• Bowie Matteson

An ACTIVE Recovery

It’s time for kids to take an active role in the treatment of their behavioral and attention disorders.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression are rising at an alarming rate in today’s youth. A great majority of kids are receiving clinical treatment via talk therapy and/or medication. I’m here to make the case that there is more to be done by the kids and their families when it comes to managing these conditions. A culture of victimhood and reliance has numbed our inherent abilities to take part in our own recoveries.

Let’s start by the numbers…

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that:

  • 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.

  • 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.

  • 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.

  • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.

These ailments tend to coincide with each other as well:

  • Having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%).

  • For children aged 3-17 years with anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also have behavior problems (37.9%) and about 1 in 3 also have depression (32.3%).

  • For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%) and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%).

The CDC also reports that anywhere from 50-80% of diagnosed children receive treatment, depending on their disorder. Ritalin and Adderall are the common stimulants prescribed for their conditions, which have been dealt to 5% of all kids in North America.

For the purpose of this article, we will not speculate as to the cause of these increases in diagnoses (we will later on). My aim is to put the power to combat these symptoms back in the hands of the people experiencing them.

One key issue here is the psychology behind being “diagnosed”. A diagnosis removes the person from responsibility for their feelings or symptoms. As psychologist Gordon Livingston puts it: "Illness, therefore, is a responsibility-relieving state."

“You aren’t this way. This is your condition.”

Removing oneself from their actions and behavior makes them reliant on the treatments for the conditions.

“If it’s not me with the problem, why would I change? I take my pills and my condition goes away.”

And this argument is not about putting anyone at fault. I believe ADD and ADHD are real and have severe negative implications for young people. But being diagnosed does not handicap them to the point where they have lost the ability to take an active role in addressing their conditions. Labeling someone “disabled” damages the self-respect that comes from the sense of being a person with the ability to struggle with and handle adversity.

Environment and self-application play an important role in treating behavioral and mental disorders.

This brings me to the point: physical activity deserves a front row seat in the list of prescriptions for treating these disorders.

Labeling someone “disabled” damages the self-respect that comes from the sense of being a person with the ability to struggle with and handle adversity.

A new article published out of University of Vermont found that 60 minutes of physical activity followed by nutrition counseling 4 times per week in clinically depressed adult patients showed a remarkable improvement in mood and perceived well-being. The study suggests the inclusion of exercise routines before the psychotropic prescriptions typical of depression patients.

The funny thing is, not much of the content of the study is all that new. The positive, lively, health-fortifying effects of the endorphins released after physical exercise have long been noted. A 2012 paper even went so far as to call exercise a psychoactive drug.

An exploratory study seeking to find the effect of moderate-vigorous exercise on the behavioral scores of kids diagnosed with ADHD was done in 2010. They found significant improvements in behavioral scores as reported by parents for total problems, social problems, thought problems, and attention problems, and from teachers, for anxiety-depression and social problems.

Finally acknowledging the mind-body connection at work in an area of study so commonly seen apart from activity and movement is important.

What were the moderate-vigorous activities, you might ask? Basketball, soccer, tag and other ball games were the drug of choice. The rigor of the activity was rated by its effect on the child's heart rate.

So can I start shooting hoops and lose my ADHD? I'm not making that argument. There are a bevy of factors that go into the social, genetic, and physical outputs of your little ones. But this is so refreshing. Positive effects on your child's behavioral issues from a consistent dose of PLAYING TAG.

How many parents are there bending over backwards to find the right outlet for their kids? Have you lost trust in your physicians for prescribing a nondescript, cover-all dose to take care of an ever-evolving issue?

Finally acknowledging the mind-body connection at work in an area of study so commonly seen apart from activity and movement is important. (See my previous article to learn more about this connection). Take an active role in treating your child’s condition and stop depending on medication alone.

For teachers, coaches and parents looking for answers when it comes to handling these "ill" kids, suggest/enact/harness the power of movement.

Pick a line!

If you enjoyed what you read, share it with a friend, colleague, teacher or parent. I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions. Feel free to comment on the website or via email


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