Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What’s Not in a Name – Part II: ADHD

Yesterday I discussed Depression and society’s general misunderstanding of the condition. Today, I tackle ADHD and the same misunderstanding. ADHD affects as much as ten percent of the population, most undiagnosed, not knowing there’s a brain-based biological condition behind their erratic behavior, but before I get too far into it, let’s talk about what’s not in a name.

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a spectrum disorder which means some who have it are minimally affected and others can be severely affected and a wide range in the middle. But, the name implies that the person can’t pay attention and can’t sit still and that’s the problem. It’s so much more. And not necessarily exactly those issues either. Books have been written on the subject, so to keep it simple, I’ll focus on the Attention and Hyperactivity aspects of this poorly named disorder.

The person with ADHD may have attention problems with things he is not interested in, but be able to pay extreme attention to those things he is interested in, to the point of ignoring everything else. It’s a dysregulation problem. Paying bills isn’t very interesting, but necessary. Some with ADHD don’t realize the link between cause and effect, don’t realize paying a bill will prevent the utilities from being shut off, but when the electric gets shut off, only then will their attention be all over it, because it is a urgent and then interesting matter. ADHD, like Depression is a neurotransmitter problem, but involves more neurotransmitters in the brain and is quite complex, but the bottom line, which was remarkable to me, is this physical, biological problem, which is an invisible illness, is responsible for Self Control. Self-control is something I was taught was a “fruit of the spirit” and something God expected you to bring forth in order to be a good person and if you didn’t, you were bad. ADHD interrupts the person’s good intentions from coming forth into good actions. The person may want to do the right thing, but, through a faulty brain, literally may not be able to. This causes the person to distrust themselves and others to distrust them as well. It’s an insidious condition.

Generally, society thinks if the person is not physically hyperactive, he could not have ADHD. Kids tend to have more of the physically hyperactive symptoms, unable to sit still, bouncing off the walls, tapping their pencil, etc. Some adults do to, but some people are hyperactive only in their minds. Always thinking of many things at once, perhaps not listening because of the constant thinking. ADHD has been characterized as a “bottomless pit of wants and needs” because the person is always looking for a new thrill, the next best thing, something else, to keep them interested and feeling alive, revving up those neurotransmitters to a level in the typical person. "Easily distracted" is the number one diagnostic sypmptom of ADHD. The person with ADHD may overcommit herself because she always wants to be doing something. She may not realize there’s not enough hours in the day and then fall short, appearing unreliable to others, even letting herself down. It’s a vicious circle which chips away at the person’s self-esteem. It’s no surprise then that depression and ADHD often ride in the same car.

ADHD used to be called minimal brain dysfunction, which is a better name in my opinion—much less ambiguous. Get real; a spade is a spade. For instance, clogged arteries are clogged arteries. We don’t hint around at it with a funky moniker – oxygenation deficit/circulation disorder. But, I’m a realist and I don’t see ADHD’s name changing any time soon. I just hoped to shed some light on the disorder for those who might not appreciate what’s not in a name.

For more on ADHD and treatment options click here or here.

The character, Glenn, in my novel, Love, Carry My Bags, has undiagnosed ADHD and depression. The novel is a realisitic portrayal of how the undiagnosed conditions can wrack havoc on a relationship and begs the question: What if they had known?


  1. Bravo!!! One of the best articles I've ever read! Going to post this in my street team!

  2. You have described my youngest son 110%! I get so tired of people not understanding, that even with medication, he has difficulty with things people take for granted. So many kids are misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed, and over-diagnosed. People here that your child has ADHD, type 2, (which no longer exists in the new DSM) and think he is just bad. There is a difference between bad kids and kids who truly have ADHD. Many bad kids are diagnosed with it because, well let's face it, people want a reason for their child's behavior whether it's biological, neural, or environmental. Those that have created the environment for their children to misbehave without consequence don't want to admit fault. Then there are those of us who struggle to understand, be patient, and regulate behaviors that are out of our control.
    I love this article!

  3. I hear you, Amber! ADHD is a hard thing to track down and manage...and a hard thing for others to understand. Glad you enjoyed the article.