Tag Archives: children

Family stressors tied to ADHD

A link I’ve long suspected has now been confirmed by scientists: Children who come from homes with troubling conditions are more likely to have ADHD than their peers from non-troubled homes.

The parent survey analysis showed ADHD has the strongest connection with economic hardship, divorce, familial mental illness, neighborhood violence, and familial incarceration. More severe cases of ADHD were tied most strongly with economic hardship and familial mental illness.

Children who deal with situations like these can develop toxic levels of stress, which can impair their brain development, behavior, and overall physical and mental health.

This is another reason it’s so important to look at a complete picture when it comes to mental health. For someone dealing with stressors at home as well as ADHD, it would be easy to confuse responses to stress with ADHD symptoms. We need to be sure we’re treating the symptoms from the most informed perspective about where they’re coming from.

Your child’s general practitioner may not know to ask these questions when a child shows signs of ADHD. Make sure you’re involving a specialist when it comes to helping your child with his or her mental health.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.


Critical parenting tied to persistent ADHD

I read an interesting study this week that showed a link between parental criticism and persistent ADHD.

It’s common for ADHD symptoms to decrease as children get older. That’s not true for all cases, though, and an important question for those developing treatment strategies and medications for ADHD is: What’s the difference?

This study identifies one difference. The researchers examined over 500 children–some with the attention disorder and some without–and their families for three years. They asked parents on two occasions to talk about their relationship with their child uninterrupted for five minutes.

In those families where parents used harsh, negative language when talking about the child, the child failed to show the usual improvement in ADHD symptoms over the three year period.

As with all studies, saying the connection shows a cause would be inaccurate. All they know right now is that there’s a link between parental criticism and persistent ADHD.

Here’s what one of the researchers says:

“We cannot say, from our data, that criticism is the cause of the sustained symptoms. Interventions to reduce parental criticism could lead to a reduction in ADHD symptoms, but other efforts to improve the severe symptoms of children with ADHD could also lead to a reduction in parental criticism, creating greater well-being in the family over time.”

ADHD is hard on families.  That’s one reason I recommend involving the whole family in therapy for this and many other disorders.

Go here to read more about the study and here to read more about ADHD.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

Autistic spectrum disorders: what works?

There is a very interesting study out of the journal of Child Psychiatry and Human Development out this month. It was a study of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who suffered from anxiety. The purpose of the study was to try out Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for 16 weeks with these children to see if anxiety could be reduced. This therapy was also compared with a Social Recreational program.
Results were significant. Children in both groups showed lessened anxiety levels at 6 month follow-up.
This study also made suggestions to make programs successful. Factors such as regular sessions in a structured setting, social exposuire, the use of autism-friendly stategies and consistent therapists were mentioned as components of effective management of anxiety in children and adolescents with ASD.

The effect of plastics on mental health: Update 2011


Many experts now believe that plastics are hurting our brains. Teenage boys today have lower testosterone levels than their grandfather’s did 30 years ago. Teenage boys are also suffering more ADHD symptoms: lack of motivation, drive, ambition, ability to plan and follow-through as well as increased rates of depression. Gender confusion has escalated in recent years. Girls are developing way earlier than they did even 15 years ago. Many researchers now believe that this may all be due to the increased use of plastics (or bisphenol A) in our society. Another cause may be herbicides and pesticides which I will not address in this article and will save for another time.

Recently, the FDA has come out with a statement that basically reverses a previous statement they made claiming that low levels of bisphenol A (BPA-the chemical in polycarbonates) does not have long term health consequences in humans. Please note: they now believe that it is harmful to humans! There have been a plethora of research supporting this view in recent months. Frankly, I am surprised it isn’t more prominent in the news given the enormity of research and the severity of BPA effects. Please note that BPA release estrogenic chemicals that are endocrine disrupters.

In the January 27, 2011 edition of the Brain Development journal it claimed that prenatal and lactational exposure to low-doses of BPA alters adult behavior.

In the April 23, 2011 journal of Current Opinion Pediatrics it found that there was a relationship between prenatal BPA exposure and increased hyperactivity and aggression in 2 year old female children.

The Mar 22, 2011 edition of Reproductive Biomed Online found that BPA effects reproductive health by interfering with the process of implantation of endometrial stromal fibroblasts.

