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TotallyADD Blog / Rick Archives - TotallyADD.com | Adult ADD | ADHD in Adults

Welcome to the TotallyADD Blog.

The 3 Eternal Truths About ADHD

ADD

By Rick Green,

Recently diagnosed with ADHD? I want to offer three ‘truths’ you should know. Had I been told these things 15 years ago, when I was first diagnosed, I would have avoided a lot of upset and frustration. And I’m big on avoiding upset and frustration.

Here are the truths for the Newly Diagnosed:

  1. It gets better.
  2. But not steadily better.
  3. There’s a danger you may not notice.

If you’re not a newbie, if you are a grizzled veteran like I am and have been at this a while, here are three truths that you must always remember:

  1. It gets better.
  2. But not steadily better.
  3. There’s a danger you may not notice.

I’m 15 years into my ADHD journey, and I still have to remind myself of these things. If I forget these truths I inevitably find myself in the place I’m big on avoiding: ‘Upset and Frustration.’

Why are these three still true? It’s the nature of this disorder. Unlike ‘travelling to Paris to see the Louvre’, or ‘Raising kids and sending them out into the world,’ living with your ADHD has no clear ‘end.’ Unlike a cold or a pregnancy, it tends to be a life-long challenge.

You don’t check “Get My ADHD Handled” off your To-Do list. Or your Bucket List.

I’ve discovered that no matter how much my ability to focus improves, or how many strategies I use to I bend my world to suit my ADHD, it figures out new ways to sabotage me. This Disorder is a subtle, shape-shifting Devil that keeps popping up when I least expect it.   And when I think I’ve overcome it.

Life with ADHD feels like an endless game of ‘Whack-A-Mole.’

It’s kinda like ‘raising kids, sending them out into the world…. and then having them move back home again every year or two.’

So, whether you’re newly diagnosed, or a battle-scarred veteran who has spent years building your arsenal of strategies, I believe these three ‘truths’ remain true. Starting with…

#1 It Get’s Better

A few years back Karen Gordon, a radio producer invited me on a phone-in show called ‘Fresh Air, to talk about ADHD.   As I shared my experiences with host Mary Ito, Karen realized my symptoms and struggles sounded awfully familiar.  After the show she asked me some questions, then went to this website, learned more, and then sought and got a proper diagnosis.  She later told me, ‘The relief was major. With proper medication life got much better.’

Read our Forums. Watch our videos. It’s clear: being diagnosed in adulthood can be life-changing.

The power of the diagnosis is perfectly captured in the first popular book ever published about Adult ADHD, ‘You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?’

How can that realization not have a huge impact? At any age.

Discovering you’re short of certain neurotransmitters, rather than a bad person who is overflowing with moral failings or character flaws, is profound. You realize there’s real hope: ‘There’s so much I can do now that I know what is sabotaging me.’

Relief! But Also Anger…

… and regret. Sadness. Confusion. ‘If only I’d known sooner. How would my life have unfolded?’ There’ a lifetime of negativity to distinguish and discard.

Thus, the title of our video, Now You Tell Me!: The Emotional Tornado of an ADHD Diagnosis.’

Imagine if Peter Parker was 80 years old before he discovered he could shoot spider webs out of his hands, fly around the city, fight crime, and impress girls in his Spiderman outfit! ‘Oh great. Now the spandex just emphasizes my saggy butt!’

The good news feels like bad news. It can be particularly upsetting when you try medication and it works!   I was stunned to discover I could sit and do my taxes. I didn’t like doing it. But I could do it.

But for me, those early days, when things started changing, were heady times.

Until I learned Truth #2.

# 2. Better. But not steadily better.

The ‘solution’ to ADHD is to build habits, creating supports and structures, ones that work for you. Which is not a strength of ours. After a lifetime of struggling it’s easy to backslide. (I still have days where I wish I had a tree fort in the woods where I could go and hide from life.)

Things get better. Sometimes in a big way. For example, medication was a part of my holistic ‘treatment’ plan. (I hate the word treatment… I’m not sick!)

Though I was skeptical, worried, and doubtful, I quickly discovered medication allowed me sit down and finally finish a year’s worth of back taxes. In one day! I could not have been more surprised if I’d suddenly discovered I could shoot spider webs out of my hands and fly around the city fighting crime.

This was a clear cut victory. I thought the path was clear, the way ahead was wide open and I’d finally race ahead, full speed down life’s highway… Ah, silly, naïve boy…

After a few collisions, crashes, wrong turns, and flat tires, I realized that the road was never going to be smooth and straight. For one thing my career kept changing—writer, actor, director, producer… Every day is different. So whatever strategies I had developed to support what I’d been doing, I needed new supports for what I was doing now.

There will ALWAYS be bad days. You can’t prevent them. Instead, accept them. Don’t waste time and energy on, ‘This shouldn’t be happening to me!’

Hey, Stuff Happens

 

Things will go wrong. They’re gonna. Even people who don’t have ADHD misplace their phone, wallet, purse, or keys.

Mastering my ADHD is never a straight path. It’s more like an Drunken Square Dance. “Swing your partner, lose your job, do-sa-do, two steps forward, one step back, and three to the left, kick, and turn, two steps forward, bow to your left, lose your partner, circle bankruptcy, left foot forward, right foot in your mouth, stumble in circles, one steps backward, smack into the wall…”

Don’t get me wrong. You can make great progress. Eventually. But it takes time. And a Multi-Modal approach. Holistic Solutions. (Remember, ADHD sabotages so many areas of life in so many ways. It’s not just about focus or attention. There’s problems with procrastination, forgetfulness, restlessness, listening, planning, finishing, distractions and more.)

