by Cynthia Hammer, MSW, ACSW – Founder of the non-profit ADD Resources
It Seemed So Easy for Others
Are wondering if you might have ADHD? Will it be immediately clear to you that you have ADHD so you’re able to set about getting diagnosed and treated? Is it the eureka moment that we so often hear about? Can it be as simple as a parent takes their child in to be diagnosed for ADHD, recognizes it in themselves, bursts into tears, is diagnosed and treated, and experiences a dramatic improvement in their life?
It Took Me Years
This was not my journey of awareness and acceptance of having ADHD. It took me over a year after learning about ADHD to realize I had this disorder and another year in treatment to develop a positive attitude. For any of you who may be reluctant to start your journey, I assure you that learning to accept and manage your ADHD will bring you more satisfaction and contentment with your life than you have ever experienced.
I Was So Sure It Was the Fault of My Poor Parenting
Although my brother and nephew were diagnosed with ADHD years ago, no bells went off in my head when we started to have problems with two of our children. Russell Barkley, Ph.D, says 40% of children diagnosed with ADHD have a parent with the same disorder while Ted Mandelkorn, MD, says that over 90% of those diagnosed with ADHD have a relative somewhere in the immediate or extended family who also has the condition. I knew there was a familial connection to the condition but thought what our children were exhibiting was plain, old-fashioned misbehavior. If we could only parent better, they would behave better.
And So It Went
Off and on I had read library books about ADHD. Sometimes I would think it described one or another of my sons, but then again, it did not sound quite like them. So it went for several years. Then my husband heard a pediatrician talk on ADHD. He came home convinced it described one son. We took him to be diagnosed and started him in treatment. After a year of attending treatment sessions with my son, along with more reading and attending CHADD meetings, I tentatively told the pediatrician treating my son that I thought I had ADHD as well and he readily agreed!
My Denial Pushed Back Help
The prime reason it took so long to help my children and myself is denial. No one wants to admit there is something the matter. They don’t want to have any impairment. They don’t want to be different from normal people. The condition is called a disorder, such a hopeless sounding label. My relatives with ADHD were having major problems in their lives. I was reluctant to associate my children with the same condition. Wasn’t this consigning them to a bleak future? Wouldn’t it be more hopeful to keep working on better parenting skills than to say they had this disorder? I thought ADHD was a handicapping condition that would be diagnosed and that would be it. I focused on denying the disorder, instead of on how treatment could bring benefit and improvement.
Accepting the Diagnosis for Others But Not for Me
After accepting the diagnosis and treatment for my sons, why did it take so long to see the condition in myself? Denial, along with two other factors, was at work. ADHD is difficult to self-identify because of its complexity and the lack of clarity in the description of the symptoms. One author would stress certain features or describe them in a way that I could relate to. I would say, “Yes, that’s me!” Another author would describe other features and it wouldn’t sound like me! I should have paid more attention to the wording that introduces a list of characteristics, where it says, for example, “will demonstrate 8 of the following 20 characteristics.” I didn’t need to have all the characteristics to have the condition, but the characteristics had to be of a degree and pervasiveness that they caused significant turmoil in my life.
Lack of Self-Awareness Made It So Hard
The other factor that makes self-identification difficult is related to an ADHD characteristic, a lack of self-awareness. For example, I could feel I had offended a coworker, but I had no insight or understanding of how or why. I was too fearful of what they might say to ask them. ADHDers do not realize how they come across to others. (This is why it is helpful to have outside evaluations of your behaviors from people closely associated with you.) In many ways, people with ADHD delude themselves that they are doing just fine; it’s the others that they work with or associate with who have the problems. ADHDers always have good reasons to justify why they did something the way they did, and they do not understand why others might have a problem with that.
My Son Helped
My lack of self-awareness made me unable to examine my own actions and say to myself, “This is typical ADHD behavior.” However, I was able to look at my son’s troublesome behaviors and recognize that I did similar things. What he did (or did not do) that annoyed me were things that I did! As I analyzed my son’s annoying behaviors, I began to have some understanding of how I annoyed and frustrated others.
