The Many faces of ADHD - Dr. Amen

Eileen Bailey Health Guide

    Dr. Daniel Amen understands ADHD from both a professional and personal standpoint. On a professional level, Dr. Amen is a board certified child psychiatrist. He has been treating children with ADHD for almost 20 years. On a personal level, Dr. Amen is the father of three children with ADHD.


    Parenting three children can be difficult, parenting three children with ADHD is at the least a challenge, at the most extremely stressful and draining. Even though Dr. Amen taught parenting classes and was versed in how to parent children with ADHD, he experienced many trying moments raising his children. One thing that surprised Dr. Amen is how closely children with hyperactivity need to be watched. It would only lead to trouble if he did not constantly pay attention to his child with hyperactivity. Today, all of his children are adults and are doing well. Two are working full time and one is still in college.

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    In 1991, Dr. Amen took his treatment of children with ADHD one step further and began to use brain scan imaging as a way to help in the diagnostic process. According to Dr. Amen, this allows him to target specific areas of the brain and determine what type of treatment to pursue. Dr. Amen views ADHD, not as a disorder, but as a cluster of symptoms and these symptoms are a result of some part of the brain not functioning correctly.


    The brain spect imaging Dr. Amen uses is not limited to just ADHD, he also uses it when diagnosing other disorders, such as Autism, Depression or Violence. It helps him to diagnose people with more information and he feels it leads to a more accurate diagnosis. Treatments recommended by Dr. Amen include lifestyle changes and supplements. Some of the lifestyle changes he recommends are removing things he believes can make ADHD worse, including text messaging and video games. Dr. Amen indicated that he is not "anti-medication" and does not oppose the use of stimulant medication to treat ADHD symptoms, however, he believes that other methods should be tried first and included in a treatment plan. In his experience, stimulant medication can help some people, however, it can also make some people worse.


    There are some people in the medical community that do not agree with Dr. Amen's methods. Dr. Amen feels this is because using imaging as a diagnostic tool is not understood. He believes that psychiatrists are not used to ordering tests, as medical doctors are, and therefore they do not. Instead, he said, they treat symptom clusters. Dr. Amen hopes that imaging will be used in the future as a diagnostic and treatment tool.


    Dr. Amen offers the following advice to parents (as both a parent and a clinician):


    • Be firm but kind
    • Don't hit your children, it is too stimulating and they will only figure out how to get a strong reaction from you and then try to get it again.
    • Seek treatment
    • Find specialists that know about ADHD
    • Read books (and he recommends his own book, Healing ADD) and learn about ADHD


    Currently, there are four Amen Clinics: two in California, one in Reston, VA and one in Takoma, WA.


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    For more information on Dr. Amen;


    Check out the upcoming special on PBS


Published On: February 24, 2008