For example, one year after that memorable day where I caught up on my delinquent taxes, I found myself a year behind in my taxes… again! I was shocked. Confused. And facing more fines and late fees.

My first reaction was, ‘Well, that just proves that never changes. Why did I even bother?’

‘I’m a hopeless case.’

This happened a lot.

Gradually I realized that, yes, the medication allowed me to focus all day and finish my taxes. But it didn’t guarantee I would do them in the future. The pills didn’t open my calendar and schedule days reserved for doing tax installments. It didn’t set up a place to gather my bills.

I’d been so thrilled about finishing a years worth of taxes in one day, I assumed that I was set for life. I’d become a super-calculating-form-filling Accountant Wizard!

Nope.

Yes, I had improved my ability to focus and stay on task. However my next task should have been to create a system, schedule, and place for my finances. So the second time I fell behind, I did just that. Eventually my wife convinced me to try a way better solution that was actually cheaper—a bookkeeper. Magic!

But at that moment when I first realized I’d fallen a year behind in my taxes again, I could have thrown in the towel. It really felt like nothing had changed.

Which brings us to the final truth…

 

#3. There’s a Danger You May Not Notice

I was lucky. In those early days I had some clear victories. Things changed noticeably. But I still messed up most of the time. Five years on, I still found myself rushing around the house trying to find my keys.

Today, fifteen years on, losing my keys doesn’t dishearten or infuriate me as it once did, because I understand Truth #2.   I expect setbacks. And they happen less often.

Equally important, I’ve taken time to pause and notice the improvement. Or should I say, I have coaches, a doctor, friends, and family who will tell me that I’m much better.

It’s not like they are constantly going, ‘Wow! Your phone is right where it should be!’  But if I am feeling frustrated and I ask, ‘Has anything really changed? Have I improved? Am I more organized? A better listener?’ they will tell point out my progress. They remember how I was better than I do. Plus, they’ll tell me when I’m not any better at listening. (I think they will. I dunno. Someone said something about it at Christmas.)

Sometimes the Transformation is Dramatic.

I still recall the sense of astonishment I felt that day when I blasted through a year’s worth of tax forms and paperwork. It was stunning to accomplish in one day what I hadn’t been able to even start for a year! What was equally surprising was that I wasn’t exhausted. It hadn’t reduced me to a blubbering idiot. (Which was my usual state of mind around paperwork.)

I’ll never forget that day. I’ve had a few more since. Days where everything changed, where I became unstoppable, able to finish a dreaded task that had always been a draining, numbing chore… I wish there were more days like that.

Mostly things get better bit by bit. Incrementally.

Which is why Truth #3 is a warning that you may not notice the improvement. In fact, as it says, ‘There’s a DANGER You Might Not Notice’ that you’re making progress.

And if you don’t notice that you are losing things less, losing your temper less, or losing your train of thought less, you may lose something else… the commitment to keep working on your ADHD.

So schedule time to celebrate your success. In ADD & Mastering It?! one of the strategies that Patrick McKenna reveals is key to his success is journaling. Every day he spends 10 minutes writing down what he did before. He has decades of his life, his accomplishments, that he can review to remind himself that he’s has made progress, which is crucial on those days when it feels like you are right back where you started, and nothing has changed.

But remember, we have lousy memories. We forget how bad it was. We forget how frequently things went Kablooey.

You are NOT back where you started.

The belief that ‘Nothing has changed. What a waste of time. I’m hopeless. Why bother?’ is natural. And it’s nonsense. You are NOT the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or even when you started reading this blog.

You grow every day.

Whether you appreciate it or not, you have a different perspective. A better perspective.

I suspect you have a better perspective just from learning these three truths. I hope it gives you more resilience when stuff does go Kablooey. Because stuff will.

The only way to avoid having stuff go Kablooey? Don’t do anything new or challenging.

And who wants to live like that?

Looking for Tools, Strategies, Advice, Insight? Check out our ADHD Starter Kit. Featuring scores of Specialists, Experts, Coaches, and adults with ADHD.

February 20, 2017 driddles

The Danger of People Who Dismiss Your ADHD

A young couple arguing at the breakfast table

By Rick Green

Let’s talk about people who deny or dismiss ADHD.

Their hostility can be surprising. Their ignorance can be dangerous.

This stigma that still taints many people’s view of ADHD causes needless suffering.

And I’m not talking about the universal dread that everyone experiences when they consider getting diagnosed. Who wants to know that ‘there might be something wrong with my brain.’ That is a worry I understand. (Of course I quickly learned there’s nothing wrong with my brain, it’s just not great at the routine, boring, repetitive obligations of modern life. And reallllly good at other things.)

The stigma I’m referring is the hostility faced by folks like you (and I) who have received a reliable diagnosis, have created a treatment plan, are moving forward… Until we are confronted by what I call, ‘A Closed Mind & Mouth Wide Open.’

The Know-It-All Who Knows Nothing

Unless you were diagnosed this week and haven’t told a soul, you’ve probably met people who proudly proclaim, ‘I don’t believe in ADHD!’ To them it is a joke. A scam. And you’re a poor sucker for buying into it.

Some claim, ‘I know a guy who was diagnosed and was medicated into a zombie, until the parents cut out gluten and the guy went on to win 5 Nobel Prizes. Seriously.’  

Or they’ve read about a ‘healer’ who cures ADHD online with magic hula-hoops, pictures of trees, and chanting Miley Cyrus songs backwards. When pressed they can’t recall the details, ‘Google it! This woman is amazing!’

I know this hostility and dismissal is an ongoing problem because our videos Facing The World about how to defend your diagnosis, and Disclosure: To Tell or Not To Tell, are among the most popular downloads in our shop.

The funny thing is, these people often mean well. It took me decades to get that people always think they are doing the right thing. And my opinion, or common courtesy, or even scientific facts didn’t matter.

