too old this dog to learn those new tricks, but you are young and Instagram and Twitter savvy. Please do that. Like, follow, embroider and add to. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our wonderful recording engineer and editor is Scott Persson. Our producer is the estimable, irreplaceable and always effervescent, Sarah Guertin. This is Dr. Ned Hallowell saying goodbye for now.

The episode you’ve 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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Managing Your ADHD in the Pandemic

Managing Your ADHD in the Pandemic

Based on the emails we’ve received, lots of our listeners are struggling with their ADHD right now. Dr. H addresses several questions in this episode including getting diagnosed while in quarantine, educational accommodations, impulsive versus compulsive, and the upside of being forced to slow down. And on a lighter note, Ned learns he’s not alone in his ADHD cooking misadventures!

Do you have a question or comment for Dr. Hallowell? Write an email or record a voice memo 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.

Episode image by Daniel Xavier from Pexels.

Listen to this episode!

A transcript of this episode can be found below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Hello, welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. And I want to thank all of you who’ve been reaching out to us with your comments and questions. We love them. We love them. We love them. We really, really do. So today we are going to prove it by devoting the entire episode to responding to your emails and questions that we’ve received over the past few weeks.

My producer, the incredibly talented Sarah Guertin joins me now, virtually of course, and she will read to me your emails so I can respond. I have not seen these before. So what I will be offering is an off the top of my head off, the cuff, shoot from the hip immediate response, which I hope will have some sense to it. So Sarah, welcome and would you like to read me the first email?

Sarah Guertin:

Certainly. Thank you. It sounds like you might’ve just gotten another one too.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Guertin:

Okay. This first email is from a listener named Maria. She wrote, “My eight-year-old son has been recently diagnosed with ADHD. His struggles were the same as me when I was growing up. As a 35-year-old woman and now professional accountant, I can see ADHD traits encroaching my everyday work life. Examples of this are having difficulty focusing on reading a long technical document and regularly interrupting coworkers. I’m fun to be around, but as I continue to move into more lucrative positions, I’m afraid my ADHD like symptoms will hinder my ability to learn more complex technical issues and to be taken seriously. With COVID-19 rampant, would an online ADHD specialist be able to give a proper diagnosis that can be used to start behavioral therapy and possibly if needed be prescribed medication? Thank you for your help. I love your podcasts. Stay safe.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

The answer is yes, an emphatic yes. And that’s something I’ve been learning during this pandemic. Pretty much every day I do just what you asked. I’ll make a diagnosis over Zoom on a new patient. Someone that I’ve never met in-person. The same principles apply. You take a history and you reach a diagnosis. So yes indeed and I would urge you to do that because if you do have ADHD and it sounds like you do, getting treatment for it can make an enormous difference.

And the treatment is not just medication. It begins with education and learning about it, what it is, what it isn’t, learning how it plays out in your life, in your relationships, and a number of different ways of dealing with it, which may or may not include stimulant medication. But the answer to your question, yes indeed. You can call my office in Sudbury or my office in New York, set up a Zoom session and I will get on the line and tell you whether you have this mysteriously fascinating condition or not and then take it from there.

If you want to know how to reach my office, just go to my website drhallowell.com.

Sarah Guertin:

Okay. Next up is an email from Jessica. She has actually reached out to us in the past, but this time she writes, “I love listening to your podcast and I truly appreciate all the different advice and suggestions you give all of us. You previously recommended me to find a job that best fits my personality and a place that I am happy. After juggling my finances and balancing my life, I took an opportunity and relocated from Southern California to Northern California and became a teacher.”

Sarah Guertin:

“I work with students that are in grade six to nine, with moderate to severe special education. I can honestly tell you that. I love my job. I am passionate about working with them. I learned something new every day. They love me and accept me with all of my disabilities. My struggle is standardized tests. I need to successfully complete my CBEST and CSET.”

Sarah Guertin:

And I looked those up. Those are California educator exams, but she says “I have failed the test and I have always struggled with all standardized tests. When I was in high school I almost didn’t graduate because of the same reason. I am constantly studying, but nothing seems to help me. What advice can you recommend?”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, if you have ADHD, which could very well be if you’re having trouble on standardized tests, medication could make all the difference in the world. So I would suggest you go get an evaluation. And again, as I just said, you can do that online during the pandemic and find out if you fit the profile.

