Is ADHD Made Up?
When we were making our documentary, ADD & Loving It?! , Lenard Adler from NYU said something that I thought was a bit glib at the time, but has become more profound as I’ve moved forward through all of this. Here’s what he said.
When we were making our documentary, ADD & Loving It?!, Lenard Adler from NYU said something that I thought was a bit glib at the time, but has become more profound as I’ve moved forward through all of this. Here’s what he said.
ADHD is Never an Excuse
[Dr. Adler] if I could say one thing to a significant other of someone with ADHD is to attempt to understand the symptoms. Try to be supportive if you can, realize that ADHD symptoms can be an explanation but never are an excuse.
At first I thought it was a bit of motivational thinking. Perhaps he was even scolding. But then I started to notice areas where I would use my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as an excuse. Like around finances. “Business is boring. It’s routine. It’s not creative. I’m not good at it. Business is soul destroying and means you’re a sell out and only in it for the money. Blah blah blah.” What I see now is that it could sound like an excuse. Whereas it simply could be a reason. An ‘explanation,’ as Dr. Adler calls it. You know what I mean? (SHAKE HEAD NO) Okay, time for an analogy. A study was done of successful basketball players to see how much height matters. I guess they also studied unsuccessful ones too. And they discovered that up to about six foot five inches, height mattered. After that, it really didn’t. Now imagine I’m way too short to play basketball. Which I am. I’m actually one foot tall in real life.
See. Now I could say, “I never could follow my dream and become a success because I was too short by about five and a half feet, from becoming an NBA star and that’s why I’m not happy and I’m grumpy and I could never find a girl.” You can sense that at some point I moved beyond the facts and into drama. And the problem with, “and that’s why I’m not happy.” is that you can’t prove that statement… one way or the other. It’s easy to prove whether I’m in the NBA. You’d see me on a team roster. I’m NOT on any team roster. But the ‘never happy’ stuff, well that’s just a story I’ve added. So that’s an excuse.
But an explanation? Well, “I never became an NBA star because the ball is bigger than me, cause I’m only one-foot high. That’s why I married Barbie.” I could even take it further and say, “I could have become an NBA star, but being only 12 inches high would have made the odds so slim, I realized it wasn’t worth it to me.”
So back to ADD. There’s an excuse, “Hey, you know all those secrets you told me and I promised to keep to myself, I actually blabbed them to everyone. Sorry, I have ADD and I do impulsive things. It’s my brain. What are you going to do. You’re supposed to forgive me.”
And there’s an explanation. “Remember those secrets you told me? I blabbed them. I have ADD and I find I do that a lot. I’m sorry. What can I do to make it up?” Or even better, get pro-active. “Don’t tell me secrets. I’m not very good at keeping secrets. And I like you way too much to risk our friendship.” It’s an explanation, not an excuse. And if they still tell you the secret, well that’s unexplainable and inexcusable.
For us adults with ADHD, it’s easy to allow ADHD to become an excuse. And that can stop you from moving forward in your life.
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