Get a diagnosis to be sure you have the inattentive variety of ADHD from a psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in ADD/ADHD. There are many other challenges which are somewhat similar to the inattentive variety of ADHD. Some children, who are extremely creative and very bright, are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD especially if they are attending school in rural and blue collar areas. These children will seem very different. Very creative and bright kids require more stimulating school environments or they will naturally tune out.
Some excellent books on attention deficit challenges are:
Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey.
The ADD Answer by Frank Lawliss.
Healing ADD by Daniel Amen.
Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception by Thom Hartmann.
Learn organizing and time management skills. These will be a boon in everyday life, at work, and at school.
Many organizing and time management websites are available online. On our Tips page, you will find information about time management in the Organizing Your Life section.
An effective and often overlooked method for attention building is reading. Find out what reading material is interesting, stimulating, enjoyable, and attention absorbing. It can be books, magazines, newspapers, or online material. Long bouts of pleasurable and stimulating reading will burn new brain connections and increase reading ability and attention spans as well as vocabulary. It was with lots of reading in my early adult life as well
as mindful meditation practice that helped me turn the corner on my ADD.
Simple carbs and sugar contribute to drifting attention, mental fog, and slow brainwaves. Kids should avoid simple carbs at breakfast and lunchtimes if they want to be alert in class. Recent studies of ADHD and inatentive children, removed from stressful, emotionally abusive and neglectful families and sent to warm and caring foster families, showed a profound dimunition in the children's inatention and impulsivity. Such studies may open yet another approach to ADHD and inattention difficulties: helping caregivers to be warmer, more caring, and attentive to their children's needs and less hostile, neglectful, and absent. Children, in the homes where the caregivers suffer from mental difficulties such as depression, bipolar, emotional dysregulation (Borderline Personality Disorder), often experience a hostile and neglectful atmosphere. Children coming from these backgrounds appear more likely to suffer from inattention and impulsive behavior. Be wary of ADHD medications containing Ritalin or amphetamines. These drugs are addictive, possess dangerous side effects, cause brain problems, and suppress growing children's appetities. Recently because of fudged pharmaceutical research on psychiatric drugs such as antidepressants and Neurontin, many now wonder if the research on ADHD drugs also received the same fast shuffle. Getting enough sleep can help in allowing us to remain alert. We need 7 to 8 hours per night.
Investigate using nutrition supplements like Omega 3 fish and flax oils, choline bitartrate, a balanced multi-vitamin and mineral, vitamin C from whole foods, a balanced B complex, Vitamin E, water. Proper hydration helps with alertness. Some folks are helped by blue green algae.
Stay away from foods containing trans fatty acids (often called "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil".)
If you need to be alert and aware avoid passive activities like TV, video games, and music listening. Avoid long periods of meditation over 30 minutes and listing to binaural beats in the theta-delta range as these slow brainwaves and may create temporary attention deficits.
Discover the kind of work you would truly enjoy doing. Get vocational testing.
Develop a foolproof system for managing your money and your spending. Get books on practical money management. Set limits on spending. Chart when your next bills are due and how much is in your accounts.
If your child has attention deficits get to know his or her teachers.
Look into learning mental exercises that increase increase beta and lower theta. The rule of thumb: The more beta and less slow brainwaves, the easier it is to remain alert and pay attention.
When excessive daydreaming and reverie intrude at work, in relationships, and in school learn how to recognize it and switch gears to paying attention.
Put the brakes on worry, rumination, and runaway romantic fantasies prior to going to bed. These can lead to excessive REM and overdreaming which can interfere with sound sleep and help to create attention deficits.
Simple carbs and sugar contribute to drifting attention, mental fog, and slow brainwaves. Kids should avoid simple carbs at breakfast and lunchtimes if they want to be alert in class.
Recent studies of ADHD and inatentive children, removed from stressful, emotionally abusive and neglectful families and sent to warm and caring foster families, showed a profound dimunition in the children's inatention and impulsivity. Such studies may open yet another approach to ADHD and inattention difficulties: helping caregivers to be warmer, more caring, and attentive to their children's needs and less hostile, neglectful, and absent. Children, in the homes where the caregivers suffer
from mental difficulties such as depression, bipolar, emotional dysregulation (Borderline Personality Disorder), often experience a hostile and neglectful atmosphere. Children coming from these backgrounds appear more likely to suffer from inattention and impulsive behavior.
Be wary of ADHD medications containing Ritalin or amphetamines.
These drugs are addictive, possess dangerous side effects, cause brain problems, and suppress growing children's appetities.
Recently because of fudged pharmaceutical research on psychiatric drugs such as antidepressants and Neurontin, many now wonder if the research on ADHD drugs also received the same fast shuffle.
Getting enough sleep can help in allowing us to remain alert. We need 7 to 8 hours per night.
Write your worries, ruminations, and runaway romantic fantasies down on paper, challenge and change any cognitive distortions in them, and seal yourself up by recalling 10 to 12 pleasant memories. See our Rumination Breaker exercise.
Learning to spot and change thought distortions helps with attention because we're less pulled away by stuck emotions and the trances they create. See Changing Distorted Thinking.
Learn to accept yourself unconditionally. See our Self-Acceptance page.
Apply integrators or emotional processes to intense and enduring stuck emotions.
