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Old 11-27-10, 01:44 PM
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OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

So, I've been switching up my diet of late in an attempt to lose weight and be healthy. I have been using the myfitnesspal app on my Droid phone (can't stress how wonderful this free tool has been for me enough) to keep track of my food, calories, etc. In the past month and half or so, I've lost 20 pounds or so strictly by managing my food well.

What does this have to do with OVER-focused ADD?

Well, my brain chemistry must be changing along with this. I've always been overfocused, but this new way of eating has really thrown my moods, thought patterns, etc. for a loop. It is as though I'm even more OVER focused. More hypersensitive to noise, more irritable, more likely to get stuck in thought patterns, more compulsive, more everything.

It is as though I'm on a fine line between ADD and OCD. So, I've been doing some research.

I've always felt like there was two of me. I kind of assumed that there was me, and then the depressed me. The me that is kind of easy going and in a good mood, and the me that is inflexible and in a horrible mood.

From what I can tell, the reality may be that a person that is overfocused is kind of on a border between OCD and ADD, between issues with the prefrontal cortex and it's neurotransmitter dopamine, and the anterior cingulate gyrus and it's neurotransmitter serotonin. When dopamine is high, serotonin is low, and vice versa.

I have to say that while losing weight has been good and what I set out to do, this brain chemistry deal is really scary. I haven't felt this way in a loooong time for so long. I think that is is kind of normal for me to fluctuate anyway between pleasant moods and irritated moods based on the battle in my brain between dopamine and serotonin levels. But the desperate frustration of late has been a bit much.

I noticed that things were going awry when I was sitting at a football game in front of what may be the most annoying man on earth. Yes, I can be irritable, but I know people that won't sit around him anymore because he's so bad. Well, I was trying to focus on the game, the piece of candy that I asked my wife for, anything that I possibly could, but this guy's voice was practically ringing in my head. I couldn't get away from it, so I went OFF on him in a way that I've never done before in my life. If looks could kill, he and his buddies would have all died instantly. I let them have it, told them what they could do, and would have been perfectly willing to have fought every one of them right then and there by myself. ANYTHING to make him shut up for just a minute.

Since then I have punched a wall, thrown a chair, etc. It is like there is a frustration lying just underneath the surface that cannot be ignored for long.

So, I guess I'm looking for some discussion on the subject. Any other overfocused people out there? Have you found any correlation between diet and the level of symptoms on one side of the brain (attention issues) or the other (more rigid, hypersensitive issues)? I was eating a lot of carbs before, as pasta and Italian food is my favorite, along with sweets and such. However, I have cut way back on those things, obviously, while losing weight.

I'm interested in any research that you've come across on the subject. Dr. Amen has outlined a lot of different brain functions and their affects on ADD by area of the brain. I definitely identify with the prefrontal cortex issues that go with ADD, but now I understand that there are definite anterior cingulate gyrus issues as well. In fact, it may be those issues that have had a bigger impact in my life (negatively) than anything ADD has ever brought to the table.

From what I understand, with such a delicate balance at stake between the neurotransmitters, medication is often very ineffective. It seems that intense aerobic exercise may be my best bet for helping the production and uptake of the neurotransmitters in my brain, but I'd love to hear if others have had success with something else.
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Old 11-27-10, 02:08 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

Dr. Amen suggest Effexor as the med of choice of what he calles Overfocused ADD. I am reluctant to try it as it has such a bad rap on the internet forums. But maybe one day I will give it a chance.
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Old 11-27-10, 02:14 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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Dr. Amen suggest Effexor as the med of choice of what he calles Overfocused ADD. I am reluctant to try it as it has such a bad rap on the internet forums. But maybe one day I will give it a chance.
Yeah, I've seen some negative things about Effexor as well. In the end, I'm not likely to take meds other than as a last resort. I'd rather see what I can do naturally to balance things out. In fact, speaking to the exercise recommendation from Dr. Amen, I just ordered some new exercise equipment yesterday to help give me things to do that might be more fun and keep me interested in exercising.
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Old 11-27-10, 02:37 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

Are you taking fish oil, Mike?

Oh, and how much exercise are you getting? As much as you used to? Sounds like you need to burn a little energy off.
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Old 11-27-10, 02:44 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

Thanks Mike. You write so well. I remember your previous posts.

In my experience I can second Dr. Amen in that carbohydrate rich foods make me happier (but even less active). I love pasta, bread and sweets. I also think that I do better in terms of performance when on a high-protein diet.
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Old 11-27-10, 02:47 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

P.S. Have you considered running? It takes a while (months) to become a habit and it's easy to discontinue (also because with age, injuries can happen), but it's cheap and surprisingly satisfying. (After that initial "while" when you feel like spitting blood if you aren't in great shape to being with.)
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Old 11-27-10, 03:01 PM
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Red face Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

It sure sounds like your serotonin levels are low, perhaps from the reduced carbs. You may need to just add a bit more in.

You could also try to add in more... er.... um... of a certain activity known to improve mood... See that NYTimes article re: happiness and mind wandering? There was ONE activity that people consistently engaged in with the least mind wandering, and it was also when they reported the greatest happiness.

