The Prognosis for ADD

image via Flickr, by Ginny

image via Flickr, by Ginny

What is the prognosis when ADD is treated appropriately?

The prognosis of ADD is highly variable depending upon a multiplicity of factors. The individual’s temperament. His language skills. His intelligence. His basic academic skills. The profile and severity of attention weakness. His physical characteristics. The integrity of his nervous system. The presence of illness. Stresses in his life. His attitudes and beliefs. His self esteem. His motivation. The expectations set for him. The profile of strengths, weaknesses, and temperamental characteristics of people in his life….

For each individual, the mix of these factors is a little bit different. And for any given individual, the mix is constantly changing. This is what makes ADD such a challenge.

When all these factors are taken into account and appropriate, comprehensive treatments are put into place, the prognosis for ADD is good but guarded.

That is, the ADD individual can be helped to function successfully academically and on the job; he can have meaningful social relationships; and he can function independently.

However, as long as he continues to take on life’s challenges, there is always the possibility that the problems associated with ADD will resurface. But this really is no different from what we all face in our own personal quest for self-development.


There is no magic pill or quick fix for Attention Deficit Disorder.  That’s why Dr. Liden has dedicated over 30 years of his life to diagnosing and treating the disorder, following his patients through many life stages and challenges, helping them achieve success and independence through it all.  His collected wisdom is shared here on the BWC blog and in a number of books.  He also serves as Senior Medical Director of The Being Well Center, which offers Long Distance Services and an affordable Accurate Diagnosis Determination.

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Meet Dr. Liden, Part II

[continued from Part I]

Dr. Liden | The Being Well CenterIf I hadn’t had to live with the ramifications of Attention Deficit Disorder in my own home, I probably would have stayed with the approach [referring the management of ADD back to medical professionals with little training in ADD treatment] for a long time, thinking I was really making a difference in people’s lives.

Instead, as I faced the problem daily, I became aware of the pervasive, chronic nature of ADD and the need for a much more systematic and comprehensive treatment approach.

As a result, I left Children’s Hospital and organized a team of professionals including teachers, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, counselors, nurses, and others to begin TRANSACT Health Systems, now known as The Being Well Center.

Located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Being Well Center provides diagnostic and treatment services for individuals with a variety of developmental, learning, and behavior problems — again, the most common being ADD.

At The Being Well Center, our initial focus was children and adolescents with these problems. However, it has become more and more apparent to us that there are large numbers of adults who continue to struggle with problems like ADD. Many of them are the parents and grandparents of the children we see. We have expanded our services to meet their needs as well.

Dr. Craig Liden | The Being Well CenterAs Senior Medical Director of The Being Well Center, I have counseled thousands of patients with ADD. I have worked with their family members. I have talked to hundreds of PTA groups and community organizations. I have conducted many in-service sessions about ADD for medical and educational professionals have supervised the expansion of our TRANSACT program to the other parts of Pennsylvania and the Eastern United States.

Through my involvement in all of these endeavors, I have become impressed with how little most people know about the common problem of ADD. Even though the same questions keep coming up, no one has provided a good resource that patients, parents, teachers, and others can use to better understand ADD. That is the rationale for my books, this blog, and our online communities on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: to provide practical, down-to-earth answers to the common questions about ADD, its assessment, and its treatment.

In putting together the answers, I have tried to combine the scientific knowledge I have gained as a researcher and teacher, the insights I have developed in working with professionals from other fields, the practical experience I have acquired in caring for more than 10,000 patients with ADD, and the hopes and fears I have experienced as a parent of a child with ADD.


Read Part I of Dr. Liden’s personal and professional 30-year journey in treating more than 10,000 individuals with ADD/ADHD.

 

7 Keys to Successful (and Safe) Medication Treatment for ADD

image via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography

image via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography

Medication is often needed to help individuals optimally manage their ADD.

Without the aide of medication, it is almost impossible for most individuals with ADD to function to the best of their abilities and take advantage of other intervention strategies.

