Scattered Minds explodes the myth of attention deficit disorder as genetically based – and offers real hope and advice for children and adults who live with the condition.
Gabor Maté is a revered physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry and psychology – and himself has ADD. With wisdom gained through years of medical practice and research, Scattered Minds is a must-read for parents – and for anyone interested how experiences in infancy shape the biology and psychology of the human brain.
Scattered Minds: - Demonstrates that ADD is not an inherited illness, but a reversible impairment and developmental delay - Explains that in ADD, circuits in the brain whose job is emotional self-regulation and attention control fail to develop in infancy – and why - Shows how ‘distractibility’ is the psychological product of life experience - Allows parents to understand what makes their ADD children tick, and adults with ADD to gain insights into their emotions and behaviours - Expresses optimism about neurological development even in adulthood - Presents a programme of how to promote this development in both children and adults
Dr Gabor Maté (CM) is a Hungarian-born Canadian physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and is also widely recognized for his unique perspective on Attention Deficit Disorder and his firmly held belief in the connection between mind and body health.
Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944, he is a survivor of the Nazi genocide. His maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz when he was five months old, his aunt disappeared during the war, and his father endured forced labour at the hands of the Nazis.
He emigrated to Canada with his family in 1957. After graduating with a B.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a few years as a high school English and literature teacher, he returned to school to pursue his childhood dream of being a physician.
Maté ran a private family practice in East Vancouver for over twenty years. He was also the medical co-ordinator of the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital for seven years. Currently he is the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and resource centre for the people of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Many of his patients suffer from mental illness, drug addiction and HIV, or all three.
Most recently, he has written about his experiences working with addicts in In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
He made national headlines in defense of the physicians working at Insite (a legal supervised safe injection site) after the federal Minister of Health, Tony Clement, attacked them as unethical.
I was surprised how much I *didn't*like this book, given all the glowing reviews.
Another Amazon reviewer nailed why:
"While Dr. Mate' does give some credence to the genetics of ADD, he pretty much leaves the implications of this behind as he goes into a long description of failed or inadequate parental attachments being the primary reason for ADD symptomatology (as if the parents of ADD kids didn't feel guilty enough about passing on a genetic inheritance they most likely didn't know they had). Even if this was not the doctor's intent, it is so pervasive in this book that one cannot help but feel that if a child or an adult exhibits ADD symptoms, that there is "someone" to blame, not just for the genetic inheritance but for bad parenting."
I have twins. One has ADD symptoms. They were raised under identical conditions, yet I am supposed to believe I was a shitty parent to one and not the other. Interesting.
"Another thing that bothered me about the book is his appeal to authority without citing the studies he's using to support his theories. Does Dr. Mate' believe his readers to be incapable of checking citations to the studies he's referring to, assuming they have indeed been published in peer-reviewed publications?"
I want to see real evidence behind assertions, and I didn't see much.
Since I have a house full of ADD/OCD people I've read far too many websites and books on ADD, so when my sister gave me yet another one, I didn't rush to read it. I should have. Pretty soon I was taking it with me everywhere I went, reading in the bathtub...usually only fiction makes the cut for a bathtub-read.
This is going to sound like an infomercial, but, really, this book has changed my life. It isn't just about ADD; it's about how to parent both your children and yourself in a way that promotes healthy mental well-being. Every parent should read it. Definitely everyone who thinks they or their children might possibly have ADD should read it. I look at parenting in a radically different way. I'm a better mom in every way. I'm finally working through my own psychological "unfinished business." If only I'd found this when my oldest child was a baby. Of course it hadn't been written then. But I wish it had. And that I had read it. If you are a parent or just a messed-up person like me, you should read it, too. Go get it. Now.
I have been putting it off- I knew it wasn't going to be an easy read. I was diagnosed with ADD at a young age and was subjected to the medications at doses that would have been too much for an adult. This wreaked havoc on my psyche, and I am still recovering from those years. Quitting was just as hard being on it- the fallout and withdrawal were some of the worst days of my life. For a long time, I disavowed everything about ADD- the medication, the diagnosis, even its existence for others. The pain was too great. This is something Gabor Mate understands and explains in this book.