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Old 11-27-10, 03:04 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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Are you taking fish oil, Mike?

Oh, and how much exercise are you getting? As much as you used to? Sounds like you need to burn a little energy off.
Well, my wife took fish oil and it didn't do anything for her. In fact, she said that it made something worse, but I can't remember what that was now. I think it may have actually been her moods. I certainly don't need that, lol.

My problem with exercise is that I work all day physically. If I remember correctly, you've done the cleaning business before. We hustle when we clean, and often clean upwards of 4 houses in a day. That's a lot of hustling. So, when I get home, the last thing I want to do is work out. I want to rest.

So, no, I haven't exercised like I need. The reality is that I need a good cardio workout on a regular basis. It always makes me feel better, elevates my moods, etc. The problem is pushing through the lack of energy, back hurting from work, etc. to make myself do this. It often seems that when I get home I'm dead tired, but I catch a second wind somewhere around 9 or 10 at night. That would be optimal for me to work out, however if I do then I'm all pumped up and can't sleep.

In the end, I know that I have to push through and make myself do it. I've battled and battled and got our finances and my impulsive spending under control (I still have my moments). I've fought and fought and got my diet under control. I've fought to get my sleep patterns under control. I guess exercise is next. Nothing is perfect, but I have much better control on those things now. I just hope that something else doesn't fall apart if I focus on yet another thing.
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Old 11-27-10, 03:13 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

Mike, I have noticed that when I first go on a low-carb diet, I get extremely irritable because of the drastic reduction in carbs, which I appear to have some sort of addiction to.

I have never learned balance. I'm either totally on one end of the spectrum or the other. And when I decide to low-carb it, I LOW-CARB IT. This means there is no gradual removal of carbs from the diet. Just BAM! They're gone. Completely. And I suffer the effects. You'd think I'd learn. I never do. But that's neither here nor there. What I'm alluding to is that I don't know if you gradually stopped eating the carbs, or completely cut them out, but either way, this may apply to you. Even more so if you cut them out in one fell swoop.

I compare the effects of carb-reduction to when I try to stop smoking. It's very similar in my case. I get extremely irritable, figetty, and restless. The worst part is, I seem to possess a hot, firey anger inside me that I didn't even know I was capable of and then I transform into somewhat of a hothead, with a tendency to yell at people over small, inconsequential things. And this is not my normal temperment at all.

I can tell you that after a couple of weeks to a month on the low-carb diet, this recedes for me. I return mostly back to "normal". Wait. Normal is a bad word to describe me, lol. What I mean is, I return to my previously baseline state.

I'm guessing your diet is to blame, at least in large part, for your changes. Particularly if you have some type of addiction to carbs (even if it is just psychological). Good luck. Hang in there.
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Old 11-27-10, 03:26 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

Carbohydrates directly affect serotonin synthesis and regulation, and irritability and low moods are pretty common on low-carb diets (worse the lower your carb intake is), at least in the short-term. Over time, your body learns to compensate somewhat. But according to Dr. Amen's controversial claim, in the overfocused ADHD subtype, serotonin is already low in these people, so it's not surprising that lowering your carbohydrates lowers the level of tryptophan, serotonin's precursor, to the extent that your mood is already lower or more irascible/irritable.

I notice pretty consistently that when I'm feeling down, eating carbs/sugar has a pretty immediate effect on my mood. It's not really a good solution, but it does work in the short-term if I need a pick-me-up. Interestingly, women have a lower concentration of serotonin in their brains, which might explain their stereotype of carb and chocolate cravings.
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Old 11-27-10, 03:46 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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P.S. Have you considered running? It takes a while (months) to become a habit and it's easy to discontinue (also because with age, injuries can happen), but it's cheap and surprisingly satisfying. (After that initial "while" when you feel like spitting blood if you aren't in great shape to being with.)
I have downloaded the "couch to 5k" podcast. Unfortunately, I haven't done a lot with it. I have really bad shin splints, probably from years of playing basketball growing up. So, though I love to run, it usually just ends up creating way more pain than it is worth. Plus, with asthma it can be difficult, particularly in cold winter air. Oh, and the injury possibility is the reason I quit playing basketball in the first place. I'm self-employed in a physical job and can't afford to blow out a knee or something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandy4957 View Post
It sure sounds like your serotonin levels are low, perhaps from the reduced carbs. You may need to just add a bit more in.

You could also try to add in more... er.... um... of a certain activity known to improve mood... See that NYTimes article re: happiness and mind wandering? There was ONE activity that people consistently engaged in with the least mind wandering, and it was also when they reported the greatest happiness.

Yeah, I'm playing with my calorie and carb levels to try to find some sort of balance that still allows me to lose weight and be health. Perhaps exercise will need to be more of a priority than I've made it thusfar.

