Help, doc, I’m bored by boring things. I think I’ve got the ADHD!

Stay with me here, because I’m about to make a radical suggestion, and it just might blow your mind. This could get messy. OK, Ready? Alright, here it is:

What if — this is a big IF — what if people are all, like, different?

Hold on.

Don’t stop reading yet. Seriously, think about it. What if there ISN’T actually some preordained mold of behavior and thought in which we’re all supposed to fit? What if it’s OK for some people to be a certain way, while others are another way, and still others are an entirely different way? What if some people are active, and some people aren’t; some people are creative, and some people aren’t; some people have a lot of energy, and some people don’t; some people are daydreamers, and some people aren’t? What if — again, HUGE if — but what if we tried to find a place for the unique qualities of all men and women, rather than attempting to chemically eradicate entire personality types simply because they don’t gel with our artificial societal constructs?

What if we stopped trying to make our kids “normal,” and instead encouraged them to be exceptional?

What if?

It’s worth a shot, isn’t it? Some of you might be nodding in agreement. Prescription drug companies, on the other hand, would be incensed at these reckless notions. I just read an article about drug companies lamenting the fact that they have trouble selling ADHD meds in Europe due to a “stigma” that surrounds the disease. Stigma. That’s apparently what we call it when people are naturally and rationally hesitant to start stuffing pills down their children’s throats.

Now, let me clearly state one thing from the start: I know that mental disorders exist. I know that medication is sometimes necessary and helpful in treating such disorders.

But I also know that the CDC tells us 20 percent of the kids in this country have a “mental disorder.” And, of the 80 percent that are “normal,” the majority of them will end up with at least one psychological affliction once they reach adulthood. The CDC recently claimed that nearly half of the adults in the US will develop a mental disorder. HALF.

So, do mental disorders exist? Sure. Absolutely. Of course. But if half of us have one, then I guess you can’t really call them disorders, can you? If the CDC and Big Pharma are to be believed — “mental disorders” are very much a part of the normal order of things. When everybody has a disorder, then nobody has a disorder. The Latin prefix “dis” means “apart” or “away.” If we’ve all got disorders, then what, precisely, is the “order” from which we’re all apart?

If half of all humans from the beginning of time had been born with one arm, who’d be able to say that they should have two? Maybe the two armed folks are the deformed ones. It would be impossible to know.

I believe mental disorders exist, which is why I think they’re massively over diagnosed. And if they’re massively over diagnosed, we’re going to have to take a serious look at the “diagnostic” criteria for each alleged disorder. I think we should start with ADHD, seeing as how it has no diagnostic criteria.

Oh, I know, doctors “diagnose” kids with ADHD all the time.

Except that, no, they don’t. The doctor simply confirms their “symptoms.” If you go to the dermatologist because you have a rash, you wouldn’t walk away feeling like you got your money’s worth if the doctor simply looked at it, shrugged, and said, “yep, that’s a rash.” That’s essentially the way ADHD is “diagnosed.” You bring your child in and say, “doc, Johnny can’t pay attention in class.” Tests are run to further prove that Johnny has trouble concentrating on certain things, and — POOF!– the disorder has been “diagnosed.” But my analogy doesn’t really work because a rash is, without a doubt, evidence that SOMETHING, whether serious or minor, is wrong. The “symptoms” of ADHD are just evidence that your child is a child. Here’s how the National Institute of Mental Health describes the symptoms of ADHD:

-Get distracted easily and forget things often
-Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
-Have trouble with directions
-Daydream too much
-Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
-Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
-Fidget and squirm a lot
-Talk nonstop and interrupt people
-Run around a lot
-Touch and play with everything they see
-Be very impatient
-Blurt out inappropriate comments
-Have trouble controlling their emotions.

Lord, that sounds like the description of a severely troubled individual. Either that, or it could describe a, you know, CHILD.

Sorry, but if “daydream too much” and “run around a lot” are listed as possible indications of a mental disorder, something is terribly, terribly wrong. And I don’t mean something is wrong with your child. I mean something is wrong with our society.

But the people who wish to diseasify our children, by turning normal childlike behavior into cause for medication, realize that they need more justification than what’s listed above. That’s why the Mayo Clinic‘s fact sheet about ADHD starts with this sentence:

In general, a child shouldn’t receive a diagnosis of ADHD unless the core symptoms of ADHD start early in life and create significant problems at home and at school on an ongoing basis.

