People with attention, focus, or ADHD difficulties can be at a disadvantage in work, academic, and social situations.
ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or also referred to as ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder), when diagnosed, allows for a workplace or school accommodations under ADA laws (American Disability Act). Many with less apparent attention/focus (including ADHD) problems may not be considered impaired or disabled, even though they struggle to maintain focus and attention. When someone with focus or attention issues is in a positive fit with their life situation – operating within their capacity, they are often creative, talented, and productive citizens.
Attention, Focus Problems, or ADHD can result in:
- Not getting things done
- Unable to meet job demands for performance and productivity
- Work inefficiency, job loss
- Inattentiveness and difficulty learning new information
- Impulsivity and rash decision making
- Being discriminated against in the workplace
- Difficulty relating to others – effectively and socially
- Interference with relationships and family life
- Loss of self-esteem
- Mental and physical health problems
- Substance abuse
When attention and focus difficulties are defined as ADHD, the occurrence and types have been described as:
- ADHD occurs in an estimated 4% to 5% of the adult population (varies in different studies, but appears more common than has been assumed)
- ADHD was found to be highly inheritable – passed from parent to child
- Three subtypes are identified according to dominate symptoms: A. Inattentive; B. Hyperactivity-impulsivity; C. Combination of 1 & 2 (more common in adults). See stats
How do you recognize attention, focus, or ADHD problems?
There are many conditions that can masquerade and significantly contribute to attention/focus, or ADHD problems. Information gathering and a holistic consultation can be helpful, especially when there hasn’t been a good response to natural or conventional treatments.
A significant percentage of children and adolescents, diagnosed as ADHD, will continue to have symptoms and problems into adulthood. The inattentive type of symptoms seems to be the most prevalent ones in adulthood – as difficulties with organizing, sustaining attention, distraction, finishing tasks, procrastination, losing things, forgetfulness, and making mistakes.
In adults with attention, focus, or ADHD symptoms – as internal restlessness, substance abuse may be common. The common childhood symptoms – less likely to be seen in adults – are of hyperactivity, difficulties with decision making, and poor impulse control. In childhood and adolescence, one would more likely see difficulties with fidgeting, feeling unsettled, not being able to relax quietly, talking excessively, intruding into the conversation, blurting out answers, running, or climbing dangerously. See the following links for further information: ADDA, Adult ADD Univ. of Maryland questionnaire and Web MD.
A holistic or integrative approach to attention, focus, or ADHD difficulty is important when:
- Other safer and more natural approaches may be available
- Medications are used ahead of careful examination for other causes or contributing factors
- Improvement can occur when other causes or contributing factors are addressed
- Medications have caused intolerable side effects
There are many natural and safe treatment options.
Conventional treatment for ADHD is often done initially with medication – without first considering safer alternatives. Medications often used are psycho-stimulant medications as Ritalin, Concerta, or Adderall; or antidepressants as Wellbutrin; or less commonly used agents as Atomoxetine (Strattera), Clonidine, or Tenex. The over-prescribing of these medications has been questioned – as to the actual need for the drug, and as to the potential adverse long-term effects vs. benefits — click the following to read more, helpguide.org
Contributing factors often overlooked (important to find before considering medication) include:
- Drug abuse, chemical dependency, or other addictions
- Medical condition as thyroid problems, hidden infection, inflammatory diseases, or nutritional deficiencies
- Mood disorders as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or past trauma
- Neuro-developmental difficulties as high functioning autism – Asperger’s
- Environmental allergies and sensitivities
- Family disruption or dysfunction
- Major losses (as death of a loved one, or the breaking-up of a relationship) or worries about financial problems, job loss, or marital problems
- Sleep disturbance as not getting enough sleep (poor sleep habits)
Consider holistic, integrative approaches to attention, focus, and ADHD difficulties. There are many positive steps for consideration:
- Identify and address environmental illness, sensitivities, and allergies
- Reduce use-time and distraction from electronics, computers, cell phones, tablet, and, etc.
- Create more work and living space that is free from noise, distraction, and clutter
- Reduce stress and anxiety – if needed find a coach or therapist
- Do a regular consistent exercise program to help with focus and mood – as running, swimming, biking, yoga, dancing, group exercise classes, walking outside in nature
- Establish regular sleep routine in a conducive, quiet, electronics free, sleep space – get adequate sleep (7-8 hours)
- Improve nutrition with more organic, fresh whole foods (avoid refined sugar and processed food) – more healthy fats, green vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries
- Use recommended supplements like fish oil (omega 3’s), B-vitamins (as B6, folic acid), herbal, and amino acid support (click here for information)
- Avoid exposure to food additives, commercial, and household chemicals
- Get help with attention, focusing, and organizing from an assistant or coach – consider use of a daily planner, a to-do-list, or other time-management tools
- Seek accommodations, when needed, in educational and job settings
- Use behavioral, cognitive, family, or other holistic therapies – to help modify problematic patterns of interaction and behaviors
- Consider biofeedback, neurofeedback, brain games, art, yoga, and music therapies
- Do mindfulness and meditation practices for anxiety, stress reduction, and focus
It is recommended that if any of these approaches are considered, to discuss with a qualified holistic health-care practitioner.
For more information and references on attention, focus, or ADHD click here. To learn more about assessment and treatment approaches offered by Integrative psychiatry, medicine, and holistic therapy practitioner, click here. Further reading see article: ADD Resources – ADD R, click here.
by Ron Parks, MD – edited by Shan Parks
If you or your family have attention, focus, or ADHD difficulties, what positive steps have helped?