ADD Physiology and Heredity

ADD Physiology and Heredity

More reading notes from Scattered:  How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It by Gabor Mate M.D.

In a comment on my previous post, Distractability and Tuning Out, Kris wrote:

And I think it might follow that there is an individual neurological aspect to that sensitivity and need for security. IOW it’s not just a nurturing thing since it would differ in the individual’s own distinctive natural need.

Persons with fibromyalgia which is thought to have a nerve ending oversensitivity to stimulation of all types is of course another distractive condition.

I thought I’d pull my response to her out and make it into a new post because I actually had meant to post this passage earlier and then forgot.

The book does address (though only in passing) the physiological aspect of sensitivity. He doesn’t go into the specifics of the neurology, though, which I would find very interesting.

People with ADD are hypersensitive. That is not a fault or a weakness of theirs, it is how they were born. It is their inborn temperament. That, primarily, is what is hereditary about ADD. Genetic inheritance by itself cannot account for te presence of ADD features in people, but heredity can make it far more likely that these features will emerge in a given individual, depending on circumstances. It is a disorder that is transmitted not through heredity but through sensitivity. In most cases ADD is caused by the impact of the environment on particularly sensitive infants.

Sensitivity is the reason why allergies are more common among ADD children than in the rest of the population. It is well known and borne out again and again in clinical practice, that children with ADD are more likely than their non-ADD counterparts to have a history of frequent colds, upper respiratory infections, ear infections, asthma, eczema, and allergies, a fact interpreted by some as evidence that ADD is due to allergies. Although the flare up of allergies can certainly aggravate ADD symptoms, the one does not cause the other. They are both expressions of the same underlying inborn trait: sensitivity. Since emotionally hypersensitive reactions are no less physiological than the body’s allergic responses to physical substances, we may say truthfully that people with ADD have emotional allergies.

I think this sensitivity is what I’m really noticing in Bella. From the very first hours after her birth everyone who came into our room commented on how alert she was. That was the positive side of her sensitivity, a quiet, open-eyed alertness. But what we experienced as a negative aspect was her inability to readily tune out the world in order to sleep. Even as a newborn it seemed that she was so alert that she couldn’t stop being aware of what was going on around her. And yes she seems to have very sensitive skin as well. All my kids do. Allergies do run in my family.

And this totally jives with my experience with my sister who has allergies, eczema, ear infections, all sorts of physical sensitivities. And ADD. I think Mate project a lot of his personal experiences into his analysis of the roots of ADD and sometimes it seems a little too much so; but much of what he writes does seem to make sense from my own observations.

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