So your kid doesn’t have ADHD unless he’s been fidgeting and daydreaming from a young age, AND if it “creates significant problems at home and at school.” But wait — why should that be taken into consideration? If something is a disorder, then it’s a disorder, regardless of the inconveniences it creates in controlled environments like public school. If you go to the gastroenterology clinic because you’re having severe stomach pains, I doubt the doctor will start by asking if the pain has created problems at school. Do you know why? Because that has NOTHING to do with whether this IS or ISN’T a legitimate medical condition.

If my son “suffers” from a propensity to talk a lot and lose his toys, it’s only a sign of a psychological problem if it creates an undue nuisance? What if he has asthma? Is it only asthma if it makes my life difficult, or is it asthma if it’s asthma, regardless of how I feel about it? I realize physical ailments are different than psychological problems. So take schizophrenia, for example. Do I have schizophrenia if it creates problems in school, or do I have schizophrenia regardless of how much trouble it causes in the classroom?

People tell me they know ADHD is real, because they were put on ADHD medication and it suddenly made school much easier for them. But that makes about as much sense as Lance Armstrong trying to justify his steroid usage by insisting that it made it easier to win the Tour de France. Of course it made it easier. That’s why people take them. You might find it easier to socialize at a party after you drain a few shots of Jack, but that isn’t exactly proof that Jack Daniels should start marketing itself as “medication” for “social anxieties.” In fact, Armstrong is looked down upon for resorting to drugs to get a leg up on his competition, and I’d be called an alcoholic if I relied on booze to be sociable around people, yet we see no problem encouraging our kids to use drugs to get ahead in an academic environment.

Maybe this is why our “Just Say No To Drugs” campaigns have been less than effective. “Junior, don’t resort to drugs to solve your problems. Say no to drugs, no matter what! On an unrelated note, remember to take your pills today — you’ve got a big test in fourth period. Anyway, back to the evils of drugs…”

Powerful sermon, isn’t it?

Ah, but surely there must be some truth to this ADHD thing; after all, look at just how distracted our young people are these days. Look how many of them struggle to concentrate in school. It’s an epidemic. How else can this be explained?

Right, there must be a mysterious mental disorder going around. Or, you know, the culprit could be:

-TV
-iPods
-iPads
-Smart phones
-Lap tops
-Fast food
-Energy drinks
-Lack of physical exercise
-Constant barrages of advertising
-Boring curriculum
-Lack of discipline
-Broken homes
-Lack of sleep
-Poor diet
-Disinterest in academics
-A government school system that only suits a particular personality type and leaves everyone else at a disadvantage
-Over emphasis on memorization and regurgitation
-Differing skill sets

Could it be that our kids are distracted because they’re surrounded by distractions? Could they be overstimulated because they’re surrounded by stimulation? Could they have trouble paying attention in school because school is tedious and boring?

Could it be? Maybe?

Shouldn’t we at least consider these possibilities?

Yet, I admit, some children have trouble performing well in school, and struggle to sit still and concentrate on tasks, regardless of the factors I listed. With these troublemakers, you could put them in a sound proof room with nothing but a pencil and a copy of their math text book, and they’d spend the whole time staring into space, or drawing pictures on the pages. I know those kid exist, particularly because I was one. I’m still that way. Give me a math test, sit me in a room, and two hours later I’ll come out with a cool idea for a screenplay, or a sketch of a grizzly bear, or an essay about why ADHD doesn’t exist. My wife makes fun of me because I can’t sit down without shaking my leg or scratching my head or otherwise finding a way to occupy one of my limbs. I daydream. A lot. I get lost in my own head. I forget things. I’m horrible at math. I mean, horrible. Seriously, it’s embarrassing. What’s five times five? Really, I don’t know.

Ok, it’s not that bad, but almost. The point is: if ADHD is a real mental disorder — I have it. I have it in spades. I have it with bells on. I should be on the “ADHD EXISTS” billboards. I have ADHD HD. I’ve got it in High Definition.

Or, I’m just different. I’m a different sort of person. I don’t “work” in certain environments; which means I have to find an environment that suits me. If I HAD to go to college and work at an office, I’d “need” medicine to function. But I didn’t go to college, and I don’t work at an office, and I get along just fine. Nowadays, we have a very rigid, narrow view of how people should behave, how they should think, and what they should do. Our kids aren’t born into the world — they’re born into a hallway. If they try to break down the walls and head in a different direction, we’ll lasso them back with a combination of fear and drugs.

We’ve got it all worked out: people are born, then a few years later they enter school, then they go to college, then they get a 9 to 5 job with benefits, a pension and two weeks of paid vacation, then they retire at 65 and live off their retirement and Social Security until they die at 87. That’s what it means to be a person, and we won’t accept any other options.