Yet, fear of medication, much of it unfounded, stands as a major barrier for many people to even take the step to get evaluated for ADD, let alone begin treatment for it.  Based upon more than 30 years of experience with over 10,000 patients with ADD, I’ve found there are seven keys to a successful and safe experience with medication.

  1. Find the right physician.

    Successful management of ADD requires that prescribing physicians have had specific ADD training and lots of experience working with ADD and the medications used to treat it.  They should have strong communication skills, the willingness to listen to your concerns and address them in a timely manner and a commitment to providing regular long-term follow-up. Critically evaluate your physician and his/her approach before you commit to medication treatment.

  1. Get an accurate diagnosis.

    Most knowledgeable physicians follow systematic procedures to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.  This may include the use of checklists, questionnaires, structured interviews, and ideally, some objective testing of attention abilities.  It’s one thing to hear about symptoms from a patient or significant other, but actually observing the individual’s attention during testing raises the reliability and validity of a physician’s ability to diagnose ADD to a whole different level.  Objective testing helps sort out individuals who don’t really have ADD and weed out those who might be drug seeking.  It also provides a baseline that can be used to accurately judge responsiveness to medication treatment. Response to a trial of medication should never be used as a diagnostic test!

  1. Make sure someone looks at the whole you.

    Each individual with ADD has their own unique profile…different temperaments, skills, abilities, health status, life experiences, attitudes, and beliefs.  Understanding these individual differences and their potential impact on medication treatment are critical for a successful experience.  Incorporating them into the process can help you and your physician interpret and manage apparent side effects and comply with the appropriate medication regimen.  More than 70% of individuals with ADD have co-existing mental health and/or chronic medical problems, sometimes as a consequence of untreated ADD.  If these go unrecognized or untreated, they can sabotage a successful experience with medication.

  1. Participate in objective medication trial tests.

    image via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography

    image via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography

    Judging the effectiveness of a given dosage or regimen of medication by relying on informal, unstructured observations or simple checklist/behavior ratings forms is fraught with difficulties.  Some observers don’t really understand what they should be looking for or have preconceived ideas about what should or shouldn’t happen, while others may have attitudes or beliefs about medication that color their observations.  The context of where people are making their observations can also result in great variability…monitoring effectiveness in a structured classroom is very different from watching a child play with peers in the backyard or sit in front of the TV or computer.  Asking an adult with ADD “How’s it going?” is like asking the blind to lead the blind…what it takes to make accurate self-observations is good attention and that’s the very thing they don’t have!  It is far better to find the right starting dose for a particular medication by participating in serial objective tests of attention on various doses of medication beginning with the lowest one that could make a difference and advancing as needed until an optimal dose is found.  This process helps ensure that the initial starting dose that you or your child starts taking in the real world is in the right ball park.  Then, fine tuning can be done based upon targeted observations in multiple life arenas.  The right medication, dosage, and daily regimen varies greatly from individual to individual based upon their unique attentional profile, degree of their problem, and the genetically-based way they metabolize various medications.  It is not uncommon for an optimal medication regimen to exceed the drug manufacturer’s marketing guidelines.

  1. Request a regimen that provides you all day coverage.

    ADD is a neurologically-based problem that is present 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  It affects all aspects of life functioning.  As the day proceeds, the demands for efficient attention don’t decrease, they actually increase…it’s harder to pay attention during homework time, completing chores, maintaining healthy eating habits, driving a car, controlling emotional reactions, and communicating with others than it is to pay attention at school or work.  Therefore, individuals with ADD should have medication regimens that give them good attention from as close to the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night.  This might require using different combinations of medications: multiple doses of a short-acting medication, a long-acting combined with a short-acting, 2 doses of a long-acting or a stimulant in combination with a non-stimulant (e.g., Strattera).  It is safe to take multiple doses of these medications during the day because their effects are not additive.  More importantly, all day coverage helps reduce the serious risks that come with untreated ADD.  All day, all week coverage actually helps reduce the frequency of more common side effects such as appetite suppression and sleep disruption.