I've made good progress in my recovery, and have found my middle path. ADD exists. I have it. It doesn't require medication but can sometimes benefit from it when skilfully applied. Its definitely a diagnosis that is being abused, like many in the DSM. The symptoms are real, but they don't have to be permanent, and what is permanent can be helped and harnessed.
It's caused by pain. The pain of misalignment, the pain of youth, the extreme pain of the sensitive child. Its cured by addressing the pain, and its sources. Gabor Mate spells out how developmental trauma causes symptoms that are aggregated under the banner of ADHD, and does so with the sensitivity and understanding of someone with skin in the game. Himself a survivor of the trauma of the holocaust, he draws from his ADD, the ADD of his children and that of his patients.
He covers how ADD develops, how it changes or doesn't change, in adulthood, how it can be helped and healed, and how we can adjust to prevent it from occurring.he introduces concepts like 'counter will' and 'unconditional positive resolve', which provide great insight and aid in the process of self-understanding and self-healing from the symptoms of ADD.
I especially enjoyed how explored the link between shame and ADD, his exploration of the phenomenology of childhood ("children swim the unconscious of their parents"), and his exploration of attention itself- he gets downright Wattsian at certain points. This is high praise.
Mate reframes ADD as Attunement Deficit Disorder- and provides the first steps toward attunement, the first steps towards healing. I finished the book in less than 24 hours, ravenously, and i am left impressed and hungry for more of his words. Five stars.
P.S I just wrote what is basically a book report during my free time, of my own volition. Didn't get distracted once. Fuck yeah.
Oh wow. So I knew this was a bit marmitey in the neurodivergent community, but I thought it would be a good insight into ADHD, and with Gabor Mate claiming the title himself, I figured it couldn't be that bad a read? But I'm shocked that so many people here are giving this five stars. There is very little referencing, it is mainly his assertions and interpretations of other studies that he does not actively link to. And the whole premise is that kids with ADHD are basically the result of bad parenting and poor attachment. He does say that there is a genetic disposition but very quickly moves past it and even ends the book with the phrase "If we can actively love, there will be no attention deficit, and no disorder". Like. Huh? I agree with the social model of disability but this is full on denial, surely? I'm so confused. And angry, I think, that mothers are once again (and let's be really clear here, he actively uses the word "mother" claimed as a placeholder for primary carer while also saying that anything other than the mother is a trauma...) handed an impossible task, with no support, and then blamed for everything. I'm so mad I wasted my life on this book.
Do not read this book unless you believe that parents are to blame for their children’s ADHD. I am a licensed therapist and was appalled to read about his “beliefs” and see them disagree with the scientific research behind the causes of ADHD.
This book is amazing and really changed my thinking about ADD/ADHD. Maté describes in detail how ADHD is not genetic, but how a genetically sensitive brain protects itself with ADD behaviors. I've become a bit of an evangelist about this book, since I see things so differently now. Things to learn in this book: Unconditional Positive Regard, Counterwill, Wooing the Child, Unfinished Business.
If you want to get some insight onto a child with ADHD or oppositional behavior, check out this book. Turns out many of the things we do to control our children actually perpetuate the problems. Maté puts forth the notion that ADD can actually be healed with the brainpower of a parent who takes stock of their own "Unfinished Business" and pays close attention to the growth and healthy development of their child's brain processes. Fascinating, compelling, inspiring.
As someone with attention issues and ADD in the family, I felt so understood by this author. As the mother of someone with attention issues, I found inspiration, and our family dialogue has changed to a mutual seeking of solutions rather than 'who's in control.'
pg. 320 says it all: "The world is much more ready to accept someone who is different and comfortable with it than someone desperately seeking to conform by denying himself. It's the self-rejection others react against, much more than differentness. So the solution for the (ADD) adult is not to 'fit in', but to accept his inability to conform." Hooray, Dr. Mate! Thanks for giving us permission to be ourselves!
My feelings about this book are complex and I'm not sure if i can adequately express them.
The book is very interesting and makes a lot of good points. I found it easily readable if a little repetative. The genetic component was explained well but I have a big issue with how the emotional component was expressed.