The ends justify the means.

‘I don’t mean to be rude or cruel, but you are…’

ADHD brain

We all do this. It’s human nature.

Even when we know what they are saying or doing isn’t exactly honorable, perhaps even downright nasty or illegal, we find a way to justify it.

‘Everyone else is doing it.’

‘I need to pass this course.’

‘My wife doesn’t understand me.’

But many people who have dismissed or minimized my ADHD thought they were being ‘helpful and kind.’ They were genuinely concerned.

‘I’m just worried that you’re using this ADHD stuff as an excuse.’

‘You’re fine, Rick. You’re just creative. You’ve been on national television for heaven’s sake.’

Another common ‘explanation’ you may hear goes something like, ‘The whole family is like this. We’re Spanish. We can’t help it.’

In fact, comments like that were what drove me to make the PBS documentary, ADD & Loving It?! Okay, no one accused me of being Spanish.

But here’s the revelation that has been liberating. Almost as much as finally getting diagnosed was. It’s something I’d heard a hundred times, but never fully considered. You’ve probably heard it yourself. It’s deceptively simple.

‘People are doing the best they know how. When they know better, they do better.’

It kind of sounds like an excuse. Or it did to me. Now I think it explains 90% of what baffles me about people. (Including about myself!)

 

 

‘What were they thinking?’

This is actually crucial to understand: Everyone is doing what they believe or feel is the right thing.

Or, the least awful thing. As in, ‘Hey, I don’t want to cheat people, but if I tell buyers about the problem with the sewage, no one will ever buy our house.’

Until I understood that most people are doing what they think is the right thing, I was constantly shocked by people’s denial or dismissal, left speechless, thinking, ‘I can’t believe they said that about my ADHD?’ Gradually I realized they believe what they have heard about ADHD is the truth. And you need to hear this. Because they know better.

They may be snarky about it, or sound superior and dismissive, but they may ascribe to the theory that, ‘Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.’ Or, ‘I’m saying this for your own good.’ That statement usually precedes something appalling that is not good for anyone!

And yet, I will say it again, ‘What if everyone is doing what they feel is right and saying what they believe is the truth?’ You don’t have to like this idea. I can’t imagine you would. I didn’t, for a long time. But it explains a lot.

An Inconvenient & Confronting Truth

A father who thinks kids need a good smack to learn respect will smack his kids. Makes total sense. Based on what he believes and how he was raised.

If you dare to offer an alternate opinion on the efficacy of corporal punishment, that father may snort, ‘What do you know? Do you have kids? You want the kid to be a sissy? It’s a tough world.’

You mention that a number of studies have shown that hitting actually… ‘Scientific study? What crap! They can make studies say anything you want. Besides, I know what I know.’

We are all doing the best we know how, based on what we know. As in, what we know right now. If a colleague or grandparent believes ADHD is bogus, or has heard medications turn people into drones… it makes total sense that they say things that you find hurtful, cruel, or pig-ignorant.

The real danger, and the only one that matters, is that you may allow those comments and ‘opinions’ to derail your progress.

A friend’s casual, ‘Do you really need medication? You’re just creative,’ was enough to stop a young comedian I know from continuing with a treatment plan that he told me was ACTUALLY WORKING! He knew it was stupid. He said so. But he couldn’t bring himself to get back on track.

Here’s The Trap We All Fall Into…

People will always believe nonsense. The problem is that in this increasingly polarized world they are loud and proud, adamant that, ‘It’s true!’

And if they know ‘the truth,’ then whatever you believe is obviously false. Making you a deluded, foolish, stubborn moron. (To them.) And if you get emotional and argue to the contrary, that just confirms to them that you are pathetic.

If someone’s right, then everyone else must be wrong? Hmm. Even if that were true, well, who can be right all the time? Not me. Or anyone I know. If it’s True or False, at best you’ve got a 50-50 chance of being right.

At school, even in my best subjects, I never got more than 90% of the right answers. And that was basic stuff. That stuff actually was either True or False.

Life is not like that. Life’s way more complex.

Life is 50 Shade of Gray…

… and a few thousand shades of all the other colors.

Remember, the brain is the most complex thing in the universe. ADHD adds a whole new level of uncertainty. Call it 50 Shades of Grey Matter.

The odds that I’m going to be 100% right about everything? … Not a chance. I only have to look at my past for have ample proof that I haven’t been right about a lot of things I believed or chose or did. My batting average is probably closer to 10%.

So look, you have to protect yourself. You have to defend your diagnosis. Don’t spend time trying to educate people who are not interested in learning something new.

As I said in my previous Blog, you are not the ‘Idiot Whisperer.’

At the same time, don’t judge people harshly. Just because they don’t know what ADHD is, but are saying things that are potentially destructive to other people’s progress, doesn’t make them evil, or stupid, or an a$$h0le.

It does make them dangerous… Only if you buy into what they are saying.

‘I Never Want to Speak to Them Again!

Look you don’t have to end friendships if someone says something that’s uninformed. But in some cases you may have to cut them loose. Looking back, fifteen years on, I can see that the people who were truly rude to me about my ADHD had their own agenda. Their own baggage. Some of these friends are no longer in my life, or contact is minimal.

But many other friends and family members who were unsure but had my best interests at heart are with me still. They came around as they saw the way my life changed with a good treatment plan. One of them even married me.

One last suggestion: I’ve found the best way to deal with people who spew nonsense about ADHD, is prevention.

Don’t disclose to strangers. Be very careful who you tell. If it comes up, change the subject. Or if they insist, act impressed and ask them to send you, ‘the name of that guy in Nebraska who is curing ADHD using Yo-Yos and Xanthan Gum. He sounds interesting.’

