I had this naïve idea after my book on ADD came out, scattered in the states, people would say, wow! We finally get it! But in the ADD world, they don’t want to touch it. The book is a best seller in Canada and it’s doing well in the states but no thanks to the official organizations. They don’t even want to hear it because they think I’m blaming the parent. They want to believe that it’s a genetic disease. If it was a genetic disease then we don’t have to look at anything. We can just medicate. ADD is another coping mechanism. To go back to that Harvard study I mentioned earlier in there reported in Pediatrics, children’s response to their stress, adaptive responses that help them survive the stress, later become sources of pathology. Now, when I was diagnosed with ADD myself at age 54, it was really helpful to me because I understood a lot of things about myself, at least I thought I understood, at least I saw described about myself in a pattern that I hadn’t ever considered in any way represented some kind of a dynamic in me. So it was very helpful for me to be diagnosed and to be self-diagnosed primarily and then have that confirmed. But from the beginning I didn’t buy into the idea that it was a genetic disease. Not for a second because tuning out which is a hallmark of ADD, the absentmindedness is not a disease. It’s actually a coping mechanism. It’s one of the brain’s coping mechanisms. When the stress is too much and we can’t fight back, escape, or ask for help, then one of the ways the brain deals with it is to tune it out.
It’s a form of disassociation, or what has been called divided attention. So that’s a coping mechanism and that was clear to me. So when you look at a condition like ADD, the diagnosis of which is just going up leaps and bounds every few years with the number of prescriptions going up, in the states there are three million kids on stimulant medications, half a million on anti-psychotic medications, many of them for ADHD, not because they’re psychotic but because the impulse control is so poor and we’re so bereft of understanding child development that we have to sedate them instead of helping them. When you get these numbers going up all the time it can’t be genetic because genes don’t change in a population over a few years, nor is it just that we’re recognizing it more. Really it’s that we have more and more kids who are just lacking impulse control and lacking the capacity to pay attention. Well why? Well, if we understand that tuning out, divided attention, disassociation, is a coping mechanism, then the question you have to ask is what’s stressing these kids so much that they have to respond that way? And if we ask that question we can no longer look at DNA. Now we have to look at what’s happening in those kid’s lives. Well their parents are more stressed. The village, the clan, the neighborhood, the tribe, that safe holy environment where children had many nurturing adults to relate to, uncles and aunts, is gone. The parents themselves have less support and both parents are having to work. So parents don’t even see their kids the whole day. So kids are very stressed. And of course kids, especially if they’re very sensitive, they absorb their parent’s stresses like I did as a Jewish infant in the ghetto of Budapest under Nazi occupation in Hungary in 1944. How does an infant deal with that stress? You can’t fight back. You can’t ask for help. You can’t run away. You tune it out. But when are you tuning it out? You’re tuning out when the brain is developing so there’s an astonishing brain developmental data that’s not even vaguely controversial, that is being fully established now in the last few decades, that the brain develops under the impact of the environment. And if my mind is stressed, then the tuning out which is a coping mechanism, goes from a temporary state because wiring the brain is a long term trait so we go from state to trait. Now all we have eight years later or 54 years later is a person who is diagnosed with ADD. Why? Because the initial environment was so stressed, not because the parent didn’t love them, it’s not because you’re blaming anybody, not because the parents didn’t do their best, but it was them themselves that was so stressed that the child dealt with the stress in the environment by tuning out when their brain was developing. And furthermore, when the Dopamine circuits, Dopamine they mean incentive motivation attention chemical, which we supplement with Ritalin or Dexedrine later on if we diagnose these people, those Dopamine circuits don’t develop well when the environment is totally stressed. So it’s a perfect storm that we’re creating in our society by stressing parents, by cutting asunder the tides of culture, tribe, clan, village, extended family, so neither children or parents have that supportive context. No wonder you’re going to have more children with troubled brains. It’s very simple, both psycho dynamically in terms of the need to tune out and then in terms of the brain development. And then along comes the pharmaceutical industry and says here’s what we can do, we can suppress the symptoms by increasing Dopamine levels by giving these kids these medications which may or may not be okay in individual cases but it does nothing for brain development. It does nothing for the child’s psychological growth, nothing. It simply is a suppressing of the symptom. Conceptually it’s obvious. Scientifically it’s the only reasonable case to be made and yet people are invested in not seeing it.