Then if you do, you’re entitled both to extra time on the test, on the standardized test as well as if medication is helpful, medication to help you pass it. I had a patient this year, a wonderful doctor who had taken the board exam, which is sort of the equivalent of what you’re trying to pass four times and failed every time. And when we diagnosed her ADD and got her on medication and got her extra time on the test. This time, the fifth try, she passed with flying colors. And that’s not an uncommon story.

So we ADDers often have tremendous trouble with standardized tests, but the combination of extra time and perhaps medication could really make a huge difference for you. So I would get an evaluation and see if this would do the trick for you. Because this is a good chance that it would. Just go to drhallowell.com and we can set something up.

Sarah Guertin:

Okay. This email is from Chuck in Georgia. He wrote, “the instant pot story has me laughing and feeling better about my ADD cooking. I’m 55 now, and I’ve become a good cook and baker over the years, despite some failures.” So obviously he’s referring to that episode you released about your instant pot story.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Sarah Guertin:

But he says, “In college, I was making Kraft macaroni and cheese. I boiled the water and put the pasta in the water to boil the pasta according to the recipe. After boiling the noodles for the time stated on the package, I opened the cheese packet, added the cheese and stirred. I waited a few minutes and the macaroni just wasn’t coming together like it was supposed to do.”

“What I hadn’t done was pour the water and pasta into a colander before returning the cooked pasta into the pot, and then adding the cheese. I had poured the cheese into the boiling water and was waiting for the cheese and pasta to, I don’t know, cook down.”

He says, “If you enjoy this story, feel free to ask about my chicken curry and the wok or my bean burgers. Thanks for your ADD tips, advice and encouragement. They helped me. Thanks even more for Landmark College. My step son is a student there and really developing academically and as a man.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Oh, that’s wonderful. I could see, in fact, I have made Kraft macaroni and cheese, and I almost did just what you did. I almost forgot that you got to drain the pasta before you put it in the cheese. So I could totally identify this. You’d pour in the cheese and then you’re watching it, hoping that it’ll turn into something that looks like macaroni and cheese, but all you’re getting is macaroni and cheese soup. That’s very, very funny.

I just did a little video I was talking about the downside of ADD, and I told the story on myself where I always have grapefruit juice and coffee for breakfast. And I take milk in my coffee. So I had the coffee cup there and I had the glass for the grapefruit juice and I had the grapefruit juice container and the half gallon of milk.

What did I do? I poured the grapefruit juice into the coffee and it’s just why would I do that? Well, I just wasn’t thinking as they say. But then I said the solution is structured. So from now on, I’m going to have the coffee cup and the glass for the grapefruit juice far enough apart, so that I’d actually have to think before I realized what I was pouring.

And now that won’t be foolproof, but it’ll be a step in the right direction other than my point was, don’t try to change yourself, change your system. It’s a lot easier to change your system than it is to change yourself. But thank you for your lovely story. I can just see the Kraft macaroni and cheese and turning into soup. Okay and thank you for your kind words about Landmark. What a great place that is. So do we have another one coming, Sarah?

Sarah Guertin:

We sure do. This next one is a little bit longer and I had to shorten it a little bit, but it’s from a woman named Rosemary. She wrote, “I grew up with a mother who was a hoarder and subsequently with the public attention to the problem of hoarding over the last 10 or more years, I came to understand that my grandfather was also a hoarder.”

“My sister and I grew up in conditions where the houses we lived in were always full of garbage, cockroaches, cat, feces, and mice when we lived in places where cats weren’t allowed.” Yeah, she says, “We moved to frequently due to evictions. Hoarding is treated as symptomatic of an anxiety disorder. I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder for several years following my husband’s death and cognitive behavioral therapy helped me a great deal.”

“More recently over the last two or so years, I’ve basically diagnosed myself as falling under the umbrella of what’s called ADHD. I haven’t been formally diagnosed. I am hyper-focused when it relates to my research or other things I find interesting, but I get years behind on taxes and paperwork is a nightmare for me.”