The problem is that we don’t leave room for the artists and the radicals, the philosophers and the thinkers, the inventors and the revolutionaries. What about the people who aren’t suited for the rule, but could change the world if we let them be the exception to it? It’s a good thing they didn’t have ADHD in the old days. Think of what sort of mental straightjacket they would have strapped on the likes of Einstein, Mozart, Picasso, Edison, Franklin, Twain, Ghandi, Socrates, MLK jr, Jefferson, and Beethoven. These guys probably did way too much daydreaming, and I doubt many of them would have been particularly good at following the public school curriculum. I’m not saying that everyone who shows “symptoms” of ADHD is actually a towering creative genius — I’m living proof of that. But even if I’m a man of moderate talent and intelligence, I’ve still been blessed to know many people who are, without a doubt, intellectually adept, highly creative, and very gifted. Every single one of them either has been, or could be, diagnosed with any number of “mental disorders.” And that’s not a damned coincidence. Brilliant people think divergently; they have a different way of formulating and processing their thoughts and communicating those thoughts to the world. And, whatever goes on in that beautiful head, what it eventually produces is often enlightening and exciting. Smart, creative people don’t fit into any sort of preordained mental “order.” They just don’t. It truly saddens me to think of all the geniuses we have drugged into submission by the age of 7.

The human mind is capable of incredible, miraculous things — if only we can unlock its potential. Instead, we do the exact opposite. We numb it, drug it and throw it in a padded room, afraid of what it might do if we allow it to run free.

The only thing worse than trying to control WHAT people think, is trying to control HOW they think. In this country, we do both. And then we have the nerve to claim we value “diversity” and “freedom.” We do everything in our power to eradicate diversity of thought and freedom of thought, even resorting to fabricating mental disorders to give us an excuse to commit a psychological genocide of entire personality types.

We can’t have it both ways. We either want children to fit into our reductive, simplistic, constraining mold so that they will sit still and follow the program, OR we want them, first and foremost, to be creative, smart, passionate, curious, and exceptional. One must come at the expense of the other; there is no way around it.

There’s no question that some people — myself included — think and behave in a certain way; a way that currently falls under the “ADHD” umbrella. The question is this: are these people “disordered”? Do they need medicine? Is there something WRONG with how they are?

Or should we help them explore and harness their different, complicated, wonderful minds? In the end, this is more of a philosophical question than a medical one. I know my answer. I encourage you to come up with your own.

Some people have mental disorders. Some kids who are diagnosed with ADHD actually may have other legitimate disorders. But it’s time to take control of this situation. It’s not fair to our children to throw them into this world where all of their human emotions, tendencies and personality traits will be used against them at the pharmacist.

So we need to start by having an honest conversation about this ADHD thing. Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Now time to clean out my inbox for a fresh batch of hate mail…

***********

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And Twitter: @MattWalshRadio

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712 Responses to Help, doc, I’m bored by boring things. I think I’ve got the ADHD!

  1. Norma says:

    Hi Kelli – sorry about all these replies above! I didn’t see the first reply, but the second came up…anyway DOH! To answer your question, every Montessori is different because it will depend on the director/owner and how they interpret the overall Montessori methods in their particular school. The reason it worked so well for Charlie is that Montessori is a self-directed education model. He has work he is responsible for, but he can find the ways to satisfy those requirements that interest him and are suited to his learning style. At the school Charlie attended, they helped him figure out what his options were so he could choose. They also had long outdoor periods, believing in the importance of kids learning while playing outside and being in nature–this helped him very much. In the winter, they took the kids cross-country skiing every day there was enough snow on the ground! So just a great alternative to the traditional school setting, which was impossible for Charlie to adapt to–he struggled all the time, and it affected his self esteem. That is when I knew I was not going to let this child be made to feel as though something was wrong with him when in fact it is the system they try to fit all of our kids into that is really the problem. Best of luck, Kelli! And ask all the questions you like! ~Norma

  2. cthbasics says:

    This article states out loud what many people think but are too afraid to say it. I have three children, one of which I have been told many times may have ADHD. I have advocated against ADHD for years and refuse to put her on any kind of medication simply because the teacher says to do so. I have a naturopathic doctor that I work and as the article states, many of my daughter’s issues were diet related. She had many food allergies that went unnoticed for years. My daughter is a dreamer and is eccentric, but she also wants to be an artist. I will not crush her dreams by loading her up with medication, just to make it easier for a teacher.
    This is a great article. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Jo says:

      Um, yeah, no one is afraid to say it. People say it all the time. No one seems at the least bit reserved about criticizing these kids and their parents.