Research grape seed extract. It is said to good for the brain.
Find mental exercises that increase attention, alertness, and fast beta brainwaves. Typically doing thinking puzzles and math problems stimulate alert beta. This can get your mind in gear.
Special drawing exercises that call for attention can be helpful. See the Zaltsman exercise appearing further down the page.
An exercise for developing attention and alertness is to do the following:
1. Touch your nose and draw an invisible circle on the right side of your forehead. Now touch your chin and draw an invisible circle on the left side of your forehead.
2. Draw a line down the middle of a large sheet of paper. On the right side draw a triangle. On the left side draw a square. Now on the right side draw a square, and on the left side draw a triangle.
3. Touch your left ear and say, “Boo.” Touch your right ear and say, “Whooo.”
4. Draw a straight line on the right side of your paper. Draw a rectangle on the left side. Then draw a rectangle on the right side and a straight line on the left.
5. Lay a palm on the top of your head and invisibly draw a square on your left cheek. Lay a palm on your solar plexus and invisibly draw a triangle on your right cheek. Lay a palm on the top of your head and invisibly draw a square on your right cheek. Lay a palm on your stomach and invisibly draw a triangle on your left cheek.
6. Draw an invisible triangle on your left foot. Draw an invisible square on your right foot. Draw an invisible square on your left foot. Draw an invisible square on your right foot.
Repeat 1 through 6 twice more and perform it as quickly as possible. This will lead to better attention and alertness.
The following awareness exercises and meditations would be helpful in building attention and reducing Attention Deficit challenges. These exercises and meditations help build attention and burn new neural pathways. Choose the ones which appear most appropriate to your situation and practice daily for no more than 30 or 40 minutes per session, except for reading books and magazines – for which an hour is a good idea.
Use Emoclear processes such as: (Click to access a process, or use the links to the left)
At this time the list of self-help methods for ADD is growing. Many have limited research. Here are some of the better ones I've seen:
The brain doesn't have enough of the neurochemical dopamine for the required job of paying attention. Without enough dopamine we don't produce enough fast beta waves to pay attention. You may wish to in investigate consuming dopamine stimulating substances and foods. Dopamine helps us focus and better attend to activities. These foods, supplements, and exercises stimulate dopamine:
Eating lean protein and nothing else for your first morning meal. This is said to stimulate dopamine.
Taking the protein supplements: Phenylalanine & Tyrosine will boost dopamine if taken with no other foods in the morning. (Check with a medical doctor for taking tyrosine and phenylalanine may be a challenge for high blood pressure sufferers).
B-complex vitamins, rhodiola rosea, pyridoxine, phosphatidylserine, ginkgo biloba, and chromium are all said to stimulate dopamine.
Caffeine (found in coffee and tea).
L-theanine (found in green tea) boosts dopamine.
Unsweetened natural cocoa boosts dopamine.
Arousing music like rock and roll or stirring symphonies by Beethoven will stimulate dopamine.
Exercises like walking, running, weight lifting, and all aerobic exercises all work at raising dopamine.
Practice mindfulness or some form of meditative focus. This can burn valuable new brain connections.
Let's repeat here that exercise is very helpful. Walking and jogging help by raising dopamine. Weight training helps also by raising dopamine and developing focus and attention during the exercise itself. Physical exercises are quite good for attention, mood, and the stimulation of beta brainwaves, the fast brainwaves of mental alertness. Aerobic exercise stimulates the same neurochemicals that prescribed stimulating medications do without the side effects.
Reading books, newspapers, magazines, and online written materials. Lots of reading helps. When kids or adults get turned onto reading books, they build their ability to focus.
The Zaltsman Exercise is a valuable set of tools and is available at adhdchildrentoday.com and in the book Delivered from Distraction by Halowell & Ratey. You can download a document of this exercise here:
Learning balancing and juggling appears to help.
Doing unstimulating activities that call on attention can build attention if you stick with them.
Some video games are specifically made for ADDers and may help build attention and focus.
Emotional integration exercises are basically emotional meditations. They appear to help build attention and focus.
Omega 3 oils appear to help somewhat with focus.
Overcome anxiety stemming from parental perfectionism, emotional deprivation, abandonment, broken homes, and abuse. By reconnecting with these sources of early anxiety and desensitizing them, the compulsive need to daydream, fantasize, and disconnect often dies out.
The causes of ADD are fairly nebulous. There are numerous theories circulating without much peer reviewed studies to support them. Some of the ideas that make sense to me are:
The cerebellum lacks certain circuit connections making it difficult to pay attention. These missing connections can be burned through attention exercises.
Some folks believe that faulty attention styles are chosen unconsciously to avoid underlying anxiety. Children who have been traumatized by emotional deprivation, abandonment, parental perfectionism, broken homes, and abuse seem to have higher incidences of ADD and anxiety challenges. When kids start to feel anxious, as they sometimes do in classroom situations, they unconsciously shift to doing something more stimulating: daydreaming, moving around, reading hidden magazines, playing handheld video games. ADDers (the inattentive types) will get pulled into daydreaming, fantasizing, and otherwise disconnecting from the here and now. This keeps the inattentive kid from anxiety, but it also locks down their ability to pay close attention. Overcoming what the kid is anxious about can end the compulsive daydreaming, fantasizing, and distancing the here and now.
Take care, Steve