Guest Blog: What is ADD/ADHD? by George Glade M.C.,M.N.,ARNP
What is ADD/ ADHD really?
ADD/ADHD first of all is poorly named. People with ADD can pay attention. They just have difficulty regulating it. This can range from hyperfocus where a person looks up from their work and says, “where is everyone else and why is it dark outside”? It can be losing countless hours on video games while homework sits waiting. It can be taking the garbage out, seeing a weed, which needs to be pulled RIGHT NOW! You might even forget why you went outside in the first place. Not everyone presents in exactly the same way.
ADD/ADHD is both over diagnosed and under diagnosed. Of the roughly 5% of people who truly have ADD, only about 10% ever get any treatment. Why do these opposite dilemmas exist? Telling if you have ADD requires careful assessment. It’s not going into your primary care provider, saying you think you have it and walking out with a prescription for Adderall or Ritalin. Clinicians who practice that way can often do far more harm than good. It is under diagnosed because clinicians rarely get any training in in recognizing ADD. If they do get training, they come away with the belief everyone with ADD can’t hold a job or a relationship, uses drugs and may have a legal history. They don’t realize ADD people are generally smarter than average and sometimes at the genius level. They may come through school with very negative messages about who they are. To quote the title of an ADD book, people can feel like they’re ‘Lazy, Crazy or Stupid”. Often time people with ADD brains grow up feeling different and somehow out of synch with others.
Clinicians get taught it is a dysfunctional brain, but is it? The concept of Neurodiversity is just getting a toe hold in the science world. It is not a dysfunctional brain but it is a different brain. The elegant work of clinicians such as Daniel Amen, M.D. has shown it is a brain that operates in uniquely different ways. It is well suited to synthesis thinking (as oppose to linear thinking). This is the very basis of creativity. For example, Thomas Edison was labeled by his grade school teacher as ‘mentally defective’ yet has a record for U.S. patents which will never be equaled. ADD was at the core of his creativity.
I have a belief that I’ll share with you. What do money, information and cow manure have in common? They only do any good if you spread them around. I want to thank Tom for asking me to do a guest piece for his blog and his spreading of information. If you are interested in finding out more, join me on Facebook at The Stimulus Driven Brain for podcasts and weekly tips on living with ADD/ADHD.
George H. Glade, M.C., M. N., ARNP is a psychiatric provider in the ER of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA and in private practice. He is the author of ‘The Stimulus Driven Brain. The Essential Guide for the ADD/ADHD College Student’.