Does Everyone Have ADHD?

“Everyone is ADHD. It’s the internet and smart phones.”

“These days everyone is ADD.”  

“Yeah, everyone thinks they have it.”

Uh… No! Sorry, friend, but the whole world is NOT suddenly suffering from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

When someone would snort, “Everyone is ADD these days,” I used to ask three questions:

– Do you know what percentage of adults qualify as having ADHD?

– Do you know what percentage of those have actually been properly diagnosed?

– And do you know what percentage of properly diagnosed adults are actually doing something about it? As in, any kind of treatment.

“Uh… No.”

Why The Sudden Epidemic?

So why do so many people think there’s a sudden epidemic of ADHD? Because more and more people are exhibiting ADHD symptoms: problems focusing, overwhelmed, feeling restless, unable to follow through on what they are doing or thinking because they feel like there are more and more distractions to interrupt them.

And that’s how it is.

The world is changing rapidly and constantly. We are bombarded with ‘New, New, New! I have to get the iPhone-9-S with Vitamin C’.

The media has stopped focusing on giving you information and simply bombards you with opinion, outrage, shocking extrapolations, “If ‘x’ happens, our entire nation will implode!’

Wages haven’t kept up with inflation, so we’re all working harder and longer.

So, yes, more people are multitasking, under the gun, have too much to think about and remember, and stressed, struggling, rushing around, falling behind… so sometimes they get glimpses of what it’s like to have ADHD.  Sometimes they have to live this craziness for months on end. Until they are able to escape to a vacation, lay on the beach, sip Pina Coladas, and ‘cure’ their overwhelm.

Those of us who actually have ADHD cannot ‘escape’. The 4 % of adults who are struggling with a lifetime of restlessness, uneven attention, and impulsivity, to the point that it’s sabotaging us, perhaps fatally, envy those who only experience it for a few months.

There’s No Vacation From Our Overwhelm

It’s constant. We’re lying on that beach, drink in hand, mind still racing, worrying, planning, fretting, wanting to do something, restless, jumpy, bored, lost in spirals of thought…It never fully goes away. But, the core symptoms can be immensely reduced. Not with Pina Coladas, but a comprehensive, or holistic, treatment plan. The challenge? Try sticking to anything that’s comprehensive and requires long-term commitment when you have ADHD!

‘Everyone Knows It’s Not Real’

With great practice, I’ve mastered the ability to smile and nod at the ‘experts’ who declare ADHD isn’t real, while offering a thoughtful ‘Hmmmm,’ which hides the sound of me grinding my teeth.

It takes a moment or two, sometimes longer, depending on the degree of sneering disdain in their pronouncement that, ‘ADHD isn’t real. Everyone has bad days. Even I forget stuff.’

Then I ask the person my three questions. They admit they have no idea what the rates of ADHD are, or if they are in fact rising. (Certainly the number of adults being diagnosed is rising. But it’s still less than the modest projection of 25% of people who have it.)

They never admit outright, ‘I have no idea.’

When confronted and asked to back up their ‘knowledge’ with some actual facts and figures, they deflect. ‘Well, everyone knows, I mean, just look around you.’ At which point I look around me, and seeing nothing, shrug, and offer the facts… A veritable flood of them.

Statistics! Facts! The Truth!

‘Actually, the rates of ADHD have stayed the same for decades.  Even as we’ve added more sugar in our diet.  And started playing video games.  The rate is the same as it was before the internet.  It’s actually the same in societies that have almost no internet, no video games, and no mobile devices…’

They grow silent.  They nod.  They look thoughtful.  I used to believe they were pondering what I was saying and really taking it in, impressed by my knowledge, and they were reassessing what they had heard and realized how ignorant they were about the condition.  (Hah!)

I’ve come to realize they are actually thinking, ‘What does he know?  He’s probably being paid by someone.  Boy, is he ever defensive, he’s probably ashamed that I’ve revealed that ADHD is a hoax.’ Which is why I don’t do that any more. I explain my much better strategy in our video, Facing The World. That’s another story, but I can tell you that it works.

Boy, Was I a Righteous Little SNOT!

I’ve since learned to be nicer, and have a more effective response, but I’m so sick of hearing crap. It dismisses a huge mental health issue. People are dying from undiagnosed and untreated ADHD… Car accidents, self-medicating with drugs and booze, or suicide from feeling like nothing but a failure. Idiots who say it’s not real are partly responsible for those deaths. Because of the myths and lies, millions of people who could be getting help are unsure, wondering if maybe it’s just a character flaw. F****CKKKKK!!!!! Sorry. It makes me angry.

Here’s the point—when people glibly sneer, ‘Everyone is ADHD,’ what they mean is that everyone is under a lot of stress, and barely coping, struggling to manage their feelings of overwhelm.   And many folks think that is what people with this disorder, ADHD, are experiencing.  No.  Not really.

