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Is ADHD a disability, a handicap or what?

Several 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

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 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?


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.

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?


Rick Green

ADHD Community

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  1. bisync January 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Right on, Rick. It’s hell when you can’t do what you love to.

  2. jegoyer January 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    As someone only diagnosed a few months ago, at the age of 56, I can honestly say that I do not think of ADD/ADHD as a handicap nor a disability. I know it is only a medical, factual reason that explains why I am so unique, different and quirky:)
    I always thought of those things that made me squirm or didn’t do well just stuff I don’t like, making sure I avoided doing them again whenever possible. Like when I first tasted zuccini…yuck. Won’t do that again! It’s a personal preference and not to my liking. My tastes are not the same as others, nor are my abilities. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone is different, ADDer or not.
    I also always liked my strengths, almost thinking of myself as a superhero when “in the zone”. The only thing I’ve never been able to do is “leap tall buildings in a single bound”. Who can?
    People are different and there are reasons for their differences.
    Even my forgetfulness is a source of constant amusement.
    Flitting from job to job because I was bored is only a sign that I am not pursuing my passion. Mundane jobs are not for me, nor are they for very many people in this world. After all, if you’re not pursuing your passion as a career your job is a source of stress for you, ADDer or not.
    Now that I’ve been officially diagnosed and take the prescribed medication I am able to direct my hyper-focus towards the more boring projects that require organization and planning. Is that a good thing? Huh! After the initial marvelling at being able to do that for hours at a stretch it turns out that it’s still a boring and unrewarding job for me. Oh well, at least now I can go back to work and earn some money while I find a way to earn a living doing what I love.

  3. onlinewoman January 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I was diagnosed in my early 30s, now in my early 40s. It is most definitely a handicap that I’ve struggled with for years. I tried medication early on, but it left me so boring and life-less (based on my own appreciation of creativity and uniqueness) that I couldn’t keep taking it. Basically, the only things I really admired about myself (being creative and thinking outside the box when others couldn’t see the same things) was gone. I hated it.
    But, it hasn’t been easy without medication. I see today just how much easier others can do things that they take for granted, but find no problem faulting me for. I’ve been a bit more resigned to the fact that I’m different, and that I am unable to relate to others in quite the same way as “vanilla” folks.
    Though I have had some successes in life (I did complete a Master’s degree, but failed to complete a Ph.D. because I couldn’t force myself to study for the final exams) mostly I’ve struggled with what society would consider “success”.
    Basically I’ve tried to create my own world in which I accommodate my ADD-ness. If I don’t immediately add an appointment to my calendar, which then reminds me the day before AND an hour before an appointment, I will forget, it is just inevitable. If I don’t immediately put my keys into their place in my purse after I get out of the car, I WILL search for hours to find them, because I will forget within 5 minutes where I put them last. If I get frustrated or upset, I will say something I wouldn’t say if I had an hour to think about it first. But mostly, I have gone from one thing to another, trying to become “successful” by societies standards for years, and finally recently gave up the idea. I am not another lemming, and therefore I feel I shouldn’t have to perform like one.
    So in a nutshell, from the perspective of societies opinion of what constitutes success, and societies opinions about how things “should” be, my ADD is a handicap for certain.
    But from the perspective of my creative abilities, I don’t see it as a handicap but actually an advantage. Probably this is what the author has already iterated, only he said it more succinctly LOL

  4. sdwa January 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Would it be fair to just call it an “impediment”? LOL. Before I got my diagnosis, I wandered through life as if in a fog, and I knew I was different…was just never able to get my act together or connect with what seemed to come naturally to others. Now that I know what I’m dealing with, I can identify my strengths…but I still have a problem with shifting gears. There are 3 – 5 areas of focus, things I’m interested in – and I don’t know how to make time for them. I can do one thing at a time…the others get neglected. I need an external trigger to remind me that the other things exist. It’s either total absorption or total inertia. So I want to learn how to set up those external triggers. It makes me anxious to feel like there are things I need to do that are not getting the attention they should.
    For a while I had a coach who encouraged me to try to isolate what I do without having to work at it – as in Rick’s example of not writing 100-page screen plays because that’s a stretch for him, but sticking to skits, which come more easily and comfortably. He used to tell me not to dismiss what is easy, because that’s an area of talent. Right?
    I like to write, but it’s easier to write an essay – I’m almost compelled to do it when I get excited about something – report on what others have written, done, or thought – much easier than it is to write fiction (I’ve been working on a novel for, I am sad to say, about six years – ouch – 60,000 words, only half into the story – I’d like to finish it just to say I did, you know? But is it what I’m meant to do?) The essays just come tumbling out.
    When I had a painting studio, it took me six months to finish a triptych that was 40 inches by 9 feet. I’m okay with that, although it was a struggle…it’s just that the world expects us all to be factories, always making something new. I work slowly…on the other hand, I can design a repeat pattern in about three hours.
    So I guess you kind of have to pick & choose, or accept that some projects will take a long time.

