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Ask Dr B about Heritability of ADHD & Executive Function, Emotions & Feelings - 052

adhd ask dr. b executive function podcast Oct 19, 2017

Hey ADDers!  Do you ever wonder about the heritability of ADHD or how your emotions and feelings impact your executive functioning?  In fact, do you know the difference between your emotions and your feelings?  If yes and no, this episode is for you!!

According to Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist and ordained nun, if you allow an emotion to exist for 90 seconds without judging it, it will disappear. According to Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist and author of A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, “once triggered, the chemical released by your brain surges through your body and you have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of anger has completely dissipated from your blood and your automatic response is over. If, however, you remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because you have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”

In this episode, I talk about:

  • The Heritability of ADHD
  • The 90-Second Rule
  • Executive Functioning
  • Emotions
  • Feelings
  • The importance of celebrating your WINS

Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and newfound freedom in your life!

My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses.  And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.


Full Episode Transcript Today is Episode 52 and another Ask Dr B episode.

Hey ADDers! Do you ever wonder about the heritability of ADHD or how your emotions and feelings impact your executive functioning? In fact, do you know the difference between your emotions and your feelings? If yes and no, this episode is for you!!.

So let’s dive in. Your emotions are the more primitive expressions that come from the biochemical reactions in your body and they definitely alter your physical experience. You could equate your emotions to more primitive times when you would have needed to have quick responses to threats or rewards for survival..

The amygdala is a part of the brain that plays a role in emotional arousal and it regulates the release of neurotransmitters that are essential for memory consolidation, which is why emotional memories can be so much stronger and longer lasting than feelings. Emotions are physical and can be measured by blood flow, brain activity, facial expressions and body language. There is a lot of disagreement about how many emotions there are and which ones are considered our emotions. Some sources say there are 8 emotions and other sources say there are 4 emotions. If we go with the four emotions, that’s happiness, sadness, fear and anger. If we go with the 8 emotions, that’s trust (acceptance), anger, anticipation (interest), disgust, joy, fear, sadness and surprise. Another source suggests the 8 emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, disgust, shame/guilt and jealousy/envy. I tend to lean in the direction of the 4 emotions and feel that some of the others listed are more feelings, not emotions. However, I’m not saying that I’m right; just what I’m sensing right now..

There’s something else I want to share with you about emotions, and that’s the 90 second rule. According to Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist and ordained nun, if you allow an emotion to exist for 90 seconds without judging it, it will disappear. According to Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist and author of A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, “once triggered, the chemical released by your brain surges through your body and you have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of anger has completely dissipated from your blood and your automatic response is over. If, however, you remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because you have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.” It’s fascinating to read that all emotions last for less than 90 seconds and if anything continues after that it is because you have added your own story and chosen to hold on to that emotion. This is where my thoughts about us being the “meaning makers” of our lives come in. If the emotion comes as it does and then departs and I do nothing other than observe and allow it to bring it’s message to me, I can move on and either do something about the situation or not, as the case may be. However, if the meaning I give to the emotion is something that “hooks me” and gets me attached to the emotion and the story I make up about the emotion, then I am indeed “hooked.” .

And the more often we “tell the story” that we make up about the emotion, the stronger the connection becomes, because what fires together, wires together, and it will get more and more difficult to disconnect or break free. So, instead of causing your emotions to escalate and last longer, if you simply allow them to naturally pass and flush out, it’s over. If you choose to fight the emotion, it strengthens the emotion and you’ll end up fighting it over and over again. In fact, you may very well have given away your power to the emotion to control you, when you were trying to control it..

