Beyond The Medical Model: A Biopsychosocial View of Attention Deficit Disorder and other Childhood Developmental Disorders and Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture
Please note: this is a private event.
Based on the book Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder
(U.S. title: Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It)
The diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, or AD(H)D (with or without hyperactivity), is
burgeoning. Nearly three million children in the U.S. take stimulant medications for this
condition, while in Canada the number of Ritalin prescriptions has more than quintupled in the
The prevailing medical model of ADHD views it as an inheritable illness. In his bestselling
Scattered Minds Gabor Maté rejects a narrow genetic perspective – and this despite the fact
that he has been diagnosed with ADD himself, as have two of his children. He shows that while
genetic predisposition may play a role, it is by no means decisive.
Neurobiological research has clearly demonstrated that the development of the human brain is
not genetically determined but rather is significantly influenced and shaped by the environment.
An increase in societal and parental stress, affecting the developing highly susceptible brains
of infants — as opposed to some sudden, highly implausible proliferation of an “ADD gene” on
a large scale — is responsible for the increasing number of cases now being diagnosed among
children and adults.
Such a biopsychosocial view has profound implications for the treatment of AD(H)D and related
developmental disorders in both children and adults. The circuitry and physiology of the brain
are affected by the environment not only during critical periods of early childhood development,
but throughout the human lifetime. Medications may be part of the overall treatment plan, but
they should not necessarily be the primary, and never the only, line of treatment. Too often,
symptom-control approaches actually undermine what should be the long-term goal:
neurobiological and psychological development.
Based on The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture
Half of North American adults suffer from chronic illness – a fact Western medicine views largely
in terms of individual predispositions and habits.
Western medicine imposes two separations, neither tenable scientifically. First, it separates
mind from the body, largely assuming that most chronic illnesses have nothing to do with
people’s emotional and psychological experiences. And yet, a large and irrefutable body of
research has clearly shown that physiologic and behavioural functioning of human beings can
be understood only if we integrate our body functions with those of the mind: functions such as
awareness, emotions, our interpretations of and responses to events, and our relationships with
other people. Second, Western practice views people’s health as separate from the social
environment, ignoring social determinants of health such as class, gender, economic status,
and race. Such factors, in reality, are more important influences on health and longevity than
individual predispositions and personal factors such as genes, cholesterol levels, blood
pressure and so on.
This talk shows how a society dedicated to material pursuits rather than genuine human needs
and spiritual values stresses its members, undermines healthy child development and dooms
many to chronic illness, from diabetes to heart disease, from autoimmune conditions to cancer.