I go into more detail in Defending Your Diagnosis. What matters is you, your progress, and your success.

Stigma? Dismissal? Cruel comments? Don’t let others undermine you. Defend your diagnosis with ‘Facing The World’

OWN IT NOW > Facing The World

Disclosure: Who needs to know that you or your loved one has ADHD? Disclosing is dangerous. Understand the risks. And what to say in: To Tell or Not To Tell’

PREVIEW > :


February 8, 2017 driddles

‘Fine! You Win! ADHD is Over-diagnosed!’

By Rick Green

‘Oh, everyone thinks they have ADD nowadays. It’s over-diagnosed. It’s the internet. And cell phones. And everyone’s trying to do 9 things at once. Fifty years ago there was no such thing as ADHD.’

Comments like that used to set me off on a rant, ‘Actually, no. Everyone does not have ADHD! Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is driven by genes. It runs in families. It’s highly heritable. And it’s usually there at birth. Or even before! In fact, one doctor in our film, ADD & Loving It?! who has four sons…’

The other person would tune out. While I yammered away…

My message, though one I never openly stated, was simple: ‘You’re an idiot for saying that! You have no idea what you’re talking about!’

Actually, they may be right!

But seven years after we launched TotallyADD.com, having read a library of books on ADHD, (And co-written one book on ADHD.) interviewed scores of experts for our videos on ADHD, , thousands of adults who have ADHD (Or who love someone who does) I can see the truth in those dismissive comments.

Or should I say, SOME truth.

Which surprises me.

First, Let’s Define ‘Over-Diagnosed’

What constitutes ‘over-diagnosed’? You could argue that if even one person is diagnosed with something that they don’t actually have it’s been over-diagnosed. But that’s true of every medical condition there is.

In fact, a proper diagnosis is tricky. One of our most popular videos, Embracing the Diagnosis, lays out 13 common challenges to getting a proper ADHD diagnosis. (And how to overcome each one.)

Clearly this is not what most people mean when they claim it’s, ‘overdiagnosed.’

Perhaps what they mean is that it’s ‘misdiagnosed.’

Someone suffering from Bi-Polar, who is incorrectly diagnosed as having ADHD, is not ‘Over-Diagnosed.’ They’ve been ‘Misdiagnosed.’ They’re struggling with a real problem. It’s just not properly identified.

My public school teachers ‘Misdiagnosed’ me as bored, messy, uninterested, and slow. (And I suppose I was bored, messy, and uninterested in school.) Cause they didn’t have a better name for it. They did have a few names for me, however.

But I digress. ADHD Awkward Moment

But I don’t think ‘It’s misdiagnosed’ is what people mean when they sneer, ‘ADHD is so over-diagnosed.’

My sense is that they mean, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you that a smack on the side of the head wouldn’t fix.’ But that’s not polite to say out loud. So they suggest this mental health issue is over-diagnosed. Or that it’s not even a ‘real’ disorder.

Despite 4,000 studies and millions of people’s experience.

Alternative facts, as it were.

Consider what they actually said.

Now, let’s look at their initial ‘dismissal’ again. Read it slowly. Calmly, if you can.

‘Oh, everyone thinks they have ADD nowadays. It’s the internet. And cell phones. And everyone’s trying to do 9 things at once. ADHD is over-diagnosed. Fifty years ago there was no such thing as ADHD.’

That kind of attitude is what inspired me to make ADD & Loving It?!

It was infuriating! And total nonsense!   Or is it?

Could there be a tiny bit of truth in there? Hmm..

Let’s break it down, line by line.

ADD & Loving it sale banner2

 

First…

‘Oh, everyone thinks they have ADD nowadays.’

Notice, they didn’t say everyone has ADD nowadays. They claimed that everyone thinks they do.

Which these days, might be true, right?

Well, okay, maybe not every single person on the planet, but far more than the 4 to 5% of adults who are actually struggling with this mindset have wondered if they indeed had a ‘bit of that ADHD.’

Our friend, Jennifer, set her twitter account to notify her everytime someone tweeted #ADHD or #ADD. It was astounding.

‘Overwhelmed today! I think I’m developing ADD or something!’

‘I lost my new sweater. I’m so ADHD sometimes.’

‘So antsy when my mom visited. My wife said I must have ADHD. LOL.’

So yes, you could argue that these days, with the pace of life and the amount of change, almost everyone thinks they have ADHD. It’s a bit of a joke. To those who don’t have it, anyways.

For those of us who do, who are always overwhelmed, losing things, and restless, it’s not all that funny. (Though the TotallyADD community can laugh about it with each other.)

Every ADHD specialist I’ve spoken to concedes that, yes, in some parts of the country it’s over-diagnosed amongst kids. And that needs to be addressed. In other areas it’s the opposite.

But amongst adults, ADHD is still woefully under-diagnosed. The exact figure is difficult to know. I’ve heard that less than 1 in 6 adults in North American who have this mindset are aware of it. In the rest of the world it’s even lower.

Let’s consider the next sentence:

‘It’s the internet. And cell phones.’

Based on my own experience and talking with other adults who have ADHD, we are more susceptible to the lure of the web. Endless novelty. Odd connections. Constant surprises. Anything you can think of, no waiting.

And there’s a growing body of evidence that this technology is rewiring our brains and shortening our attention spans.

But having 90 open tabs doesn’t cause ADHD. It may be something a person with ADHD does… (Sound of me clearing my throat) But it doesn’t cause ADHD… At least, that’s been the standard belief.

Internet Addiction is starting to become a series subject for research. Several years ago I read a study that found a few hours on the internet started to rewire how the brain worked. Last year an ADHD specialist told me there’s actually interest in researching whether social media and mobile technology is actually creating ADHD symptoms.

