ADHD 2.0

by Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey & M.D.

A person with ADHD has the power of a Ferrari engine but with bicycle strength brakes.

p. xvii

ADHD 2.0 is an book about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder from the authors of the popular Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder—from Childhood through Adulthood. It purports to give up-to-date recommendations for recognizing and coping with ADHD.

I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, so I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can. Someone recommended this book to me when we were discussing my diagnosis.

I like the analogy I quoted above. It’s helpful. And of course I like thinking about my brain as a Ferrari. But overall I have some issues with this book.

Everything seemed OK until page 40, when out of nowhere the authors cited a chiropractor, Robert Melillo, who now says he can cure ADHD and other disorder with balance training.1 Seeing a chiropractor cited for curing mental disorders sent my antennae right up. It wasn’t hard to find this 2018 investigative report by NPR, which concluded there was no evidence for his claims.

On the very next page Hallowell and Ratey recommend another company, Zing Performance. Like Melillo’s business there is some foundation for the theory behind the treatment, but the treatment itself is unproven and controversial.

It would be one thing if Hallowell and Ratey had written something like “The underlying theory is sound and this treatment seems to address it, so we think it could be worth a try. But no promises.”

Instead, this is what they said about Melillo’s Brain Balance Achievement Centers:

[I]n our opinion, they do provide a valuable and usually successful treatment for selected children with more severe ADHD or autism.

p. 40

And this is what they said about Zing Performance:

[T]he gain is clear. These exercises, if done faithfully, do indeed work the vestibular system hard, and many report subsequent improvements in the symptoms of ADHD.

p. 41

There isn’t much disclaiming in those endorsements, even though it seems like there should be quite a lot of it. So after Chapter 3 I stopped trusting Ratey and Hallowell.

The pseudoscientific trend continued. In chapter 5 they recommended the Kolbe Index, a personality test that claims to measure your “innate abilities.” And like other personality tests—Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, etc.—it’s about as scientific as astrology. In chapter 6 they recommended the Feingold diet, which is not supported by good evidence of effectiveness. And OmegaBrite, an expensive omega-3 supplement. (I took this for a while and found it highly effective for upsetting my digestive system.) And CBD, of course, the snake oil du jour. And the Fisher Wallace Stimulator, a cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) device billed as a “superdevice for depression” (not ADHD, notably). I mean, come on.

I’m no scientist, but I am skeptical. Something’s off, here.

I didn’t learn anything about ADHD from this book, and given all the apparent pseudoscience I don’t think I would trust anything in it, anyway. If there is any redeeming quality in the book it is the authors’ appeal to reason in the next-to-last chapter, on medication, which anyone who gobbled up the bunk in the previous pages may especially need to hear.

Confidential to the person who recommended this book to me: Even though I did not like this book you have been extremely helpful to me as I learn about ADHD and how to live with it. Thank you and I’m grateful for you.

  1. From his book, Disconnected Kids: “ADHD, dyslexia, and even autism, among others, can become a thing of the past.” ↩︎