My Supervisor Helped
Another factor in my developing awareness was my supervisor. Her grandson recently had been diagnosed with ADHD, and she had read about the condition. She knew my two children had been diagnosed, and we sometimes would share information. During my annual evaluation, she brought up some points about my work that could use improvement, e.g., my inability to be a team player; my penchant for getting excited about a new project, but dropping it when only partly finished, blithely expecting someone to finish it because I had moved on to other things; and my not prioritizing my work so that the most important things got done. She said I was a mixed bag and that made it hard to evaluate me. I did some things very, very well and other things inadequately. I recognized these behavior patterns as common to ADHD. When I mentioned that I thought I might have ADHD (again my tentativeness), she said she thought so too.
Treatment Brought Me Relief
After getting diagnosed by a knowledgeable physician, I entered treatment, and like the condition itself, my emotions became very complicated. Of course, I felt relief, mentally saying over and over again, “So that explains it!” After starting on medicine, I immediately noticed improvements in my functioning and relationships. The education and counseling I received helped me learn which behaviors were related to ADHD, and I instituted techniques for managing or minimizing their disruptive influence. So it surprised me, when almost a year after being diagnosed, I blurted out, “I’ve been in a grieving process.” I hadn’t been aware of feeling this way until the words came out of my mouth.
Yet, I Grieved for the Loss of My Individuality
Why is there grief! I have two explanations. To accept the diagnosis and treatment, I had a loss in my self-image. Prior to knowing I had ADHD, I knew I was an individual. I did some things, maybe many things, differently than others, but I had a pride in most of my characteristics and abilities. Now I was learning that those characteristics that made me special are a disorder. Even though I had not seen the connection, my special characteristics had made my life more difficult than it is for normal people.
I Felt Disabled, Ashamed and Embarrassed
I felt like a disabled person. As I became more aware of how I came across to others, I felt shame and embarrassment. There was something the matter with me. Others could see it. Often they were reacting negatively to me because of how I acted. Even though part of me could see that my relationships were improving because of treatment, another part of me withdrew from relationships. I felt awkward and self-conscious, feeling that I was less than others.
I Grieved for the Life I’d Lost
The second reason for grief was a realization that my whole life had been less than it could have been. If only someone had only known about my ADHD years ago…. If only I had been diagnosed and treated years earlier…. Much in my life would have been better. These thoughts kept going through my mind. I reflected on the inappropriate actions I had taken, the people I had offended, the mistakes I had made. I felt ADD was accountable for all that had been bad in my life.
I Found Others Who Were Angry Instead
Many ADD adults, in addition to grief, experience anger as they recall their life experiences. They have so many unhappy memories of being demeaned, berated, and made to feel inadequate. Now they wonder why no one knew there was something wrong. They wonder why they weren’t treated with more kindness, patience, understanding, and love. It would have made such a difference!
Now, I Am All That I Was and More
With treatment, both grief and anger subside and resolve. I came to realize that knowing I have ADHD did not make me a new person. I stayed the person I was, my unique, special self. Only now I can better control the kind of person I am, and I am better at perceiving how I come across to others so I can adjust my behavior accordingly. Knowing about my ADHD and getting treatment for it did not make me less, as I initially thought. I am all that I was, and now I have the potential to be even more. In this context, I like to think of the American advertising slogan, New and Improved. While I am not a new model, I am an improved one! Life is a continuing adventure.
*About the Author
Cynthia Hammer, MSW, ACSW, an adult with ADHD and the parent of three sons, two with ADHD. At age 49, she learned that she had ADHD and realized she knew very little about the disorder. Cynthia founded ADD Resources in 1994 and went on to become a nationally recognized advocate for the understanding of ADHD among both those who have it and those who treated it. Cynthia is now retired and lives in Tacoma with her husband.
“Photo courtesy of Vlado-Free Digital Photo.net” – Modified on Canva
On ADHD: Parent to Parent – Honor your child’s individuality while seeking solutions to challenges you face every day.
ADHD is a complex disorder that affects both individuals and their families greatly. There’s so much to know about ADHD that you might wonder just what it is that your child really needs from you. While there’s no one right way to deal with the problems you may face, you may find ideas that will work for you from other parents who have faced similar situations. These three articles offer down-to-earth and practical approaches that honor your child’s individuality while acknowledging the very real challenges in your family life.
One treasure offers 85 – Yes, ‘85 Important Facts about Raising a Child with ADHD.’ And you’re likely to use every one of them. Why? Because:
“…You will need help Face it: Everything is easier when there are people to help you.
