ADD: More Complex Than You May Have Imagined

Family Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

Have you heard of Dr. Daniel Amen? He’s an MD, child and adult psychiatrist, nuclear brain imaging specialist and New York Times bestselling author. In particular, he’s known for his work diagnosing and treating attention-deficit disorder (ADD). For anyone who has struggled with ADD, and for parents who suspect their child may have signs of ADD, getting acquainting with Dr. Amen’s work may provide some real comfort and help.

A young woman with ADD

Dr. Amen has founded eight clinics across the U.S. — call Amen Clinics — and he’s accumulated invaluable data based on the treatment the clinics’ psychiatrists have performed. Keath Low, writing for, says “At these clinics, psychiatrists use single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) brain imaging to identify the type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a patient has, enabling them to receive targeted treatment. A SPECT scan shows how the blood flows through the brain.”

Those diagnoses and subsequent treatment have yielded impressive insights. For example, Dr. Amen has identified seven types of ADD. Having a basic knowledge of these types of ADD is a good starting point for becoming familiar with the subject.

Classic ADD: Usually appear early on in life, with children tending to be “restless, noisy, talkative, impulsive and demanding.” Boys more often exhibit Classic ADD symptoms, and parents are overwhelmed and even embarrassed by their behavior.

Inattentive ADD:  People with Inattentive ADD appear to be quiet, more introverted and daydream more than usual. Symptoms are many and varied, and include trouble focusing and listening, forgetfulness and an appearance of being non-motivated.

Overfocused ADD: A normal ability to focus allows a person to shift attention, while a prime symptom of Overfocused ADD is an inability to shift attention. Basically, people with Overfocused ADD tune everything else out.

Temporal Lobe ADD: A benefit of using brain imaging in diagnosing various forms of ADD is the ability to pinpoint brain function that is inhibited. In this case, people exhibit classic ADD symptoms along with issues associated with temporal lobe problems such as memory problems and periods of panic for no reason.

Limbic ADD: SPECT scans are also greatly valuable in diagnosing Limbic ADD because Limbic ADD can be confused with depression when looking solely at symptoms.

Ring of Fire ADD: Overall high activity in the brain is a basic pattern of Ring of Fire ADD, with those suffering from it having trouble “turning off” their brain. As with Limbic ADD, Ring of Fire can be confused symptomatically with another disorder, in this case bipolar disorder.

Anxious ADD: As if dealing with the symptoms of ADD weren’t enough, those with Anxious ADD have to deal with their symptoms being magnified by anxiety.

ADD is a complex subject and learning more about it is the first step in getting treatment. You can read more about Dr. Amen here, or read Keath Low’s full article here.