The picture in this ad says it all. She is female, far from disheveled, looking right at you. She could be age 21-35. The caption says, “I’m depressed…” Could it be ADHD? ADHD was found in 32% of adults with a depressive disorder. Look for ADHD in patients who present with depression.

ADD. It’s not just for kids anymore. While doctors favor boys with the label, its application to women is on the rise.

An article in VOGUE magazine last fall struggles to come to grips. “Chaos Theory: Forgetful and prone to distraction, Andrea Cooper set out to uncover the cause of her mental mayhem and found a large number of women unwittingly suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” The author’s daughter is diagnosed with ADHD and mom worries that her own genetics played a role. When doctors couldn’t make the author’s behavior fit the definition: “I must confess I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t attribute my household piles to a medical condition.”

ADD is an easier name tag to wear on your chest and still keep your chin up. Easier than depression, which you can tuck behind it. Trendy as bipolar disorder, though not nearly as harsh. “It’s just my ADD!” adults laugh, when they space out, lose their keys, or miss a train of thought.

Not so for the guinea pigs we’ve drafted into a mass experimentation with stimulant therapy: our children. Subject to a way of life where medication and schooling blend in a manner none of my generation had to bear, nor could imagine.

Back in my day I’d have been expelled if high-school staff caught me with White Cross and Black Beauties (diet pills and amphetamines, illegally obtained)–occasional contraband in a young hippie’s fringed purse. No more or less frowned-upon than weed or psychedelics. My, how quickly an illicit high became an accommodation for a psychiatrically-approved disability.

Over 30 years, a 20-fold increase in the drugging of our youth for ADD/ADHD…three million or by some estimates nearly 10% of all boys and girls between ages 4-18 on the stuff…and now we know. It’s all been for naught.

The drugs don’t work.

L. Alan Stroufe, professor emeritus of psychology, says in The New York Times that while short-term gains in concentration are glorified, these effects fade over time. The drugs kick in for 4-8 weeks, tops. Stroufe points out that while stimulants may foster focus on tasks that are boring or tiring, they’ve in no way been shown to enhance learning ability. Not one study has proven long-term benefit on academic performance, peer relationships, or behavior problems.

Professor Stroufe scoffs at the use of brain scans to back up the use of stimulants:

Of course the brains of children with behavior problems will show anomalies on brain scans. It could not be otherwise. Behavior and brain are intertwined. Depression also waxes and wanes in many people, and as it does so, parallel changes in brain functioning occur, regardless of medication.

There’s that connection to depression again. and while Stroufe believes poverty, toxic substances, and life experiences are to blame, what does Big Pharma care? Tie depression with ADD and voila, a new avenue to diversify and cash in.

You’ve seen the TV ads: antidepressant not cutting it? Hork down some Abilify. Hard to focus too? You must be ADD in addition to everything else, you not-elderly person, you female (most of the depressed are), you failure to buck up with only one of our fine products.

As with depression, ADD shares the propensity to sidetrack clarity of mind, the ability to prioritize and get things done. Depressed, you could care less. ADD means you have the drive but can’t access the tools. You’ve not yet done that un-American activity: scrap the work ethic, the need to achieve.

I don’t mean to make light of the struggles that adults with attention-deficit face. Dr. Kenneth Bock MD, author of Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies provides an overview of the sad situation. There’s a lot of turning to cocaine and meth, the more socially acceptable Vicodin, Valium, and Xanax, and overdoing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. One study showed sufferers are more than twice as likely to commit crimes against property, domestic violence, assault, and to have their driver’s license suspended.

There’s also a tougher time finishing high school or college, let alone holding a full-time job. ADD/ADHD adults earn less and get divorced more. They report far less satisfaction with relationships of all types. High rates of suicide correlate not only with the disorder itself, but the drugs used to treat it.

