Aug 8, 2011

How Should a Christian View ADD and ADHD?

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are terms which describe conditions associated with particular sets of behaviors. There are generally both physical and spiritual implications associated with those who have been diagnosed with either of these conditions. Much of the research and debate on this issue centers around the physical cause and potential cure or care for the conditions. However, in that the essence of the conditions involves behavior that the Bible addresses, it is very important for Christians to consider the spiritual impact on those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

ADD tends to describe those individuals wrestling with inattention. Inattention is described as possessing some or all of the following: often makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities; often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace; often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities; often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort; often loses things necessary for tasks or activities; is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli; is often forgetful in daily activities.

ADHD tends to describe those individuals wrestling with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The individual may have some of the above characteristics along with some of the following: often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat; often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected; often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate; often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly; is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"; often talks excessively; often blurts out answers before questions have been completed; often has difficulty awaiting turn; often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

Undoubtedly, there are various reasons why individuals are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. However, in cases where the evidence rests primarily on the behavior of the individual, the Supreme Authority should be consulted. The Bible is not silent on many of the above behaviors.

The following are biblical teachings concerning the issue of attentiveness:

1. God recognizes that some tasks are hard, yet it is good for us to be faithful with our tasks – Proverbs 6:6-8; Colossians 3:23.
2. God recognizes that it is hard to stay focused, yet there are rewards for staying focused – Proverbs 12:11.
3. God recognizes that it is hard to develop priorities, yet there are rewards for making good choices – Proverbs 24:27.
4. God recognizes that it is hard to listen to instruction, yet there are rewards for listening to those who are teaching – Proverbs 7:24; James 1:19.
5. God recognizes that it is hard to remember things; that is why He tells us to develop reminders – Proverbs 6:20-21; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; 2 Peter 1:12-15.

The following are biblical teachings concerning the issue of self-control:

1. We typically do not exhibit self-control; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23), as well as that which we add to our faith (2 Peter 1:6).
2. The Apostle Paul described bringing his body under control as a battle (1 Corinthians 9:27).
3. The Bible even encourages controlling the use of our words (Proverbs 10:19;Matthew 12:36).
4. We are encouraged that control of our lives begins with control over our minds (Proverbs 25:28; Philippians 4:8).

The following are biblical teachings concerning impulsivity:

1. God states that there are consequences to being hasty (Proverbs 21:5).
2. There is value in listening before speaking (James 1:19).
3. It is wise to listen to a matter before answering (Proverbs 18:13).
4. Patience and longsuffering (holding back passion) are signs of spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:22; James 1:2-4).

Typically, one focuses on the negative behavior without realizing that there are positive traits behind those behaviors. The day-dreamer or forgetful one tends to be quite imaginative. The impulsive one tends to have a burden to get things done. The hyperactive person tends to have ample energy that can be turned to benefit others. Therefore, it is important that such individuals be considered for what part they play in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:11-26).

The behaviors above are considered signs of wisdom and maturity, or the lack thereof. Therefore, it is the role of the church and parents to help redirect the attention and energy of individuals with ADD and ADHD. Disciplining such individuals will involve the following:

1) Helping the individual develop a servant’s heart. Many of the behaviors listed above reflect a rather selfish motive in life. Learning to serve others helps individuals push through unpleasant tasks and to be more patient (Philippians 2:3-4).

2) Helping the individuals control their own thinking. The Bible talks of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). God instructs us to focus on eight attributes inPhilippians 4:8. Those who wrestle with fantasy can be encouraged to think on those things that are true.

3) Helping the individuals to renew their minds as to what God teaches about their behaviors (note the above examples).

4) Helping the individuals to establish structure. The Bible describes the Christian life as being a “one another” experience. They met daily in the early church (Acts 2) and we are encouraged to motivate and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). Too often we give people a “pass” on their behaviors when what they need is help in changing them.

5) Helping the individuals by modeling proper behavior. Paul modeled for Timothy (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Undoubtedly, many individuals learn better by seeing than by hearing. It is extra work, but patiently helping such individuals turn the corner will have dividends in the long run.

6) By embracing the special place they fulfill in the body of Christ, we can tap into the gift they have to offer.

There are certainly other things that can help those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. However, parents, pastors, and those who work with children and adults with ADD and/or ADHD should not be discouraged from utilizing the Word of God, which is profitable for teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing (2 Timothy 3:16).

Article from Got Questions


The Edwards' said...

I absolutely agree that ADD and ADHD can be addressed biblically. Something else I discovered through my own children is a healthy diet. By changing my children to a diet void of processed foods with chemicals in them, to a diet full of biblically prepared foods, I averted MOST of their misbehavior and meltdowns that society would have labeled them as ADHD for. The remaining behaviors are much easier to deal with according to the guidelines you have set forth in this post!!

Anonymous said...