Yes, you will be judged – This is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who understand you and who accept your child as he is.
Several ADHD kids have other problems – Whether we’re talking about learning issues, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or problems in the autism spectrum, all these things can be tagged to an ADHD diagnostic.”
A healthy life hygiene is of utmost importance
Chips + chocolate at 10PM = catastrophe.
Lower your expectations It won’t hurt as much. No one is perfect.
Yes, having a routine is very, very important If you never liked routine, you’ll learn to love it. Your sanity depends on it…”
By Eloïse Beaulé from “FamilleTDAH,” a French-Canadian blog that talks about the daily life of a family with three children affected with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Translated by Lauren Berkley
You think your kids don’t notice when you forget what they’re going through and lose your patience with them? ‘What my Son with ADHD would Like Grownups to Know’ records what Heather LeRoss finally understood what it meant to her son to have ADHD. He had more than a few things to say, but here’s a sample.
“I want people to know I feel like they don’t like how I am. I want Daddy to know I am not stupid and it hurts my feelings when he says, ‘Are you dumb?’ I want you to know I don’t like it when you yell.”
“I just want it to stop. The yelling, comparing me to other kids that are ‘normal.’ How people tense up sometimes when I just walk into the room. I want people to say I am nice and funny and good at drawing. And not follow it with, ‘If only he could focus like that in other areas.’ I just want to feel like it’s OK to be me.”
Dealing with ADHD isn’t easy. But others have gone before and are willing to share their experiences and expertise. You can survive the challenge, but don’t go it alone. If you can, join a support group. Make friends with fellow parents you meet at school or in the Doctor or therapist’s office. If these avenues aren’t possible, follow reputable websites, blogs, social media or join an on-line organization that will keep you informed and offer encouragement. Your goal is to let your child know that they are loved and that they are worthy – That it’s Okay to just be themselves.
The standard meal in Western cultures is loaded with sugar and simple carbohydrates in the form of white bread and pasta, and candy bars and sweet soda for snacks. Such food creates a surge of sugar in the blood which briefly gives a feel of energy, but a flood of insulin follows which removes the sugar from the blood and causes an energy crash leaving you feeling more tired, spacey, confused and inattentive than before. This food also lacks the proteins and vitamins your body needs to build and repair your body.
The ideal program is four or five small meals a day each containing protein and complex carbohydrates to maintain a steady supply of fuel to the brain. Proteins are found in meat, dairy products, nuts and soy products. They provide amino acids, the material to build and repair all the body systems: the immune system, muscles, hormones and especially the neurotransmitters which make the brain function. Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole grains, and beans. They provide energy but take longer to digest than sugar and simple carbohydrates and, therefore, do not create the insulin surge that leaves you more tired than before. They also contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber which your body needs for optimum health.
A word about fat – In western mythology, fat is a baddy, but, in fact, fats in the form of oils are essential for a healthy brain. By weight, the brain is more than half fat. There are different kinds of oil and all in appropriate quantities are important.
Water is essential. The brain needs a steady supply of oxygen and energy. If the blood flow slows due to dehydration, you will feel sluggish and inattentive. A glass of water will help the blood flow better.
In a school for an Apache Indian Tribe, the program includes exercise five periods a day. If it rains they send the children home because learning is impossible without exercise. 95% of the children are hyperactive.
Until recently, experts thought that new brain cells could not be generated, that the brain cells you had at birth had to last your entire life. Research in the last ten years has shown that the brain is much more plastic. It is like a muscle; it grows when you use it. Brain cells are created, grow and link to other cells in response to usage. Exercise promotes brain growth. Use it or lose it.
The brain is a very expensive organ; it uses 50% of our food and more than 50% of the oxygen brought to the brain in the blood. Exercise increases blood flow and encourages the growth of new capillaries to increase blood carrying capacity. Exercise releases nerve growth factors called Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) known as Miracle-Gro, a fertilizer for the brain. BDNF enables cells to bind to other cells and makes stem cells grow. Pursuing an intellectual or physical activity stimulates the growth of new cells.
Exercise fuels the chemical factory producing neurotransmitters such as endorphins, norepinephrine for arousal and alertness, dopamine for the attention system, and serotonin for mood regulation and stress control. It allows nerve cells to survive and grow. Studies have shown that exercise is as effective as Prozac in combating depression and the results last longer. Exercise also increases a recently discovered neurotransmitter, the neuropeptide of love, called phenylethylamine (PEA).
