“You don’t act like you have ADHD.”
Our older son has ADHD. He had numerous assessments done and they all got the same results. The fact that I have ADHD really only helped us know what the signs are.
He recently started a camp with a teacher he hadn’t seen in a few years. He mentioned to her that he has ADHD.
She was surprised because he didn’t act like he had ADHD.
She’s a perfectly nice person and she’s not alone. Since the 1980s, a false image has been cultivated of what ADHD is, but I suppose every “new” phenomenon is misrepresented at first.
Look at climate change. People jumped all over the idea of “global warming” without the slightest concept of what that actually meant. But it was an easy way to digest it and, more importantly, it was an easy way to “disprove” and mock it. Record lows? Then there’s no global warming! But, you know, that’s not at all how that works or what global warming means.
So it was with what was originally called ADD, then ADHD. Attention Deficit Disorder, then Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The addition of the H actually made the situation worse, not better. It only served to play up the stereotypes and falsehoods of what someone with ADHD is like or, more important, what someone WITHOUT ADHD is like.
Hey, you can sit still for more than two minutes, there’s no way you have ADHD!
The acronym in and of itself isn’t the problem so much as how little people know about the words that make up those letters.
Worse, ADHD came to prominence as it was being diagnosed in children, whose baseline for things like attention and activity is all over the place until they get older.
It’s more accurate to call ADHD Executive Function Deficit, although there are a number of neurodevelopmental disorders that can fall under that. But that’s what ADHD affects: executive functioning, the systems of the brain that manage the cognitive process. Basically, ADHD causes you to think differently than most people.
That kid vibrating in his seat? It’s entirely possible that they do NOT have ADHD. That kid staring out the window during class? They might not have it, either. That kid raising their hand to answer every question? That kid might actually have it.
The quiet kid? AHDH. The loud kid? Maybe not.
Most people know dopamine as the all natural feel good drug, but it’s impact isn’t always that overt. Dopamine influences the decisions you make, the tasks you take on, the effort you put in. The average person would never think that “lazy” could be a term used to (inaccurately) describe someone with ADHD, but that’s often the case. For people with ADHD, the simplest task can seem like the worst thing in the world.
Does that kid really, really like answering math questions? Not only will ADHD let that kid answer away, but will, in fact, increase the amount of effort the kid puts into answering math questions. If answering math questions gives the kid a boost of dopamine, then ADHD says “answer ALL the questions so we get more!”
The problem is that since those of us with ADHD operate from a dopamine deficit. Something that would motivate others, something that would make them happy, might not appeal to us at all, or even might repel us.
All of that is to say that the “signs” most people attribute to ADHD are bunk. It also means the stereotype of a person with ADHD is bunk. It’s also a huge problem.
I didn’t get assessed for ADHD until I was in my 40s and even then it wasn’t my idea. My wife had been talking to her therapist about me and her therapist suggested that I might want to get checked out. Since I’m not so dumb as to ignore my wife — particularly when it regards something that could make our life together better — so I got checked out. And, lo and behold, my psychiatrist was like “um, yes, you have ADHD, without question you have it.”
After being diagnosed and learning more about it, I can tell with certainty that I’ve had ADHD my entire life. It’s clear as day to me.
So why didn’t I ever get checked out before?
See everything I’ve written above. I didn’t have any of stereotypical characteristics of someone with ADHD because those stereotypes are wrong. If it weren’t for all the misinformation about ADHD, I might have gotten tested far sooner in life. Even if my parents hadn’t pieced it together, I might have, which means there was a good 20+ years I could have been doing something about it.
Would we have even considered ADHD as a possibility for our older son if a) I didn’t have it and b) we weren’t extremely well read on the subject? I don’t know and the idea that we might have left one of our son’s major needs unaddressed out of ignorance and a belief in the popular narrative just hurts my soul.
You hear “climate change” far more than “global warming” these days.
Someone tell Al Gore we need a documentary.