“Everyone has ADD.” That is a quote I recently heard from a friend. Is it really true that everyone has ADD or ADHD? ( the H is for hyperactive). The reality is that we live in a highly technological society where distractions are plentiful. I-phones dot the landscape and it is almost rare to see people in a restaurant or walking around NOT on their phones. Video games abound, and commercials now come at us at a dizzying pace. So yes, we can say the environment we live in certainly creates the perfect storm for ADD / ADHD to show up in ourselves, our mate or significant other, or our kids.
The reality is that other factors play in to who truly suffers with ADD or ADHD such as genetics (you are more prone to having it if one or more parents have it or it runs in your family, if you have had a brain injury, or even having been under anesthesia for surgeries can be a contributing factor.) So what is this brain health issue that some so readily label and even poke fun at when they see evidence of it?
ADD or ADHD affects the normal functioning of the prefrontal cortex- the part of the brain involved in thought, decision making, reasoning, impulse control and the ability to see out consequences before we do dumb things that might get us in trouble. So you can see, a pretty important part of our brain. With ADD or ADHD this part of the brain may be working too hard, which results in having our thoughts seem like a jumbled random mess, or like a ping pong ball in a whirlwind rather than a focused state which allows us to tend to one thing at a time..
People with busy brains are also often smart, wildly creative, innovative and fun to be around. However, they can also be difficult to live with due to incessantly interrupting, not being present, acting impulsively or seemingly saying things without thinking. We often refer to this as “being without a filter”. Additional issues that arise are lack of self control, difficulty staying organized, consistently being late, and starting many but finishing few projects.
If you are married or with a partner with this brain health issue, you may have experienced ADD manifesting in things like overspending ( impulse spending), overeating or over use or abuse of alcohol or drugs. This often occurs as people with ADD/ ADHD seek out ways to calm their brain, feel better and cope with the mental and emotional challenges that these issues bring.
ADD can mess with your primary relationships in a big way. Especially, undiagnosed and untreated ADD/ ADHD. Many people avoid being assessed or diagnosed because they also wrongly believe that they must go on a drug or their partner or child would have to as the ONLY treatment option, and this simply is not true. Medications are only one option.
Married adults with ADD / ADHD are also more prone to affairs (impulsivity meets opportunity) so they often have failed or difficult marriages. People with ADD/ ADHD are often obese leading to other health issues, and often struggle in their family and /or careers as well.
Children with ADD/ ADHD often struggle in school as too often teachers are not knowledgeable about mental health in general and ADD/ADHD in particular. When all children are expected to sit still, stay in their seats and pay attention- something nearly impossible for the child with ADD or ADHD- teachers often attribute this behavior as a sign of disrespect. Instead of understanding these kids have a different brain that makes sitting and paying attention inherently difficult, they get labeled as bad, or daydreamers, or disruptive.
I once observed a business leadership meeting (as a coach/consultant) and found one of the leaders, a young man in his twenties, getting through the meeting by drawing. The problem was his incessant drawing was perceived by others on the team as apathy, complacency and disrespect. After questioning him my suspicions of ADD were confirmed. Drawing is what he needed to do in order to be focused enough to stay in the meeting. With some coaching, he was able to share with the team why he draws during meetings which opened the door for understanding, compassion, and support from his teammates.
We are not all the same. The very terms neurodivergent or neurodiversity essentially mean we all have a different brain and generally speaking, we all have parts of our brain that function well, along with parts of our brain that are challenged or not functioning optimally. The ADD / ADHD brain struggles to just function according to parental, teacher and societal expectations, making life extraordinarily difficult for those that suffer, and sometimes those that live with people who suffer from these and other brain health challenges.
If your partner, spouse or significant other suffer from ADD/ ADHD or any other mental health challenge, start having honest conversation – without blame or accusation- about how these behaviors affect you.
If you recognize or perhaps even have a “light bulb moment” that what I’ve described here fits for your child, then have them assessed by someone other than your pediatrician or primary doc. Sadly, these are the people who often have the least knowledge but are able to wield the pen to write generalized prescriptions.
Find a competent counselor or therapist trained to assess and/ or diagnose the 7 types of ADD who can offer more treatment options then just medication alone.
Some people; children and adults alike can learn to manage their ADD/ ADHD through a combination of correcting their diet, getting more sleep, taking appropriate supplements, behavioral therapy/ counseling, and exercise. Additionally, minimizing use of screens is paramount especially for kids with ADD/ ADHD.
ADD or other mental health challenges do not have to make your life unnecessarily challenged. Help is available if you are willing to seek it.
One last word for parents: Stop yelling at your child- it trains their brain that the way to stimulate their brain is to be yelled at… they are not trying to provoke you or disrespect you intentionally, so learning some self management skills if you are parenting a child with ADD/ADHD is essential. Seeking professional help for yourself and your child provides the best outcomes.
ADD and ADHD are woven into the fabric of my own family dynamic. I know both personally and professionally what it is like to deal with these issues. Please, if this describes you, or someone you love, be curious enough to seek out help from a qualified professional.
Feel free to contact us and we can offer some referrals: firstname.lastname@example.org