“I’ve always been very impulsive and extroverted, although I think I’m mellowing with age, currently I’m 49. In some, has anyone thought about a connection between hoarding and ADHD? I know that people with ADHD could also have other co-morbid problems. Maybe in my family, ADHD and anxiety have combined in certain ways that led to hoarding or problems that on the surface look a lot like hoarding, any thoughts?”

And then she followed it up with just another quick question. She’s also wondering about the difference between impulsivity and compulsivity saying she doesn’t quite understand the difference because when she gets an impulse, she often feels compelled to act on it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Hmm, that’s interesting. Let’s start with the last question. Impulsive is simply acting without thinking. So you see an apple on the teacher’s desk and you snatch it without a plan, as opposed to someone who has a conduct disorder, they plan to take the apple when the teacher isn’t looking. So it’s a question of volition and that’s contrasting impulsive behavior versus a conduct disorder, low conscience, that kind of thing.

Now compulsive, compulsive is sort of akin to an addiction and you are compelled. You feel compelled to not step on the crack or avoid the number 13,, or not open an umbrella inside as in obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, the compulsions or these irrational feelings that you have to do something. They’re not impulsive. They’re not spontaneous out of nowhere. They just rise up and they’re usually irrational, superstitious like stepping on cracks or not stepping on cracks.

So you’re quite right. You, you do feel compelled and it’s against reason. You’ve you feel compelled not to step on a crack, even though “that stepping on a crack is no problem.” People step on cracks all the time, but in your mind, your imagination plays a trick on you. And you conclude that it’s extremely dangerous to step on a crack. And so you’re compelled not to.

Impulsive, you suddenly do something without thinking. Compulsive, you are forced to do something out of irrational needs. Now you can also not have it be OCD-like. You can have compulsions like compulsive gambling, which is close to an addiction, sort of cousin to an addiction. Compulsive gambling, compulsive drinking compulsive use of the internet, compulsive shopping.

If you’re on your way to developing what could be called an addiction. So a compulsion in that sense is like a bad habit. It’s hard for you to stop gambling. You’d like to, but it’s hard for you to stop, or it’s hard for you to stop drinking. You’d like to, you’re a compulsive drinker. Or you’re a compulsive user of the internet, which applies to an awful lot of people these days.

You would like to do it less, but you can’t seem to willpower your way to doing it less. And so you are compulsive in that sense. So there are different meanings of compulsive. Now, as for your possible ADD, yes, ADD and hoarding are often found together. And the good news is if you get your ADD treated, you might find it a lot easier to get past the generalized anxiety disorder.

And while the CBT, the cognitive behavioral therapy helped you after the death of your husband, which is very sad, by the way, it sounds like he was pretty young if you were only 49. I’m sorry to hear that. That must’ve been pretty tough for you. But if you are the cousin to hoarding, generalized anxiety disorder, sometimes it goes away when you treat the ADD. Because one of the reasons for anxiety is feeling out of control and people with add often feel out of control.

They don’t know how they’re going to screw up next. They’re waiting for the next mistake to be made or the next reprimand to come their way. And so it creates a very anxious state to live in. And oftentimes when you get the ADD treated, you feel more in control, which immediately reduces your anxiety. Same thing, by the way, a lot of people are diagnosed with depression don’t really have depression. They’re just bummed out because they’re not doing as well as they know they could do.

And when they get their ADD treated, their performance improves markedly. And so what had looked like depression goes away because it wasn’t really depression. It was simply a feeling of bummed out because I’m not where I ought to be. You do that for a while and it can look for all the world like you’re depressed, but you’re not really.

Because once you get your ADD treated and your performance improves both the anxiety and the depression go away. This leads to one of the common mistakes that gets made is that someone goes to see a doctor who’s not familiar with ADHD and gets diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and gets put on a SSRI like Prozac or Zoloft. And that is not what they need.

It’ll help them a little bit, but what they really need as far as medication goes is a stimulant medication, which will help them focus, which will reduce their anxiety and reduce what had looked like depression. But wasn’t really depression.

Again, it comes back to how important it is to get the full and complete diagnosis and not treat symptomatically the anxiety and the perhaps depression.

