An Inside Perspective on ADHD Awareness Week (October 16-22)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that is more commonly diagnosed during childhood. Children diagnosed with ADHD are unable to focus or stay still for a long time and act impulsively. According to the CDC, an average of 5.4 children (9.5%) between ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls (13.2% vs. 5.6%). ADHD is also a more common term than Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), although both are still used interchangeably.
This guest post was written by Ben Glenn, the author of “Simply Special, Learning to Love Your ADHD.” In grade school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, but he wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until an adult. Glenn travels the country and the globe, sharing his personal experiences with ADHD. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife and two children. For more information, visit www.SimpleADHDExpert.com.
Despite the amount of press, websites, and books explaining Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it is still one of the world’s most misunderstood psychiatric disorders. At its simplest, ADHD is the inability to sustain attention, and the person who has it is generally restless, fidgety, impulsive, and struggles with sustaining productivity. The deeper issue is that people with ADHD have problems with the part of the brain that controls executive functions (also known as the pre-frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex), such as initiating tasks, knowing when to put on the brakes, transitioning easily from one task to another, being systematic and maintaining order, self-monitoring and controlling one’s emotions, and holding onto information vital to completing a task.
While the bulk of scientific data about ADHD has increased in the last quarter century, ADHD is not a new disorder. In fact, it has been around for decades (some speculate even centuries). ADHD was officially recognized in British medical literature for the first time in 1902 (it was labeled as “morbid defect of moral control“) and has, since then, undergone several more name changes (including minimal brain dysfunction). The 2013 revision of The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders might see yet another name revision. While the exact definition of ADHD is still evolving, there is no doubt that ADHD is real and affecting the lives of millions of children and adults. I am one of them.
I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was an adult because I didn’t have the “hyperactive” element, but the schools did catch my dyslexia in third grade. I hated being labeled. Going to a Special Education classroom was hell. I was teased and treated like a dummy. I struggled with things that were easy for everyone else and done in no time at all, I was walking around feeling like a mistake, like a loser with no future. For a while I really lost all hope. This is a terrible way to grow up.
Children and adults with ADHD get a bad rep for being lazy, unmotivated, disorganized, and unable to complete any task on time. Relationships suffer because people with ADHD tend to blurt out what’s on their mind without thinking or lose interest in the middle of the conversation and wander off. While we all have moments where we display these behaviors, the important distinction is that people with ADHD literally can’t help being this way most of the time. It’s not a matter of trying harder to be better. It’s a neurobiological inability to do so. ADHD is also not the result of bad parenting or “broken homes” or lack of parental attention and discipline. While these may worsen the symptoms of ADHD and negatively impact a child’s behavior, ADHD is not caused by any of these things. Research has shown that ADHD symptoms are caused by brain chemistry. ADHD may also be genetic, which supports some beliefs that ADHD is more “nature” than “nurture.”
However, ADHD is one of the most treatable psychiatric disorders and has one of the best outcomes for anyone who gets the right kind of help and support from understanding parents, friends, teachers, and doctors. Thankfully there were teachers who helped and supported me. I credit them for restoring some of my self-confidence. The rest of the credit goes to my wife, my sympathetic enforcer!
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