I feel the book makes very big sweeping statements about the role of parenting and is very much bias towards a apportioning blame. The book is written as though it has case studies but they were not referenced. Much of the information seemed to be from Dr Mate's experience and so we are expected to believe that all of the cases of ADD/ADHD he sees have an parental issue as well as a genetic issue. The book feels to me like opinion with no real science to back it up. I feel this is dangerous considering the implications for people already dealing with ADD either themselves or with loved ones
An excellent resource for those wanting to learn more about the disorder. And an interesting hypothesis about the origin of ADHD that may or may not resonate with each reader.
My only real point of contention is the author's assertion that tuning out and dissociation are the same thing. Sure, they can coexist at different levels at the same time, but in my experience they definitely are not the same thing.
The long, extremely personal version:
This book has quite literally changed my life.
At the end of June, my therapist asked if I had ever been diagnosed with ADD as a child. I said no, and found the idea amusing.
Prior to this book, my understanding of ADD/ADHD was very minimal, and I literally never even considered it in relation to myself. Reading is and always has been my favourite pasttime. I didn't have behavioural problems growing up. Sure, I have always been extremely spacey and inattentive, disastrously disorganized and distracted, chronically forgetful and tuned out (and so and and so forth...). But I didn't fit into that stereotypical idea of a hyperactive problem-child ADHD kid, and I was extremely ignorant about the disorder, so, yeah, why would I associate myself with it? Never crossed my mind.
I borrowed it from the library and began, highly skeptical. Everyone has attention problems to some degree, right? Well. I very soon realized I actually had ZERO idea what ADHD was outside of the stereotypical notion of it, and did some obsessive online research alongside reading this book. Not even two chapters in, I realized, "Shit, this is me. THIS IS ME." I returned the book to the library and bought my own copy to mark up and make notes. I've since been reading anything else about the disorder I can find.
At my next therapy session, my therapist asked if I had read the book and I said yes, and that it had resonated with me. She asked what resonated, and I said, "Well, if I do have ADD, it would explain my entire life. It would fill in all the blanks and areas that my history with depression and anxiety don't account for, that I always tried to make them fit into to explain something that didn't make sense." Something that didn't make sense because, without the missing piece of ADD, it quite literally couldn't make sense. Then we discussed why, etc, blah blah. At the end of the appointment I promised her I would talk to my physician about a diagnosis.
To make a long story short, I have now very recently been officially diagnosed with Adult ADHD-PI. It's been a life-altering process, and a strangely liberating one. Finally, finally, I understand what the hell was wrong with me my entire life. All the frustration and confusion. It adds up. Everything that didn't make sense, makes sense. This book has given me a better, more educated understanding of the disorder, and it helped put me on the path to better understanding myself. My relief when I was diagnosed was, frankly, astronomical.
I am still reading this book - it's taking me quite some time to plow through. I'm finding myself quite irritated with the information being shared. In particular, the chapter about family and parents in particular. I respect Gabor Mate, his work and research into this area and area of addictions, however, I feel this chapter in particular is quite - all over the place. He speaks of the parents of the children with ADHD/ADD, as "anxious and stressed" who create the environment that is harried and stressful, without routine or safety, and as such, ADD is formed in the infant's brain. He states parents are not connected with extended family, move frequently, often misuse alcohol and drugs, there is usually some form of violence in the family and the children grow up without ability to form memories. I felt I had stepped back in time when doctors used to believe all mental illness was created from the uptight, inflexible stressed mother and distant, cold, alcoholic father.
Then he shifts over to speak about epigenetics and how past history affects the genes, which in turn creates changes in the brain of a developing fetus and a child is born with ADD.
From there he speaks about how there is no place for blame - which I agree with 100% - and all he is stating, is what he has noticed in his practice and research.
In an earlier chapter, he speaks on how poverty and lack of proper nutrition affects an infant's ability to properly develop, which creates ADD - which he states doesn't happen in North America as children are not starving and poverty isn't an issue. That comment flies in the face of known facts about childhood poverty in North America.
I feel like he's all over the place with this book. There is no real consistency, it bounces from one thought to another, from one theory to another and then back to his life story.
