The Reason behind The Craziness
There are a wide range of symptoms associated with ADD. They include difficulty focusing, disorganization, anxiety, depression, forgetting things, oppositional behavior, hyperactivity, difficulty processing information quickly, and hypersensitivity.
“If you don’t think the topic of ADD is important to you, think again. Strong personality quirks can be traced back to lower Dopamine levels.”
How can one disorder present itself in so many different ways?
All these symptoms are a result of a lower (or perceived lowered) Dopamine Level in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with attention and focus. Anything that is new and exciting or stimulating (like sugar and caffeine) stimulates Dopamine production.
When Dopamine levels are low, a person is bored, nothing is interesting. The symptom is boredom, but the behaviors we see are how the individual is compensating for the boredom. The body compensates by trying to rebuild these Dopamine levels.
How this is accomplished is dependent upon the individual’s temperament. With lower dopamine levels one has the more intense tendencies or personality characteristics that can cause disruption in one’s life.
Lower Dopamine means Disruption: Here’s How
Take, for example, an individual who is creative and has lowered dopamine function. They will compensate by looking for new way to stimulate their creative thinking nature and are easily distracted from what is routine.
“They wander off in their mind, jumping from thought to thought. This is the typical of the ADD diagnosis. They may start many projects but never complete them, they are often very disorganized.”
They often like to be entertained, so video games and TV, with their bright colors, fast paced action can hold their attention easily. Video games in particular are a draw because of the added dopamine rush of always having the next level to achieve.
They often day-dream in school, when doing homework or as adults in work situations, again seeking more stimulation than mundane work provides. As adults, they often have difficulty staying with a major or in a job, long term relationships are also difficult.
How a Child with ADD Morphs into an Adult with ADD
Alternatively, consider a child who is more physically based. They compensate by finding ways to physically stimulate the dopamine levels. They wonder off with their bodies and present with constant motion. These children are often stressed by the confines of not doing something. The stress response, which causes the production of the stress hormone adrenaline (fight or flight hormone- which gets you ready to run) is triggered. This furthers the need for movement. The child’s dopamine level is raised by the movement as adrenaline is turned to dopamine.
This movement or fidgeting is typical of an ADHD diagnosis. Once the child gets older, they gain control of their body, and ADHD symptoms often lessen. They often become more active with their mind and morph into more of the adult version of ADD. They are also often very physically active with sports and activities. These individuals are busy all the time.
How a Responsible Child Deals with ADD
Or, take a child who is more responsible or compulsive. They compensate by becoming hyper-focused. They have a narrow focus, are typically difficult to transition from task to task or resistant to change.
They become so focused that they can lose flexibility and can become oppositional or defiant. They do well with routines. As these children get older, they often use their hyper-focus to excel in school and work, but can become hyper-controlling, critical of others and close minded. They often become workaholics.
How a Sensitive Child Deals with ADD
Finally, take a child who is more sensitive, this is a more emotional type of child. They are very empathetic and don’t understand why others aren’t as considerate to their feelings. They increase their dopamine levels by caring for others, trying to please others. They need to feel helpful. In children they often throw a lot of tantrums.
As they grow older there is often a lot of drama surrounding these individuals. With the lower dopamine function, they have a greater difficulty staying focused on the logic or staying objective and tend to take things more personally.
These individuals are at higher risk of depression and anxiety as both children and adults.
This is obviously an oversimplification of ADD/ADHD characteristics and how children and adults are affected by low Dopamine levels. We are combinations of these personality types and how we compensate for the low Dopamine levels vary from individual to individual. In the next blog, we will discuss the many possible causes of low dopamine levels.