As a Christian mother, I am struggling with the realization that my 9 year old may have ADD. We are in the process of getting him tested. I have totally pushed it out of my mind before now, thinking I had to help him learn to focus and be quiet at school. After yet another teacher suggested we test him, I am giving in. I am scared of medication for this. Is it safe, and am I horrible person for wanting to medicate my sweet child?

Raising Godly Children said...

@Anonymous, I don't think you're a horrible person for considering the medication of your child. I do believe God can heal through medicine, no doubt.

Just make sure you get a few doctors recommendations (I would advise) before your proceed. And pray, pray, pray for guidance from the Lord. It's a big decision. And maybe considering talking with your pastor about it and see what he's got to say. Also, talk with some Godly women who maybe have a child with ADD and have dwelt with that in the past....

Jen W said...

Im so Thankful you posted this! My 6 year old has been diagnosed with ADHD and Im just about to give in to meds. We have changed his diet to eat wholesome foods. No processed foods or dyes and there has been no change. He is doing out patient therpy now and we will Homeschool next year to help him on a one on one basis. Which he needs. I will continue to pray, pray, pray for guidance. He has lead me to homeschool (never would have thought that)for a reason. :)

Anonymous said...

Our son was diagnosed ADD in 3rd grade. He's a peaceful child with a strong desire to please, but he just could not focus. I have always made sure there were no dyes, preservatives or additives in our foods, but still the symptoms persisted. After MUCH prayer and many tears, we gave into medicine. I want to tell you that our son is now a high school sophmore, a straight A student, plays on the praise team at church, and works part time. He's a success at everything he does. He works so hard at everything he puts his hand to. He goes off his medicine every summer. He has told us that he's ready to go off completely now, and we respect his judgement. He is free to go off, and he knows if it gets to difficult to concentrate, he can always begin again. We have never told anyone that he is on medication. He's always been afraid of being pre-judged, and we agree with him. I wish that I could say that laying hands on him and praying all those years ago had healed him, but we ended up taking another avenue for our child. I'm glad we didn't let our pride stand in the way. We know children who get a bad reputation for being goof-offs and end up in a pattern of failure in school. Our son has thrived in school and social situations, and we are so proud of him. Medicine wasn't our desire, but humbly we did what was best for him. Thank You Lord for the ways we, as parents, can help our children...even through Doctors.

Mark said...

@Anonymous @Anonymous Christian Mother: My parents doctor recommended that I start taking medication in 5th grade and I took it up to high school. The medicine did help me but not at all in the long run. I struggled with a mental dependency on taking the drug in order to be productive, so in a lot of cases it has made things worse. Again, it did help short term but I can truly say I wish I would have never taken it. I stopped in high school because it affected my personality not to mention sleeping and eating habits. I'm not a doctor but our organs and bodies do not fully develop until our early twenties so I believe that taking the thousands of pills throughout the years probably affected my brain chemistry. I am 23 now and I wonder how my life would have been if no one would have told me I had a "disorder." I know that I do, but then again thinking about it like a disorder could have very well made it more of a self-fulfilling prophesy. I hope that you would try everything you can before starting your child on medication. God has made our minds powerful and with prayer, discipline, patience, and positive thinking your child's behavior could positively improve for the long term. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Anonymous said...

My sister was diagnosed with ADHD, but my parents absolutely refused to medicate her. They turned to a program called 'Interactive Metronome', which is designed to help connect the left and right brain. It's actually meant to help things like dyslexia, but the activities are all active ones and they can help teach an ADHD child to focus and learn to finish tasks. They also turned to homeschooling, where they could help her learn to direct her energy into her work and let her run around outside if she needed. Really the most important thing is to be patient and work hard to follow the guidelines above to teach your children to persevere, help them to establish their own structure and mental discipline. My sister is now a very accomplished junior in high school. She still doesn't quite have the capacity to sit still and study for hours, but her grades are good and for her outside activity she turns to dance. Through God all things are possible!

Charlie said...

There are so many ways to ease the feeling of someone with ADHD; one approach is through the bible, healthy diet, medical treatment or natural ways of treatment. No matter what approach you choose what matters is how effective it will be to your kids.

Tineka said...

As a parent of a ten year old with ADHD, I always seek a Biblical viewpoint. My situation differs because I noticed her distractibilty when she was a toddler. I limit tvs in my home and try to keep things as structured as possible. I tried 3 difernt meds and stopped them due to the side effects that she developed (weight loss/ she's already petite, drowsiness, unconrollable muscle twitching which I had to take her to ER for). She was not her normal self on them. I am now giving her cod liver oil and have her in a private small Christian school. It is hard because her schoolwork suffers and is inconsistent. It takes her a long time to complete assignments and she doesn't get to play and participate in extra curr. activities like before because it takes her so long with homework. It almose fels like I homeschool and as a single parnt it is hard when others comment but don't understand if they haven't experienced it themselves. I try to learn her learning style and have to go over all of her work with her because she gets distracted still in school and it is obvious when her answers to reading assignments don't make sense. I am learning to trust God with this because He made her this way for a reason. I continue to pray for other families going through this. Pray and be encouraged (if you're like me, you've been hard on yourself...just one more lesson/ tutor/ workbook...)Encourage your child and let them know that there is NOT anything "Wrong" with them because that would be saying that God made a mistake. Pray for support and encourage and be an advocate for your child. God bless!

