October is Attention –deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness month. As of 2011, approximately 8.8% of children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States. Though it’s estimated that the rate of occurrence for ADHD is similar in adults, only 4.4% of adults are diagnosed with ADHD – a significant portion of the adult ADHD population goes undiagnosed and untreated.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about ADHD and ADD (ADD has been somewhat recently re-categorized as a sub-type of ADHD- ADHD, Primarily Inattentive).
It’s not uncommon to hear people dismiss ADHD as a behavioral issue: “If only he’d try harder!,” “If her parents just made her…,” “She just doesn’t want to pay attention!” However, brain scans show that there is a significant difference in the brain activity of people diagnosed with ADHD versus neurotypical or “normal” participants. Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States recognizes ADHD as a real, brain-based medical disorder- which can benefit from treatment.
Another misconception about ADHD is that only rambunctious little boys are affected- which can be detrimental to girls and adults affected with ADHD. It’s common for teachers and parents to advocate for assessment and treatment for hyperactive boys, while girls (and boys with the inattentive subtype of ADHD) struggle through school with the disorder undiagnosed and untreated.
Similarly, there’s an expectation that children who are diagnosed with ADHD will outgrow it, and while some will “grow out of it” (generally by learning ways to cope with and overcome their symptoms), many others will continue to struggle into adulthood. Some untreated students may perform well in school, but find it difficult to cope with new challenges when they reach university or adulthood. In addition to the toll untreated ADHD takes on school and work performance, ADHD can negatively impact relationships for children as well as adults– including marriages. The risks for those undiagnosed into adulthood can be devastating.
ADHD: The good
ADHD isn’t all negative- and it’s important to note that ADHD isn’t an indicator of the lack of intelligence, moral fiber, etc. It just means the brain works a bit differently than normal, which can lend itself to a lot of good traits: creativity, problem-solving, spontaneity, sensitivity and compassion, intuition, flexibility, enthusiasm, and so much more!
Athleticism can be another benefit of ADHD. Michael Phelps began swimming as a way to release the excess energy from his ADHD. He went on to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.
Leadership is another; many leaders throughout history have displayed traits of ADHD including Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates.
If you or a family member have ADHD or suspect you may, the absolute best thing you can do for yourself and family is to research and read about it. There are tons of online forums where people with ADHD post about their own experiences living with ADHD. Knowing that you’re not alone in the struggle to cope with ADHD is often a great relief and can help get you on the road to treatment, whether that’s medication, ADHD coaching, or implementing ideas from others that can help you keep on top of your life!
ADHD/ADD Expert Webinar and Podcasts – from ADDitudemag.com
Driven to distraction : recognizing and coping with attention deficit disorder from childhood through adulthood -Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey.
ADD and ADHD -George Capaccio.
ADHD and me : what I learned from lighting fires at the dinner table -Blake E.S. Taylor.
Succeeding with adult ADHD : daily strategies to help you achieve your goals and manage your life -Abigail Levrini and Frances Prevatt.
ADHD in HD : brains gone wild -Jonathan Chesner.
Putting on the brakes : understanding and taking control of your ADD or ADHD -Patricia O. Quinn and Judith M. Stern
¡No puedo estar quieto! : mi vida con ADHD -Pam Pollack y Meg Belviso