  1. Establish and maintain a Healthy Daily Routine (HDR).

    Having a balanced HDR is probably the most important thing you can do to have a positive experience with medication treatment for ADD.  Maintaining a predictable bedtime and wake time seven days a week, eating at least three meals a day, getting daily aerobic exercise, practicing some type of mind centering every day, and setting up a structure for staying on top of daily responsibilities provide an important foundation for success with medication.  Each of the elements of a balanced HDR in and of themselves helps improve aspects of your attention and your ability to regulate your behavior.  As a result, the medication doesn’t have to work so hard to get you to where you need to be, which could mean being able to use lower doses of the medications.  A balanced HDR will also help eliminate or reduce many of the more common side effects that occasionally occur with the medications used to treat ADD.  So, Get Balance!  It’s good for ADD, it minimizes side effects, makes the medication experience go more smoothly, and it’s the right thing to do for your overall health.

  1. Never use medication as the sole form of treatment.

    image via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography

    image via Flickr, Purple Sherbet Photography

    Relying on medication as the sole form of treatment is a setup for problems.  Dramatic things can happen when an individual with ADD starts using a proper medication regimen.  Many positive things will happen: you’ll be more alert during the day, less impulsive, less distractible, and better able to sustain your focus.  These changes may lead to increased performance at school and work, better follow through with responsibilities, greater behavior control and improved relationships with others.  However, the medication opens up a “new world”, not only the good but also a greater awareness of problem areas.  If you’re a sensitive, intense person, there may be more things to be sensitive and intense about, you may tune into areas where you have been dropping the ball, or behaviors that are problematic and irritating to others.  Therefore, having improved attention can be difficult, anxiety producing or even depressing.  Sometimes these consequences of improved self-awareness are misinterpreted as side effects of the medication.

Most individuals starting medication need support to understand and cope with this “new world” and develop new strategies to address problems with emotional regulation, independent functioning, and social/communication difficulties that they become more aware of.  Having an experienced counselor or coach to help lead you down a path to success is critical.  They can help you process your experiences, define the contributors to your problems, brainstorm new strategies to address problems, and support acceptance of who you really are.  In addition, they can help you establish and maintain the all important HDR.  Medication treatment for ADD goes much better when you walk down this new path with an experienced guide!


Dr. Craig B. Liden | The Being Well CenterCraig B. Liden, MD  is an internationally recognized expert in the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD.  Since the 1980’s, Dr. Liden has been in private practice evaluating and treating behavior and developmental issues across the life span.   He has treated more than 10,000 patients with ADD/ADHD and related co-morbidities.  Dr. Liden  has written and lectured extensively about ADD/ADHD, education, individual differences and a variety of health problems, most recently publishing Accommodations for Success: A Guide and Workbook for Creating 504 Agreements and IEP’s for Children with ADD/ADHD and ADD/ADHD Basics 101: How to Be A Good Consumer of Diagnostic and Treatment Services for ADD/ADHD.   Dr. Liden is the Founder and Medical Director of The Being Well Center located in Pittsburgh, PA.  He is available for speaking engagements, workshops, and interviews.

Losing Sleep Over ADD?

How does ADD impact sleep?

image via Flickr, Vic

image via Flickr, Vic

In our practice, about 70% of people with ADD come to us with sleep problems—trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning. This makes all the sense in the world—as a key feature of ADD is low arousal, it falls to reason that an event that involves arousal in the day will play a role in the sleep-wake cycle at night.

Some of my patients who have trouble falling asleep at night experience wakefulness, in part, because they are unable to turn off their minds; as they lay in bed, distractibility keeps their minds active, moving from one thought, worry, or plan to another never quieting sufficiently to shift into the sleep mode. Others seem to struggle with getting to sleep as a consequence of a second wind: they come home wiped out; they zone in front of the television until 10:00 PM; get a surge of energy, act on it and find it tough to come down to sleep when they try.

