Girls with ADHD more prone to depression, anxiety than boys; meditation helps

DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION
Office of ADHD and Learning Differences
70 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004
Tel: (703) 823-6933 • sgrosswald@tm.org

Girls suffer from delayed ADHD diagnosis, more prone to depression than boys
Meditation helps alleviate stress, reduce symptoms

A growing number of experts say the number of children with ADHD is greater than estimated because girls are often under-diagnosed. There are also differences in symptoms between the genders. “Girls are more likely to have the attentional type of ADHD, which can lead to difficulty in paying attention and focusing, rather than to disruptive behavior, which is more indicative of the behavior of boys with ADHD,” says Sarina J. Grosswald, Ed.D., a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist who heads up the David Lynch Foundation’s education and health outreach to girls. “As a result, the ADHD diagnosis may be missed in as many as 50% to 75% of girls. On average, girls are diagnosed 5 years later than boys. As girls move into adolescence, those with ADHD are more likely to have clinical depression or anxiety disorders.”

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry’s online edition of January 15, 2010 followed 187 6- to 18-year-old girls with and without ADHD over an 11-year period. Reporting on this long-term study, Reuters Health pointed out that girls with the disorder were more likely than their peers to develop depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or other psychiatric problems by the time they reached adulthood.

Concerns about ADHD medications

While in some cases a child cannot function without medication, there is growing concern about the health risks and side-effects associated with the common ADHD medications, including mood swings, insomnia, tics, slowed growth, and heart problems.

A new study, the first of its kind, released February 17, 2010 by the Government of Western Australia’s Department of Health, found that “long-term use of drugs such as Ritalin and dexamphetamine may not improve a child’s social and emotional well-being or academic performance.” The chair of the Ministerial Implementation Committee for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Western Australia said in the Department’s press release, “We found that stimulant medication did not significantly improve a child’s level of depression, self perception or social functioning and they were more likely to be performing below their age level at school by a factor of 10.5 times.”

“Medication for ADHD is very effective for some children, but it is marginally or not effective for others. Even for those children who show reduced symptoms with the medication, the improvement is often insufficient or accompanied by troubling side-effects,” said William Stixrud, Ph.D., a Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist.

Stress interferes with ability to learn

“Virtually everyone finds it difficult to pay attention, organize themselves and get things done when they’re under stress,” explained Stixrud. “Stress interferes with the ability to learn—it shuts down the brain. Prior research shows ADHD children have slower brain development and a reduced ability to cope with stress.” added Stixrud.

The Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique may be an effective and safe non-pharmaceutical aid for treating ADHD, according to a recent study published in the online peer-reviewed journal Current Issues in Education.

The pilot study was conducted in a private K-12 school for children with language-based learning disabilities. Participation was restricted to 10 students, ages 11-14, who had pre-existing diagnoses of ADHD. About half of the students were on medication. The students meditated at school in a group for 10 minutes, morning and afternoon. After three months, researchers found over 50% reduction in stress and anxiety, and reduced ADHD symptoms in the entire group.

Stixrud, co-author on the TM-ADHD study, said, “It stands to reason that the TM technique, which reduces stress and organizes brain function, would reduce ADHD symptoms.”

Meditation improves classroom experience

“The effect was much greater than we expected,” said Sarina Grosswald, lead researcher on the study. “A 50 % reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms is dramatic,” she explained. “This can be especially valuable for girls who are more prone to these types of symptoms. The children also showed improvements in attention, working memory, organization, and behavior regulation. After the in-school meditation routine began, teachers reported they were able to teach more, and students were able to learn more because they were less stressed and anxious.”

Grosswald added, “There is substantial research showing the effectiveness of the TM technique for reducing stress and anxiety, and improving cognitive functioning among the general population. What’s significant about these new findings is that among children who have difficulty with focus and attention, we see the same results. TM doesn’t require concentration, controlling the mind or disciplined focus. The fact that these children are able to do TM, and do it easily, shows us that this technique may be particularly well suited for children with ADHD.”