YouTube? Messaging? Poking? Tweeting? Texting? Sexting?… It does seem attention spans are shorter. Things are rushed. Messages are full of mistakes. So, yes, I’d have to concede that more and more people show some signs of ADHD.

That doesn’t mean being online all the time is creating people who qualify as having ADHD. But who knows. Time, and some reliable scientific research, will tell.

What you should know, is that doctors were describing kids who struggled with all the symptoms of ADHD long before the Internet. Or computers. Or cell phones. Or even phones. As far back as the 1700’s! (The video, ‘What Is ADHD,’ delves deep into the history of the diagnosis, the neurology, and the symptoms.)

Next statement?

‘And everyone’s trying to do 9 things at once.

I’m guilty of this. Or I was. Until research revealed that multi-tasking is not more efficient. (Dang!)   I had lots happening, which felt great, but nothing finished, which caused me to pay fines and late fees.

Who isn’t doing the work of 2 people these days? Most people I know complain about being overwhelmed. Having a ton on the go is a source of pride. Or a necessity to make ends meet. And that pressure leads to overwhelm, struggling with time, distractions, restlessness, forgetting things… All signs of ADHD.

Next sentence:

‘ADHD is over-diagnosed.’

When we were making ADD & Loving It?!, the star of the program, comedian Patrick McKenna, asked Dr. Margaret Weiss about the common belief that, ‘Stimulant medications for ADHD are over-prescribed.’

Dr. Weiss paused for a moment, then explained, ‘I think that the difficulty with that statement is that it implies that medication is either over-prescribed or under prescribed.’ She admitted that many families are expecting too much from their children, filling their spare time with dozens of activities: Sports. Competitions. Music classes. Dance lessons.

Dr. Weiss also noted that the percentage of people who actually find a doctor they trust, then learn about medication, start a regimen, and stick with it, is actually a small subset of the ADHD population.

Compliance is terrible. (But that’s true of every medication.)

Every parent and most adults we’ve interviewed were extremely reluctant to try medication. Including me. 18 adults talk about our own reluctance to try a stimulant in our series on ADHD Medication.

Medication is, as one doctor points out, ‘The last thing anyone wants to try.’

Next statement?

’50 years ago there was no such thing as ADHD.’

Technically, yes, that’s true.

Half a century ago, ADHD was called Minimal Brain Dysfunction. Which a few folks think might actually be a more accurate name. (I explained why in other blogs.)

Lately specialists and researchers are framing ADHD as an Executive Function Disorder, which I kind of like as well.

So the name may change again. But doctors were describing children with ADHD-like symptoms way back in the 1700’s, and 1800’s. (Mostly German doctors. Apparently being restless, impulsive, talkative, interrupting, and scattered are not proper Teutonic traits. I wonder if they had T-Shirts, ‘Don’t be rushin’ if you’re a Prussian.’)

So, yes 50 years ago kids were diagnosed with, ‘Minimal Brain Dysfunction.’ If they were lucky. If they weren’t lucky, they were labeled as lazy, stupid, trouble-maker, difficult, underachiever, or loser. And the treatment plan was simple: ‘Try Harder.’

As for Adult ADHD? That wasn’t on anyone’s radar until the late 1980’s.

Okay, the final statement:

‘I don’t believe in ADHD. I think it’s just an excuse.’

Okay… Hmm. Technically, that’s true. They honestly believe ADHD is an excuse. Fine.  They can believe whatever they like.

I used to argue with them. But then I realized that’s what I used to think before I was diagnosed.

And in fact, more than one person with ADHD has confessed to me that when they were first diagnosed they did use it as an excuse now and then.

Difficult not to, especially in the early days.

I can tell you that most people soften their opinions when they learn about things like the genetic research, the neuro-imaging studies that shows ‘this brain is different,’ the role of neuro-transmitters, and especially, the difference that treatment makes.

But education takes time. And if you push people… it backfires.

Any first year Psychology student can tell you that no human being has ever changed their mind when told, ‘You’re an idiot for saying that! You have no idea what you’re talking about!’

It took me years to realize this. (Eventually, I discovered a much better strategy. See below.)

Three Ways to Deal With Denial?

So, how do you change people’s minds? Here are five strategies.

Strategy #1: Be generous! ‘You may be right,’ is a more diplomatic way of saying, ‘Yes, and pigs may fly.’

Strategy #2: Show them ADD & Loving It?!   Scores of people have thanked us for making this film. It transformed how their spouse, parent, colleague, or relatives viewed ADHD. ‘They finally got it!’ It’s funny, dark, surprising, and built on solid science.

My whole purpose in creating this program was to get through to people who were dismissive of my own ADHD. I was shocked to learn how many people have had their stubborn beliefs and dismissive opinions swept aside by this. When I asked one of the ADHD specialists I talk to a lot, he said it works because it’s not a ‘the person who has it trying to convince them.   The family has already dismissed the person’s claims. They can talk themselves blue in the face, and it will only make other people even more entrenched in their beliefs. Plus, you have a wide range of experts, and you have a lot of humor, and Patrick and Janis’s story touches people in a way that medical checklists never will.’

The Simplest Option?

Strategy #3: Don’t bother. Life is short. Just nod and walk away. Save your breath. And use your energy to deal with your ADHD so you can get on with your life.

You are not the ‘Idiot Whisperer.’

I like this strategy. But I’ve never been able to do it. (Too self-righteous I suppose.)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: Yes, ADHD is Over-diagnosed

February 2, 2017 driddles

Yes, ADHD is Over-diagnosed

BlabbingBy Rick Green,

‘Oh, everyone thinks they have ADD nowadays. It’s over-diagnosed. It’s the internet. And cell phones. And everyone’s trying to do 9 things at once. Fifty years ago there was no such thing as ADHD.’