      My kids are all very well behaved, very well disciplined, and the only way you would know they have ADHD is in the classroom setting when they completely space out during lectures. Why on earth would I deny them medication for my own ego? Why would I allow the haters to find out they have ADHD so they can be picked on and told they are lazy?

      Sure it is overdiagnosed but that is a stupid reason not to offer stimulant medications to a child that actually does have ADHD.

      • Jodi says:

        I personally know one young man that ended up in a drug rehab program, because of his use of these medications for his ADHD. As far as I’m concerned there are other ways to “control” ADHD without amphetamines.

        • Jo says:

          Does this person actually have ADHD? Seems to me most people addicted to drugs and alcohol don’t actually have ADHD.

          I know that all four of my kids are not addicted to anything. I know that a lot of their friends who do not have ADHD ended up addicted to drugs and alcohol. So perhaps stimulant medications are what is best to deal with ADHD and what is best for other kids is parents actually being parents and figuring out what is actually wrong with their kids.

      • Rebecca says:

        Actually, people with ADHD have a higher risk of drug use because of the need to control their brains. Crack to the normal person makes them high strung, but to those with ADHD it let’s them think “normal” and slows their brain down.

        • Jo says:

          The vast majority of people with ADHD that start off on stimulant meds stay on stimulant meds. The number that jump to drugs or alcohol are no higher than what you would see in normal folk. So stimulant therapy does not cause a drug or alcohol problem.

          If you are given stimulant meds when you don’t have ADHD or if you have ADHD and are denied stimulant therapy, then you get different results.

          Guess I am saying you have the causality all wrong. More people with ADHD abuse drugs and alcohol because they were denied stimulants as part of their therapy not the other way around.

        • Jodi says:

          I see you’re an authority on everything. Prove it. I don’t believe you have the expertise to make the statements that you just made. Nothing is 100%, and I believe that once they can’t find relief from the stimulants that are prescribed, they will look for more powerful substances. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so unless you have a PhD, don’t spout off about what you can’t back up with scientific facts.

        • Jo says:

          How about you google it yourself. I am not here to do your work. I think I have a fairly good idea what goes on in my own mind and I know my adult children do not have addictive personalities.

          How about you come up with something to show kids on stimulant therapy have a higher rate of drug and alcohol addictions. No? How about I quote my kids doctor, you are wrong.

      • Heather says:

        Absolutely!! We all need to fast forward to the Nov. 4 post about not judging other parents. http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/04/i-dont-agree-with-your-parenting-choices-now-let-me-explain-how-you-should-raise-your-own-children/
        I can guarantee you that any parent that chooses to put their child on medication does not do so lightly. The process does not allow for it. We spent years in teacher conferences, researching and visiting private schools, employing dietitians and fighting through special diets, tens of thousands of dollars on tutors and “brain training”, therapists and Dr.s of many kinds, hours upon hours on my knees praying, and the money equivalent to the GDP of a small country….all to avoid the highly stigmatized drug therapy–that incidentally, no one I’ve come across has any problem with openly sharing their vitriol on! There is not a suggestion posted in these comments that a parent who has dealt with ADHD for very long hasn’t had jammed in their face by every well-meaning, “I’ve-never-dealt -with-this-problem-but-I-heard-from-someone-else-how-to-fix-it” busybody around. And when we finally do succumb to the dark side and actually do the unthinkable, those pills are easier and cheaper to get in a dark alley by some sketchy drug dealer than the honest prescription way. I can only get the script written for a month at a time thus requiring my son and me to visit the prescribing Dr monthly all at out of pocket costs because ADHD is so suspect. And of course the pills themselves are exactly 1/2 the cost of a college education! Not to mention the intricate pill taking schedules and diet accommodations that must be made to get full efficacy of those little diamonds he swallows. Trust me, there is nothing easy about any of this that causes me to take lightly the fact I choose to medicate my son for his ADHD. I do it because, to the contrary of all those who believe it to be child abuse, my son is better for it. He is more alive and real. His true personality shines through, his intelligence has a chance to manifest itself rather than the cluttered mess that he can’t seem to wade through on his own, his self confidence to participate and exhibit his natural talents is alive, and the need to self-medicate with substance or adrenaline rush is gone! He has been on the same medication, same dose for more than two years without any signs of addiction or habituation.
        So, from a parent just trying to do the very best for my child, all I ask is that you not judge my parenting decisions, because I have put more time, effort, and money into it than you can ever know…just as I can never know what brought you to your crazy-a** decisions!!!

      • kenyadee says:

        Heather: Applause, applause! You have put the experience of parenting these kids beautifully. It’s no easy decision.