It is not uncommon for my patients with ADD to experience nighttime wake ups. For some of these individual’s this is actually related to sleep apnea—periods of cessation of breathing during sleep. Research suggests that sleep apnea occurs in the ADD population more frequently than in the general population; it is likely that this is a function of a higher incidence of obesity in people with ADD and obesity is a key contributor to sleep apnea. Many of my patients do not suffer from sleep apnea but still more often wake up during the night. My understanding of this is a function of a less than good sleep-wake cycle in ADD population.

Probably, one of the hallmarks of ADD is trouble waking up in the morning. While this is particularly difficult for those who get their second wind at night and don’t fall off to sleep until very late, it is also experience by ADD individuals who have had the benefit of eight hours of sleep. Again, it is likely that this is a result of the disorder arousal system in the ADD population.

Apart from its being a drag, sleep difficulties are a serious problem for the ADD individual; we know that sleep deprivation on top of an arousal problem only intensifies his impulsivity, distractibility, poor monitoring, and weak vigilance.


Don’t fight those sleepless nights alone!  A thoughtful doctor or therapist can help you tackle the challenges of ADD and restful sleep.  For help finding the right care provider, Dr. Liden offers a step-by-step guide to finding a diagnosis and treatment plan you can trust to succeed: ADD/ADHD Basics 101

Should we use medication to diagnose ADD?

medication add diagnosis

Can response to medication be used to confirm the ADD diagnosis?

No, an individual’s response to medication should never be used to confirm the ADD diagnosis. In fact, relying on medication response for diagnostic information is a set up for trouble.

medication add diagnosisUse of medication is complicated and an individual’s response to medication is impacted upon by many variables. The severity of the individual’s attention weakness as well as the particular medication and dose selected interact to determine a patient’s responsiveness. Many, many, times patients come to my office after having been told that because they did not respond to the medication, they do not have ADD. When we conduct a systematic, comprehensive evaluation, however, the patient clearly meets all of the diagnostic criteria for ADD. As a consequence of using medication responsiveness as a diagnostic tool, I find that these patients have unnecessarily experienced more failure, more stress, and oftentimes, feelings of hopelessness about the future.

Sometimes, use of medications to treat ADD can be problematic for individuals who don’t actually have ADD but another disorder that shares some of its characteristics. Use of these medications in an individual who has bipolar disorder, for example, has the potential for setting off a manic episode. So by using medication as a diagnostic tool, rather than systematically evaluating the individual, we run the risk of creating a significant problem for him.

Finally, as we all fall somewhere along the continuum from strong to weak attention, it is possible for each of us to experience an improvement in attention after taking a medication for ADD. So clearly, concluding that, “because I feel more focused on this medication, I must have ADD” is unwise. This thinking, however, is inherent in using medication as a diagnostic tool to confirm the ADD and likely to result in inaccurately applying the label to people who do not have ADD.


How can you be sure your ADD/ADHD diagnosis is accurate?  One sure-fire way is to book a Discovery Session with Dr. Liden at The Being Well Center!  Another great way is to download Dr. Liden’s book, ADD Basics 101, currently offered as a free ebook.


Our current blog series is excerpted from Dr. Liden’s best-selling book, Pay Attention!: Answers to Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.

The ADD Adolescent

ADD diagnosis teenagerWhat specific behaviors indicate that an adolescent might have ADD?

Efficient attention is required for success in all areas of life. As an ever-present filter between the individual’s external and internal worlds, it screens all incoming and outgoing information to and from the brain. In this way, attention has a profound influence on how an individual experiences events and behaves in all life spheres: school, job, home, and neighborhood. It interacts with other skills and abilities to shape the quality of social interactions, school/job performance, and independent functioning. Therefore, behaviors that suggest attentional difficulty can appear in any area of a person’s life. The following behaviors identify some of the more common red flags that might signal ADD in adolescent children ages 12 to 18 years old.

