Since October is ADHD Awareness Month, I’m continuing my effort to improve your ADHD IQ by sharing with you some foundational information and ADHD Awareness facts and information you need to know about ADHD and ADD. One of the key roles an ADHD Coach can play in helping the client learn to perform at the level of their potential consistently is to help them understand ADHD in general, as well as how it’s showing up in them, individually.
I often say,
“Your ADHD is as unique as your thumb print!”
While there are clear common characteristics and experiences among individuals with ADHD, some of which I shared in last week’s blog post here, exactly how it manifests in each person will be very unique and personal to them.
Whether you have ADHD yourself, parent a child with ADHD, or care for someone who has (or you think might have) ADHD, this information is fundamental to understanding the challenges and characteristics of ADHD in the individual, to make it easier to establish and maintain strategies for optimal performance and fulfillment with ADHD.
And that’s what I want for each and every one of you.
I want you to perform at the level of your potential more easily, and more consistently. I want you to be Firing on All Cylinders in all areas of your life, for good. Not just for a few days or a few weeks or when the moon, starts and planets align, but always.
Isn’t that what you want, too?
Read on to start heading in that right direction, and scroll down for more free resources to help you (or the ADHD-er you care for) make the most of their abilities!
The purpose of this information is to give you a good, basic, layman’s understanding of ADHD and how it may be showing up in your life every day. This understanding is crucial to making changes in your performance and your quality of life that last, for good. I want you to stop beating yourself up about your shortcomings, so that you can start to use your unique strengths and tendencies to make the most of your skills and abilities and work with your ADHD brain wiring.
The information below is based on the most recent information and criterion, including the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) published by the American Psychological Association. Please consult medical and mental health professionals for treatment, diagnosis, etc.
- What ADHD is. ADHD is the acronym for Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a highly genetic, complex neurodevelopmental condition affecting both children and adults. ADHD impacts the regulation of a certain brain functions referred to as “Executive Functioning” which influence important functions such as the regulation of: attention, impulse, focus and concentration, memory, motivation and effort, emotion, hyperactivity, and organization. Research shows neurochemical and structure differences in the brains of individuals with ADHD as compared to those without.
- What ADHD is Not. Decades of neuroscience, brain imaging, and clinical research show us that ADHD is not a behavior disorder or a specific learning disability. ADHD is not a choice.
- ADHD is Real. ADHD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by all major medical, psychological, and educational organizations in many countries throughout the world. In the US, it is recognized as an impairing disorder by: U.S. Department of Education; National Institutes of Health; the U.S. Congress; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Surgeon General; and All major medical, psychiatric, psychological and educational associations
- ADHD is Not a creation of Modern Society. Medical writing documenting individuals with the hallmark ADHD characteristics of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity dates back to at least 1844 when German physician Heinrich Hoffman wrote a poem entitled, “Fidgety Phil,” which is the first known description of ADHD. (Google it. It could have been written about dinner in my own house!) More recently, decades of brain imaging studies have documented differences in brains of individuals with ADHD as compared to others without the condition as early as 1990. (See Dr. Allen Zametkin’s 1990 Pet Scan studies on brain glucose metabolism, which was among the first.).
- The DSM. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is a guide published by the American Psychological Association that is used by physicians, mental health professionals, and other qualified clinicians in the diagnosis of ADHD. The most recent version of the DSM, DSM-5, was updated in 2013 and made some changes to the definition of ADHD that will affect how the disorder is diagnosed in children and in adults.
- The Difference between ADHD and ADD. The terms ADD and ADHD are often used interchangeably, but the current, proper medical name for the condition is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. The condition we now call ADHD has had many names over the years, including Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood, and others. In the early 1980s, term ADD was used as medical term for what’s currently called the primarily inattentive subtype of ADHD. There are still some physicians and school personnel who will still use this distinction, but it is no longer accurate. The terms ADHD and ADD are used interchangeably to refer to all three currently recognized presentations of ADHD (below).
- The Types of ADHD. According to the current medical and psychological stands of the DSM-5, there are three (3) specific subtypes of ADHD, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual: Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, and Combined Presentation. Note: Daniel Amen theorizes that there are 7 types of ADHD and, although these classifications are not recognized in current diagnostic criteria, his different types of ADHD provide an illustration of the widely varying ways that ADHD can show up in those affected.
- ADHD is Not a Childhood Disorder. The DSM-5 specifies that the age of onset for some ADHD symptoms should be prior to 12 years of age, experts agree that somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of children with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms into adulthood.
- ADHD Medication and Substance Abuse. While incidents of abuse of ADHD medication among individuals who don’t have ADHD can be problematic, scientific studies have shown that the treatment of ADHD with medication may significantly reduce an individual’s likelihood of substance abuse. One study by the Timothy Wilen of the Massachusetts General Hospital showed that individuals with ADHD who are treated with stimulants have a 73% reduction in substance abuse.
- People with ADHD are not Manipulative. Inconsistency is a hallmark characteristic of ADHD. Because persons with ADHD can show up as very bright and capable in certain situations, yet have poor performance in other areas, those who don’t understand the condition can interpret is as volitional or willful or manipulative. It’s important to understand that ADHD symptoms vary in pervasiveness, frequency, and degree of impairment, even within the same individual! ADHD is believed to be an “interest deficit.” One explanation for this variability comes from scientific studies from the last two decades that have shown that differences in brain structure and neurochemical processing are present in individuals with ADHD. For example, scientists like Nora Volkow, MD have found that the brains of individuals with ADHD are deficient in the processing of the brain chemical dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter involved in the so-called reward pathway, explaining that this may cause individuals with ADHD more difficulty in generating the same degree of enthusiasm as other people for activities they don’t automatically find appealing or interesting. It’s not a character flaw or a moral failing, it’s a dopamine thing!
And every single one of these challenges can be managed and minimized with the right support, education and guidance! Learning to live well and perform at the level of your abilities starts with understanding ADHD in general, how it shows up uniquely in you as an individual, and learning how to work with your own, personal strengths and tendencies to accomplish what you intend more easily, and consistently.
I hope you found these ADHD Awareness Facts helpful, or at least learned something new! If you have questions or would like to continue the conversation, please feel free to connect with me through my website or join me in my Time to Thrive Group (below).
P.S. Join my Free Community that shows you how to Take Control of Your Time so you can Perform at Your Potential, with members-only Live Weekly Trainings and the most current, proven, practical tools, resources and expert support to help you rise above the chaos and reach your potential faster! Sign up today at www.TimeToThriveGroup.com