      • Helena says:

        I believe ma’ dear that it is YOU who are afraid of what your child will be. For you believe that it reflects on you.

        Every single child is picked on and mocked/hurt for something, and know what? They all bounce back from it.

        You however… well, that’d just be too crushing to your ego now wouldn’t it? That’s YOUR kid? The one who’s nutty? The one who can’t sit still? Well, what’s wrong with YOU and YOUR parenting. *shakes head* shameful

  3. August says:

    Based on the definition you give at the beginning of the article, four out of my six kids have ADHD. Then again, four of them are highly creative, energetic little boys. I suppose I would be considered to have it too, since I have never been able to sit still and I daydream and can’t focus, especially when it’s boring.

  4. Jackie says:

    Thanks Matt! This article is awesome. My son is 17 a senior in high school, and just got a 96 on his physics exam. I will freely admit I really have no idea what Physics is, but my son does and he just got a 96 on his exam. He also told me he hates this subject. But he got a 96 on the exam. The reason why I say this is because his entire elementary “career’ we fought the schools over him being labeled as having ADHD. Oh no they would never say that because they were not allowed to. But they loved throwing the keywords at us..hyperactive, impulsive, out of control. In February of his first grade year he was suspended four times that month. He went back to school and still received all A’s for the quarter. They would tell us we needed to take him to the doctors, or maybe a physciatrist. We refused. I had to do deep research to find alternatives to why a 6 , 7. 8, 9 etc year old boy could behave this way…Guess what I found…it was because they were 6, 7, 8, etc. years old. He was shunned by his classmates because his teachers had given him such a complex. Elementary years were not fun. In seventh grade we were able to sent him to a private christian school. What a world of difference it made! He blossomed! But I also know that if we had put him on meds he would not be the boy/man we know now. The funny crazy thing is that my daughter who is in the fourth grade exhibited almost the exact same behaviours as my son but they always seem to make excuses for her/Anyway thank you for this!!

  5. b cornelius says:

    I may be an old fashioned mother but I totally agree. Now if you would write one on drugs and pain. What is with the fear of a little old fashioned pain. A pill for every little twinge. We live in a cop out world. What about a little dose of reality fess up face up and take it like a man. Why go to lala land because the road gets a little rocky. Then there is standing on your own two feet. It is not mothers fault at 40 that it’s not a bed of roses all the time. Pick some rocks shovel a ditch or move a mountain it will take your mind off whining forget the pill to do it.

  6. Lindsey says:

    Interesting read. I was recently diagnosed with ADD (I’m 32) and it’s been a crazy process but ultimately a rewarding one. Yes, I am on medication but before I started with that, I found an ADD coach who I’ve been working with. Medication can help but you also have to be able to readjust your thinking and change your behaviours and habits which can be really hard. I’m an advocate for a multiple step process rather than just the prescribing of medication.

  7. Love this! Doctors “diagnosed” me with ADHD at 2 years old. Mom gave me one dose of the meds. After seeing the effects it had on me she flushed the rest and simply learned to control me. I do not feel i have or ever had ADHD. Then doctors tried doing the same with my youngest brother but Mom would have nothing to do with it. He just has a very different personality from the “norm.” I have always thought ADHD to be over diagnosed…and i tell people that too.

  8. genevieveharvey18 says:

    Reblogged this on Naked Imp.

  9. limogesguy says:

    This should be compulsory reading for all teachers, doctors, even parents! Get the parents – yes,both of them – to interact with the kids instead of putting them in front of some box of electronics (be it tv, computer, console, or comms device) to be ‘entertained’.

  10. Read the book The Short Bus, by Jonathan Mooney. A great exploration of the same thesis as your essay.

  11. Cindy Moers Brown says:

    Bravo Matt Walsh! This society should always seek to redirect individuals to areas where they excell and like magic, magic happens! We need to encourage creativity. If one fidgets help them use their hands to create! Common sense people & Matt gets it! Thank you!!!