The processes that are described in the articles I’ve been reading perfectly describe how I addressed my last panic attack years ago. I was living in Seattle WA and had to drive across one of the bridges there when the panicky sensation started. I pulled my car over to the side of the road, got out and put a blanket down on the ground, and laid down on my back on the blanket looking up at the sky and felt that it was a good day to die because I just couldn’t live that way anymore. I didn’t die, obviously, and what happened instead was that I lay there while the emotional experience intensified to its peak, began to dissolve and then passed. I know that it seemed like it took forever before the experience passed but it well could have been just 90 seconds. The point is that I had always run from that experience in the past and so I never got to examine it up close and learn about it; what it was, how it was, everything that I could learn about it. It didn’t get to swallow me up that day because I had surrendered to it and allowed it to be right there with me while I learned about it first hand. Once I knew more about it and how intense or big or whatever about it, I had something to work with instead of something to run from. By paying attention to what I was experiencing and surrendering to it, I was able to alter my response patterns and break free of any further panic episodes. What a gift that experience was, and I no longer need to be concerned about sensations like that getting a grip on me, because I understand what happens and can work with the meaning I make of those sensations and emotions differently..

So let’s transition to feelings now. Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain, are mental associations and reactions to emotions. They are subjective and influenced by personal experience, beliefs and memories. A feeling is a mental sense of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion. Feelings happen after you have an emotion and involve cognitive input, usually subconscious and cannot be measured precisely as emotions can. I would say that the meaning might have become subconscious, however, at one time it was a conscious meaning we gave to the emotion we felt..

According to Dr. Antonio Damasio, a renowned neuroscientist who directs the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, and has written some very interesting books I’ve enjoyed over the years, “Feelings are mental experiences of body states, which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s responses to external stimuli. (So the order of these events is: I am threatened, experience fear, and feel horror.).

I’m going to stick with the four basic emotions as I see them and tell you a little about them, before I talk about how they impact your executive functions..

· Fear, is an emotion experts know as “withdrawal,” and its function is to warn us of the presence of some danger, either of receiving harm or causing it to ourselves. It allows us to evaluate what our capacity is to face situations we view as threatening. If we learn what “fear” means, then we can learn to manage our fear by attending to whatever the danger is so that we don’t have to continue to experience fear. If we don’t know how to address whatever the danger is, we might need to get help from someone. The point is that rather than ignoring the message of fear and allowing fear to escalate in panic or a phobia, we can address it when its just fear..

· Happiness is an emotion experts know as “the opening emotion.” This emotion helps us create bonds with others, and is classified as one of the expansive emotions (next to anger). Happiness can manifest itself in many ways, and because it is seen as an emotion that allows us to bond with others, it is linked to tenderness, sensuality and eroticism. If we learn to manage the emotion of happiness well, it can bring serenity and a sense of fullness. If we don’t, it can bring us sadness or frustration..

· Sadness is an emotion associated with the withdrawal group (just like fear) and is known as the most reflexive (or automatic) emotion of them all. It always evokes something that has happened in the past and its function is to help us be conscious of a thing, situation or person that we have lost or long for. It also helps us to leave or let go of something that does not belong to us or is bad for us. It also permits others to accompany us, during a time of vulnerability..

· Anger is the second expansive emotion. It stems from an impulse, a way to take something or someone away from us, to get rid of what is bother us, what we believe is unjust or what is doing us harm. Anger should not always be considered negative, because it implies an energy surge and going into action about something that needs to be accomplished because there is a threat. If we misinterpret anger it can become a big problem and we can actually become anger. Sometimes it can help us cleanse ourselves of things that weigh on us; but we have to manage it correctly..

· Once we are conscious of our emotions and we learn to live with them and what they actually mean, it will be much simpler to realize that they are all positives in our lives..

According to Damasio, if you have just an emotion, you would not necessarily “feel it.” To “feel” an emotion, you need to represent in the brain in structures that are actually different from the structures that lead to the emotion or what is going on in the organs when you’re having the emotion..

Summing up…Emotions play out in the body. Feelings play out in the mind. The process of emotions and feelings goes something like this:.

Emotionally evocative stimulus → Emotion → Feeling → Naming → Questioning the emotion → Acting on the information the emotion provides OR deciding not to act because the stimulus is invalid..