Got stigma? Maybe not, because the condition is relatively new and many people don’t believe it’s a bonafide disorder. They cite bad parenting, video games, or kids’ whirlwind schedules, and yell “slacker!” when an adult takes seriously their own ADD. So…is it real?

Yes. But can we take a look for genuine causes and a safe cure?

In the alternative mental health field, the felt experience of attention-deficit is often called “brain fog.” The culprit may be candida albicans, an ever-present resident fungus in the gut that gets out of control. What spurs it? Antibiotic use, processed food consumption, birth control pills and what the crafty candida like best: sugar, sugar, sugar. Below is a link to a primer on the beasties and what to do about them, followed by a link to a pioneering Candida doctor’s website. A questionnaire on his Home page could help you gauge if a yeast riot might be your problem.

Besides stoking depression and fatigue, candida yeast overgrowth can present as so many symptoms and chronic health problems it’s hard to pin down without a stool test. Acne, constipation, all manner of digestive problems, general allergies, sinus infection, PMS, a craving for sugar or alcohol…one list I looked at had 75 items. Number one though was THE way I can begin to tell if my candida is taking over: “Intolerance of perfumes, odors, fumes, fabric shop odors and tobacco smoke.” I’ll get an instant headache from one whiff of secondhand smoke.

It’s not your fault you crave sugar and starch (Let’s not even talk about how hard the food industry works to keep you addicted.) Candida albicans demand their fix, also in love with carbohydrates that will break down into sugar. They are sneaky buggers, transmuting into a mycelial form that is very hard to conquer.

Candida quite often drills holes in the walls of the gut, allowing all manner of food products to leak out into the bloodstream and reach the brain, causing an opiate or autoimmune response. You’re either swinging/crashing between sugar-high and withdrawal, or you hurt all over. Candida for many of us is much more than a newborn’s “thrush,” athlete’s foot, or the annoying vaginal yeast infection. It is systemic. If left to run rampant, it can lead to sepsis and death.

The latest concern with Candidiasis (resistant, systemic yeast) is biofilm. Biofilms are structures that grow around the yeast, making them impervious to prescription anti-fungals. Initially a problem for individuals with catheters and implanted devices, now we see supplements made to target biofilm in persons with autism.

You will love the way you feel when you beat the yeast!

Another cause of lack of mental focus could be a deficiency of nutrients called amino acids. They frequently have an “L” in front of their name. L-tryptophan can provide sleep for the restless and raise serotonin. Tyrosine trounces sugar cravings while giving you energy–I love Tyrosine when I’m stressed and life is labor-intensive. Theanine is another fine helper, well-researched and found to relieve anxiety without sleepiness while providing focus for learning.

On the hormonal front, adrenal fatigue is sheer exhaustion, and how can one think when stressed out to their very last nerve? Herbs and nutrients are key. I like vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid (as calcium pantothenate: better on digestion and better absorbed). I’m also fond of the herbs ashwaganda and ginseng. Much research praises rhodiola rosea.

Of course, if gluten or dairy foods are not meant for you, you’ll reap plenty of brain fritz, fog, and fatigue by eating them.

What about the “H” in ADHD? Several medical conditions can cause hyperactivity, among them thyroid disease, lead poisoning, hearing problems, encephalitis, prenatal alcohol consumption, and food allergies. No, it’s not all in your mind, your genes, or just because you’re a bad boy/girl.

Be a medical detective when it comes to your own moods and behavior. You might need theanine, to avoid gluten, and an anti-candida regimen. Why isn’t this the same as mixing up a medication cocktail?

Safety first. Also, you’re getting to the root of the problem rather than throwing a mask over symptoms that will someday, in some way, have their say. Deep down you want to find balance and wellness, not just take another pretty pill with pharma-scroll to suppress discomfort or temporarily rev up your engines.

The only way we’ll teach the drug companies to stop diversifying their inefficient products is to embrace something better. Diving for the root of the body-mind malaise has yielded true and final recovery for many. Here are some user-friendly links for more information:

YEAST  and