What kind of exercise suits you?
Intense aerobic exercise is best, 30 to 45 minutes at least five times a week. Once you feel the benefits you won’t want to miss it the other two days. If you aren’t the extreme type, a fast walk, enough to raise your heart rate will do. Dance and Tai Kwon Do or other forms of the martial arts are highly recommended for their total effect on the attention system. They take large amounts of brain power and teach respect for oneself and others and foster resilience. Yoga has also shown good results.
If you already have a well-filled schedule, you can try just running in place or skipping rope for three or four minutes whenever those neurons start playing leap frog under your skin.
Yes, breathing. Oxygen is essential for every cell in your body and especially the brain. Breathing brings oxygen in and blows off waste products like carbon dioxide. Slight changes in oxygen level can change the way you feel and behave. Under emotional stress, anger or anxiety, people change the way they breathe. Breathing becomes shallow and rapid, an inefficient pattern which lowers oxygen levels.
Slow, deep breathing from the belly will help you be more focused and less anxious.
People with ADHD often have difficulty going to sleep at night and even more difficulty getting up in the morning. Sleep deprivation makes ADD symptoms worse and can interfere with every aspect of life. There are many strategies for getting to sleep. Here are some basic rules. Avoid stimulating activities such as TV or exercise for at least two hours before bedtime. Eat a small snack which includes protein such as a glass of warm milk or cheese and crackers before going to bed. Take a warm quiet bath. Play a tape of music or sounds of nature. Experiment to find which ones work for you.
Perhaps you were brought up to believe that work comes before play and the two do not mix. Well, here’s a new belief: doing things you enjoy and thinking enjoyable thoughts is good medicine for the brain.Try it!
When you think positive, happy thoughts your brain produces serotonin the feel-good neurotransmitter. When you think negative stormy thoughts your brain produces adrenaline, the stress hormone. Doing an activity that you enjoy acts as a stimulus for the brain.
Permission is granted to forward or post this content in full for use in a not-for-profit format, as long as this copyright notice and full information about the author, Sarah Jane Keyser, is attached intact. If any other use is desired, permission in writing is required.
“Image courtesy of StuartMiles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva
You may not feel much like celebrating if you are discouraged and frustrated with ADHD. Negative thinking, constantly focusing on what is wrong, and denying or ignoring what is good and right is characteristic of people with ADHD.
People with ADHD have tremendous vitality and enthusiasm. They are creative and fun to be with when they are in an environment which supports them. Get a job which thrills you and a partner who believes in you to find the sparkle and passion of life.
This is How you Treat ADHD based on Science with Russell Barkley, Ph.D.
How to refuel your Fuel Tank and be less ADHD. Create external scaffolding to support Executive Functions. Behavior modification techniques work for children. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or coaching works for adults. Develop specific strategies for time and organization management that work for the individual.
13-minute video from Part 2 of the 2012 Burnett Lecture – Includes slides and lecture on same clip.
“The back and front parts of the brain involve two processes, knowledge and doing. ADHD splits them apart… I don’t care what you know, you won’t be able to do them… You’ve got a real problem on your hands.”
“ADHD is a performance disorder. A disorder of intention, not attention. It’s an executive function disorder (EF)…. It’s time blindness. You won’t be able to aim your behavior toward the future to care for yourself as effectively as other people can…”
“They know what to do. They just can’t do it. It ends up looking like a problem with motivation… The only way to deal with executive deficits is to re-engineer the environment around them to help them show what they know… All treatments must be out there, in their lives, where you have to build that scaffolding…”
“Build that “ramp.” You must reinforce external reminders and consequences. Put them “in the now…”
“EF deficits (Executive Function) are neuro-genetic in origin. Therefore, medications may be essential for most (but not all) cases. Meds are neuro-genetic therapies.”
“ADHD is the diabetes of psychology. It’s a chronic disorder that must be managed every day to prevent the secondary harms it’s going to cause… ADHD is the most treatable disorder in psychiatry… The biggest problem is, most people don’t get treatment.”
See links to the complete lecture below the embedded video.