I have ADHD. No one was surprised when I was diagnosed, as it was evident from the 'get go' as my mother says. Yet I could not and still cannot find myself in this book.
As I told a friend, I believe ADHD will one day be banished and we'll learn, we all have different brains - which is a good thing. We won't work so hard to force everyone to conform - that's my hope for the future. Living with ADHD is what I describe to people as "beautifully abstract and creative." I grew up in a home with two solid parents who supported my creative brain and encouraged me to explore the world, through my eyes -not the eyes of society or that of the school system. I have learned over the years how to organize and adhere to a time schedule; I still lose my keys on a regular basis, but seriously, who doesn't. I have strong childhood memories and my family didn't move every year. As I said, I wasn't nor were my parents written into this book. Nor were many others who I know, who lived and grew up similar to me and have ADHD.
I will continue to keep reading it and I hope that it comes together by the end. At this point, I feel very mixed and irritated about this book.
A friend of mine who is a parent asked me about this book, and this is what I told her. About me: I am not a parent, and I have ADD. _________
Good on you for wanting to learn about what might be going on with [your daughter]! From the little bit of time I've spent with her, it seems like a definite possibility, but everyone who has ADD has different experiences and "symptoms." The best expression of that for me was in a book by Sari Solden called Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, but clearly that's focused on adult women (though she does talk quite a bit about girls too).
Scattered is GREAT. It's one of the best books on ADD I've read yet, and I'm so glad I'm reading it. What I'm appreciating is that he doesn't pander, and he doesn't wrap it up as simply a brain function issue, which is what I've felt to be true. I'm personally convinced that my experience isn't just biology. I don't think I'd be the way I am if I didn't live in a culture that is saturated with information, that removes us far from our natural rhythms, that requires me to be vigilant all the time, that values achievement to a degree that's ridiculous, that insists on fast and "good enough" over the spacious reflection and full consideration that engenders much better than good enough... I could go on. Those things are challenges for everyone, but they are excruciating for someone who has the misfortune of a certain set of developmental sensitivities and brain function challenges. Maté has evidence that supports this instinct of mine, so it's been fascinating to see the facts behind it.
While he acknowledges the effect of the cultural situation, Maté focuses primarily on the imprint of the family - the closest unit of culture. My only caution to you in reading it is that because his research focus is on the role of the parent/child interaction in the development of ADD, it gets to feel pretty blameful of parents. He is very good about being fair and equivocating, but at 75% through the book, I'm like "I get it, my mom was stressed and it affected me." At this point I need some relief from that story. Maté is careful to point out that the factors parents might bring to "causing" the child's ADD are in many cases stressors that they themselves are not aware of (they may even be legacy and thus implicit to them), and that clearly most parents do not want to harm their children... but if I were a parent reading it, I'd be hard-pressed to fight off overwhelming feelings of guilt.
He also gives readers a lot of hope that people with ADD can find peace and live wonderful lives. I've appreciated a slew of evidence-based recommendations for managing and healing my own ADD, and I had a breakthrough as a result of reading them; that's worth the price of admission alone. I haven't yet read the recommendations about children, but my guess is that there's equally helpful information about supporting a child with ADD.
I honestly can't say whether, as a parent, I'd read this book. I probably would, and then spend a week crying, but ultimately be really glad to have the knowledge, and then call it up every time I fail my child as proof of my inadequacy, and then be grateful for the knowledge it's given me to support my child well... As an adult with ADD, however, reading this book has been 100% valuable - and it's very engaging. I'm devouring it.
Insulting and very lacking in proper scientific facts! I'm utterly shocked that such an old fashioned and disproven theory is being shared as new facts and that people are actually believing it. ADHD is passed on through genetics and he ignores this fact and writes that it's from bad parenting the child as an infant.
I don't have ADD, as far as anyone can tell, but share enough of the challenges related to it that this book helped a lot.