  5. Cindy1963 January 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    “Disability, a handicap or what?” I do not know where I fit in. I know that I am different than other people. I grew up with a MOM and Dad and 3 siblings. I am the youngest of all. I felt that it was a bad thing to be different. All of these family members would make fun of me. First from the old stork story, but in my case I was told that I was dropped at the wrong house to being picked up at a grocery store. I was told at a very young age, that I had a sign that said, “FREE” no one wants me. So my mother took me in. I believed this story for so many years. Then, when kindergarden came, in the early 60’s the school that Is was going to attend had a high volumn of kids. Since my birthday was in December, they wanted to see if they should push me ahead or hold me back for the following year. So, I had to take some kind of test to see where I fit in. I failed and I was held back and to come the folling year. My siblings had a field day with this. Comments like, “no one fails kindergarten, but you did. None of us failed, so you really do belong with a different family”. My dad would always yell at me for forgetting something. This was the erra where parents could spank their kids for whatever reason. Of course, I was spanked a lot. My mother would say, “wait til your father gets home”. I was getting hit for reasons that I did not know.
    In my early 30’s is when I found out that I have ADHD. My family has the same stinky thinking and say that I justify my wrong doings. I have a really hard time seeing the good of having ADHD. I do not see it as a gift. I am creative, I can play the piano for hours without taking a break. I am 48 years of age and I still do not know what occupation would be a good fit. What kinds of things am I good at that I can apply to a paid job. It seems like I can get a lot of negative feedback, but what about something good. I hope through this website, I can find more people like me. I just want acceptance.

  6. DaniV January 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    We’re strangers in a strange land. Aliens if you will, who have been transplanted among a like species that we are learning to work and live beside. ;) I think that it can be a handicap in some situations, but I think it’s also a profound advantage over the “norms” too. Boring is just boring, and while we may struggle and have pain/stress over that struggle, the most important thing is to get the aid from esteemed translators (psychologists, psychiatrists etc, to translate for us the ways and means of the world we live in (or even get the needed medication that makes it possible to understand) then move on. The limits of human ability are usually of the mind, and don’t we know it. So, we just have to keep working to get past that so our true amazing talents shine through.

  7. auntybb January 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    I think of ADHD as merely a description of certain abilities, tendencies and quirks. Like, “She’s a natural athlete,” or “He was born to sing,” or some such. It explains things. When
    I say to my friends “I’m ADD,” they know exactly what characteristics I’m referring to. I didn’t know about ADHD until my grandniece was diagnosed. That’s when I recognized the characteristics in myself. Then I happened to watch the “Totally ADD” on TV and almost fell out of my chair. I was 63 years old. Suddenly my life of boredom, hating school, nonstop yakking, sloppiness, giftedness, creativity and humor began to make sense. I can’t imagine thinking of myself or my niece as handicapped or disabled. We’re unusual, even odd at times, as a result of these characteristics. But who do you know who isn’t odd? At least our characteristics are funny, engaging and creative. I do concede that these tendencies can be very hard on children. Now, though, there are a variety medicines to help them to stay focused.
    We are what we are, not disabled or handicapped. Nothin’ wrong with that.

  8. Gary January 11, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    It’s a gift… with caveats.
    Sometimes some really-really big hairy ones,
    sometimes not so bad.
    Today was big hairy day.
    Tomorrow’s forecast calls for more of the same…
    I need a gift day.

  9. Lightning Brain January 12, 2012 at 6:06 am

    I call it lightning brain…flashes of brilliance…followed by: where’s my flashlight?

  10. leenie18 January 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Having ADD is a struggle for me…I don’t like to think of it as a disability, but in a lot of ways it is. The first step is finding acceptance of having ADD and accepting you will have limitations. I totally empathize with Cindy 1963. Cindy – try to go easy on yourself!