ADD websites Non-profits Starter Information Popular sites
“The most important things we can offer Children & Adults with ADHD are: Love, Acceptance, Respect & Empathy… In the absence of these things, all of the Other things you do are unimportant” – Sam Goldstein
Center for Disease Control and Prevention – ADHD section. Attractive, ADD-Friendly format- complete, but concise- offers basic information about ADHD and children, but provides links to help you find out more. (Mostly to CHADD or the National Resource Center)
National Resource Center on ADHD: a Program of CHADDis the nation’s clearinghouse for science-based information about all aspects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NRC provides information on this disorder which affects how children and adults function on a daily basis. www.help4adhd.org – The National Resource Center also provides a series of information sheets on AD/HD. See the complete list of the What We Know (WWK) printouts. Note: You can email or talk to a resource specialist to get personalized help.
CHADD –CHADD stands for Children and Adults with ADHD. CHADD has a national headquarters and approximately 200 local chapters that hold monthly meetings and offers a professional directory (with paid listings.) They provide a wealth of free information on both their own site and link to The National Resource Center for ADHD for even more. CHADD National puts on a large annual international conference and publishes the bi-monthly magazine Attention – (One of many membership benefits which include access to their many members-only articles) Free monthly e-news.
ADDA– ADDA stands for the National ADD Association for Adults. They send out e-mails to keep you up-to-date and feature a Professional Directory. Collecting personal stories from readers and offering Virtual Peer Support. Webinars are Free for Members ($50 a year or $5 a month) or $10 each.
Help4Kids– Great site developed by Tufts University to help families, teachers, children, and clinicians find answers to some of their questions about ADHD. Each section is set up in a question-answer format so you can either read through all of the information in that section or look up answers to your specific questions only. They also link to other sites for additional information.
Healthy Children’s ADHD section features a number of articles from 3 paragraphs to 3 pages long. Topics cover a number of general as well as more specific concerns for ages 3-18 – From the American Pediatrics Association
Kids Health -The #1 most-visited website for children’s health and development. – The Nemours Foundation sponsors a website for Parents, Kids and Teens – each has their own section. Covers any and all aspects of children’s health concerns. Available in Spanish and you may add audio to most articles if reading is a problem. Use the Search option- Just type in ADHD– or just start browsing for other concerns.
ADHD Resource Center from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists – Includes Facts for Families with up-to-date information, video clips plus an eBook.
Children and Adults
Help Guide.org is a site founded by the Rotary Club International. They have a quite a good ADHD section, but they also address MANY other concerns of modern life – Mental and Emotional Life, Family and Relationships, Healthy Living, Seniors, and Aging. Note – Help Guide offers an unusual, but possibly transformative feature- The Emotional Intelligence ControlCourse
ADDitude.mag– A complete site sponsored by ADDitude magazine, a national bi-monthly magazine for the ADHD community. Short, pertinent articles address a host of AD/HD concerns. Learn about family support options for Attention Deficit Disorder as well as many topics specific to adult issues. Just added a Networking section to their site – with Forums, Blogs, Videos and listings for nationwide ADHD events – Great e-newsletter
ADD About.com – Keath Lowe moderates the site, keeps a Blog, sponsors a Forum and expands the site every day- Up to date and easy to read- Their Coping with ADHD section has a wonderful selection of on-point and useful information.
Totally ADD! for adults – Some pretty good Information and a lot of just plain fun. Quick videos address a number of common concerns of adults with ADD. Blog and ADHD screening tools- Constantly adding more videos and now providing FREE Webcasts– (recorded and available for view anytime)
ADDvance.com – Answers to your Questions about ADD(ADHD) with Patricia Quinn, MD and Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. Offers insightful, yet practical information addressed to many different ADD audiences, although women and girls receive special attention. (Note: Many articles formerly posted on the site have been “packaged” according to topic and downloads are available to purchase.) They do offer a Free “ADD-Friendly Living” e-newsletter.
Health Central.com / ADHD Central– Hosted by Elaine Bailey, long time moderator for AboutADD.com, this site offers a number of articles covering a variety of topics for all ages, a few interactive learning opportunities, some videos and a Community Forum. (I like the Share-Post section) Use the top bar to navigate the site for specific topics and features.
Web MD has a large section devoted to ADHD. Copy and paste: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/default.htm – They offer a very well organized and informative overview of the disorder. Articles are generally short and somewhat impersonal, but they’ve tried to cover it all. They even have Videos (prefaced with short ads- indeed many videos are advertisements themselves for supplemental treatments), keep up- to-date on ADHD news and monitor an online community.
