By Valerie Lego
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - We live in an overstimulated society -- from multi-tasking to staying constantly connected through our smart phones. All of it can lead to an inability to concentrate on just one thing at a time.
Are you overloaded? Or could it be something more?
Do you find yourself easily distracted? Always late? Easily agitated? Are you a smoker or have a need for extreme stimulation like driving fast and taking risks? These are all signs that you may have Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
"The only way to get school work or anything done was to drink a lot of caffeine and then just dig in, and I could do seven hours worth of work in two or three hours," says Bryan Houck. "But then I was done I couldn't do any more."
Houck had to go to extremes in order to concentrate. In a way, he was self medicating. He needed to over stimulate his brain just to concentrate. That's how Houck lived for decades never realizing he had Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD.
"I eventually through the encouragement of the people around me went and got tested," says Houck.
Dr. Timothy Royer didn't diagnose Bryan, but he does diagnose other adults at his neurological center Neurocore in Grandville.
"We do know that about 5% that get diagnosed with adult ADHD," says Dr. Royer. "There are many more than that who exhibit symptoms of ADHD. The inability to just kind of be present and just be able to relax and sit still but there is this constant energy and restlessness."
For patients like Houck with ADD the answer was medication. Within just a few days of starting his medication, his life changed. He could finally enjoy simple things like sitting and playing with his son.
"Once I had the medication I remember the first time I was able to just sit with him for an hour and enjoy that without having all this other stuff going on in my head it was really wonderful," he says.
But for many who think they have ADD or ADHD, Dr. Royer says it may be something else.
"When you're talking about ADHD, the most important thing is to make sure that's really where the symptoms are coming from," sayd the doctor. "In our ,culture it tends to be anxiety and an addiction to adrenaline, and it's very difficult for us to learn how to be still."
Kim Bode owns her own marketing firm. Multi-tasking, social media and deadlines keep her brain going almost 24 hours a day. She's wondered if she has ADHD.
Dr. Royer hooks Bode to a diagnostic tool that transmits her brain waves to the computer. An initial look suggests to Dr. Royer that her brain is running slightly faster -- not slower, as it would be with ADHD.
"You are more closer to the ideal than to the ADHD," Dr. Royer explains to Bode. "What you're experiencing may have some attention components to it but it's not in that clinical range."
Then Dr. Royer takes a look at her left and right brain waves.
"There's something in your sleep wake cycle that's off," royer finds. "That's producing these attention symptoms."
But it's not as simple as a good night's sleep or popping a pill.
Dr. Royer prescribes an exercise to get Bode's brain waves back in balance. While watching a video Kim must keep her brain focused. Every time she loses concentration, the video stops.
Dr. Royer says it will take about nine sessions to see a change in her concentration.
"Is our culture increasingly having problems focusing completing tasks, feeling like their mind is racing all the time? Yes," says Royer. But the doctor adds that doesn't always mean it's ADHD.
Here is an online test for ADHD symptoms:
Here is more information about research into ADHD and the genetic components of the condition.