How Molly Seidel became a true winner despite OCD, ADHD, and eating disorders

Molly Seidel is extraordinary. She is different. But she embraced her differences to triumphs as one of the only three American women to win a medal in the Olympics marathon, and in managing a series of mental health challenges.

An athlete, used to deep focus and concentration, Molly started developing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) when she was in middle school. That phase of life was incredibly disruptive for her as she did not have the tools or help to recognize what it was or why her brain was working differently.

It was only after Molly reached college, that she went through a counselling system where she was immediately diagnosed with OCD.

She decided to check herself into eating disorder treatment. In 2014, her second coach in college pushed her to go in for treatment for ADHD and finally, she had tools to manage her hyperactivity and overstimulation.

Parent’s support

Despite her struggles, Molly Seidel was determined to succeed, and her parents were with her every step of the way. Their support and encouragement for her have been a strong pillar in Molly’s career. Given the context of ADHD and the way she has come around it, Annie Seidel, Molly’s mother says, “We tell her that we love her, we’re proud of her and support her in everything. She’s been through a lot, but she’s a tough kid. She’s very smart.”

Running was a natural fit for Molly. She loved the freedom of being out on the open road, and the feeling of pushing her body to its limits. With the support of her parents, she began to train seriously, competing in local races and setting her sights on bigger goals.

Their efforts paid off when Molly qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, becoming the first American woman to do so in the marathon since 1984. It was a huge moment for Molly, and for her parents, who had watched her struggle and triumph over her ADHD.

Fritz Seidel, Molly’s father said when Molly won the second-place medal in the Olympic Marathon Trials, “She has learned a lot and she’s been doing this for a long time now, since grade school. And as you go through portions of your career, you get smarter about your training and running and what you want to do, and she has figured that out. I hope a lot of other women do and it’s a challenge.”

Diagnosis and management

In a series on how Molly handled the disease, she says, “It was years apart for the two of those (being diagnosed for OCD and ADHD), and it took longer to identify the ADHD. But it came with such a sense of relief and knowledge of just like, Oh, my God, there’s a reason why I feel the way that I feel and maybe I’m not just thoroughly messed up and thoroughly a terrible person because my brain just works a little bit differently.”

For anybody, just to have this reassurance is a big relief. And hence today Molly is talking about it, out in the open, so that those who are not aware of it, get themselves checked and figure out why their brain behaves in a certain way at a certain point in time. They will be able to get away from the shame, blame and guilt that they feel because of that certain behaviour.

Breathing techniques most important in Molly’s routine for managing ADHD

Molly’s treatment involved talk therapy, somatic therapies and regular meditation and mindfulness practice and breathwork.

“Big one for me is super regular meditation, mindfulness practice and breathwork because I kind of like operate on an overstimulated level. And I struggle with coming down. And that’s when I – it almost is this sense of like spiralling, or I really feel wound up and I just can’t stop. But being able to decompress, come down from that, and use various breath techniques and calming techniques has been vital for me. And that’s something that I have to do every day, multiple times a day, really, really monitor it,” says Molly.

“I think the ultimate point of therapy is learning to have a better relationship with your brain and understanding the mechanism by which your brain works”, she says. 

ADHD affects 5% of kids

ADHD today affects about 5 % of the kids and 2.5 % in adults. About 10 million adults have the disorder. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatric Nursing, the prevalence of ADHD among children in India is consistent with the worldwide prevalence.

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of issues like difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviour.

Children with ADHD may also struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships, and poor performance in school. Sometimes, these symptoms lessen with age. However, some people never completely outgrow their ADHD symptoms. But they can learn strategies to successfully manage it.

While treatment won’t cure ADHD, it can help a great deal with symptoms. Treatment typically involves medications and behavioural interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in outcome.

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How to diagnose ADHD?

The primary features of ADHD include inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behaviour. ADHD symptoms start before age 12, and in some children, they’re noticeable as early as 3 years of age. ADHD symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe, and they may continue into adulthood.

ADHD occurs more often in males than in females, and behaviours can be different in boys and girls. For example, boys may be more hyperactive, and girls may tend to be quietly inattentive.

It is difficult to diagnose ADHD in children younger than 5. That’s because many preschool children have some of the symptoms seen in ADHD in various situations. Also, children change very rapidly during the preschool years.

Also, there is no specific or definitive test for ADHD. Diagnosing is a process that takes several steps and involves gathering a lot of information from multiple sources.

The child’s primary care doctor can determine whether a child has ADHD using standard guidelines. The doctor will give the child a physical exam, take a medical history, and may even give them a non-invasive brain scan.

Treatment plans for ADHD in children

Treatment plans may include special education programs, psychological intervention, and drug treatment. A study by the University of Buffalo advises combining behaviour modification therapy with medications as the most effective way to improve the behaviour of many ADHD children.

Critical role of nutrition, mediation and breathing in treating ADHD

Healthy diet reduces symptoms of ADHD

Researchers believe that ADHD is related to low levels of some neurotransmitters in the brain — and vitamins and minerals play a key role as cofactors in helping the body make those important neurochemicals and in overall brain function.

According to a study by Ohio State University published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, kids who consumed more fruits and vegetables showed less severe symptoms of inattention. Hatsu, co-author of the study and associate professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University said, “Eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, may be one way to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD.”

“Our studies suggest that it is worthwhile to check the children’s access to food as well as the quality of their diet to see if it may be contributing to their symptom severity,” added Hatsu.

Yoga and beathing exercises control ADHD symptoms

According to a study by psychologists at Ural Federal University who studied the effect of exercise on functions associated with voluntary regulation and control in 16 children with ADHD aged six to seven years, “Yoga and breathing exercises have a positive effect on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After special classes, children improve their attention, decrease hyperactivity, they do not get tired longer, they can engage in complex activities longer.”

The results of the study are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“For children with ADHD, as a rule, the part of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of brain activity – the reticular formation – is deficient,” said Sergey Kiselev, head of the Laboratory of Brain and Neurocognitive Development at UrFU, head of the study.

“This leads to the fact that they often experience states of inadequate hyperactivity, increased distraction and exhaustion, and their functions of regulation and control suffer a second time. We used a special breathing exercise based on the development of diaphragmatic rhythmic deep breathing – belly breathing. Such breathing helps to better supply the brain with oxygen and helps the reticular formation to better cope with its role. When the reticular formation receives enough oxygen, it begins to better regulate the child’s state of activity,” explained Kiselev.

In addition to breathing exercises, psychologists used body-oriented techniques exercises with polar states “tension-relaxation”.

For Molly, the journey is far from over. She continues to train and compete, setting her sights on even bigger goals. But no matter what happens, she knows that her parents will always be there to support her, and that her triumph over ADHD has made her stronger, both on and off the track.

“You have to consistently keep working on it … that’s the key!” says Molly.


Help is here:

Name of the Organisation: Santulan (संतुलन ) ( ADHD )

The support group ‘Santulan’ is all about striking the right balance as a parent, helping the child channelize his/her energy in a positive direction and most importantly, it is a much- needed platform to share with other parents, all struggles, thoughts, emotions, and successes too!

contact: Ms. Eaishwarya Natekar E-mail:

contact: Ms. Panna Kamaljit Singh E-mail:


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