So yes, go get yourself diagnosed and I hope the explanation of compulsive versus impulsive made sense to you as well. Thank you so much, Rosemary. Please keep writing to us. Do we have another one, Sarah?

Sarah Guertin:

We do. This one comes from a listener named Cynthia. She wrote, “My nine-year-old son and I are both ADHD experiencers. I have found your podcast to be excellent and wanted to respond about vitamin connection during quarantine. My hope is that society will appreciate the value of real flesh and blood interactions after this time. I am a musician and piano teacher and I’m hopeful people will appreciate music and making it with others more after this.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Oh, I think there’s no way in the world that we won’t. I think we’re all missing human contact. I think we’re all missing what you get face-to-face that you can’t get. I’m doing my whole practice now via Zoom and thank God for it because I couldn’t do it at all were it not for that. But it’s not the same thing as being in-person with someone.

The depth of contact as one of my colleagues said to me the other day, the depth of contact is so much greater in-person than it can be virtually. Still, the virtual connection is good enough to get the work done, but it isn’t the same. And I think you’re right, this a shelter at home and quarantine is teaching us the value of what I call the human moment, as opposed to the electronic moment.

The human moment is just so much richer and fuller. The electronic moment will suffice, but it’s not as full and rich as the human moment. We have another one, Sarah?

Sarah Guertin:

We sure do. Got a couple more for ya. This is from Lauren, who also happens to be an ADHD coach. She wrote, “Hi there. I just listened to your short podcast about how not being around people is tiring.” What we were just talking about. “My ADHD 16-year-old son was telling me this last week. He doesn’t have many close friends in high school so I trying to understand what he was missing.”

“He said, it’s just being around people, seeing them and interacting at any level. He has been more tired, yet not able to sleep very well. It is interesting and makes sense. The funny part is he also says his morale is better at home without the social stresses of fitting in, in school and whatnot. Such funny contradictions, yet they make sense at the same time. Thanks for your insight and encouragement of your podcasts.”

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, thank you. Thank you, Lauren. Yeah, it’s tiring. Not being around people is tiring. My wife said to me the other day, “Why am I so tired?” And it’s because we’re not getting vitamin connect. We’re not getting the human connection. She has me and I have her, but it’s just the two of us in the house. We connect. She’s a therapist also, we connect with our patients or clients over Zoom or telephone, but it is tiring.

I think it is because we don’t appreciate how important vitamin connect is. We don’t appreciate how important those human moments are. And it’s also interesting you said your son’s morale is better at home because the social stresses at school can also be a bummer. So you give with one hand and take away with the other. But when we come out of this, when we can get back to whatever we get back to I think one of the things that we’ll be celebrating and rejoicing, what a great thing it will be to be together.

I mean, an important part of my life and my wife’s life is the church. We attend Episcopal church in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Christ Church. We’ve been going there ever since we got married 32 years ago and it’s a big deal. I love going. People often talk about going to church is a burden.

No, for me, it’s a real replenishment. I loved the music. I loved the liturgy. I loved the stories from the Bible. I love the sermons and I love most of all the community. We don’t have that anymore. We have a virtual church, but I can’t on Sunday morning, go sit in that beautiful space and hear that beautiful music sung by living heart beating humans.

And my wife and I, we both really miss it, even though the church is continuing in its own way. We miss that community. And I’m also a big sports fan, season ticket holder to the Patriots. And we just lost our great Tom Brady, but I don’t know what it’ll be like if we have to play games with no one in the stadium.

When it’s taken away, you really notice how much you appreciate something when you can’t have it. And I think the human connection with other people in a crowd, be it a congregation or a football game or a shopping mall for that matter, all of those were essential parts of my life. I’m a pretty simple guy. Those are my pleasures and I can’t do them. You just go down that list.

Can’t go to a football game, can’t go to church. Can’t go to a movie. Can’t go to a restaurant. Can’t go to a shopping mall. It’s like, “golly” and nothing against my wife and she has nothing against me, but it’s pretty thin gruel, when that’s all you’ve got. And she would say, “What do you mean I’m thin gruel?”