Adolescent (Twelve to Eighteen)

  • Not being able to organize free time
  • Failing to plan long-term assignments (e.g., reports, projects, and tests)
  • Failing to keep track of assignments
  • Writing disorganized compositions and reports
  • Demonstrating poor reading comprehension of higher level materials
  • Failing to pay attention to personal hygiene
  • Needing constant reminding/nagging to be responsible
  • Skipping school
  • Getting into trouble with the law; committing delinquent acts
  • Getting caught!
  • Getting off the topic in conversations
  • Interrupting and failing to take turns when talking
  • Flying off the handle and doing impulsive things
  • Behaving inappropriately in social situations without realizing it
  • Going beyond simple experimentation with drugs and/or alcohol

ADD Basics 101 | Dr. Craig LidenIf you just recognized someone you know in this list, go to ADDBasics.org and download Dr. Liden’s free guide, ADD Basics 101. In 10 clear steps, Dr. Liden will guide you to an accurate, trustworthy diagnosis and outline what you should look for in an effective treatment plan.


 

AFScovers2Maybe you already have a child identified with ADD/ADHD who is struggling in school.  Dr. Liden’s book, Accommodations for Success, is an amazing resource to help you understand your child better and get her the individualized help she needs to soar at school.

 


Check back tomorrow for red flags in adults’ behavior…

Catch up on previous posts in the Pay Attention series.

Our current blog series is excerpted from Dr. Liden’s best-selling book, Pay Attention!: Answers to Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.

The ADD School Age Child

lifespan_schoolageWhat specific behaviors indicate that a school age child might have ADD?

Efficient attention is required for success in all areas of life. As an ever-present filter between the individual’s external and internal worlds, it screens all incoming and outgoing information to and from the brain. In this way, attention has a profound influence on how an individual experiences events and behaves in all life spheres: school, job, home, and neighborhood. It interacts with other skills and abilities to shape the quality of social interactions, school/job performance, and independent functioning. Therefore, behaviors that suggest attentional difficulty can appear in any area of a person’s life. The following behaviors identify some of the more common red flags that might signal ADD in school age children ages six to twelve years old.

The ADD School Age Child (Six to Twelve Years)

  •  Quitting activities before they are completed
  • Interrupting conversations; not taking turns when talking
  • Talking off topic
  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Jumping from one play activity to another
  • Requiring constant supervision to complete chores, routines, (e.g., dressing, bathing, etc.), and independent seatwork
  • Seeming to be sleepy, drowsy, or restless during learning situations
  • Rushing through things; doing sloppy work
  • Losing one’s place during reading; skipping, omitting, or reversing letters and words during reading and writing
  • Making careless errors on simple tasks; guessing at answers
  • Failing to check over schoolwork
  • Failing to finish work; being disorganized
  • Relying on parents for studying and organizing schoolwork
  • Forgetting and losing things; not remembering assignments
  • Talking out in class
  • Saying, doing, and writing things without thinking first
  • Failing to respond to discipline
  • Getting in fights
  • Having friends who are either much older or much younger
  • Looking disheveled: zipper down, shirt tail out
  • Seeming to be “spacey” or “out of it” at times
  • Walking into walls, doors, and furniture
  • Being accident-prone; spilling and dropping things

ADD Basics 101 | Dr. Craig LidenIf your response to this list is “Oh, boy.  I know a kid like that.  Now what?”,  go to ADDBasics.org and download Dr. Liden’s free guide, ADD Basics 101. In 10 clear steps, Dr. Liden will guide you to an accurate, trustworthy diagnosis and outline what you should look for in an effective treatment plan.


 

AFScovers2Maybe you already have a child identified with ADD/ADHD who is struggling in school.  Dr. Liden’s book, Accommodations for Success, is an amazing resource to help you understand your child better and get her the individualized help she needs to soar at school.


 

Check back tomorrow for red flags in adolescents’ behavior…

Catch up on previous posts in the Pay Attention series.

Our current blog series is excerpted from Dr. Liden’s best-selling book, Pay Attention!: Answers to Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.