So, back to what I’ve said many times before, YOU are the meaning maker of your life experiences. You may not have control over what emotions you experience, but you certainly have control over what feelings you experience, since your feelings are the result of the meaning you give to your emotions. OK so far?.

I want to spend a few minutes talking about my thoughts on the impact of your emotions and feeling on your executive functioning. The development of your executive function begins in childhood and can be derailed by many different occurrences such as family trauma, non-supportive or non-scaffolding style of teaching them. I feel your executive functioning can be hugely impacted by run away emotions – especially those that are often times strong negatives such as fear, anger or sadness. If you embody them, rather than just allowing them to pass through for those 90 seconds or so, they can take root and you can become them. You can become “fear” or “anger” or “sadness” in an ongoing way that can last a lifetime. Or, you can realize that you actually do have some say in how your emotions impact you and what you decide to feel about your emotions or other things in your life. That’s actually a lot of power, if you learn how to work with it..

Today’s episode continues on with answering the questions you have about issues or challenges you experience as an adult living with ADHD or Executive Function Deficits, and offering you hope; real hope. How much time do we have? Not much. So let’s get to it..

Now back to being an adult with ADHD or Executive Function Challenges and three questions from a listener as well as some action steps and a favorite quote of mine..

But first, it’s been a while since I acknowledged all of you listeners in the many places in the world you are listening from and wanted to do that today. Malaysia, Jersey, Latvia, Mauritius, Iceland, Egypt, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, India, Tunisia, Romania, Kenya, Israel, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, France, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sri Lanka, Finland, Croatia, Mexico, Singapore, Belgium, Netherlands, Bahrain, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Philippines, Hungary, Norway, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and most all the states in the United States. That’s 42 countries plus “other regions” which can’t be identified from the stats. I want to thank you all for your loyalty, suggestions, and support, and for being a part of my life..

And, I have decided to re-brand my show because the current title, Harness Your ADHD Power, just doesn’t reflect what I’ve been talking about since the show launched the end of April. I received an email from a listener who offered me an alternative name for my show and I really like it. So, just as soon as I get all the little details taken care of, the new name of my show will be “Living Beyond ADHD” with Dr B. The listener who suggested this name said that they feel like it offers hope, which is a big part of the work I do. If we don’t have hope, real hope, then what is the point of doing the work?.

Now, transitioning to today’s three questions, from Mario in CA:.

· “Are there any statistics on ADD being passed down from the parents?.

· Are you more likely to have if both your parents have ADD or is it the same if only one has it?.

· How early do the symptoms start showing up in children?”.

Thank you for your questions Mario! They are great questions and there is definitely conflicting information in the literature..

What I was taught is there is a 25% chance with one parent and a 50% chance with two parents both parents having ADHD, but I’ve read higher and lower stats. The literature also indicates that adopted kids have a higher rate of ADHD, which again many difference reasons are given for that such as less than optimal care during pregnancy or early childhood, trauma such as separation anxiety or other traumas. There is research on the biomarkers of ADHD, and the information that just because genes for AHDD are present, it doesn’t mean they will be expressed. Genes get “triggered.”.

According to Dr. Kenny Handelman, ADD and ADHD are very “heritable”, meaning that they are a very genetic disorder. There have been lots of “twins and family” studies done and here’s what some of those research outcomes indicate:.

· If a person has ADHD then.

o An identical twin has a 78-92% chance of having ADHD as well.

o 25-35% of siblings have ADHD as well.

o 15-20% of the mothers have ADHD as well.

o 25-30% of the fathers have ADHD as well.

· If a parent has ADHD, there is a 20-54% chance that his/her child will have ADHD as well.

· If both parents have ADHD, no research stats are available however, various articles state there is a very high chance of a child having ADHD as well.

· So, if you have ADHD and plan to have kids, each child has about a 20-54% chance of having ADD or ADHD.