Well, I’m thin gruel put it like that. We need more, we need more sustenance. Then we can get just hanging out, the two of us. It’s hard. We go for walks, we do and we wave at other people walking, but can’t get too close and it’s not easy. And your point is a very good one. When we can get back to it, it’ll be pretty wonderful.

In the meantime, we’re making the best of it and I hope this podcast is providing you with some form of connection. That’s certainly our aim in doing it is to connect with you all because you are our reason for doing it. So Sarah, you have another, I think.

Sarah Guertin:

Yes, I have one more. We love all of the emails, but this one I thought was especially touching. So it says, “Hi, I’ve been listening to your recent podcasts in the current COVID world and how it has impacted our lives. I wanted to share my personal experience. I have a 21-year-old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, social phobias, addiction, lying, et cetera.”

“You could use them as an example, in every chapter of a textbook on ADHD. We have been deep in the trenches for many years. A year ago, he returned home from an unsuccessful college experience and his mental health was very fragile. We doubled down on the therapy and other resources, but I didn’t see much improvement.”

“Then COVID-19 became our new normal, the world stopped. He lost his job and has been home for six weeks now. I’ve been so impressed with how much he has improved. To me, it seems like the world has slowed down to his speed and he can now function productively. He has been great. He keeps a somewhat normal daily routine takes his medication daily, does a little work around the house, has maintained his personal space, does his own laundry and exercises.”

“All of his therapy has moved to virtual sessions, including a weekly group therapy. We have been given the luxury of time to figure out that this is all he can handle right now. We will build on this, but this slow world has been a miracle for him. He was obviously overwhelmed before.”

“I’m a little wary of putting too much weight on his success right now, but it sure is a bright spot for me in a world that really could use some good news. Thanks for all of your words of wisdom. I really enjoy your podcast. Sarah.” Not me.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Not you. What a lovely, lovely story. That’s so wonderful that given a chance to slow down, all those problems could sort of leave him, drift away, move into the rear view mirror. He needed chance to slow down, have some structure, have some vitamin connect from you. He’s getting what he needs in terms of structure, love, attention, and a pace that he can handle.

And I think success does breed success. So now he’s learning some adaptive life habits that will continue and will strengthen and become durable and will serve him. It’s a great thing seeing how a change in environment, a change in pace, a change in demands. What a difference that can make. That’s a wonderful, wonderful story.

And those of you who are listening, that’s quite a list of problems. He had ADHD, depression, anxiety, social phobia, addiction, lying. That’s why I don’t like the labels because you bury someone under all those labels and the real health can often get lost because you tend not to identify, diagnose health.

We tend not to list strengths or potential strengths, but those are the very factors that have been able to emerge and carry him now that he’s been allowed to have some pressure off and live at a pace that he can handle.

Thanks so much for your email, Sarah. It’s a wonderful story and a very hopeful story as well. Thank you, all of our listeners and sending questions and comments. Please, please, please keep sending them. If we didn’t get to your question today, we will get to it in the next podcast we do on listener comments and questions.

And if you have a question or comment, please, please send it to us at [email protected]. We really live off of your suggestions, comments, and questions. And as you see today, we do take them seriously and answer them to the best of my ability.

In any case, thank you for listening. Thank you for joining our community. Please tell your friends about us as we really want to grow and reach more and more people.

Distraction is a project of Sounds Great Media. Our producer is the amazingly talented Sarah Guertin and our audio engineer and editor is the also amazingly talented Pat Keogh. I am Dr. Ned Hallowell. Thank you for listening.

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BREAKTHROUGH Non-Medication Treatment for ADHD and Dyslexia

BREAKTHROUGH Non-Medication Treatment for ADHD and Dyslexia

New research has shown that the key to treating ADHD and dyslexia lies in the cerebellum, the area of the brain that controls coordination and balance, with exercise playing an integral part. And a new treatment program created by a father who wanted to help his struggling daughter has shown remarkable success in the more than 50,000 people that have tried it, including our host’s own son. This breakthrough is so new that most doctors don’t even realize the important role the cerebellum plays in unlocking a person’s potential. Listen to hear how Wynford Dore’s program is literally changing lives.

Learn more about Zing Performance and how their non-medication treatment works by clicking HERE.

Please reach out to us with your questions and show ideas: [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.

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