  12. Crystal Grant says:

    I am a public school teacher, and I am the step-parent of a dear son who had some symptoms of ADHD but not enough for the psychiatrist to diagnose. One of his birth parents chose to “shop around” for a doctor who would prescribe stimulants anyway. My son was miserable the whole time he was on it, and he calmed down, but showed no improvement in school. Eventually, he went off the medication. I say this to preface what I am about to say…I love the way you expressed this concern, Matt. In my experiences, the people that have the most influence on a “diagnosis” of ADHD (I use that term loosely because the process is very subjective, not really any science to it at all) are the people that usually are most inconvenienced by a child’s behavior. Primarily, teachers. Psychiatrists (if a child is fortunate enough to actually be analyzed prior to diagnosis) depend on logs from the teacher as a major portion of the diagnostic criteria. While I understand that teachers spend many hours in a classroom with this child, they also are the most likely to have a very biased opinion of them. Public school classrooms are usually chaotic, and usually it gets blamed on a handful of kids who are demonstrating less than ideal “abnormal” behavior. Is it easier to give the kids stimulants to help them settle down and focus? Sure. Is it better? I think not. Because the process of learning to cope in a classroom setting or any other setting that requires focus, discipline, and attention is in an of itself vital to the maturation process. By putting kids on medicines that inhibit their natural impulses, they never have the opportunity to learn how to cope with their own unique set of personal challenges. Are there some kids that absolutely need help? I’m sure there are, especially in homes where there is no parent willing or able to help them learn those coping skills over the long hall, and I do mean LONG haul. But wherever possible, behavior modification and other therapy techniques are preferable to pill-popping. Even the American Psychiatric Association has modified their recommendations for ADHD treatment. They have concluded that giving medicine alone does not have any lasting curative effect for children with ADHD. If a child is being medicated, they should also receive therapy to help them learn how to behave and how to discipline themselves, even if it is difficult. This is a difficult subject but you said some things that needed to be said. I hope you survive your hate mail.

  13. emiliadaffodil says:

    Amazing post. That is exactly what I think. ADD is just another way for us to control our children. It’s like we don’t want individual free thinking beautiful children. No, We want inactive, mind controlled, numbed, drugged, factory drones who can’t think for themselves and just accept the world as it is. It is by far the cruellest thing we have done to our children. How can we expect them to grow up to be confident, independent, responsible adults if they’re forever being told their natural effervescence and energy is wrong and has to be reined in? Most adults I know think so badly of children. It’s awful and children are a product of us. Their lives are determined by their environment which is us. The only gifts they have to offer are the ones we give them: Silence, conformity, drug abuse and we wonder why children are unhappy and young adults are unhappy too. I’ve already written about his but haven’t posted it on my blog yet. I’ll be sure to do it soon. Keep writing those beautiful words!

  14. emiliadaffodil says:

    Reblogged this on The Daffodil Perspective and commented:
    Genius post. I’m kinda annoyed he beat me to writing about ADHD on my blog. I have written small pieces but haven’t posted them yet. I will soon. Read this and think about it. Let it open up your mind.

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  16. Les says:

    While I agree that ADD is probably over-diagnosed, that part you wrote about daydreaming too much? Daydreaming too much can be a symptom of a mental disorder. I’ve been diagnosed with ADD. When I was in middle school everyday after school I’d lock myself in my room to do my homework. My homework would just be sitting there, but instead of doing it I’d daydream hours and hours and hours. Even when it turned to midnight and my parents were asleep, and I knew I really needed to get my homework done, I’d still choose to daydream instead until it turned one in the morning, then two…and only had my homework barely started on. Kept my door locked so my parents wouldn’t open it and see me walking around in circles daydreaming. Didn’t play video games or watch TV or whatnot. Just daydreamed. Every day it was like this. Didn’t tell my parents ’til about a year or so later, ’cause I didn’t want them to think I was “mentally ill.” There was another girl in my class who had ADD. She probably didn’t finish her essay until about a month or so after it was due. Other people would probably look at her and think, “Oh, she’s just lazy.” Laziness is a common label we ADD people get. But I can understand why she’d be like that. I can understand why, after hours and hours of procrastinating, and it’s three in the morning and you just want to go to sleep, it would just be easier to give up on your homework or not do it at all.

  17. Meredith says:

    I think ADHD is probably way overdiagnosed, especially in children. I’m sure many people who made comments have had negative experiences with being told that they or their children are “disordered”, when they really aren’t. However, I don’t think we should act as if ADHD does not exist. Everyone is different and we really need to allow for that, but if someone is outside a reasonable “normal” boundary (reasonable being the key word) and it is negatively affecting his/her life, why wouldn’t you look for a diagnosis and treatment? If you believe that mental disorders exist, it’s reasonable to believe that ADHD is one of those. Many mental disorders are diagnosed based on symptoms. It’s not a matter of if we exhibit those symptoms sometimes (everyone does), but of how frequently, to what degree, and how much it negatively affects your life.
    I was recently diagnosed (at age 28) with ADD, and I wish I had had the opportunity to see if medication would have helped me while growing up. This has nothing to do with grades or how well I did in school, but with a number of negative memories that caused emotional impact on my life. Some of those experiences were a result of the expectations of others. Some were a result of me not feeling or being able to pursue and succeed at things that I really wanted to do. I wonder if I would have enjoyed life more had I been on medication or gone to counseling. I think it’s people in similar situations, those who are struggling with aspects of life and don’t feel they are living up to their potential (and not just because of the expectation of the “norm”), that can truly benefit from a diagnosis and treatment for ADHD. For their sakes, I don’t think it’s fair to nix the whole idea of ADHD being a real disorder.