Comments like that used to set me off on a rant, ‘Actually, no. Everyone does not have ADHD! Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is driven by genes. It runs in families. It’s highly heritable. And it’s usually there at birth. Or even before! In fact, one doctor in our film, ADD & Loving It?! who has four sons…’

The other person would tune out. While I yammered away…

My message, though one I never openly stated, was simple: ‘You’re an idiot for saying that! You have no idea what you’re talking about!’

Actually, they may be right!

But seven years after we launched TotallyADD.com, having read a library of books on ADHD, (And co-written one book on ADHD.) interviewed scores of experts for our videos on ADHD, , thousands of adults who have ADHD (Or who love someone who does) I can see the truth in those dismissive comments.

Or should I say, SOME truth.

Which surprises me.

First, Let’s Define ‘Over-Diagnosed’

What constitutes ‘over-diagnosed’? You could argue that if even one person is diagnosed with something that they don’t actually have it’s been over-diagnosed. But that’s true of every medical condition there is.

In fact, a proper diagnosis is tricky. One of our most popular videos, Embracing the Diagnosis, lays out 13 common challenges to getting a proper ADHD diagnosis. (And how to overcome each one.)

Clearly this is not what most people mean when they claim it’s, ‘overdiagnosed.’

Perhaps what they mean is that it’s ‘misdiagnosed.’

Someone suffering from Bi-Polar, who is incorrectly diagnosed as having ADHD, is not ‘Over-Diagnosed.’ They’ve been ‘Misdiagnosed.’ They’re struggling with a real problem. It’s just not properly identified.

My public school teachers ‘Misdiagnosed’ me as bored, messy, uninterested, and slow. (And I suppose I was bored, messy, and uninterested in school.) Cause they didn’t have a better name for it. They did have a few names for me, however.

But I digress. ADHD Awkward Moment

But I don’t think ‘It’s misdiagnosed’ is what people mean when they sneer, ‘ADHD is so over-diagnosed.’

My sense is that they mean, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you that a smack on the side of the head wouldn’t fix.’ But that’s not polite to say out loud. So they suggest this mental health issue is over-diagnosed. Or that it’s not even a ‘real’ disorder.

Despite 4,000 studies and millions of people’s experience.

Alternative facts, as it were.

Consider what they actually said.

Now, let’s look at their initial ‘dismissal’ again. Read it slowly. Calmly, if you can.

‘Oh, everyone thinks they have ADD nowadays. It’s the internet. And cell phones. And everyone’s trying to do 9 things at once. ADHD is over-diagnosed. Fifty years ago there was no such thing as ADHD.’

That kind of attitude is what inspired me to make ADD & Loving It?!

It was infuriating! And total nonsense! Or is it?

Could there be a tiny bit of truth in there? Hmm..

Let’s break it down, line by line.

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First…

‘Oh, everyone thinks they have ADD nowadays.’

Notice, they didn’t say everyone has ADD nowadays. They claimed that everyone thinks they do.

Which these days, might be true, right?

Well, okay, maybe not every single person on the planet, but far more than the 4 to 5% of adults who are actually struggling with this mindset have wondered if they indeed had a ‘bit of that ADHD.’

Our friend, Jennifer, set her twitter account to notify her everytime someone tweeted #ADHD or #ADD. It was astounding.

‘Overwhelmed today! I think I’m developing ADD or something!’

‘I lost my new sweater. I’m so ADHD sometimes.’

‘So antsy when my mom visited. My wife said I must have ADHD. LOL.’

So yes, you could argue that these days, with the pace of life and the amount of change, almost everyone thinks they have ADHD. It’s a bit of a joke. To those who don’t have it, anyways.

For those of us who do, who are always overwhelmed, losing things, and restless, it’s not all that funny. (Though the TotallyADD community can laugh about it with each other.)

Every ADHD specialist I’ve spoken to concedes that, yes, in some parts of the country it’s over-diagnosed amongst kids. And that needs to be addressed. In other areas it’s the opposite.

But amongst adults, ADHD is still woefully under-diagnosed. The exact figure is difficult to know. I’ve heard that less than 1 in 6 adults in North American who have this mindset are aware of it. In the rest of the world it’s even lower.

Let’s consider the next sentence:

‘It’s the internet. And cell phones.’

Based on my own experience and talking with other adults who have ADHD, we are more susceptible to the lure of the web. Endless novelty. Odd connections. Constant surprises. Anything you can think of, no waiting.

And there’s a growing body of evidence that this technology is rewiring our brains and shortening our attention spans.

But having 90 open tabs doesn’t cause ADHD. It may be something a person with ADHD does… (Sound of me clearing my throat) But it doesn’t cause ADHD… At least, that’s been the standard belief.

Internet Addiction is starting to become a series subject for research. Several years ago I read a study that found a few hours on the internet started to rewire how the brain worked. Last year an ADHD specialist told me there’s actually interest in researching whether social media and mobile technology is actually creating ADHD symptoms.

YouTube? Messaging? Poking? Tweeting? Texting? Sexting?… It does seem attention spans are shorter. Things are rushed. Messages are full of mistakes. So, yes, I’d have to concede that more and more people show some signs of ADHD.

That doesn’t mean being online all the time is creating people who qualify as having ADHD. But who knows. Time, and some reliable scientific research, will tell.

What you should know, is that doctors were describing kids who struggled with all the symptoms of ADHD long before the Internet. Or computers. Or cell phones. Or even phones. As far back as the 1700’s! (The video, ‘What Is ADHD,’ delves deep into the history of the diagnosis, the neurology, and the symptoms.)

Next statement?

‘And everyone’s trying to do 9 things at once.

