Have you heard of "Sluggish Cognitive Tempo" (SCT)? It's apparently regarded by psychiatric professionals as a subtype of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Until now, that is.
Medscape has reported some research that concludes it is most likely to be a distinct attention disorder, although there is notable overlap with ADHD.
The researchers, Dr Catherine Saxbe and Dr Russell A. Barkley from the Medical University of South Carolina in the US, have based their findings on reviewing nearly three decades' worth of research on SCT and their own clinical experience. They're predicting that, given the evidence, SCT may "eventually be accepted as an identifiable attention disorder with its own diagnostic criteria that distinguish it from ADHD.". Writing in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice they claim that SCT may represent an exciting new frontier in psychiatry.
Characteristics of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo
- Like ADHD, SCT typically presents in childhood.
- Being daydreamy, mentally foggy, and easily confused.
- Staring frequently.
- May have symptoms of hypoactivity, lethargy, slow movement, possibly sleepiness.
- Children with SCT also appear to have slow processing speed and reaction times.
There are no officially endorsed criteria for SCT but the researchers believe that may change in the "foreseeable future," and that most doctors who see children with ADHD have probably come across someone who falls within the parameters of SCT.
First, there needs to be more research on the cognitive deficits, such as which areas of the brain are most active when the patient appears the most distracted ― in other words the researchers say, "where does the mind go?"
They're also hoping that is is renamed - after all who wants their child diagnosed with something with the word slug in it?
Does it matter?
But why does it matter? If your child has a diagnosis of ADHD and SCT is similiar, does separating them with a different, lesser known diagnosis mean anything?
Dr. Saxbe says it is important for several reasons:
- Because SCT symptoms have not been shown to improve with stimulants such as ritalin, the treatment of choice for ADHD. At the moment it's thought atomoxetine is the most promising.
- Increased awareness of SCT will also enable parents to better understand their child's poor attention and tendency to daydream.
- That a more accurate diagnosis can lead to parents developing support networks of their own which are well known to increase awareness and help for other families.
If you have access, you can read more about SCT in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology . If you don't have access you should be able to at least read the abstracts.
Why medicate a child because they are not "ordinary"?
Of course there is the argument against medicalising and/or medicating personality types that are just part of the broad spectrum of humanity, but a type that is out of the stretch that is considered 'normal' (don't you hate the word normal?).
I firmly believe that many of the children with diagnoses of ADD, ADHD, Asperger's, Dyslexia and similar are our most promising and creative minds of the future. These are the quirky brains that invent, create, make us laugh and move the human race forward.
It's the personality type where genius cohabits with a slice of madness; the one that's often stalked by depression and difficulties making sense of the world the confusing way it is. These are my favourite type of people, the ones I feel most comfortable with.
After all, the world is only ruled by 'normal' (allegedly) people because they can think in straight lines and can organise themselves into political parties expounding rigid and often stagnant beliefs. The mad genius may join, but they will always be outsiders and stand out from the rest - and they're the ones who have the good ideas.
So why would we want to medicate them or try to change them?
There is only one good answer to this, in my view: so that they can survive and maybe even thrive in a society not created for them. So they can learn to focus and learn, if not understand, the rules long and well enough to to put their mad genius to good use.
And this is why an accurate diagnosis is necessary, whether it's ADHD, Asperger's or SCT - so these young people get the right therapy to enable them to maybe one day, change the world for the better.
What do you think?
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
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