Adults and kids with ADHD are NOT coping.  That’s what makes it a disorder. People with ADD are NOT managing their schedules.  We are NOT approaching the point of overwhelm.  We are already overwhelmed.  Even after all the deadlines pass and we are on that beach vacation, we are still feeling overwhelmed. We’re sipping the Pina Colada, but not really tasting it, lost in thought about what we’ve left undone, what’s awaiting us, how far behind we are…

I know, I know, I’m generalizing.  Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone with ADHD.   There’s a spectrum, from very severe to mild.  I’ve been told I’m not severe.  Plus all the work I’ve done since getting the diagnosis to deal with it has made it far less of a problem for me.  For example, medication used to be a deal-breaker for me, and without it I struggled. Now the pill container sits in the bathroom drawer, available for hectic days when I need it. It’s a bit like my son with his Asthma Inhaler.

So, the whole world is ADHD?  No. But our world is so fast paced, and more and more people are living lives that temporarily cause the same symptoms—overwhelm, confusion, forgetfulness, and the rest of the lovely menu of ADHD impairments.

Welcome to our world.  My spin on lyrics by The Eagles, ‘YOU can check-out any time you like. But WE can never leave.’ Not entirely.

P.S. – Wondering if you have ADHD? Try our quiz, it’s a great place to start.

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7 Replies to “Does Everyone Have ADHD?”

  1. It’s like the difference between limping because you stubbed your toe, and limping because you were born with one leg 3 inches shorter than the other.

  2. Thank you Rick. I am putting together an image, inspired by your Friday Funnies. I have taken a photograph of one of my wardrobes with the door shut, and then a photo of the door open – it is so chaotically stuffed from top to bottom that there isn’t any space for another single thing. This is a very simplistic and direct metaphor for my ADHD life – outside and inside. I showed them to a good friend, one who I thought understood, and he said ‘but everyone’s life is like this, what’s so special?’ just about missing every point I was trying to visually express, albeit in a light hearted way. So, as well as having ADHD – one disorder, and an anxiety disorder, that makes two disorders which I am trying so hard to deal with, I am not even supposed to feel ‘special’ in any way at all. Just who do I think I am?!
    This blog is very timely for me. You are wonderful.

  3. OMGOSH! I’m in tears at this because I struggle so! When I look back on my 60 years of life, it all makes sense now. What you write about here and other blogs is so what I feel and have felt that it hurts! I’m tired of beating myself up for being who I BE!! Because I’m wonderful!! I just got medical, so I’m trying to weed through the list of things to get help with, but the process is so slow and I’m so frustrated! Rick, you hit the nails on their proverbial heads, and I thank you for this blog! This site and all that it entails has helped me to identify and be ok with this condition! I must tell you that my relationship of less than 2 years and subsequent marriage of 5 months ended sadly, because he blamed my ADD, but he never once watched anything with me to help me work things out. He refused counseling for his anger and abuse. I had to say bye-bye. I’m not so difficult to live with-he didn’t even live with me full time! So, he can use that excuse for leaving, but it is his loss. People, even my sisters, get angry at me saying it’s just an excuse. Don’t tell Mom she has ADD cus it’s just an excuse!!! Well…you should see our houses! It’s for real, and yes, I’m tired of the struggle;bone-weary-and-mentally-fatigued-tired. I care for my son who is 36, has Down syndrome, and some autism. You talk about overwhelm and the whole list!! Yes, that is me. Thank you, again, for the encouragement today! I’m thankful for you and Totally ADD! God bless you all!

  4. So happy to know this made such a difference for you marlvs2sing1 and lindsey3.

    And I’m so glad the site makes a difference for you.

    I understand the pain of losing a relationship because a person is unwilling to understand what ADHD is. And sadly, I’ve lost friends because of that. But last night when we were interviewing a dozen ADHD Adults about their experiences with medication, one person talked about how some friends just never believed or accepted the idea of ADHD or of taking a medication for it. And he was a bit wistful, but he said something that was wonderful, which is that maybe those weren’t people he wanted in his life.

    But when it’s someone you love, and who says they love you… painful.

  5. Thanks Rick as always this one hit’s home.

    I’ve had a few particularly “bad” ADHD months lately, My wife thought I had checked out on our marriage, My type 1 diabetes has been pretty much out of control for few months and work has been overwhelming and really unproductive( Plus all the not work things I’m not doing is overwhelming me).

    Add to that the “Everyone is ADD these days,” or the ‘Add is made up” crowd and life gets pretty crap.

    I thought my Meds were no longer effective but It turns out that my thyroid took a huge drop and i probably have sleep apnea which is causing a lot of lost sleep. Which is crushing my ADD meds and making me more dopey than usual.

    So hopefully I’ll be back to my version of normal sometime soon now that My thyroid meds have been increased and I’m scheduled for a sleep study

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