I’m guilty of this. Or I was. Until research revealed that multi-tasking is not more efficient. (Dang!) I had lots happening, which felt great, but nothing finished, which caused me to pay fines and late fees.

Who isn’t doing the work of 2 people these days? Most people I know complain about being overwhelmed. Having a ton on the go is a source of pride. Or a necessity to make ends meet. And that pressure leads to overwhelm, struggling with time, distractions, restlessness, forgetting things… All signs of ADHD.

Next sentence:

‘ADHD is over-diagnosed.’

When we were making ADD & Loving It?!, the star of the program, comedian Patrick McKenna, asked Dr. Margaret Weiss about the common belief that, ‘Stimulant medications for ADHD are over-prescribed.’

Dr. Weiss paused for a moment, then explained, ‘I think that the difficulty with that statement is that it implies that medication is either over-prescribed or under prescribed.’ She admitted that many families are expecting too much from their children, filling their spare time with dozens of activities: Sports. Competitions. Music classes. Dance lessons.

Dr. Weiss also noted that the percentage of people who actually find a doctor they trust, then learn about medication, start a regimen, and stick with it, is actually a small subset of the ADHD population.

Compliance is terrible. (But that’s true of every medication.)

Every parent and most adults we’ve interviewed were extremely reluctant to try medication. Including me. 18 adults talk about our own reluctance to try a stimulant in our series on ADHD Medication.

Medication is, as one doctor points out, ‘The last thing anyone wants to try.’

Next statement?

’50 years ago there was no such thing as ADHD.’

Technically, yes, that’s true.

Half a century ago, ADHD was called Minimal Brain Dysfunction. Which a few folks think might actually be a more accurate name. (I explained why in other blogs.)

Lately specialists and researchers are framing ADHD as an Executive Function Disorder, which I kind of like as well.

So the name may change again. But doctors were describing children with ADHD-like symptoms way back in the 1700’s, and 1800’s. (Mostly German doctors. Apparently being restless, impulsive, talkative, interrupting, and scattered are not proper Teutonic traits. I wonder if they had T-Shirts, ‘Don’t be rushin’ if you’re a Prussian.’)

So, yes 50 years ago kids were diagnosed with, ‘Minimal Brain Dysfunction.’ If they were lucky. If they weren’t lucky, they were labeled as lazy, stupid, trouble-maker, difficult, underachiever, or loser. And the treatment plan was simple: ‘Try Harder.’

As for Adult ADHD? That wasn’t on anyone’s radar until the late 1980’s.

Okay, the final statement:

‘I don’t believe in ADHD. I think it’s just an excuse.’

Okay… Hmm. Technically, that’s true. They honestly believe ADHD is an excuse. Fine. They can believe whatever they like.

I used to argue with them. But then I realized that’s what I used to think before I was diagnosed.

And in fact, more than one person with ADHD has confessed to me that when they were first diagnosed they did use it as an excuse now and then.

Difficult not to, especially in the early days.

I can tell you that most people soften their opinions when they learn about things like the genetic research, the neuro-imaging studies that shows ‘this brain is different,’ the role of neuro-transmitters, and especially, the difference that treatment makes.

But education takes time. And if you push people… it backfires.

Any first year Psychology student can tell you that no human being has ever changed their mind when told, ‘You’re an idiot for saying that! You have no idea what you’re talking about!’

It took me years to realize this. (Eventually, I discovered a much better strategy. See below.)

Three Ways to Deal With Denial?

So, how do you change people’s minds? Here are five strategies.

Strategy #1: Be generous! ‘You may be right,’ is a more diplomatic way of saying, ‘Yes, and pigs may fly.’

Strategy #2: Show them ADD & Loving It?! Scores of people have thanked us for making this film. It transformed how their spouse, parent, colleague, or relatives viewed ADHD. ‘They finally got it!’ It’s funny, dark, surprising, and built on solid science.

My whole purpose in creating this program was to get through to people who were dismissive of my own ADHD. I was shocked to learn how many people have had their stubborn beliefs and dismissive opinions swept aside by this. When I asked one of the ADHD specialists I talk to a lot, he said it works because it’s not a ‘the person who has it trying to convince them. The family has already dismissed the person’s claims. They can talk themselves blue in the face, and it will only make other people even more entrenched in their beliefs. Plus, you have a wide range of experts, and you have a lot of humor, and Patrick and Janis’s story touches people in a way that medical checklists never will.’

The Simplest Option?

Strategy #3: Don’t bother. Life is short. Just nod and walk away. Save your breath. And use your energy to deal with your ADHD so you can get on with your life.

You are not the ‘Idiot Whisperer.’

I like this strategy. But I’ve never been able to do it. (Too self-righteous I suppose.)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: Yes, ADHD is Over-diagnosed

February 2, 2017 Rick Green

IS IT A DISABILITY, A HANDICAP OR WHAT?

By: Rick Green

(BASED ON A BLOG PUBLISHED IN 2012)

ADHD NormalSeveral years ago I wrote a New Year’s blog about reviewing the previous year to notice, acknowledge and celebrate successes. (And to me, avoiding a failure counts as a success. Who’s with me on this?! Yeah!!)

One member of the TotallyADD community, William, posted a comment asking whether I viewed my ADHD as a ‘disability or a handicap?’

It is an interesting question. Disability? Or merely a handicap?

What do I call it? Well, let’s start with what the Doctors, researches, and specialists call it: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Ever Notice The Slash?

See the ‘/’ in the name?

I’m talking about that diagonal slash that’s in there, between Deficit and Hyperactivity. It’s usually overlooked. It is rarely included in articles, blogs or books. But it is there to indicate that there are two aspects to this ‘disorder.’

