Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Attention Deficit Disorder

There is a new book out by a specialist in ADD which claims that there are at least five different kinds of ADD, each diagnosis peculiar to certain kinds of individuals. I often wonder what do these specialists believe is actually in the brain. Are there five different disease forms of ADD? Perhaps some genetic and some not? Are there five different areas involved in different kinds of ADD? I don't think so. The brain is complicated but it is not mystical, holding five different aspects of the same disease in its reservoir. ADD is first and foremost a failure of repression. There are not many different kinds of repression. There is one mediated by various kinds of neuroinhibitors. It is pain that overwhelms frontal cortical function and fragments its abilities to contain impulses from below. Certainly, there are differences in personality so that some manifest ADD in one fashion while others manifest it in another. But it is still ADD at its base. And it all can be treated in the same way: diminish the power of deep-lying imprinted pain by reliving early traumas, allowing the frontal cortex to develop and control because it is no longer bombarded by lower level shattering input. It all depends on how severe the early trauma was that compromised the development of the frontal cortex, and how much cortical tissue was implicated. As I discussed elsewhere, very early severe trauma can leave a cortex so impaired that the person is awash in impulses which cannot be controlled so that he is violent and can kill. In any case, the deficit is not just "psychological." It is a deficiency in frontal tissue. When someone like this is described as not "having all his marbles," now we know what that means. It should read, "not having all his frontal marble."


  1. Hi dr. Janov, ADD, a failure of repression? That may fit me. I remember that my inability to concentrate became severe after my parents marriage started disintegrating. They fought alot and my nerves got so bad that I would start shaking all over and go hide in the wardrobe. The next day in class every little sound would distract me so much that it was just about impossible for me to follow anything the teacher was saying. I was not repressing very well at that time. In years following their divorce I was able to repress much of what had gone on before they split, and my concentration improved. Then I started having panic attacks. My mother began expecting me to do even better in school and I knew I was not up to it. Reading had always been a challenge - words would move around the page or change their spelling on me. It was not until the 10th grade that I discovered there was a name for what I'd been experiencing all those years(dyslexia). My life has been a continuous struggle with anxiety, panic, memory loss and episodes of debilitating depression. During the last three years, I've lost everything that mattered to me and at this point have no idea what to do next - am living one day at a time with no hope, and been feeling more dead than alive. Only thing keeping me going is playing around on this computer for a couple hours everyday. I can't sleep without taking a pill, and wake up each morning with an anxiety attack (then take a pill for that). You present some interesting ideas on your site which seem to be quite valid. I will watch more of the videos. -Nan

  2. OK Nan if you agree to read I will agree to write. AJ

  3. I am a 28-year-old Greek dancer and translator living in Sweden and I am bipolar. I have observed that my condition often resembles ADD, in the sense that during my episodes, particularly my manic and mixed episodes, I may have a very very short attention span. I cannot focus. I am distracted all the time. This makes it incredibly difficult to complete even the simpler tasks, especially mental work -if it's physical work that has to be done it's usually easier, because it allows me to be "on the run" and constantly moving, which "helps" the situation both by relieving what you would call my first-line imprint of being unable to move and by allowing me to keep escaping from my feelings. I have been on antipsychotic medication (risperidone) in the past, and one of the few ways it helped me was that I was indeed able to concentrate and work while taking it. I know why and that makes me inevitably agree with you. I did feel less while on medication. Which is why I slept a lot and could not wake up -not to alarms, not to phone calls, not to people trying to wake me up. My whole system was suppressed on medication, I had awful nightmares at night because of the things the meds didn't allow me to feel during the day, but in daytime I could eventually focus better on my work -it was my only benefit from the drugs really. Without them I find it hard to concentrate exactly because my feelings are bursting to get out all the time, they demand from me to be preoccupied with them and nothing else but them. But at the same time my defences, however weak, make them evasive enough -and for a good reason. My racing thoughts also stem from the same need -they cannot stay focused because there are such strong feelings underneath that refuse to be ignored -it's as if they are telling me "no, you are not gonna deal with your stupd translation or essay writing, you have to deal with us first. In my hypomanic periods this flight of ideas is milder and my attention span slightly better, so they can contribute to very interesting and original ideas if I am doing creative work, because of both the great "leaps" my thoughts make and my constant involuntary access to feelings however incomplete. SO if I have some creative work on hand and I can pull myself together into focusing, the result can be good, but generally speaking my condition is detrimental to many aspects of my life. I am a peculiar case of a self-destructive person, I do not smoke, drink or take drugs, I am a vegetarian, I use protection in sex, I put sun proof lotion on when I go out, I do not take the kind of dangerous risks bipolar people are known to often take, and generaly speaking I am hardly ever doing anything harmful to myself. It is the things I DO NOT DO that harm and destroy my life, because I cannot pull myself together and focus to do them. Particularly lost job opportunities or anything enjoyable or useful I could be doing instead of spending 40 hours trying to complete some work that would normally require 1/4 of the time. Considerable lack of sleep because it may take me all night to complete some project. Then lost opportunities or tasks undone during the day because I have to eventually sleep then.
    To cut a long story short, I believe that what you have repeatedly said, that there are many symptoms or diseases but only one common cause, could not be more accurate.

  4. (continued from the previous comment) I do not have ADD -because during my stable mood periods I am able to focus decently well- yet I have the same symptoms, because of course the cause is the same. And the manic depressive condition, with its constant alternating between hope and despair -that's what it is really- could not be more representative of the first line imprint, just like ADD -because most people have ADD from so early on that it is rather obvious that the source is also very early (and I had these symptoms from quite an early age myself, which made school an added source of misery despite the fact I loved new information and knowledge and stimuli). I've heard of bipolar people being treated with Ritalin, and it's no surprise to me. It's just one more sign that all these "different" mental (and often physical) conditions could be successfully cured with a single treatment. Your therapy is the therapy of the future I think, because finally people will realize it has to be given more attention and become an essential part of the national health systems worldwide -but it will take a very long time I fear. I think neither of us will be here to see it happen. But you are the hope of the world.



Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.