ADD/ADHD is commonly thought of as the same mental disorder. However, both the terms “ADD” for Attention Deficit Disorder and “ADHD” for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are used to describe the same brain disorder that functions in a complex way. The reason that people often times confuse ADD and ADHD symptoms is because they do not realize how this disorder works.  

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You see, for people suffering with ADD (both adults and children) symptoms may include distractibility, irritation attempting simple tasks, memory loss or even lack of attention. However, many times because these signs of ADD are not clearly visible as a symptom of a serious disorder, they often go unnoticed. People suffering with symptoms of ADHD may show more obvious signs of distress and additional trouble with hyperactivity and impulsivity on top of their problem with attention.  

The 3 Factors of ADHD: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

ADD and ADHD are commonly interchanged but there are very important aspects to the mental disorder. They include: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These 3 factors of ADHD are essential to identify in order to gain proper diagnosis, therapies and ultimately relief of ADHD symptoms.

ADD

A person with Attention Deficit Disorder will have trouble staying focused even during everyday activities. In a conversation, they may get sidetracked easily and also fail to complete tasks, show up on time or even follow instructions correctly. This often leads to failure at simple tasks, and additional frustration and anger that may seem to come from nowhere.

ADD/ADHD

Someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is suffering with a brain disorder marked with a pattern of hyperactivity or impulsivity along with inattention.

Hyperactivity

This means that the person is not comfortable sitting still. It may worsen in stressful situations like presentations, meetings or even during conversations. The person may express their nervous energy by tapping their fingers, fidgeting with objects or simply being overall extremely restless. For this reason, being around people with ADHD may wear you out or if you have ADHD, it may drain your energy levels.

Impulsivity

A person may make impulsive decisions, perhaps before even thinking about it. Oftentimes, this type of hasty action can result in potential harm, danger or other negative long-term consequences.

Inattention

A person may have problems with focus, completing tasks, problem-solving or organization. This is NOT due to a lack of comprehension or defiance.

Someone with ADD/ADHD may have one or a combination of these 3 main factors of the disorder. However, combined ADHD symptoms may include all 3 factors.

5 Simple Ways to Reduce ADD/ADHD Symptoms

No matter what the cause or severity of the ADD or ADHD, symptoms can be reduced. Here are 5 simple ways to ease ADD/ADHD symptoms right at home.

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1. Cut Out Convenience

Convenience foods can include everything from frozen pizza, to the crackers and chips you grab on-the-go between meals or stash in your little one’s lunchbox. And while these types of foods do make life easier, they are also the #1 source of potentially harmful food additives. In one report published in the Harvard Mental Health Letter, it was revealed that diet alone isn’t the driving force behind ADHD, however, several studies show that specific foods, artificial colors, additives may worsen particular symptoms, especially in children with ADHD.

2. Healthy Fats

Omega fats include a wide range of fatty acid compounds including linoleic acid, alpha-linoleic acid, oleic acid and many more. But not all essential fatty acids are created equal. In one study, it was shown that Omega-3 essential fatty acids are one of the most important nutrients for a healthy brain. Clinical trials can confirm that the benefits of consuming omega-3 EFA’s may be especially important in patients with psychiatric disorders.

Today, many processed foods not only contain harmful colors and additives but they also are a source of large amounts of omega-6. This is because omega-6 is found in high quantities in cheap filler oils like those used to extend shelf life of packaged processed foods. Studies have shown that an imbalance in your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio may contribute to ADHD symptoms.

Foods that offer a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids include seeds and nuts like chia seeds, hempseeds, flax, cashews and walnuts, along with even nut milk like almond milk. Other omega-3 foods include: fatty fish (sardines, tuna, salmon), olive oil, leafy green vegetables (spinach, romaine and red leaf lettuce), broccoli, avocado and even beans. Plus many more!

3. Fresh Natural Food

Most people do not get the daily recommended amounts of nutrients from their diet. In fact, in the United States the Standard American Diet or SAD includes large amounts of red meat, dairy, processed foods and fast food. However, you can make fresh fruits and vegetables your favorite convenience foods because they provide everything you need to stay healthy. Not only that, but the array of micronutrients found in fresh, in-season produce is also able to help reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies that may contribute to ADHD symptoms. These include amino acids, antioxidants and chlorophyll. Specific vitamins or minerals known to aid in ADHD include zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6.

4. Dietary Supplements

It can be difficult to consume the necessary amounts of vitamins, minerals, proteins and other essential micronutrients from a regular diet alone. Because nutrient deficiencies are so common and also may contribute to the development and/or worsening of ADD/ADHD symptoms, dietary supplements may help as they offer those vital micronutrients in the daily recommended amounts.

In one study, researchers found that micronutrients were able to improve overall function in participants. Further, improvements in impairment, attention, aggression and emotional regulation were also noted. However, a reduction in hyperactive/impulsive symptoms (ADHD) were not reported. In this study, child participants were given a broad-spectrum micronutrient supplement (multi-vitamin).7

5. Herbs

There are many herbal remedies that have been used for centuries for their ability to have a beneficial influence on the brain. Used in meditation practices, to boost brainpower and cognitive function or to induce sleep, herbal remedies are found in holistic healing practices across cultures. Some of the most effective herbs for reducing ADHD symptoms include valerian root, passion flower, kava, hops, ginkgo biloba, blue-green algae and herbal teas containing chamomile, spearmint and lemon grass.

Mindful meditations like that of a tea ceremony have also been shown to be beneficial for adults with ADHD. It’s as easy as taking time out of your day to brew and slowly sip a cup of your favorite herbal tea to practice mindfulness.8

Talking to a Counselor About Managing ADD/ADHD Symptoms

It’s important to know that making these 5 simple changes to your diet and everyday eating habits is the first step to managing the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. However, the journey may be longer than just taking these 5 steps – so, talk to your doctor about the results you noticed in ADD/ADHD symptoms after making these 5 simple changes. Then, you can work together to develop a comprehensive long-term approach to managing ADD/ADHD symptoms with a trained counselor. Finding the right balance is key to preventing troublesome ADD/ADHD symptoms from worsening, and standing in the way of your vitality and happiness.

For more information or to schedule appointment online please visit our ADD/ADHD page or call at 919-647-4600.

References:

  1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health.  
  2. Diet and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. June 2009.
  3. Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR. Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;67(12):1954-67.
  4. Laura LaChance, MD, Kwame McKenzie, BM, MRCPsych. Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Patients with ADHD: A Meta-Analysis. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016 Spring; 25(2): 87–96.
  5. The use of alternative therapies in treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Podiatry Child Health. 2002 Dec; 7(10): 710–718.
  6. Dr. Michael H. Bloch, MD, MS, Ms. Jilian Mulqueen, BA Nutritional Supplements for the Treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  7. Julia J. Rucklidge, Matthew J.F. Eggleston. Vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD: a fully blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. 2 October 2017.
  8. John T. Mitchell, Ph.D., Lidia Zylowska, M.D. Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions. Cogn Behav Pract. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 May 1.

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