There are many more human and animal studies that cannot be ignored that I don’t have room or time to address. One such animal study from China reports that rats exposed to BPA take longer than control rats in figuring out how to get through a maze. The FDA also recognizes that these animal studies cannot be ignored and they are calling out for more research and more comments by the public. In the meantime, they have preliminarily warned the public about BPA in baby products such as baby formula, which cans are often lined with BPA and baby bottles and pacifiers. It is believed that babies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of BPA. They advise to use BPA free types of plastic.

The problem is, there have been other research showing that virtually all plastics have BPA in them, even those claiming to be BPA free. What is one to do?

My advice? Get rid of as much plastics in your house as possible. I threw out all my plastic tupperware and now use glass containers. I use wax paper instead of plastic. I try and use food products that have not been packaged in plastic or tin cans. (Tin cans are often lined with BPA.) Also, do not drink out of water bottles or juice bottles! We have no idea how long these bottles have sat in a warm truck somewhere leaching its BPA into the product. Studies show that by eating more fresh, unpackaged, unprocessed foods, BPA levels can be lowered.

I am concerned about the children…I hope you are too.

Differentiating Bipolar Disorder from ADHD in children

There is a perception that ADHD is an over diagnosed condition in children. There have been studies over the years that have challenged that perception, even suggesting that ADHD is under diagnosed. At least one study that I know of reports that 75 % of the prison population meets criteria of ADHD. I would venture to believe that many in prison have never been properly identified or treated. I can’t help but wonder whether we could have changed the course of events for these prisoners had they been properly diagnosed and treated as children before they dropped out of school and turned to crime believing they were dumb and defective with few options.

One of the problems in diagnosing children is that sometimes ADHD is confused with bipolar disorder. There is a lot of overlap between these two brain diseases. There is an interesting study in the Journal of Affective Diseases this month that tries to determine the differences between these two diseases and the accuracy of The CBCL pediatric bipolar profile as a diagnostic measure. It found that children with bipolar disorder were verbally aggressive and argumentative, who respond with anger when frustrated. Children diagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD exhibited significant levels of impulsive behavior and attention problems, but youngsters with bipolar disorder also exhibited significant levels of aggressive behavior and dysphoric mood. Finally, the study found that the CBCL pediatric bipolar disorder profile did not accurately identify youngsters who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
So, although the news often reports that ADHD has sky rocketed in frequency in recent years, I suspect that some of those cases may very well be undiagnosed bipolar disorder. It is important to know the difference and to be aware that although certain symptoms of bipolar disorder may very well get better with some types of ADHD medications other symptoms can surely get worse. This is why it is so very important that a specialist in the field who daily works with these two types of conditions be the one to diagnose and treat your child. It can make all the difference in the world in the success of your child’s future.

Anxiety Disorders in Children: a family affair

According to the Surgeon General, anxiety disorders affect approximately 13% of children. Some diagnoses that reflect a problem with anxiety are: Generally Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Panic Disorder. All of these show similar symptoms of anxious feelings, sweaty palms, pounding heart, increased respiratory out put, sick or sore stomach, and other symptoms. 

What is the cause of anxiety disorders? It’s not fully understood, but we do know that anxiety disorders tend to run in families—probably a mixture of environmental upbringing and heredity. 

There is also a correlation between anxiety disorders and children that have trouble sleeping. Sometimes it is hard to know what came first, the chicken or the egg. But children that have trouble sleeping tend to have higher levels of stress during the day, which increases stress hormones like Cortisol. Cortisol tends to deplete Serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter, which sets them up for problems like anxiety or depression. 

When I see a child for anxiety, I test the parents as well. More than not, I find at least one parent that will also be experiencing anxiety. I will also note that the parent tends to have an “anxious parent” type of parenting style. This is shown by a tendency of over-protectiveness and a tendency towards elevated expressed emotion when stressed. Unfortunately, too often a child learns from this parent how to experience and deal with the world. If the parent has a highly reactive style towards spiders, for example, the child often will also. 

I also would like to note the correlation between anxiety and frequent illness. If you see your child getting sick a lot and missing school you might want to go get your child checked for an anxiety disorder with your Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatrist. They are often missed. Thousands of dollars later you may find that your child has an anxiety disorder and not an ulcer!