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May 13, 2012

Self-Stimulatory Behavior: Anti-Depressants and Beyond

Written by Dr. John Carosso

It’s only been a week:

It’s been barely a week since my last post about the difficulty deciphering research findings given the bias in the reporting. In that respect, you may already have heard the findings of a recent meta-analysis, regarding the effect of anti-depressants on self-stimulatory behavior, suggesting that studies reporting positive results were more likely to be published than those with negative or neutral results.

The Bane of Bias:

This type of misrepresentation is destructive for many reasons; including that it may dissuade parents from considering such medication even when their child is struggling significantly with self-stimulatory behaviors (hand-flapping, rocking, obsessing…). These findings only result in more confusion and cynicism, which is especially troubling given the evidence that these medications can have a positive impact on certain types of “stims.” I work as a Licensed Child Psychologist, not a psychiatrist, but I have seen countless kiddos benefiting greatly from an antidepressant. However, I have found such benefit more-so for obsessive tendencies, compulsive behaviors, and rumination rather than stims such as hand-flapping or rocking. In any case, it’s vital to consult with your child’s psychiatrist or pediatrician to thoroughly discuss the pro’s and con’s.

Behavioral interventions for “stims”:

Check out my prior post, “De-Stimulating those Stims” for a full description of how to use a litany of behavioral interventions to target those troublesome behaviors.

Speaking of depression:

Talk with your child’s psychiatrist, pediatrician, or DAN doctor about the natural supplement, SAMe (S-Adenosyl Methionine) for the treatment of depression. The recent studies, which appear to be well-done with valid results, have been exceedingly positive with a quick reaction time and few side effects.

Diet and ADHD:

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen just completed an extensive report reviewing the potential benefits of dietary modifications in the treatment of ADHD. The report suggests that any number of dietary changes have produced positive results, such as increasing fatty acids, as well as elimination diets (removing red dye). Okay, like we did didn’t already know this? In any case, the reports also highlights that more research is needed due to some contradictory findings (kinda already knew that too). Nevertheless, given that such dietary approaches are benign if not beneficial, experimentation would appear worthwhile. Professionally, I’ve seen a hundreds of children benefit; talk to a dietitian or DAN doctor in that regard.

More about Depression

There is evidence to suggest that a new computer game is beneficial for treating adolescent depression. The program, called “SPARX”, is interactive, 3-D, and involves the teen taking on various challenges that ultimately attack the child's “Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts.” I don’t know if the program works, but clearly the underlying strategy is vitally important; I tell parents all the time about how to help their kids to view the world in a more positive way. The classic book “Feeling Good”, by Dr. David Burns, is a good read in that regard.

Sum it up

1. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s doctor about any troublesome self-stimulatory behavior, especially if obsessive in nature.
2. Do some research on SAMe
3. Go to, to our Parent Resource section, and find the dietary guide, which can be very helpful regarding ADHD.
4. Attack negative self-talk that contributes to depression.

I think that sums it up. Please comment about your experiences. God bless you.

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