Tineka said...

please excuse typos:-)

Anonymous said...

I have currently had to address this issue with my daughter, praise God it has not effected her school work or learning yet but it could have got to that point quickly. Talking to the dr, we opted to go with an all natural diet- no chemicals, food coloring, or preservatives. Sounds hard but once I knew what to look for it was easy. Within a couple of weeks I have noticed a change in her mannerisms and she seems to have a happier personality as well.

Jill said...

I just wanted to state that I was diagnosed with ADHD as a junior in high school. I am 34 years old now. I struggled all throughout school up until the point I started meds. Medication has changed my life and made me realize I am a smart, capable woman, who just happens to have a disorder involving of an abnormal absorption of a chemical in the brain. You can claim it is a matter of self-control and paying attention. But, until you have had it or have a formal education on the matter, you best not be the one giving advise. People are either understanding or not. Don't let the stigma of these types of articles delay you from giving your child the chance to succeed. However, I do agree that getting more than 1 or even 2 or 3 doctors to agree on a diagnosis would be the way I would go. So many kids are diagnosed that truly have behavior issues, not brain chemistry issues. I am a Christian who loves the Lord. You can certainly encourage your children through the use of the Bible. But, please know that self-control is not easy for any of us. Isn't that apparent in obesity, for example? It's easy to be judgemental towards a disorder that you yourself do not have. Instead, choose God's plan. Be gentle....Be humble...Be the LOVE that Jesus would be.

S said...

Like Jill, I am an adult who continues to battle with ADD. The Bible teachings presented hold true for any children, but for those of us with true brain chemical ADD, just reminding us as children that we ought to behave a certain way and that it is hard for everybody misses the point. As I say, those teachings are applicable for all. However, Bible or no, you cannot doctrine away medical conditions.

Now, in my case, I am allergic or have severe reactions to the medications I have tried. Also, I was an adult, married, and with a BA degree by the time my ADD was diagnosed and medication was tried. Prior to that my symptoms were chalked up to laziness because I was "far too bright and capable" for there to be another explanation. I was raised up in the gospel, taught the value of work, and held to high standards. While this did give me a good foundation and set of values, it did not make my ADD disappear.

My ADD is a factor that goes with me through life and affects, to some extent, what choices are realistically available to me. Nevertheless, we all have our limitations and yet, as referenced in the article, I truly have a place in the body of Christ and have many opportunities to do good and be of service to Him and His children. For that I am truly grateful.

Anonymous said...

The last two comments posted on here was of great comfort to me. I have been struggling with getting a diagnosis for ADHD for years, because of articles such as this. I know that is is well meaning, however, I feel that they do not understand how a person with ADHD struggles to pay attention, be organized, not to be impulsive and so on. I am a 33 year old married mother of 4 and I have had symptoms of ADD for as long as I can remember, though until recently I just believed I was stupid, careless, and scatterbrained. I remember practicing in band every day for hours. I worked very hard and tested very well (top in my class,actually). I really loved music. I had to turn in a paper that recorded how much we had practiced. I forgot many times to turn in this paper and I received a D because of it. It was not a task that I took lightly. I would cry because my teachers would say "lazy", "careless", disorganized" and "not living up to full potential". I graduated with a B average but it was sooooo hard! I was trying my very hardest, and praying for God to help me. That being said....God can heal any manner of disease, but has choose not to heal my mental illness. The apostle Paul had a "thorn in the flesh". God chose not to heal him either. Yet "His grace is sufficient". I am now aware more than ever that I have ADHD. It is not a "free pass", but an obstacle that I can overcome through Christ, which strengthens me(Philippians 4:13). Getting treatment, whether it be diet, biofeedback, essential oils,or medication, does not mean that you are disappointing God. We can still have faith in God as our Great Physician, while we take medicine to treat a fever, right? While I can see that it is hard to take people at their word when they say they have symptoms that you can not physically see (pain, depression, OCD, ect..). Please try to be encouraging to those with disorders such as these. We judge ourselves quite harshly. Please know that while we should strive to do better and be more like Christ, willpower alone is not always the only answer. I hope that this doesn't come across as me being angry. I am not angry but passionate about Christian with mental disorders truly being able to live a life for Christ without unnecessary guilt for treating their illnesses. Love to all!



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