As for just how early symptoms of ADHD begin to show up, is a difficult one for me to respond to. I say that because as a researcher myself for about 5 years and the Principal Investigator and Study Coordinator for a study of kids and teens with ADHD, the youngest age child that could be in the study was age 6 and I felt that I did not have enough expertise with child development to clearly discern the difference between normal child development and level of activity and the beginnings of ADHD. .

There are definitely kids who are so extreme in their behavioral expressions that there is no doubt that there is something outside the norm going on. However, there are also many kids who are questionable as to whether or not their developmental path is normal for them. I found myself wanting to be extremely cautious and very clear about what was being said and expressed behaviorally before coming to any conclusions. And there were parents who were pretty insistent that their kids had ADHD because someone else had diagnosed them years prior, however, they definitely didn’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD when I met with them and did a comprehensive intake as well as extensive clinical testing. In fact, when I didn’t diagnosis ADHD in some of the kids, the parents were upset and wanted to know what answers would have needed to been given in order to meet the diagnostic criteria. We talked about their insistence in their child meeting the diagnostic criteria and the reasons weren’t appropriate. .

So, I would say that I am not the expert here on what age symptoms would start to show up in kids because there are so many important factors to be considered in responding to that question..

So thank you again Mario for your three questions for today’s Ask Dr B episode..

And it our episode wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about celebrating your WINS, since they are such an important part of my philosophy. You can shift your feelings and thinking by celebrating your WINS; you seriously can! Since what we pay attention to grows, paying attention to what’s right instead of what’s wrong helps to generate more of what’s right. So celebrate them all, big and small, with a full heart of appreciation for all that is right about you and what you are doing..

And please don't short-change yourself by thinking that it’s pointless or stupid to reward yourself for things you’re “supposed to do.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Are you really going to make yourself wait until something HUGE happens to celebrate? Does something HUGE happen everyday? Probably not! But the kind of WINS I’m talking about can and often do. And from what I see, they are an absolute necessity to getting yourself out of the emotional ditch of whatever ails you and into a better attitude and way of living. And based on the feedback I get from the students in my ADDventures in Achievement program, this regular practice of celebrating their WINS is changing their lives for the better..

Each of us is like a puzzle with so many pieces that need to put together to form the picture of our life and if we get overwhelmed by all the pieces we see in front of us and never put the picture together, it’s a huge loss for everyone. So, please… It’s your responsibility to put your picture together and if you need some help, ask someone – ask me!!.

So, what’s it going to be for you today? What are you going to celebrate? Maybe you’ve begun to develop a little foresight and aren’t getting hit with things at the last minute; that’s certainly a WIN. Perhaps you’ve gone through a box of papers and been able to get rid of most of them; that’s a wonderful WIN. Maybe you’re tackling your sleep habits and working on figuring out what is driving you to stay up late at night, even when you know you need to be going to sleep; that’s definitely a WIN. You get the point; celebrate all of them; big and small. And none of this “half-hearted celebrating”; you’ve got to mean it. Exaggerate your emotions. YES!!!! WOW!! AWESOME!! You want your acknowledgement and celebration to register in your neurology with the power to move you and shift your state. Many of us need a higher level of stimulation or intensity for things to register. So, if that’s you, give that to yourself and exaggerate your celebration so you can actually feel it..

And listen…you’re not broken! You’re not defective or less than. You are YOU! You have gifts and talents that may be different than others but valuable nonetheless. You are a precious “human being” whose value is a given; because I am not talking about you as the “human doing” that most of society views you as. And you may be missing some skills that are making your life very difficult right now, and yet skills can be learned. You may need to make some changes, and you may be in the very early stages of making those changes. If you are willing to be a student of your own life and develop a deeper understanding of yourself and how you are put together, and offer yourself a lot of compassion and patience, plus the time, effort and energy it’s going to take to make the necessary changes, these things will happen for you. I know this is true because my students are learning skills they’ve been missing most of their life and it’s amazing to share in the transformation of their thinking and behaviors and aha moments..