Healthy Place.com – Another good starting place- ADHD section addresses a number of common concerns and needs. Most are short, introductory articles, but they cover a number of topics.
ADHD – ADD freeSources on Pinterest – Over 15,000 Pins featuring articles, images and other commentary on ADHD and related topics. 60 boards offer information for parents, adults with ADHD, professionals as well as for children and teens.
The DSMV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, guideline for all psychiatric disorders, was updated in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association. The following are the updated criteria for an evaluation for ADHD.
9 Inattention Symptoms (Six or more symptoms present for 6 months or more)
Problems organizing activities
Cannot focus or pay attention to tasks or instruction
Frequently loses personal items (arrives at class unprepared, loses toys and tools)
Begins tasks or assignments, but frequently does not follow through and leaves them uncompleted
Appears not to listen, even when directly addressed
Makes careless mistakes in school work, professional work, and other activities
Avoids taking on tasks that require sustained mental effort for long periods
9 Hyperactivity-impulsivity Symptoms (Six or more symptoms present for 6 months or more) Note: For individuals 17 and above, only 5 or more symptoms are needed because overtly hyperactive symptoms reduce with age.
Talks excessively at home, in class, at work, and other places
Has difficulty remaining seated in situations where sitting still is expected
Children may move about a room, climb, or run where inappropriate to do so – teens and adults feel restless
Cannot sit still when seated and frequently squirms, fidgets, or moves around
Difficulty playing quietly (children) or quietly engaging in leisure activities (teens and adults)
Seems constantly moving and driven, as if by a motor
Impatient and has trouble waiting his or her turn
Interrupts others’ conversations or games
Blurts out answers to questions before the speaker has completed the question
If you or your child exhibits six or more of the symptoms on either or both of these lists, you should consider having a professional evaluation for ADHD.
Making the Diagnosis
Note: To make a diagnosis of ADHD, these symptoms should not be better explained by another physical or mental disorder. Dysfunction or upheaval in the home, school or work environment can also cause similar symptoms and should be considered.
To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age. For adults, symptoms must have been evident in some way by their teen years.
Symptoms appear, on average, between 3 and 6 years of age. And a diagnosis requires that some symptoms were evident before the age of 13 years.
There are three categories or “presentations” of ADHD; ADHD with Hyperactivity, ADHD/Inattentive type, or ADHD/Combined type. Dr. Daniel Amen proposed even more types. For more information, see Recognizing the Types of ADHD on Everyday Health.
Don’t expect a quick diagnosis
“According to developmental pediatrician, Mark Bertin,
“An initial evaluation includes a detailed history along with physical and neurological examinations. These appointments explore psychological, family and educational factors that may be triggering concerns. Developmental tests are used to observe your child’s cognitive, language, motor and academic abilities, or specific aspects of behavior.” (1)
“An evaluation should also identify strengths as well as the likely causes of any difficulties.
The goal is to create as comprehensive picture as possible of skills and to provide practical information for planning accommodations.” (1)
Unfortunately, primary care pediatricians are failing to meet the standards of care set forth by the American Pediatric Association on many levels. (See results of a 2014 study reported by David Rabiner in “Pediatric care for children with ADHD – Discouraging new findings.”) Your doctor is doing you a disservice if all he provides is a 15 minute visit followed by a prescription and maintains that is sufficient for the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.
“Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD,” states Russell Barkley, PhD. “ It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. ”(2) It’s important to keep in mind that not every high-energy or impulsive child has ADHD. Children and adults are diagnosed with ADHD only if they demonstrate these symptoms so often that they are causing real difficulty. Impairment in two areas of life, playground, classroom, home, social, or the workplace, is crucial.
Developmental delays in Executive Function and control of emotions are also problematic. (2, 3) The inability to regulate attention stalls building self-regulation, or self-control, a mark of growth and maturity. These will show up in everyday situations as chronic disorganization, memory problems, procrastination, a lack of motivation or follow through in situations when interest or the pressure of deadlines isn’t high. Frustration is a common response and invites overwhelm and anger at the situation as well as at themselves.
Take ADHD seriously!