  11. mcfarlane January 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    My faourite lines in this blog is ” And she had a ton of help. As does anyone who is successful at anything.” Everybody gets help, does not matter if you have a disability or you have no so call disability. There should be no shame for anyone with a disability to get extra help.
    There are still teachers out there who feel it is not fair to give students extra help if they have ADD or and dyslexia. These same teachers will help straight A or gifted student apply for
    a scholarship. Seems like extra to me. Wait the scholarship itself is extra help financially! I wish I had someone or some kind of fund giving me money while I was at university. It wound have helped.

  12. kc5jck January 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I think that according to the degree with which ADHD affects your ability to function it can be a disability, handicap, or simply a nuisance. If you are so distracted that you can’t read a book, then it is a disability that prevents you from reading. Otherwise it is just a handicap, just as cataracts can make it either difficult to read or impossible.
    People with ADD don’t have the boundaries that nonADDers have in their thinking, what might otherwise be called inability to focus. This can allow the person with ADD to see solutions that are not obvious to others, and to see them more quickly simply because they cannot stay focussed on one solution. Some may think of this aspect as a gift.
    I believe ADD has made my life more interesting due to my wandering interests. It perhaps has also required me to develop some useful skills. Such as finding things that are not in their proper place.

  13. William January 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    It can be a pain in the rear sometimes, but not a disability by no means.

  14. William January 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    The new disability catch word for getting a check here in the states is bi-polar.

  15. Larynxa January 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I consider ADHD a *gift*. Here’s why:
    “Gift” is a very interesting little word. In English, it means “a present, or something special & wonderful”. In German, it means “poison”.
    On a good day, ADHD is a gift in the English sense. On a bad day, it’s a gift in the German sense.
    Makes perfect sense to me.

  16. Wgreen January 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I hear ya.
    When I was a kid, I darted out into traffic twice. I came within inches both times of being flattened. When asked why I would do such a foolish thing, I said (honestly), “I don’t know.” Years later, stopped at a red light, I suddenly hit the accelerator before the light changed. I had just “zoned out.” I was in my own personal world until I felt the impact of another car plowing into me. Luckily no one was hurt. Had I killed myself, and/or a passenger in the other car, the question of whether my desire was bigger than my disability would have been moot.
    It is certainly true that we all must make the best of our conditions, whether we have ADD, a bad cold, pancreatic cancer, or something else. There’s nothing to be gained by wallowing in pity. And I am always thrilled to see people overcome adversity—or stand on its shoulders—to achieve things they never thought possible. Still, from where I stand, ADD is a very serious, potentially dangerous, neurological disorder.

  17. anniea February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Today I can say until I was diagnosed and had SOME coping skills it is a handicap. Since I have been diagnosed, and have more treatment(s) under my belt it is more of a disability. I know I am different.. (always have been) but now I KNOW there ARE things I can not do.. so why keep trying.. go to something I CAN do with some success.. head slap duh here… thank GOD for age and Ritalin!!

  18. cherryblossom February 12, 2012 at 12:40 am

    i call it a gift, other times i call it soul destroying.

  19. ladygogo January 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    For me finally finding out what was messing me up was the highlight of my 30’s, I think. Especially helpful for my husband who actaully figured it out before me when he saw your progam on PBS featuring Patrick Mckenna. My husband and I were a lot like them only in reverse since it was me who had this brain.
    My husband called it my ‘runaway train of thought’. I kind of liked your video where you, or someone, I don’t remember, said their brain moved like a butterfly. I liked that cause the butterfly does eventually arrive where it’s going but it takes a very wobbly twisty turny path to get there. Mostly I like that.
    Except when there’s a deadline at work or we’re running late or something.

  20. ruthie January 28, 2017 at 8:44 am

    I describe it to people as having a Mind on Constant Google Search.

  21. diamondr January 29, 2017 at 1:59 am

    From all of the comments below this one, I will conclude and concur that the answer to your question, Rick, is a resounding “Yes!”

  22. richardpeter January 29, 2017 at 2:05 am

    Right now it is a crippling disability which has lead me to severe depression, anxiety, fear, dispare, and a nonexistant self esteme. But I am a newbie here. At 53 I have come to the belief that I have adult ADHD and that belief brings with it a group of people who are also afflicted with It. I am not alone anymore. Rick, and many of you have been where I am now and have lived to tell the tale. I know it will be a long journey of hard work and discovery. I just hope that I don’t destroyed my personal relationships before I find the answer to the mystery of my ADHD. Ask me this in a year and see if I give you the same answer. Wish me luck!

