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Stress mimics ADHD: Expert in clinical neuropsychology
by Global Good News staff writer
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4 December 2012
Dr William Stixrud, a clinical neuropsychologist, talked about stress, addiction, and Transcendental Meditation at a recent conference in Washington, DC.
Dr Stixrud's primary field is working with children and teenagers who have emotional, learning, and neurological problems; he has often been quoted in popular publications including The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Barron's. He spoke about the special vulnerability of adolescent and young adult brains to dependency and addiction, and about how the Transcendental Meditation technique can be of benefit to those struggling with addictions.
He explained how stress in early childhood can affect stress regulation and thus predict quality of life, and he also talked about the connection between stress and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
'Stress mimics ADHD,' Dr Stixrud said.
He illustrated the point by recalling his own past experience of being 'functionally ADHD' as a stressed young college student at Berkeley: 'I couldn't sit still; I couldn't concentrate for more than ten minutes at a time.'
What is happening in the brain when a person is highly stressed?
Dr Stixrud explained that when a person is stressed, the frontal lobe is flooded with neurotransmitters and is unable to perform its executive function.
'These frontal lobe functions have to do with the regulation of life,' he said. 'It turns out that there are really three core executive functions: inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.' Working memory means being able to actively hold, consider, and manipulate things in your memory.
'Stress dramatically undermines what are considered to be the core functions.'
If you think about it, Dr Stixrud said, this makes intuitive sense. It is hard to hold a phone number in your working memory or be flexible when you are stressed.
'When you think about addiction and the mental habits of people who become addicted,' Dr Stixrud said, 'they often have poor inhibition, they often have attention and memory problems, and they often tend to be rigid.'
He went on to explain about correlations between adolescence and addiction, in preparation for describing positive effects he has seen in young people who begin practising Transcendental Meditation.
See previous articles in this series:
∙ Using Transcendental Meditation to combat ADHD and addiction in young people: Dr William Stixrud
∙ Preventing addiction in vulnerable adolescents: Conference explores role of Transcendental Meditation
∙ What causes addictive behaviours? Neuropsychologist gives insights on stress, and an antidote
∙ Chronic stress strongly linked with addictive tendencies, quality of life
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