In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Without the support of the AMA, it was difficult for Feingold to gain the credibility he desired for his diet, and this problem was compounded by the difficulty of communicating his idea to parents via their physicians. Fortunately for Feingold, Random House’s offer to publish his book in 1974 provided him with an ideal opportunity to present his idea directly to parents and foment a debate about the etiology and treatment of hyperactivity. Random House’s interest also affirmed that while the medical establishment was unwilling to endorse Feingold’s hypothesis, the public was intrigued by the notion that food additives could cause hyperactivity. The following two chapters explore how the public’s interest in Feingold’s theory reflected not only concern about increasing rates of hyperactivity, and the controversial ways in which the disorder was treated, but also growing alarm about chemicals in the food supply. Although these issues were separate on the surface, they both indicated a growing distrust of corporate America—in this case the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing industries—as well as the professional associations and government departments, such as the AMA and the FDA, that were supposed to safeguard the public against corporate irresponsibility. As Canadian psychiatrists Ivan Williams and Douglas Cram suggested, the Feingold diet became popular because (1) it was an alternative to drugs, (2) it shifted guilt from parents to the food industry, (3) it removed blame from schools, (4) it fitted the growing consciousness about ecology and pure foods, and (5) it enabled parents to be the primary therapeutic agents, since they were in control of the diet.1 Feingold’s hypothesis fitted into other “radical critiques” of hyperactivity, which echoed “the spirit of the times when American society came under The Problem with Hyperactivity Chapter 4 51 systematic questioning and attack.”2 The Feingold diet provided a particular treatment for a specific childhood disorder, but it simultaneously represented a critique of American psychiatry and of corporate practices relating to the environment and the food supply. Interest in the Feingold diet was a grassroots response to a medical problem at a time when Americans were increasingly disillusioned with their political leadership in the light of crises such as the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and energy shortages. Hyperactivity emerged during an era of considerable cultural, educational, demographic, and political turbulence within American society. It was also an era in which the American psychiatric community was undergoing upheaval and was fraught with interdisciplinary strife. The psychiatric community of the 1960s and 1970s could be divided into three primary disciplines: psychoanalysis , social psychiatry, and biological psychiatry. The theoretical underpinnings and modes of treatment could overlap in practice: for example, psychoanalyst George A. Rogers found that Ritalin facilitated psychotherapy in his neurotic patients.3 However, each approach essentially represented a significantly different way of understanding mental illness, and psychiatrists typically favored one methodology over the others. The profound differences in each discipline’s approach to mental illness were reflected in their explanations of what caused hyperactivity. Although some psychiatrists spoke of hyperactivity as being multicausal, and suggested that a variety of treatments to help hyperactive children , most research papers stressed the validity of one approach as opposed to others and, in clinical practice, psychiatrists tended to privilege one treatment modality over another. By the early 1970s, most psychiatrists believed that hyperactivity was a neurological dysfunction passed on genetically or caused by brain damage, but they were unable to provide specifics on the mechanisms of the dysfunction, and psychoanalytic and social explanations remained common.4 Whereas psychoanalysts blamed strained family relationships for hyperactivity, social psychiatrists looked to social conditions such as poverty, overcrowding, and crime-infested neighborhoods.5 Feingold’s hypothesis differed considerably from these theories, but what it had in common with them was the notion that some aspect of American society, whether it be rooted in family structure, socioeconomic conditions, or exposure to chemicals, was pathological to children. Psychiatric debates about hyperactivity might not have mattered a great deal to the parents of hyperactive children. Nevertheless, these disputes, as well as the wide range of opinion represented, highlighted the controversial nature of hyperactivity and suggested that its diagnosis was not straightforward . Parents were also concerned that the methods psychiatrists used to treat 52 Chapter 4 hyperactivity were ineffective, inappropriate, or dangerous. By the 1970s, the most common method for treating hyperactivity was with stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin, Cylert, and Dexedrine, although psychotherapy, family...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.