Parents pleased with results

Andy and Daryl Schoenbach’s daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in second grade. Like most ADHD children she was taking medication. “The medication helped but had mixed results—she still lost focus, had meltdowns, and the medications affected her sleep and appetite,” said Andy, who lives with Daryl in Washington D.C. “She was not performing close to her potential and we didn’t see the situation improving. So at the end of seventh grade when her doctor recommended increasing the medication, we decided it was time to take a different course—stopping the medication and using Transcendental Meditation.”

“The results were quite remarkable,” Daryl said. “The twice daily meditations smoothed things out, gave her perspective, and enabled her to be in greater control of her own life when things started falling apart. It took some time, but it gradually changed the way she handled crises and enabled her to feel confident that she could take on greater challenges—in her own words, ‘climb a mountain.’”

“Everyone noticed the change,” Andy added.

Ongoing research

A soon-to-be-published second study on TM and ADHD shows that after 3 months of practice the TM group demonstrated more efficient brain functioning (as measured by EEG) compared to the control group during a difficult visual-motor task. The TM group also showed improvements in language skills on a cognitive performance test.

Students reported that they felt calmer, less stressed, and better able to concentrate on their schoolwork. They also said they were happier since they started TM.

###

For interviews, contact Dr. Grosswald
Bio available upon request

Sarina J. Grosswald, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Office of ADHD and Learning Differences
David Lynch Foundation
(703) 823-6933
sgrosswald@tm.org
sfschools@tm.org

FACT SHEET

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

· The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 50% of the 4.5 million children (ages 4-17) in the United States diagnosed with ADHD are on ADHD medication—and the majority of those on medication stay on it in adulthood.

· The rate of prescriptions for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the U.S. has increased by a factor of five since 1991—with production of ADHD medicines up 2,000 percent in 9 years.

· The commonly used drugs for ADHD are stimulants (amphetamines). These drugs can cause persistent and negative side-effects, including sleep disturbances, reduced appetite, weight loss, suppressed growth, and mood disorders. The side-effects are frequently treated with additional medications to manage insomnia or mood swings. Almost none of the medications prescribed for insomnia or mood disturbances are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use with children.

· The long-term health effects of ADHD medications are not fully known, but evidence suggests risks of cardiac disorders and sudden death, liver damage and psychiatric events. It has also been found that children on long-term medication have significantly higher rates of delinquency, substance use, and stunted physical growth.

The Transcendental Meditation Technique

· The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless technique practiced 10-20 minutes twice a day sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.

· TM is not a religion or philosophy and involves no new beliefs or change in lifestyle.

· Over 350 peer-reviewed research studies on the TM technique confirm a wide range of benefits for mind, body and behavior.
· Several studies have compared the effects of different meditation practices and found that Transcendental Meditation provides deeper relaxation and is more effective at reducing anxiety, depression and hypertension than other forms of meditation and relaxation. In addition, no other meditation practice shows the widespread coherence throughout all areas of the brain that is seen with Transcendental Meditation.

· The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the United States by a non-profit, educational organization.

· More information can be obtained by calling 888-LEARN-TM or visiting www.ADHD-TM.org, www.AskTheDoctors.com, or www.TMEducation.org.

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NB: After posting this article, a new study came out on July 26, 2011: New study shows Transcendental Meditation improves brain functioning in ADHD students: A non-drug approach to enhance students’ ability to learn.

A random-assignment controlled study published today in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry (Vol 2, No 1) found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique. The paper, ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice, is the second published study demonstrating TM’s ability to help students with attention-related difficulties.

See TM improves brain function in ADHD students, also reported in the TM Blog: New study finds TM boosts brain functioning and helps students with ADHD.

And this new important related article posted in The Huffington Post on meditation helping kids get off ADHD drugs came out in Jan 6, 2012: ADHD Drug Shortage: Can Meditation Fill the Gap? 

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2 Responses to “Girls with ADHD more prone to depression, anxiety than boys; meditation helps”

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