The first aspect is a Deficit of Attention. Which you may well know isn’t really accurate. It doesn’t capture our actually experience. It’s not always a deficit. It’s uneven attention. Sometimes we can hyper-focus! Perhaps fixated! Stuck on some trivial task, while the urgent, important stuff never gets done. (Sorry, just shuddered there.)

The second aspect that is impairing is the Hyperactivity. By adulthood it looks like restlessness, impulsivity, impatience, feeling driven, motor-mouthing, intruding, having that dynamo inside you that never stops…

Until we hit the wall. And then, suddenly, “I need a nap.” Which is awkward when in happens in the middle of a meeting or a conversation or your wedding.

It Gets Even Messier, Folks.

But what to call this mindset get more complicated, because not everyone has the Hyperactivity. A substantial number of people, more women than men it seems, only struggle with attention, focus, memory, and organization.

Thus there are two different ‘versions’ or subsets:

‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder of the Predominantly Combined Subtype.’ Which means you have the whole menu of challenges. AD/HD for short. Or ADHD for even shorter.

And ‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder of the Predominantly Inattentive Subtype.’ Some people call this ADD for short. But it’s not used by doctors or researchers.

The ‘Subtype’ No One Cares to Mention…

Oh, and just to add to the confusion, there’s a third subtype, rarely mentioned it seems to me. These are people who do not have the problems with Attention, just the Hyperactivity. The ‘Predominantly Hyperactive Subtype.’ But a number of the doctor’s we’ve interviewed have been dismissive of this, suggesting it’s another problem, and shouldn’t be called ADHD. Because the problems with Attention are the core of this disorder.

I’m not going to get into the other types, the ‘Not Otherwise Specified’ and suggestions of ‘Adult Onset’ ADHD, because the person did not struggle with these symptoms in childhood.

It is worth mentioning that the level or intensity of the many symptoms (or traits or impairments or challenges if you prefer) varies widely from person to person.

As Dr. Steven Kurtz notes in our PBS documentary ADD & Loving It?!, if you’ve seen one child with ADHD, you’ve seen one child with ADHD.

So does that mean for some it’s a disability and others it’s merely a handicap?

DISABILITY? HANDICAP? Hmm… Uhm…

A disability, to me, means it prevents me from doing something.

A handicap, for this discussion, means something that’s much harder for me than for others. Like a great golfer who is handicapped a certain number of strokes to make the score more competitive. To level the playing field.

Whenever I’d play road hockey it was understood that if one team was slaughtering the other then we’d swap players. The better team would trade their best player, usually Vince or Bob, and the team that was losing big time, would send over their weakest player, usually Rick or uh, Rick.

Which means… I was the handicap? Hmm. Didn’t think of that till now.

So… Handicap? Disability? Those are my choices?

Maybe It’s Both? Is That Possible?

Yes, sometimes it’s a handicap. Less so each year it seems as I develop tools and strategies.

And yes, on really challenging days it definitely feels like a disability.

But here’s the thing… Sometimes it’s a strength. Or rather, aspects of it can be strengths. Okay, okay, yes, constantly tuning out of conversations is never going be a strength. Even when the other person is actually boring.

That said, wen I’m brainstorming comedy skits, or, well anything, I’m awesome. When this mindset works for me I get into hyper-focus, ideas are ricocheting, tumbling, building, and my fingers are a blur trying to keep up.

So yes, when it’s working for me, or rather I’m playing to those aspects of myself… or rather…no, wait… when I’m doing something where this mindset work to my advantage, then my ADHD is not a disability or a handicap.

Maybe that’s just me.

It Used to Paralyze Me

On the other hand, when I’m struggling to stay on task, wallowing my way through boring paperwork then my ADHD is definitely handicapping me. Not crippling me completely. (Though it used to.) I’ve learned I can do the boring paperwork if I create an empowering context (Which is New-Age Speak for ‘A Desperate, Urgent, Scary set of consequences if I don’t slay this particular dragon.)

What also helps me is medication, accountability, and scheduling the stuff that’s difficult for the mornings when I’m most alert.

What is ‘accountability’ you may ask? Telling my coach what needs doing and promising that I will not do ANYTHING else until I get this one thing done. Nothing else. And then reporting in when it’s done.

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It’s Totally Situational.

So, with some tasks, like paperwork or long conversations, my ADHD is a handicap. I have to work harder than most other people.

Whereas ‘disability?’ Dunno. I’m not totally disabled. Just, working harder than most people on some things. At least sometimes. Come to think of it, I used to be totally paralyzed by some tasks… Until the fines from the tax department became excruciating…

On the other hand, when I’m doing things that terrify most people, like walking onstage in front of a huge crowd, my ADHD is no problem. (Unlike the paralyzing stage fright when it’s time to do my taxes.)

Onstage, this mindset is a strength. It’s no coincidence that almost every comedian I’ve met since we launched TotallyADD.com has told me they were diagnosed in childhood, or they’ve taken one of our screener tests and scored very, very high.

Like me, they have found a career that works with their ADHD. (And yes, they’ve also worked very, very hard to become good enough, to do comedy and television full time.)

They’ve found the secret: Minimize your weaknesses & play to your strengths.

Which brings us back to William’s question.

Disability? Handicap?

Here’s what makes the Handicap/Disability question so difficult for me: there are only two choices.

Y’see, I have ADHD. I like lots of options. A ton of possibilities. And if there aren’t lots of options or ideas, well, gimme a few minutes and I’ll come up with twenty of em.

Handicap or Disability? What if it’s neither? Or both? Or both and then some… (I mean it’s already a whole bunch of subtypes.)

Depends on the day, doesn’t it? In fact it can change minute by minute.

What do you think? What would you call your ‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder of the Predominantly (Insert your name here) Subtype?

How do you see your ADHD?

January 26, 2017 d5admin
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