Please don’t let yourself be one of the 80% of people who don’t ever make it to Adoption or more permanent change or even the 80% who want to change but never actually end up making the changes they want for many different reasons. There is training and support available to you to ensure, to the best of my ability, that you don’t become one of the 80% who don’t make it. Rather, that you are one of the 20% who do..

It’s clear to me that there are many different points along your journey where you really need support, encouragement, accountability and whatever training and answers you need right then and there to keep you going toward your goal(s). I definitely don’t see this as a solo journey, which is why I decided to make some changes to the enrollment process for my program, ADDventures in Achievement. I’ve re-purposed the Waitlist, so that now, as soon as you get yourself on the Waitlist, I’ll be reaching out to you to find out what your current challenges are and what your goals are, so we can determine if this program is right for you. And if it is, I’ll offer you the opportunity to enroll in the program right now, at the current pricing, instead of waiting until the public re-launch of this program near the end of this year, which will include a price increase due to the new content about executive function that is formally being added to the program. All the current Workshops and Coaching Calls weave in executive functioning so current members don’t have to wait to benefit from these life-changing skills. This could be you too!.

So, if you’re curious about whether or not ADDventures in Achievement is right for you, and you don’t want to wait to learn how to improve your executive functioning AND you want to freeze your membership costs at the lowest pricing it will ever be, now is the time to act. Put your name on the Waitlist and I’ll call you at the number you provide for me so we can chat. This program is definitely the place to be if you want help understanding what’s been holding you back and want to learn the skills to break free of your stuckness and start living the life you’ve only wished for..

How your brain, mind and body works is the uniqueness of you. And if how you are put together currently is “dis-ordered” it doesn’t have to stay that way. Your uniqueness doesn’t have to be a limitation; it can be your strength once you understand YOU and what you need to live as your best self. It’s my hope that you’ll reach out to me now and get what you need. .

And since this is still ADHD Awareness Month, I want to remind you about this year’s International Conference on ADHD, which is being co-hosted for the first time by ADDA and CHADD. Pretty cool! That’s November 9-12 in Atlanta GA. You’ll find the links to get your tickets in the episode description and in the episode post on my website..

Why am I talking about this conference on my show, especially when I haven’t talked about any other events or resources on my show other than what I’ve created for you? I’ll tell you. You never know where you are going to hear just one idea that changes the course of your life. I know I’ve had many such moments when I look back on my life. Maybe your moments are at this conference. .

So, check out all the links in the episode description and learn about this first time in history opportunity to attended the ADDA and CHADD co-hosted ADHD Conference, in case it’s something that calls to you, as well as the link to the Waitlist to chat with me and find out if joining the ADDventures in Achievement program right now is for you. I don’t want you to miss out on anything!.

A Favorite Quote:

That has been the fuel for much of what I’ve been doing the past 5 years, is an Anonymous quote saying, “Set a goal so big you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.” None of the new things I’m doing today like live video, teaching online or a podcast show were possible for me 5 years ago and they are my current reality. So, the question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is the big goal you need to set so you can grow into the person who can achieve it? And, are you going to get yourself the support and training you need to become that person?” I hope so; and perhaps ADDventures in Achievement is the place to be so you can become that person with the support of our community and training I provide..

That’s about it for today’s episode about heritability of ADHD & executive function, emotions & feelings. .

It means a lot to me to know that your life is getting a little bit better every time we get together. I do hope that you will take some positive action because for things to change, you have to change. And that means taking action. Remember, there’s a PDF transcription of this episode in the resources. Plus, I’d love to get to know you in the community group I created on Facebook or in ADDventures in Achievement..

So, if you benefited from today’s episode, take action now and share this show with your friends and family. You can rate the show and not write a review or do both, so I know what you think of the content. Whatever you’re willing to take action on today will ripple out into the world and impact the course of your life as well as that of others you may never know about..

And if you don’t want to have to remember to look for new episodes, just subscribe and the newest episode will be in your feed by 1 am Pacific Time on Mondays and Thursdays..

So thanks for listening… Until the next time… Bye for now…


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