Dec 20, 2009

ADHD among Internationally Adopted Children: Empirical Study

There is a very interesting and informative study in the most recent issue of the European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry titled, ADHD in international adoptees: a national cohort study The abstract is summarized below:

Several investigators have reported an increased frequency of attention/hyperactivity symptoms in internationally adopted children. In this national cohort study, the authors aimed to determine the prevalence of ADHD medication in international adoptees in Sweden, in comparison to the general population. A further purpose was to study gender, age at adoption and region of origin as predictors of ADHD medication in international adoptees. The study population consisted of all Swedish residents born in 1985–2000 with Swedish-born parents, divided into 16,134 adoptees, and a comparison population of 1,326,090. ADHD medications were identified in the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register during 2006. Logistic regression was used to calculate the "odds ratios".

The rates of ADHD medication were higher in international adoptees than in the comparison population for both boys (5.3 vs. 1.5% for 10–15-year olds) and girls (2.1 vs. 0.3% for 10–15-year olds). International adoptees from all regions of birth more often consumed ADHD medication compared with the majority population, but the age and sex adjusted odds ratios were particularly high for adoptees from Eastern Europe, Middle East/Africa and Latin America. Adjusting for maternal education and single parenthood increased the odds ratios even further. The risk also increased with higher age at adoption. Adoptees from Eastern Europe have a very high risk for ADHD medication. A structured identification and support programme should be tailored for this group. Adoptees from other regions have a more moderately increased risk, which should be communicated to adoptive parents and to professionals who care for adoptees in their clinical practice.

Of course it is still unclear whether the children actually had ADHD since attention difficulties and related "ADHD" symptoms can also be caused by sensory-integration dysfunction, trauma symptoms, Complex Trauma, attachment difficulties and disorders, and Bipolar disorder. The fact that the children from Eastern Europe had the highest rate of use of ADHD medication does suggest some environmental rather than a genetic cause for the attention problems; suggesting that the cause may lie with the effects of chronic early maltreatment on development (Complex Trauma)

Dec 5, 2009

How the brain is affected by relationships

In the “Clinician’s Digest” section of the November/December 2009 issue of Psychotherapy Networker, Garry Cooper discusses a study led by psychiatrist Jakob Koch of Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany suggesting that “effective psychotherapy with depressed clients is associated with changes at the brain’s cellular level,” increasing the production of a key brain protein that assists in creating neural pathways. In this study they used Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) which looks through the lens of both cognitive and interpersonal issues. It would be interesting to know how other theoretical orientations would fare.

There is a lot known about the power of oxytocin (the hormone of love) to bond people together but oxytocin can also be an ally to encourage therapeutic change. According to Linda Graham, MFT and trainer on the integration of relational psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience, it is “the neurochemical basis of the sense of safety and trust that allows clients to become open to therapeutic change.” It was a class I recently took with Linda, “The Neuroscience of Attachment,” that left me feeling so inspired about the implications of this in my practice. As a therapist, it’s nice to have something solid and research-based to hang my hat on.

Daniel Siegel, MD, one of the pioneers in this field has been saying for years that there is potential for the growth of new brain cells via relationships. I remember seeing him speak at a conference about five years ago but got derailed somehow and didn’t follow up on any further research on the matter. I’m glad to have made my way back to these concepts so I can further learn how to provide the most fertile soil possible for therapeutic change within the four walls of my own psychotherapy office.

The power of the “relationship” is not to be underestimated. Important relationships can do monumental damage – or they can facilitate profound healing. Many psychotherapists have known that the therapeutic relationship is one that can provide a “safe container” for emotional and psychological healing. Many of us believe that by providing a stable, nurturing model of something “different,” there is the potential for a corrective experience that the client can integrate into his life.

Now we know there is the potential for changes within the brain as well — which is only more encouragement for the lasting, deep shifts that we hope for our clients — and they hope for themselves. Perhaps the commonly held belief that “people can’t change” will finally, truly be a thing of the past.