NDD -Nature Deficit Disorder

Glenn W. Harrell

The phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” was coined by Richard Louv.

Here are his words on what he meant and how he made his unofficial diagnosis.

“In “Last Child in the Woods,” I described what I called “nature-deficit disorder.” I hesitated (briefly) to use the term; our culture is overwrought with medical jargon. But we needed a language to describe the change, and this phrase rang true to parents, educators, and others who had noticed the change. Nature-deficit disorder is not a formal diagnosis, but a way to describe the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature, particularly for children in their vulnerable developing years.” –Richard Louv is chairman of the Children and Nature Network. He is the author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

Because of Mr. Louv, many people have imagined just how such a disorder, were it real, might present itself.

I freely admit that when I first read the phrase, I really did think that “NDD” was both probable and scientific. I added this “dysfunction” to the many named before it for several reasons:

1-The positive effects of nature (not to dismiss the negatives) are all too obvious. Each of our 5 senses become excited, stimulated in ways nothing else can mimic.

2-All human beings are predisposed to a fear or phobia of one sort or another. Our fears create imbalance and imbalance breeds dysfunctions which feed our fears which…

3-All disorders are cousins in effect. If we fix (cure) one disorder, might we eliminate or reduce others in the process?

4-“Disorders” must have a normative standard by which the health community may “diagnose” or label as “abnormal”. But unlike the empirical standard of 98.6 for our body temperature, disorders represent malleable personality and human behavior. They have an observational, subjective pick and choose list of behaviors that are believed/observed to add up to the suggested abnormality.

5- ADHD as an example: The pharmaceutical world, insurance and physicians have assured a constant flow of medications that “treat” the behavioral symptoms, often ignoring the cause(s). The billions of dollars in profits to all concerned should concern us all as our children are unnecessarily medicated to an unknown future with or without these chemicals in their bodies.

Web MD lists 3 groups of symptoms for ADHD:




At present, anyone can surmise that any person “has” ADHD because of these subjective observations and behaviors presuming to “match” up. Even the medical community is riddled with uncertainties.

Having a physical check-up is crucial. Many true physical impairments like hearing loss, thyroid disease, allergies, anemia, etc.  –All these share symptoms with present ADHD.

Our children are the real losers when their maturing bodies and minds are subjected to harsh chemicals that remain untested as to their future potential for harm on into their adult lives.

The psychologist may want to explore and intervene with non-pharma solutions but can often be restricted as drugs are masking, falsely redirecting, and creating symptoms.



Let’s pretend NDD really does exist. Let’s pretend that we have found the cure and the cure really is a protocol of exposure to nature.

How might we prescribe the treatment for someone who “has” ADHD?

Unlike a diagnosable disease, an important note would be that we don’t “have” the “disorder”. Rather, we may exhibit behaviors that have been assigned in concert that add up to what many call a disorder.

SYMPTOMS  What are the symptoms of “NDD”?

Someone must be qualified to determine when these behaviors have escalated beyond “normal”. These persons themselves must be deemed normal enough and or informed adequately to recognize and assign the NDD badge, and stigma. In some settings, school teachers are making formal diagnoses.

Mr. Louv has listed many behaviors/deficits and they all ironically belong to the ADHD family.



–poor coping skills

–brief attention span

–outbursts and interruptions

–lower cognitive ability and poorer grades

CAUSES  Who is qualified to give scientific, empirical evidence?

Essentially, Mr. Louv borrows from the ADHD playbook and sure enough, one is like the other. The body, especially children and even more-so male children, must have constant opportunity for expenditure of physical energy. Outdoor activities, sunburns, dirt, germs, bumps, and bruises all play a role in emerging health. Their absence is recognized as unhealthy.

Overprotective parents contribute with their fears of children being hurt in nature or by other people when they fail to reach a balance.

CURES   Cured from what? NDD would relate the cause to its cure—NATURE– by virtue of exposure rates.

Next, we are looking for an NDD Protocol that is scientifically objective and proven effective insomuch as can be measured by the medical community. 

Noted, some believe that while surmising NDD, we are glossing over the deeper causations like, family history—generational maladaptive behaviors that do not resolve with a topical foray out into in nature.

Be that as it may, each of us change for the better when we:

–get natural sunlight—vitamin D which promotes many necessary health benefits (both mental and physical)

–step away from the electronic devices and television (they promote attention span issues for everyone)

–breathe fresh, clean air

–exercise, walking, hiking, climbing

–connect with our role– we are part of an ecosystem–we belong in and to nature.

–listen to our physician

Doctors endure daily frustrations with many of their patients. They give good advice, often unheeded. 

DIET AND EXERCISE are their two stump speeches, their soap box, their sermon if you will.

When we as the patient choose to stay indoors, remain inactive (apart from gaming and TV), be dependent upon fluorescent, LED and incandescent lighting—we soon must pay a price and make decisions about treatments.


1–Abbreviated lifespan 

2–Mental and physical disorders (high blood pressure among many other)

        –ADHD symptoms

3–Take a pill. We chose to treat our symptoms rather than the cause. (see #1)

4–Strike a balance and a friendship with the outdoors. Nix the mental sponges called “smart” phones long enough to created new habits that include healthy diet and exercise.


While NDD as a recognized “disorder” does not exist, Richard Louv has done us all a big favor by peeping into this world and imagining something better than pills for our children who grow up into adults who pass along true dysfunctions to their own children who take even more pills. These pills do better at keeping an industry alive than our own minds and bodies healthy.

Pick a sport, chose a trail, visit a park, camp outside. Get an annual physical.

Do these and others as much as necessary for a healthier life with fewer, less intense disorders. Thank you for the NDD diagnosis Mr Louv.

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