  23. guaybrian January 29, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I wanted to touch on something off vein of this blog but something you did bring up within this particular writing.
    The concept of hyperfocus. I will do my best to only refer to me, myself and I during this comment but I may slip. I’m not a doctor and thus the things I’m about to type should be weighed against that fact.
    I can dig a hole all day long. Give me soft ground, a good shovel, and a bottle of extra super strength motrin and I can dig a hole all day long. Why is this, when I can’t even write for an hour without needing several ‘reboots’ to my butt to get me typing again? It has (of course?) to do with attention.
    I’m an mill worker by day but being an artist is my dream. Since getting help my ability to produce art has increased enough that I’ve dared to dream again that I may pursue said dream again.
    Now when I’m drawing, there are times when I can sit and draw for hours. Time flies by and before I know it, I’ve just spent three hours straight working on something. Yet other times I struggle to not get up and walk away after fifteen minutes because my head hurts and the whole experience has become very unpleasant.
    My answer came to me at work one day. Some of my job is be boring. Well, all my job is very boring. What I meant to say is some of my job I can do on autopilot. It’s a series of muscle memories repeated over and over. A short series, more then 3 and I have to pay attention. These tasks I can do all day long without problem. (I don’t suffer with the hyperactive body, just the hyperactive brain). When doing these tasks I’m free to let my mind wander wherever the wind takes it. It’s great. Not tropical island great but at least ‘Let’s get drive thru’ great. I’m happy and at peace in my own mind, letting it figure out whatever it wants to, thinking of new stories, playing around as it pleases.
    Then there are some tasks that require lots of paperwork. Measuring each piece of wood in a few packs of lumber and write down, length, dimensions, grade, all on this chart. ARRRGGHHH.
    Then there are tasks somewhere in the middle.
    Let me now go back to my drawing. (ahhh that’s better) In the beginning when there is lots of decisions to make, what am I gonna draw, how big will the raptor be compared to the babies and puppies it’s eating, should I do this as a children’s book, bird’s eye perspective or worm’s eye perspective, it can be difficult to stay on task.
    Even as I near the end of this comment, I find my mind becoming foggy.
    The there comes the act of refining and building up the drawing. There are decisions to be made but most of the heavy lifting is done by muscle memory. I’ve drawn people enough that when asked to draw one, I can spit one out without much attention to what’s happening. I ‘check in’ to see what’s what’s and make a minor decision but that’s all. It’s in this state that I can “focus” on a task for hours. The truth is I’m not focused at all. I’ve just done it so often that I no longer need to pay attention to it. Add a dolphin or car or something else I don’t draw often and watch as I start to crumble and it becomes like must other tasks in my day.
    Does interest in a task play a part? Of course but I didn’t think it’s the full story. So I decided to share my thoughts on the matter.
    Again, This is just me and I don’t know how hyperactivity plays into the mix.
    Thanks again for saving my life. I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it till the day I die. You saved my life. If we ever meet in person…I hope you’re a hugger…. ;)

  24. kathwomyn January 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

    My son and I (yes, he also has ADD, what a surprise!) were having this very discussion two days ago. We both agreed, for us at least, that it’s neither of those negative things, but rather a different way of brain behavior from the majority of the population. That doesn’t make it pathological, but it does create difficulties in dealing with an environment that is geared toward people who don’t think and behave the way we do. In some ways, it’s similar to being left-handed (just try using right-handed scissors, which are the “norm”).
    And, like you mentioned in the blog, ADD affects my son and I in some similar ways, but also in some very different ways.
    I’ve actually always liked Thom Hartmann’s perspective that it’s the difference between the hunter and farmer mentality. I do believe that’s simplified, but is a good jumping-off point to preventing us from thinking something’s actually “wrong” with us.
    Like many of us, I take medication to help, but I don’t actually take it every day. I only take it on the days when I know I’m going to need to do vast amounts of paperwork or need to pay close attention to things in other contexts. That can backfire if those things come up unexpectedly, but I’ve mostly been able to cope with that.
    So my take is, it’s neither a disability nor a handicap. It’s a different way of processing the world than the average person.
    Oh, and I love the meme I saw on Facebook recently that says “Normal is just a setting on the dryer!”

  25. danodea January 29, 2017 at 11:36 am

    I’ve never liked false dichotomies, and that’s at the core of this. A disability, by definition, is “a lack or shortage of ability”. Every definition of disability you find will comment on ability, thus the tendency is to engage our feeble ability to comprehend more than two choices and force a false dichotomy.
    Rick, you’re on to something there. In some situations, my ADHD is a boon, essentially a superpower giving me an advantage over others. In other situations, it puts me at a huge disadvantage. In other situations, they balance out and I act (outwardly, at least) “normal” (I prefer “typical” but there you are).
    It’s like that old SNL sketch, New Shimmer: “It’s a dessert topping. No, it’s a floor wax. No, it’s both!”

