Are Impulsive Kids Actually Trusting Kids?


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Colorado State University seal imageI read an intriguing article today by Kurth and Haussmann, two researchers of ADHD out of Colorado.  They are interested in isolating specific risk factors that may account for the dramatic increase in ADHD over the last several decades.  The general debate goes something like this:  Is there more ADHD than there was three decades ago, are we just noticing it and diagnosing it more, or are we misdiagnosing it?  These investigators are taking a different tack.  Assuming that there is indeed an increase in ADHD what factors may have caused that increase?  There are thousands of possible changes in the environments of our parents and of the baby boomer generation compared to that of our grandparents and great-grandparents, but the one explored in this 2011 paper is the use of a medication administered to women during labor that causes the uterus to contract: Pitocin.

Entitled “Perinatal Pitocin as an early ADHD biomarker: neurodevelopmental risk?”, 172 children were examined comparing Attention deficit Hyperactivity symptoms and the use of  Pitocin and found a strong correlation unlikely to be coincidence: Of kids that had ADHD 67% of them had been exposed to Pitocin.

Pitocin bottle image

Pitocin is synthetic oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the neurohormone of trust.  The “cuddle” hormone, or “love hormone.”  It is what binds us together as human beings, intimately involved with how we feel when someone says, “You are amazing.”  It is what I believe is generated when you feel respected, as respect leads to value, value leads to trust, trust is about oxytocin, and trust leads to unleashing your unlimited human potential.

This makes the Pitocin connection a possible game-changer in the way we understand the impulsivity part of ADHD.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if ADHD was actually a function of being overly trusting, which in our world translates into a kid taking chances and doing things without thinking: being impulsive.  Part of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD includes these and other symptoms:

ADHD chicken shirt


  1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
  2. Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.
  3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

In many ways, Impulsivity can be understood as a lack of caution.  Caution, based on the survival fight-flight response, is a function of mistrust:  The environment is assessed for danger and a decision is made how to proceed.

How amazing it would be if perinatal exposure to pitocin, which is in effect oxytocin, created an overly

trusting child that expects the best outcome from the world, rather than not anticipating an outcome at all!  They do not utilize the fight-flight mechanism, and instead respond “impulsively” to the world because they “trust” the outcome will not endanger their chances for survival.

Danger flow chart image

Using this lens blurting out answers would be because the child trusts that the rest of the world is interested in what they have to say, and that they are empathically connected to the speaker enough to anticipate the end of their sentence.

    1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.Not a brat, have adhd shirtBeing unable to wait one’s turn is a belief in altruism, with hypersensitive oxytocin receptors primed to respond to a world where goodness and giving exist beyond all.
    2. Often has trouble waiting one’s turn.What seems to be interrupting is seen through a trust lens as a behavior in which one’s contributions are valued and encouraged, with no need to wait to be invited.  It is the epitome of the fourth branch and option we have evolved as human beings: friendship.
    3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)A kid with ADHD is not inherently a bad or callous kid.  They may be an oblivious kid, but their impulsivity is not designed with the intention to hurt someone else.  They are not acting impulsively out of anger, but perhaps initially out of a remarkable trust in the world having positive, productive outcomes.  But all too often the world in which they are impulsive responds with the limbic system:  they are moving too fast and could therefore be a danger or a threat.  Our own mistrust activates, and then we may interpret their actions as being purposeful to undermine our rules and guidelines.  After all, we don’t cut in line!

Consistently these kids appear astonished that they have done anything wrong, but just as quick to understand how another person may have been unwittingly offended.  But despite the apology, they do it again.

dopamine chemical signatureWhat is also interesting is how we use dopamine secreting medication to address ADHD.  In essence, perhaps that amine portion sits in the receptor site of oxytocin, modulating its effects, and dampens impulsivity.  Are we slowing a kid down, or making them more cautious and less trusting?

The finding also bolsters an epigenetic consideration:  perhaps for this form of ADHD early exposure around the time of birth has an impact on the way future oxytocin receptors respond to the world around them.  Just as in the Imax Approach, the four domains interact even when the infant is still in the mother’s womb, the ultimate home environment.

I just hope I haven’t been too impulsive in writing this blog.