Note to the reader: This is my 400th blog post
How do you describe ADHD to a non-ADHDer? At the mere mention of the word many will conjure up images of a disheveled boy who is literally bouncing off the walls. (Of course girls can have ADHD but that’s not the first image that usually comes to mind.) To make matters worse, the very name of our “gift” — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — adds additional confusion. Some ADHDers do not have the “H” component [note 1] and, therefore, are thought not to have ADHD at all. Then there’s that awful phrase “Attention Deficit.” If that was the ONLY deficit we had we’d be in great shape. Unfortunately that’s not the case. We also have to contend with the myths. For example, there are those who think ADHD is a “childhood” problem that disappears when one becomes an adult, and there are those who deny that it even exists, describing it as a manifestation of a mouse-clicking-hyperlinked-social networked-electronic-X Box childhood and not a real disorder. [note 2]
So, in light of the misunderstandings and, in some cases, outright denial of the existence of ADHD, how do you describe ADHD to a non-ADHDer? You can begin by showing them this list of ten characteristics of an ADHDer’s life. This list highlights some of the issues faced by adult ADHDers, none of which are easily reducible to either an “attention deficit” (though it certainly plays a role) or “hyperactivity.”
- Problems with memory in daily life. This includes forgetting important dates or events; the need to ask for the same information over and over; the need to rely on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices).
- Inability (or great difficulty) in planning and/or solving problems. This includes the inability to develop and follow a plan; a problem keeping track of regular events, such as paying monthly bills, etc.
- Difficulty completing daily tasks at home, at work or at leisure. This may include getting lost when driving to a location; inability to create or manage a budget, etc.
- Confusion with time or place. This includes problems such as understanding what is occurring in a particular situation; losing track of the passage of time.
- Trouble understanding visual images and/or spatial relationships. This includes problems of reading, involvement in sports and/or fine motor skills.
- Problems with words in speaking or writing. This includes a difficulty in articulating one’s needs or desires through either speech or writing. There may also be problems that occur in the middle of a conversation where one is suddenly overcome by a thought totally unrelated to the current conversation.
- Misplacing things. This includes putting things in unusual places, losing things and not being able to go back over one’s steps to find them again.
- Poor judgment. People with ADHD may experience problems in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money.
- Withdrawn from work or social activities. A person with ADHD may engage in solitary activities or activities in which there are very few people to interact with.
- Mood and personality problems. The moods and personalities of ADHDers can change at a moment’s notice. They can be suspicious, depressed, fearful, angry or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
Based on The Ten Signs of ADHD
Did you click on the link labeled The Ten Signs of ADHD? If you did you would have realized that this list of ADHD characteristics is a modified version of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. In light of the striking similarities between early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and adult ADHD, it becomes very easy to describe ADHD in one sentence: Living with ADHD is like having Alzheimer’s disease your entire life.
- Paradoxically, I’m becoming “H” as I get older. Go figure.↩
- This theory is put forth by Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D. According to Dr. Pick, a psycho-medico-pharmacological conspiracy has taken the electronics-induced short attention span of children and created a fictitious disorder called ADHD. He writes: “a hugely profitable market niche has been created for therapeutic specialists and sellers of psycho-stimulant medications to help settle these young people down so they will be more tractable and concentrate on what they’re told to do.” ↩