"ADD adults don’t have low self-esteem because they are poor achievers, but it is due to their low self-esteem that they judge themselves and their achievements harshly. It is also, in part, due to low self-esteem that people do not reach their full potential, do not strive to locate within themselves fonts of creativity and self-expression, do not venture to embark on activities and projects where success is in doubt. They feel safer not trying, because their poor self-regard is terrified at the risk of failure. Much of my initial counseling with people is to help them recognize that in many ways the problem is not in what they have done in life but in how they view themselves. There live human beings afflicted with far more debilitating impairments who do not necessarily hold the low opinion of the self prevalent among ADD adults. The deep shame of adults with attention deficit predates any recollections of poor achievement. The association between low self-esteem and attention deficit disorder is not that the first arises from the second, but that they both arise from the same sources: stress in the parenting environment and disrupted attunement/ attachment. Healthy development of self-esteem needs the atmosphere of what Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard.”* It requires that the adult world understand and accept as valid the child’s feelings, from which kernel the core self will grow. A child taught to disregard or mistrust her innermost feelings and thoughts assumes automatically that there is something shameful about them, and therefore about her very self."
DNF. Someone else nailed it with: "While Dr. Mate does give some credence to the genetics of ADD, he pretty much leaves the implications of this behind as he goes into a long description of failed or inadequate parental attachments being the primary reason for ADD symptomatology (as if the parents of ADD kids didn't feel guilty enough about passing on a genetic inheritance they most likely didn't know they had). Even if this was not the doctor's intent, it is so pervasive in this book that one cannot help but feel that if a child or an adult exhibits ADD symptoms, that there is "someone" to blame, not just for the genetic inheritance but for bad parenting."
I especially "enjoyed" the part about a serial cheater discovering his relationship issues stemmed from his mom averting her gaze too quickly once in infancy.
Then, I really checked out after the recommendation about how if an ADD child's tendency to go slowly in the morning is becoming a family pain point, just start being late to school. Great advice!
This is a most readable "meta-work" that elegantly synthesizes many important insights into developmental disorders, parental challenges and our shared cultural attention deficit trajectory. De-pathologizes the diagnosis of ADD and puts in into the profoundly meaningful and useful context of the new understandings of the neurobiology of attachment. You can kill two birds with this one book: gain important insights into the epidemic of ADD while learning the basics about "new attachment theory" and brain development. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
This book was genuinely life-changing for me. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone who has ADHD, thinks they might have ADHD, or is just a hypersensitive individual who struggles with emotional regulation. It made me cry many times, and has lead to many positive changes in my sense of self and my ability to organise my life and relationships (with friends and family). I have become a calmer person now, much less anxiety-prone than I ever thought possible.
Psychobabble fluff. More evidence to my assertion that the behavioral sciences are less a science and more speculative conjecture mixed with and driven by studies that do not properly control enough for cultural variables.
Reading this book was so incredible - it offered insight and changed my perspective on all the relationships in my life, though I picked it up because my boyfriend was recently diagnosed. I have a new understanding of my childhood and the amazing challenge of parenting, the children I care for and how to more compassionately observe my own patterns and care for myself. Not to mention my peek into the mind of the ADD boyfriend! I wanted to call someone or shout from the rooftop after every page because I felt so enlightened. Highly recommend!
I know, I know. You're reconsidering your opinion of my mental abilities and private beliefs. Before you make a final decision, let me share a few experiences.
1. Two parents that I know of, one extremely abusive, but neither with any sign of ADHD, who have 3 children with horrible ADHD and the other with major depression issues.
2. A brother of mine who had terrible ADHD who is much much better after marrying a wonderful woman. He graduated with a 4-year college degree, holds down a solid job, has a career path planned, and manages several hefty side-responsibilities. And, yes, that is the only thing that changed.
3. A friend who has rampant ADHD texted me once while she was crying, saying that all she wanted was a hug. I wasn't able to do anything, but suggested she ask her parents. "That's not something they do. I'd be embarrassed." she replied. Her parents weren't abusive. They just didn't speak her love language.
4. A comment from my husband after we got married saying that, having grown up at the beginning of the YouTube age, he had "given himself mild ADHD."
So Maté's book interested me. His thesis: genetics and childhood attachment both play a part in ADHD.
Now, what you're all wondering, do I agree with him? I think that he needs more studies, more stats, etc. I also think, based on my experiences above, that his observations are intriguing. Also, it is good to remember that he never claims that healing attachment issues will completely heal ADHD. It won't, he says. But proper treatment and, sometimes therapy, will help heal the poor relational pathways that will make living with it much more joyful.