  26. dorianc January 30, 2017 at 8:17 am

    My view is that a few outliers can find jobs that don’t demand executive function and self-regulation, sustained attention and time management skills, but to suggest that there are a zillion careers out there for the taking by just applying the passion for them, borders on malpractice. I have read about every book written on ADHD and feel that education about the deficits (and yes, Virginia, those with ADHD have neurological deficits which for the majority persist into adulthood) should be the primary goal of these ADHD websites and message boards, not cheerleading about its supposed benefits. There aren’t any, really, especially when you add in the frequency of co-morbidites like depression and anxiety. Perhaps that is a dark view of it, but sometimes realism is the best medicine.

  27. Pallist January 30, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Before I was diagnosed in 2011, My ADHD was a mystery that ruined my life on many levels, which led me to accept almost every negative label and judgment one could think of: weird, forgetful, absent-minded, lazy, inconsiderate, easily bored, careless, temperamental, a flake, irresponsible, a procrastinator, and of course, inattentive. On my worse days I saw myself as an all-time loser, living a life that would be mediocre at best. That “loser” label also applied to all the members of my family who shared this condition.
    I spent most of my life trying to find the cause of my self-destructive tendencies and inexplicable behavior because I felt handicapped. My actions usually worked against my goals and best interest. By the time I was in my 40’s, whatever the diagnosis, I was happy to get it, be it a disability or handicap, psychiatric disorder, moral failing, whatever: I just wanted to know, because it would be the first step to dealing with a curse.
    I wasn’t happy after getting the ADHD diagnosis, but I was relieved. By this time I had barely survived several bouts of severe depression and had come to recognize the state of anxiety I was always in, which had in fact disabled me in another way. Learning about ADHD was the start on a long road that at least made sense of things that had made no sense before. In sum, I felt handicapped when I didn’t know. My disability came from all the mitigating factors of not knowing. Living without a sense of control over my present or future was debilitating. Reading about all the quirks of behavior that on the surface had no relation to each other – unless you have a clearer understanding of brain physiology and biochemistry – was a revelation and a release.
    I made enough peace with the diagnosis of ADHD that I can sometimes view it as just a different kind of neural wiring. Of course it’s the kind of wiring that wreaks havoc with one’s life. If I could find a way, I definitely would be rid of it. Nothing’s fun about missing deadlines, being incapable of managing one’s finances properly, being late to a job interview, losing keys or the most important document when you most need it. It’s frustrating to have a ridiculous surge of creativity and “great” thoughts without the ability to follow through on those great ideas, or to even keep track of all of them. I journal with a tape recorder now and have learned to manage it better, but follow through is still a struggle, as is finding the right meds and therapies. Sure, it is fun to be creative and original, but the price for those bursts of genius and insight is too high. I may change my mind one day, but the most positive I can feel about it right now is that I can talk with better clarity about it to those with the same issues. I don’t like the labels of handicapped or disabled, but I can’t deny that is a continual challenge and a disadvantage. I never liked the term “disorder”, but since most of my life is a battle with disorder and disarray, it could be the most descriptive.

  28. richardpeter February 2, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Pallist, you have put in words everything I have felt but could not express. Thank you

  29. dwc035 February 17, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Like danodea, I don’t like false dichotomies. And I should say that Pallist’s description of his journey is very similar to my own. What’s noted here is the “self-destructive” effects of ADHD – problems that we encounter that other’s don’t struggle with as much.
    The diagnosis of ADHD is determined upon the negative effect that it has had on your life. So perhaps it’s only a “handicap/disability” when its causing pain, discomfort, negative effects. Other times it’s just an interesting or occasionally beneficial neural difference in thinking.
    But to say it’s “occasionally disabling” is to understate the impact on my life. Most of my “pain” has been in ADHD causing me to fail to accomplish goals – prior to and after my diagnosis I’ve always referred to it as a “disability.”
    It’s a bit better now, and hopefully someday, with better coping skills, meds and support, it won’t be a disability any longer, just a different way of thinking. But it will always be a challenge.