    • Bettina says:

      Thank you for this comment. I feel the way you do when I think about what it could have been like if I was on meds before.

  18. silmaraemutah says:

    Hummm maybe it`s my ADHD that didn`t let me read this huge article (it was a little boring), but can we conclude that the author does not believe that ADHD exists at all?

  19. Damn! I didn`t take my meds today and couldn`t finish reading this article. Does he mean he does not believe there is such a thing as ADHD at all?

  20. Millie says:

    I got screened for ADHD about a month ago. Yes, I have it, and I was planning on taking meds, but reading this changed my perspective on the whole thing. As a 16 year old girl very much concerned with my education, I kind of freaked out this school year. I still kind of am freaking out. Not to sound cocky, but yes, I am smart, I’m a fast learner, and school has always been generally easy for me. But it wasn’t until this year when I realized how much I didn’t try- or care- during my entire experience of the wonderful American School System. I’ve never had to put effort into anything school related, and I got caught off guard this year. My grades were awful. The worst they have ever been. I realized that I don’t know how to pay attention. There’s never been a demand, so I never had the need to figure out what worked for me in focusing in school. What I thought was a mental disorder was really just a lack of experience. And as easy as it would be to drug myself and let the meds do the work, I feel like I need to take responsibility, up my omega intake, and grit my teeth and figure it out. This post really helped me know what I want to do, and I’m really grateful for that. So thanks for this Matt – it feels good to understand myself better.

  21. Hmmmm, interesting. As a well-trained caregiver who created an afterschool program specifically tailored to children with behavioral, social, and mental challenges, it pains me to see these blanket articles. Of course every child who acts out, doesn’t focus, underachieves, or flat out can’t perform doesn’t have ADHD or anything else for that matter. However, the very serious matter of defining the disorders more strictly and focusing on proper clinical diagnosis with behavioral modification education for students, parents, teachers, and caregivers would be devalued by such a generalist approach.

    Certainly I agree that children are being diagnosed improperly, blame some parents for describing NAUGHTINESS as behavioral issues, blame teachers for not having enough resources to give proper attention to all students, blame children for getting away with horrid behavior after learning of their “disorder” and most of all blame people who continue to perpetuate the idea that these disorders do NOT exist.

    I assure you, that they do. And, when properly diagnosed and treated, create beautifully balanced individuals. It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure that their child is properly seen, symptoms described appropriately, and that follow up education on how to best guide their child is complete. This is where it all seems to fall apart.

    Parents believe that the answer is to ignore behaviors altogether that even remotely resemble the symptoms of the diagnosed “disorder”, there is much research and information ot there if you just look….enough of my rant….I just hope that those out there that really need help – get it – and those that don’t need it – get better parenting!

  22. Alicia O'Connell says:

    Hi Matt. Thanks for this article. It certainly echoes some of the thoughts I have had over the years in dealing with one of my children. I have 5 kids and 4 of them are boys. My oldest boy (13) was just diagnosed with “ADHD”, and I’ve asked myself all the same questions as those in your blog. We tried the medication and it was a disaster for him. What did we decide to do (my son included in the decision)? We decided to homeschool him, and he is doing beautifully. Yes, he still struggles with some of the same issues as we saw in the classroom, but not NEARLY to the degree. Public school is nothing shy of “boring, clerical work”. He wasn’t able to do what most kids his age were able to do: sit quietly, stare at a white board, take notes, and get A’s and B’s. He’s bright and very capable! Just not in that setting, with that curriculum. Perhaps, as he gets older, his brain will “mature” in those areas, and he will be able to do what many adults still can’t. Until then, I’ll keep him home, and return to him his confidence and passion for learning. I am confident he will learn the skills necessary to be a successful, responsible adult (without medication).

