Do you ever feel like you are not meeting your potential? Do you feel like you are driven by moodiness, distractions, and an inner whirlwind that can only be satisfied when you focus on something equally intense and exciting? Most of you will respond, "Not really," but quite a few of you will say, "You just described me to a 'T'."
Most people believe you outgrow ADHD but the truth is most do not. In fact, only 1/3 of children with ADHD grow out of it, while the other 2/3's continue to live with its affects. Many adults do not realize they suffer from ADHD until they find themselves seeking treatment for their child.
If you think you might have ADHD, if you know someone with ADHD, or if you work with children, it would be prudent to educate yourself a bit on the topic. A good place to start is, Driven to Distraction, an oldie but goodie on ADHD, created by two psychiatrists who know what they are talking about because they have ADHD as well.
Most people think of hyperactive children who are bouncing off walls, blurting out poorly timed comments, and failing at school when they think of ADHD. While some of that may be true, there is another side to it - a beautiful side, in my opinion.
Because people with ADHD have brains that work differently, they have a variety of strengths that can propel them into success in the information age. Their minds are prepped for rapid information input and they can focus intensely for periods of time. People with ADHD often have high energy and are very hard workers. While this focus and intensity may wax and wane, when they are able to pull it together, they can create brilliant pieces of work. Many famous inventors, such as Thomas Edison, are thought to have had ADHD.
Another strength of the ADHD mind is an extraordinary ability to have intuition about their surroundings. While their minds may not be able to sort through all the information coming at them, they are able to get a little piece of almost everything. They often have intuitions or "gut feelings" that can be quite accurate. Dr. Hallowell put it well when he said, "They can be highly imaginative and empathic, closely attuned to the moods and thoughts of the people around them, even as they are missing most of the words that are being said."
ADHD minds are also highly creative. Because their minds jump around and seek novel simulation, they are idea hotspots. Albert Einstein, Edgar Allan Poe, and Salvador Dali are a few examples. I know I go to my ADHD-minded friends when I need an idea -- or a few thousand of them. :)
While many folks with ADHD are highly intelligent and quite charismatic, they also struggle. They struggle to keep their jobs, fulfill their potential, keep relationships afloat, and stay satisfied within the humdrum of an ordinary life. There are many tips in Driven By Distraction on how to structure an ADHD mind for success. For some, meditation, exercise, a life coach, and tips on structuring one's life is sufficient to harness the mind. About 85% of adults with ADHD can be helped dramatically with medication. Medication can help focus the mind, calm the storm inside, and help one attune to people around them. What medications do not do "should be mentioned to clear up common misconceptions. [Medications] do not 'drug up' or cloud the sensorium of the individual taking them. They are not addictive in the doses prescribed for ADD. They do not take away the creativity or 'special something' so many people with ADD possess." As a therapist, I have seen many clients experience great relief when beginning medication treatment in combination with therapy. If you suspect you may have an ADHD mind, seek professional help to get a clear diagnosis and treatment to improve your life.
And for everyone else, the next time you are dismissed because of ADHD or bombarded by the presence of ADHD, remember, "People with ADD [now called ADHD] do look out the windows. They do not stay on track. They stray. But they also see new things or find new ways to see the old things. They are not just the tuned-out of this world; they are also tuned in, often to the fresh and the new. They are often the inventors and the innovators, the movers and the doers."
Enjoy the ADHD mind, and seek help when needed to channel it's genius.
Stephanie Patterson, MS, LMFT
Located downtown San Luis Obispo and Atascadero.