Regardless of his thesis, this has fantastic sections on child development. He also does an amazing job of helping the average reader understand what living with ADHD is like(at least, from a long-term observer of people with ADHD, I think so. But I could be wrong). I also really liked his tips for teaching those with ADHD. His observations on guilt and anxiety were also really helpful. Even if you don't agree with his thesis, I think you'll find a lot here to help you understand what living with it is like.
Maté's book presents an interesting theory of ADD, but it is not particularly useful.
Parents of ADD children or ADD adults themselves who have turned to this book for advice may find it frustratingly wishywashy. Maté ends Scattered Minds thus: "If we can actively love, there will be no attention deficit and no disorder."
If you're hoping for practical advice rather than platitudes, try reading Delivered From Distraction instead.
I had no idea when I started reading this book that it would open up Pandora’s box of sorts, helping me make sense of many things that of happened in my family life and in friendships. I found it necessary to confront my weaknesses in parenting and marriage, and I also found a way to forgive myself for the many mistakes I’ve made. What does this have to do with attention deficit disorder? Quite a lot actually. This book discusses how the bonding experience of infants and mothers can be impactful both in the short and long-term. Babies born to mothers who are under a great deal of stress, who are experiencing grief, or experiencing postpartum depression coffin pick up on signs of distress from their mothers, causing them to react fearfully or with depression themselves. This means their brains may grow more slowly and neurons begin firing in a different pattern than those of a baby with a relaxed and healthy mother. Children raised with these conditions may come to see fearfulness and stress as normal, and that can lead to things like addiction, depression, anxiety, and attention deficit issues. I happen to know that my mother was experiencing grief, anxiety, and physical illness right after I was born. On top of that, she discovered fairly soon that I was blind, and that must have upset her. I would have picked up on some of her tension, and that might have inadvertently led to some of the depression issues I struggle with today. I experienced extreme postpartum depression and panic attacks after my daughter was born. On top of that, my eyes had to be removed, so I don’t make totally natural iContact. What impact did these things have on my daughter when she was an infant? I could have gotten lost in a forest of guilt over these things if I’d stopped in the middle of the book. Fortunately, science has begun to teach us and really understand that there are things we can do as adults to change our wiring and create systems and support networks to help us if we are scattered. Our brains still have the ability to grow and change pathways. It is a new field, and there is still a lot for us to learn. There is hope, and that is what matters.
Dr. Gabor Mate's approach to Attention Deficit Disorder is radically different from many, as he builds a salient case for our socio-emotional environment plays a key role in both the cause and treatment of this condition, with genetic factors important but insufficient. He also refuses to think of ADD as a "disease" and while pharmacological treatments can produce dramatic improvements in some, it is more important to deal with what has "trained" or supported a person's inability to stay attentive to important tasks, than to generate endorphins with methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, et al). Mr Mate writes from personal experience, and candidly shares his on struggles and the impact on his family. I intend to read more of his work.
Габор Мате е изключителен човек с изключителен ум. Нестандартния му поглед прескача утвърдените клиширани научни открития в търсене на истинско органично познание. Последвах го като гуру, който наистина знае някои отговори още след филма му The Wisdom of trauma. Това беше и основната причина да посегна на тази книга, с тематика, която смятах, че не ме засяга пряко. Но някак дори и да не страдам от СДВ, а и мисля, че и децата ми не са засегнати от този синдром, все пак успях да се припозная в тази книга и отново да намеря много отговори. Вярвам, че всеки родител може да научи много от нея, без значение дали в семейството има или не случаи на СДВ. П.С. Корицата на българското издание можеше да е доста по-хубава.
I heard a lot of positive things about this book and was looking forward to reading it. However the more I read the more confused I was by the lack of citations to any actual research. This would have been fine if he stated up front that this is his own anecdotal experience with ADHD and what he felt drove it.
However the book is positioned as a source of truth and insight into ADHD generally and he uses his role as a medical professional to provide authority to what he’s written.
I’m rather disappointed overall that this is shaping the narrative on ADHD for other psychological professionals. It feels like spreading a lot of disinformation