  23. darleen says:

    Hi, Thanks for this article. I have 3 kids the 2 older ones are diagnosed with ADHD. My understanding of ADHD is a little different. My oldest son was behaving much different. From the day he was born till about 10 months he only slept for 2 hours in a 24 hour period. He wanted to just look everywhere and be in a constant motion. when we finally sleep trained him we were able to get him to sleep up to 4 hours. He’s 9 and he will sleep for 6-7 hours. Although he can not focus on one things at a time he is able to focus on 2-3 sometimes 4 things at a time. We do not do medication and we home-school. My next child is also similar but sleeps a couple hours more. I was told that ADHD meant that those who have it are able to focus on many tasks or things at once and still know what is going on around them but have a hard time focusing on only one task. They need to be hyper stimulated. That explains the sleeping disorder and constant need to do more than one thing at the same time. To me that is the way they are. they just need to utilize it so they can function and contribute to their society without harm. Thanks again.

    • kenyadee says:

      Darleen, I would say your experience is very similar to a lot of parents. And yes, they can often focus on many tasks at a time. Sometimes they can also hyperfocus on one really interesting task to the exclusion of all others. So a student in a classroom might still be focused on the interesting activity they just did and has trouble moving to math, or language, or science, or whatever subject doesn’t excite that part of the brain. A challenge is that as part of the ADHD (or in parcel with it) are executive function issues, including working memory. So they may focus on 3 things and hear them all at the same time…but they might have trouble drawing that memory later (like on a test) when they need it. They need to be taught skills to work around these challenges, which is hampered by our current educational system and by those who insist it just doesn’t exist.

  24. Frank Pr says:

    Nowadays, ADHD is common sense. No one said it is easy to raise kids. They easily get bored, especially when their attention span is small. What to do with people who are bored (with or without ADHD)? Challenge them!!

    • Jo says:

      I agree, but… In our wonderful PC, everyone wins, no one is better than anyone else school refuse to challenge these kids. Instead they get constant grief that they cannot control themselves.

      College was so amazing and challenging but what good is that if you never graduate from high school?

  25. Amy says:

    Matt I politely disagree. Based on my life experiences and those of my family I know that ADHD is real and should not be discounted by a generalization that we are all different and that we live in a world filled with distractions. ADHD is a neurobiological condition that has been researched extensively over the years. It is false to believe that by treating ADHD with medication we are somehow putting on, as you state, a “mental straightjacket” and that somehow we eliminate someone’s potential to achieve great things like “Einstein, Mozart, Picasso, Edison, Franklin, Twain, Ghandi, Socrates, MLK jr, Jefferson, and Beethoven.” Of course we are all different and that is a wonderful and important thing. The “before” and “after” I have experienced on being diagnosed and treated with medication can be compared to someone who receives a pair of eyeglasses for the first time after going years with blurred vision. CLARITY! It has helped greatly with reading comprehension and recall, executive functioning issues like organization, prioritization and focus. It’s not that someone with ADHD can’t EVER focus but that we struggle with regulating our focus consistently and a lot of times OVERFOCUS on things to a point of diminishing returns and perfectionism. Some people with ADHD can manage and cope better than others due to differing personalities and different levels of support and coping mechanisms. Medicine isn’t the complete answer but for many it helps considerably and improves their overall quality of life dramatically. There are very REAL negative social, educational and emotional consequences for someone with untreated ADHD often leading to depression and anxiety that further limits their abilities to function on a level that they desire. Before completely dismissing ADHD as you have in your blog i hope that you will think of the many, many people like me out there that have experienced such joy and relief and actually feel as if the “straightjacket” has been removed after being diagnosed and treated with medication. I feel more empowered and capable of great things than I ever have in my entire 45 years of life! You can learn more about ADHD at the following link. http://www.chadd.org/About-CHADD/National-Resource-Center/NRC-Library.aspx

    • kenyadee says:

      Beautiful and well-stated reply, Amy!

    • nessili says:

      Thank you, Amy! I was going to leave a long comment of my own, but you’ve nailed all the salient points.
      Three of the four adults (and one child) in my family were recently diagnosed with ADD (it does tend to be a family thing). Now that we know what we’re dealing with–and with the help of a small amount of medication–for the first time in years we’re able to move forward instead spending all of our mental and physical energies “treading water”.

      Is ADD over-diagnosed? Unfortunately, yes. Does that mean it’s not a real neurobiological issue? Of course not. Can people function without meds? Certainly, and they do so all the time. Do meds help some people function better/become more productive? Oh gosh, yes.

    • Bettina says:

      Perfect comment. I also got diagnosed as an adult and I no longer have problems with depression and anxiety with my ADD under control.

  26. Reblogged this on Home's Cool! and commented:
    Bingo!

  27. M. R. says:

    FAR OUT! – a thinking person, and one with RATIONAL thinks! [grin]
    Just love this post. Will need to peruse blog to see if there are many such sensible statements ….

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