There’s still a lot of misunderstanding and moral judgment that those with ADHD are PURPOSEFULLY not living up to expectations. The extent of these difficulties permeates how those with ADHD think of themselves, as “less than” others. According to a 2006 study, “Children with a history of ADHD were 6 times as likely as those without ADHD to have a high level of overall difficulties including emotional, conduct, and peer problems and were 9 times as likely to manifest a high level of impairment including interference with home life, friendships, classroom learning, and leisure activities.”(4) Early diagnosis and effective treatment, preferably combining medications and behavior changes for parent, child and adults, is the key to building self-awareness and skills that can change many of the negative outcomes.
3) Validity of the executive function theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analytic review. Willcutt, EG, Doyle, AE, Nigg, JT, et al. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15950006 Harvested 10/22/2014
4) Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties with Impairments in Everyday Functioning among Children with a history of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – Tara W. Strine, MPH, Catherine A Lesenesne, PhD, Catherine A Okoro, MS, et al. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2006/apr/05_0171.htm Harvested March 2, 2015
“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva.com
1) ADHD is Real.
Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States long ago concluded that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a real, brain-based medical disorder. These organizations also concluded that children and adults with ADHD benefit from appropriate treatment. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
2) ADHD is a Common, Non-Discriminatory Disorder.
ADHD is a non-discriminatory disorder affecting people of every age, gender, IQ, religious and socio-economic background. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of children in the United States who have ever been diagnosed with ADHD is now 9.5%.(8) Boys are diagnosed two to three times as often as girls. Among adults, the Harvard/NIMH National Comorbidity Survey Replication found 4.4% percent of adults, ages 18-44 in the United States, experience symptoms of ADHD and some disability.(9) ADHD, AD/HD, and ADD all refer to the same disorder. The only difference is that some people have hyperactivity and some people don’t.
3) Diagnosing ADHD is a complex process.
In order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be considered, the person must exhibit a large number of symptoms, demonstrate significant problems with daily life in several major life areas (work, school, or friends), and have had the symptoms for a minimum of six months. To complicate the diagnostic process, many of the symptoms look like extreme forms of normal behavior. Additionally, a number of other conditions resemble ADHD. Therefore, other possible causes of the symptoms must be taken into consideration before reaching a diagnosis of ADHD. What makes ADHD different from other conditions is that the symptoms are excessive, pervasive, and persistent. That is, behaviors are more extreme, show up in multiple settings, and continue showing up throughout life. No single test will confirm that a person has ADHD. Instead, diagnosticians rely on a variety of tools, the most important of which is information about the person and his or her behavior and environment. If the person meets all of the criteria for ADHD, (10, 11) he or she will be diagnosed with the disorder.
4) Other Mental Health Conditions Frequently Co-Occur with ADHD.
• Up to 30% of children and 25-40% of adults with ADHD have a co-existing anxiety disorder.(12 )
• Experts claim that up to 70% of those with ADHD will be treated for depression at some point in their lives. (13)
• Sleep disorders affect people with ADHD two to three times as often as those without it. (14)
5) ADHD is Not Benign. (15)
Particularly when the ADHD is undiagnosed and untreated, it contributes to:
• Problems succeeding in school and successfully graduating. (16, 17)
• Problems at work, lost productivity and reduced earning power. (18, 1,9 20, 21)
• Problems with relationships. (22, 23)
• More driving citations and accidents. (24, 25, 26, 27)
• Problems with overeating and obesity. (28, 29, 30, 31)
• Problems with the law. (32, 33) According to Dr. Joseph Biederman, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, ADHD may be one of the costliest medical conditions in the United States: “Evaluating, diagnosing and treating this condition may not only improve the quality of life, but may save billions of dollars every year.” (34)
6) ADHD is Nobody’s FAULT.
ADHD is NOT caused by any moral failure, poor parenting, family problems, poor teachers or schools, too much TV, food allergies, or excess sugar. Instead, research shows that ADHD is both highly genetic (with the majority of ADHD cases having a genetic component), and a brain-based disorder (with the symptoms of ADHD linked to many specific brain areas). (35)The factors that appear to increase a child’s likelihood of having the disorder include gender, family history, prenatal risks, environmental toxins, and physical differences in the brain. (36)
7) ADHD Treatment is Multi-Faceted.
Currently, available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, behavioral interventions, education or training, and educational support. Usually, a person with ADHD receives a combination of treatments. (37, 38)