Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is most commonly diagnosed in children. Criminals with antisocial personality
disorder are now also being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. People with ADD primarily function out of the
right side of the brain instead of both sides. ADD symptoms include fidgeting and not paying attention. Reactions to
food can cause symptoms flare up. The Feingold Program helps to eliminate foods and drinks that bring out these
symptoms. This is an alternative to medicine. Drugs used to treat ADD patients include Ritalin, Dexedrine, Cylert,
and others. There is not any evidence which proves why Ritalin works.
Attention deficit disorder, more commonly known as ADD, is “characterized by short attention spans, impulsivity,
with or without hyperactivity” (http://pathfinder.com, 1996). Researchers say that from five to 10% of school- aged
children have ADD and that boys are 10 times more likely to be affected than girls. Previously, this disorder was
known as “hyperkinesis, hyperactivity, minimal brain dysfunction and most recently, attention deficit disorder”
(Brody, 1991). Until recently, there were many disorders related to ADD, for example, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Now, this and other related disorders are grouped under the heading ADD. What
was once know as ADHD is now known as ADD-H or attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and attention
deficit disorder without hyperactivity is known as ADD-noH.
Children and adolescents with ADD-noH and ADD-H are at risk for other types of disorders. Approximately half of
these children and adolescents have conduct disorder (behavioral problems), one-fourth have an anxiety disorder,
one-third have depression and one-fifth have a learning disability (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Some researchers believe that attention deficit disorder is a factor of the antisocial personality disorder of criminals.
In a group of adults, usually men, whose behavior has been cause for arrests and hospitalization in mental
institutions, a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is usually accompanied with the diagnosis of ADD
(Hallowell and Ratey, 1994, p. 189). People with antisocial personality disorder, also known as sociopaths or
psychopaths, usually break the law, lie, cheat, steal, etc. In males with a violent nature, one finds that they have a
history of ADD. This violent nature is not due to a lack of a guilty conscience but due to frustration with their
attention deficit disorder. Adults with antisocial personalities who had a confirmed childhood history of ADD, may
not have antisocial personality disorder or may have it but respond to treatments used for ADD patients (Hallowell
and Ratey, 1994, p.190).
People with attention deficit disorder function primarily out of the right side of the brain. The right side of the brain
controls our creativity and problem solving, intuitive thinking, and feelings and impulses. People with ADD do not
completely lack in the left brain skills, (logical thinking, linear thinking, and ordered thinking) but the
neurotransmitters connecting the two sides of the brain only work sporadically (McDowell, 1996, p. 427).
There are many symptoms of ADD. With ADD-noH, children tend to have short attention spans, which lead to easy
distraction. They do not pay attention to details so they make many mistakes. These children are forgetful, do not
seem to listen, and find it difficult to stay organized. Children with ADD-H fidget and squirm, find it difficult to stay
seated or play quietly, talk too much, and have trouble when taking turns which leads to interruptions (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, 1996). Although these are only a few of the numerous symptoms, they
are a good general description of symptoms. The occurrence of one symptom does not mean that a person has ADD.
One symptom checklist has 78 different symptoms. Each symptom is rated with a score of zero to four. With this
checklist, if 20 or more are rated with a three or four, a person should see a professional to obtain an accurate
diagnosis (Amen, 1995). One should remember that there is no clear distinction!
between having ADD and being normal (Hallowell and Ratey, 1994, p.42).
ADD children sometimes have reactions to certain foods, causing some symptoms to become more prominent. The
child must be fed a specific food and if the child
1) is in a symptom- controlled state, 2) is not taking medication, 3) shows no sudden behavior deterioration after
receiving a single suspect food, and 4) continues to repeat the same result at least two more times on different days
(Taylor, 1994, p. 122-123),
one can conclude that this specific food does not contribute to a flare up of symptoms.
