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I saw an E-card on Pinterest the other day. It said “I went to the internet to learn about my ADHD, but I couldn’t wait for the pages to load”
The joke is kind of funny, but only because it’s true. ADHD, on the other scores pretty low on the humor scale. There is a lot of information about ADHD, and much of it conflicts with itself. There are many theories about the origins, prevalence and treatment strategies of ADHD.
It is sometimes difficult for people who don’t understand ADHD to take it seriously, or to realize the magnitude with which some people are impacted. It is also equally difficult at times for people with ADHD to fully realize the impact their way of thinking and behavior has on those around them who are not afflicted with ADHD.
I remember when my eldest son was in second grade. He could clearly describe how difficult it was for him to stay focused in class. He said the sound of kids using pencils on their paper around him distracted him. At our request, his teacher agreed to move him away from the other children. Unfortunately, due to his lack of understanding, he moved our son next to the door, right under the pencil sharpener. If the pencil sounds were distracting, imagine how distracting it was to have every second grader in the class sharpen their pencil or go in and out of the door.
Recently I had a session with a husband and wife who are trying to improve their communication with each other. I asked the wife (who does not have ADHD) what she wanted from her husband in a particular situation. She began to explain. And explain and explain. I stopped her about two minutes into her explanation and told her I thought she had lost her husband about 90 seconds before. He affirmed with his eyes glazed over that this, was in fact, the case. I helped her narrow down her wish list to a 30 second bottom line, which he could take in much more easily and is therefore, more likely to remember and follow through.
An explanation I like to use for describing the difference is this:
Think of the brain like a dwelling. The non ADHD brain is like a regular house. It has various rooms. When you are in the bedroom, there might be something going on in the kitchen, but you are not likely to hear it or see it. You can stay focused on what is going on in the bedroom. The walls in between insulate you.
In contrast, the ADHD brain is more like a large studio apartment. It’s all one room. And so from wherever you stand in the room, you can see everything and anything taking place. Therefore, even though you might be near the bed trying to choose what to wear, you can see the dishes in the sink, the cat crossing the kitchen table, the TV in front of the couch and so on. Since you can see everything equally, it means that everything has the same priority. You can be focused on something, but the next thing you encounter gets equal attention from you.
One other piece of information I’d like to share is why I’m using the acronym ADHD instead of ADD. In the old coding book that psychologists and physicians use, there were 2 categories. With the next to last revision, ADD was eliminated and there is now only ADHD, although there is a “predominantly inattentive” subtype available. The primary rationale for this is that we used to think of hyperactivity as little boys who couldn’t sit still in their seats. More current thought is that hyperactivity also describes the kind of racing mind that many people in this category experience, especially at night time when they are trying to shut down for sleep.
This article is only meant to skim the very top surface of somewhat complex condition. ADHD is not diagnosed with a blood test definitively, but is somewhat subjective. Therefore, it is important to have this adequately diagnosed by someone with expertise.