Oh, and that.......um........other thing, has been a problem throughout my married life. It simply doesn't happen at this point. We're working on it, but we have a LOT of issues in that department, and it is both of us. It's kind of hard to be in any kind of mood when my moods can be so foul in the first place of late, and over the years there has been a lot of problem simply because we're two people with various disorders that seem to get in the way. Depression, anxiety, etc. are libido killers. After the first year of our marriage, that part of it seems to have died completely, and I pretty much mean completely. We are committed to not giving up and to trying new things to make this work, but perhaps we should both just be committed, lol.
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Old 11-27-10, 03:50 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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Mike, I have noticed that when I first go on a low-carb diet, I get extremely irritable because of the drastic reduction in carbs, which I appear to have some sort of addiction to.

I have never learned balance. I'm either totally on one end of the spectrum or the other. And when I decide to low-carb it, I LOW-CARB IT. This means there is no gradual removal of carbs from the diet. Just BAM! They're gone. Completely. And I suffer the effects. You'd think I'd learn. I never do. But that's neither here nor there. What I'm alluding to is that I don't know if you gradually stopped eating the carbs, or completely cut them out, but either way, this may apply to you. Even more so if you cut them out in one fell swoop.

I compare the effects of carb-reduction to when I try to stop smoking. It's very similar in my case. I get extremely irritable, figetty, and restless. The worst part is, I seem to possess a hot, firey anger inside me that I didn't even know I was capable of and then I transform into somewhat of a hothead, with a tendency to yell at people over small, inconsequential things. And this is not my normal temperment at all.

I can tell you that after a couple of weeks to a month on the low-carb diet, this recedes for me. I return mostly back to "normal". Wait. Normal is a bad word to describe me, lol. What I mean is, I return to my previously baseline state.

I'm guessing your diet is to blame, at least in large part, for your changes. Particularly if you have some type of addiction to carbs (even if it is just psychological). Good luck. Hang in there.
Thanks for this! I haven't cut out carbs completely, and maybe not even that low compared to other people. I am trying to eat a couple hundred carbs or less. However, I just did it one day and kept doing it, with no gradual change, which probably had a huge impact. I don't know how many I was ingesting, but it had to be a huge number.

The diet has to be to blame for the sudden changes, because they seem to go hand in hand. However, it may be a blessing in disguise, because it made some of them so extreme that it opened my eyes to the other side of my problems in life, apart from the ADD issues. The irritability, inflexibility, compulsions, etc. have always been there. I was just better able to hide or deal with them until this recent change.
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Old 11-27-10, 03:53 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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Thanks for this! I haven't cut out carbs completely, and maybe not even that low compared to other people. I am trying to eat a couple hundred carbs or less. However, I just did it one day and kept doing it, with no gradual change, which probably had a huge impact. I don't know how many I was ingesting, but it had to be a huge number.

The diet has to be to blame for the sudden changes, because they seem to go hand in hand. However, it may be a blessing in disguise, because it made some of them so extreme that it opened my eyes to the other side of my problems in life, apart from the ADD issues. The irritability, inflexibility, compulsions, etc. have always been there. I was just better able to hide or deal with them until this recent change.
Your OCD tendencies worsening also jives with a lower serotonin level, as people with OCD do have lower serotonin levels. If you eat some chocolate or something else high in refined sugar, you'll likely notice a very temporary and pretty immediate reduction in your symptoms, proving that correlation.
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Old 11-27-10, 03:54 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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Carbohydrates directly affect serotonin synthesis and regulation, and irritability and low moods are pretty common on low-carb diets (worse the lower your carb intake is), at least in the short-term. Over time, your body learns to compensate somewhat. But according to Dr. Amen's controversial claim, in the overfocused ADHD subtype, serotonin is already low in these people, so it's not surprising that lowering your carbohydrates lowers the level of tryptophan, serotonin's precursor, to the extent that your mood is already lower or more irascible/irritable.

I notice pretty consistently that when I'm feeling down, eating carbs/sugar has a pretty immediate effect on my mood. It's not really a good solution, but it does work in the short-term if I need a pick-me-up. Interestingly, women have a lower concentration of serotonin in their brains, which might explain their stereotype of carb and chocolate cravings.
Yep, sugar and carbs can almost immediately impact my mood as well. Not good for a diet that is healthy physically, though it may be healthier mentally.

Think about it, those types of food are often referred to as "comfort food". I took away my comfort, which helped to keep me sane because I deal with a lot of anxiety and such. So, I have lost my way of coping. I need a new one. Perhaps exercise can be that new one.

Or, maybe my name should have been Michelle, referring to your statement about low serotonin levels for the ladies.
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Old 11-27-10, 04:10 PM
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Re: OVER-focused ADD, Duality, and Diet

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Yep, sugar and carbs can almost immediately impact my mood as well. Not good for a diet that is healthy physically, though it may be healthier mentally.

Think about it, those types of food are often referred to as "comfort food". I took away my comfort, which helped to keep me sane because I deal with a lot of anxiety and such. So, I have lost my way of coping. I need a new one. Perhaps exercise can be that new one.
Exercise releases endorphins and also increases serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine... the runner's high is hard to beat. Unfortunately, I hate running. But you can replicate it to some degree with almost any somewhat intense aerobic exercise--biking, fast walking, etc.

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Or, maybe my name should have been Michelle, referring to your statement about low serotonin levels for the ladies.
Possibly.
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