  30. olsonpb April 16, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Handicap or disability?
    IT DEPENDS. Why am I thinking diapers for adults?
    Probably because control issues do have some fixes, in some situations, with some people, in some environments, with changeable acceptable boundaries for some, but not others, in some climates and or cultures. Not to mention differences in certain enclosures versus outdoor or freer environments.
    Let’s focus on the fact that diapers are not the issue here.
    It’s about people. What kind of people? Ordinary people who are different than me?
    Every bodies different. Unless theyre twins, but I wasn’t talking about their bodies, that was a spell check error. It was about who they are. Are they a what or a who? Are you a type or a who? I have ADHD “both”, as undiagnosed child and long time adult, diagnosed around 10 years ago.
    The “both” meant Attention and Hyperactivity issues (always moving, always thinking, but the thought content was constantly changing. It was a deficit, a difference, an advantage, resulting. in me being and/ or feeling alone, yet social, and sometimes socially inept, seeming, to me, always without a “voice”, internally and externally, until recently).
    If I listed all the things I haven’t done, likely because I have ADHD, and all the things I have done, most likely because I have ADHD, and all the things others have done to me, as a result of having ADHD, and what I have allowed others to do with, and to me, most likely as a result of ADHD you would still have just have glance at a sliver of me.
    People may say, in regard to the negatives, I’m blaming everyone else, or “you are, or are acting, like a victim”. To the positives, they might say, you were just lucky, or you were born with those abilities. In both cases they imply that I did not have control, that I didn’t try hard enough, or if I was successful that, I didn’t really have to try. At the same time in similar situations it was “your just like everyone else”. But I never felt like everyone else, and nobody seemed to act like they were ever going to let me be like everyone else.
    Other people seem to define what it means to have a disability or a handicap, or have a difference, according to their purposes.
    Too often, the terms are used and ignored in much the same way as my train of thought in this writing. IT DEPENDS. In reality it’s a handicap and a disability.
    My inability to overcome the past, with a lifetime of undiagnosed ADHD, has also created additional deficits, that others won’t attribute to, can’t see, or even accept, which can make dealing with it, in the present, even worse.
    Too often, these deficits resulted in unachieved outcomes, or even unattempted goals.
    For those challenges I have taken on, ADHD can lead me to believe that I am unlikely to succeed, and that sometimes, no matter how successful I am other people, even those I have never met, may never allow me to overcome, any challenge.
    Even worse, for people who have ADHD, are the never known achievements or happiness that might have been or still might be.

  31. rebrackin September 26, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    For me personally, I met several people with ADHD, and having been diagnosed having “Severe ADHD,” I can assure you I frequently feel disabled. At least in comparison to what I have both witnessed and heard from others, mine significantly impacts my life more so than the average ADHDer. Sometimes, no matter how badly I want to bring myself to do something, it is literally impossible for me. Sometimes it’s simple little things, like pleasing not guilty to a $1,000 traffic fine, despite knowing I am actually not guilty, simply because I can’t bring myself to do a simple google search, but an envelope, but a stamp, and fill out two forms. It sounds dreadful and mentally exhausting, so I totally dismiss it. I’d rather pay $1,000 fine than do that. Who does that? Yours truly. Oftentimes, bad enough consequences motivate me to get things done. But often times they do not. Often times I just take the consequences. I honestly feel like a helpless child sometimes, and wonder how I myself have been a successful parent to my daughter.
    Sometimes, this even means missing out on opportunities because I feel unable to do footwork, even though I am more than willing to do the actual hard work. Nevertheless, I am often looked at as unmotivated or “slow,” despite studying physics at one of the world’s best universities. Honestly, I feel slow a lot of the time, especially when I don’t have my adderall. I have an incredibly thick brain fog, and sometimes, I read at a rate of 1 page per hr, sometimes it’s worse. Adderall significantly helps my brain work so much faster, but I feel my brain is still slow because it often finds it challenging to compartmentalize information, to store it in an organized fashion up there in the noggin.
    Let’s not mention the fact that I could have read something earlier in the same page, or a page or two ago, but I cannnot, for the life of me, remember reading it at all. Most of the time, I can’t even remember what happened yesterday without significant thought put into it.
    I genuinely struggle in life, and there are literally things I cannot do to save my life, like remembering certain things without frequent exposure to it. My short term memory is non existent. I cannot do routine to save my life (it sounds sooo boring). I can’t keep my house or car clean to save my life, and honestly, it’s gotten to the point where it’s legit unhealthy to say the least.
    I don’t want to be this way. I genuinely don’t know how to NOT be this way. And honestly, I struggle just to find motivation to do anything other than be in bed either depressed from my difficulties or play video games endlessly (which I never get the option of doing), but at least I can prevent myself from doing those things (most of the time).

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