The Feingold Program involves removing the chemicals that cause symptoms to be brought out. These chemicals are
“commonly added to foods and beverages for cosmetic purposes” (Taylor, 1994, p.120). Common problem
chemicals are synthetic food dyes, artificial flavors, MSG, and preservatives. Salicylate, another offender, interferes
with neurotransmitter production. They are found in aspirin, apples, chili powder, coffee, peaches, tomatoes and
many other foods.
The Feingold Program is an alternative to prescribed medication, such as Ritalin. Although there is work involved, it
seems to work with small children. Label reading of food products helps prevent accidental exposure.
Not everyone agrees that the Feingold Program works. There are many arguments for and against the program. One
claim that it does not work is that this is just a health food fad. The necessary shopping at “exotic locations” (Taylor,
1994, p.127) denies the child an ordinary childhood experience. Another claim that it does not work says that the
Feingold Program creates resentment in the family. This claim says that the method involves major changes in
routines. The result would be that other family members resent the child with the disorder.
There are also reasons why it does work. One example is that the Feingold Program works because the child
receives extra attention. This gives the child a sense that he is the center of attention. Another reason is that the
program creates more order in the house and less confusion during meal time.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the Feingold Program. The program eliminates the need for medication
and it works for all ages. A disadvantage is that one exposure to an offending chemical can cause symptoms to
recur. Another disadvantage is the extra work involved in making sure the child does not receive the offending
chemicals (Taylor, 1994, p.127-135).
Neurotransmitters in the brain help nerve cells store and relay information and send billions of messages to parts of
the body to control thought and movement. Tyrosine, an amino acid, is transported by blood and concentrated in the
nerve cells of the brain. It then transforms into dopa and then dopamine. The dopamine then migrates to the next
nerve cell at 240 miles per hour. Dopamine transforms into norepinephrine and disassembles for reuse in the brain.
The ADD individuals’ brain does not sufficiently manufacture these neurotransmitters (Taylor, 1994, p. 66-67).
Drugs used to curb the symptoms of ADD include Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), Cylert (pemoline) and Ritalin
(methylphenidate). Decades ago, Dexedrine was commonly known as a street drug, giving it a bad reputation,
although, when used in the proper dose for ADD, it is not addicting. Still, many doctors choose to prescribe Ritalin
instead because of Dexedrine’s reputation (Hallowell and Ratey, 1994, p. 237-238). Ritalin is a mild central nervous
system stimulant. Although the exact actions of the drug are not known, it is thought that Ritalin activates the brain
stem arousal system and cortex to produce a stimulant effect.
There is neither specific evidence which clearly establishes the mechanism whereby Ritalin produces its mental and
behavioral effects in children, nor conclusive evidence regarding how these effects relate to the condition of the
central nervous system (Barnhart, 1985, p.865).
Antidepressants are also used in treatment of ADD. The most commonly used is Norpramin (desipramine).
Norpramin has several advantages over Ritalin and other stimulants. It can be given in a single dose, thus
eliminating the need to take a pill several times a day.
Trying to remember to take medication for ADD brings up a kind of Catch-22: how are you supposed to remember
to take the medication that is supposed to help you remember to take your medication (Hallowell and Ratey, 1994,p.
It does not produce the highs and lows that Ritalin produces. It leaves a more even tone to your life. Also,
Norpramin is not a controlled substance. This creates a greater flexibility to prescribing it.
All stimulants should be stopped for a week every four to six months. These periodic withdrawals from the drugs
allow the patient and doctor to assess if the drug is still needed.
Attention deficit disorder is a hard disorder to diagnose. The two most common errors in diagnosis are missing the
diagnosis and making the diagnosis too often (Hallowell and Ratey, 1994, p.42). The reason for this is that there is
not any one specific test to diagnose ADD. Psychologists, psychiatrists and physicians need to work together to
diagnose the disorder. Some researchers claim that children will grow out of the disorder while others claim that the
children will never outgrow it.
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