7 truths about ADHD you need to know
I have ADHD and I am writing this article to inform and serve others with ADHD and to increase awareness of it, as ADHD is still not well known to many.
My standpoint on ADHD: It’s a neurological difference which gives rise to many positive traits and talents as well as difficulties caused by executive function impairments (explained in next paragraph). I believe people with ADHD are very valuable and are truly needed in the world and my mission is to give the world a chance to recognise that.
Now on to the truths:
1) IQ and ADHD do not affect one another
Executive function impairments are what cause the symptoms in ADHD. Executive functions are the most complex of the brain functions as they control the processing of information. Studies have shown that even extremely intelligent children and adults can also have ADHD. They have tremendously useful information to give; they just find it more difficult to process and deliver that information. Unfortunately due to the assumption that ADHD and a higher level of intelligence cannot coexist, children and adults can suffer without help for a long time or indefinitely.
2) ADHD is a worldwide phenomena
About 5% of adults are recorded as having ADHD in the U.S. In the scientific paper “The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: is it an American condition?” concluded that ADHD is just as common in non-American countries as it is in America. It is just that other countries do not record or view the traits in the same way.
3) You can still have ADHD even if you cannot get diagnosed with it
ADHD has to cause you significant problems in your life before you can be officially diagnosed with it in the UK. It is not just the symptoms, which are used as the criteria for diagnosis.
For example one ADHD adult could have a job which really suits her talents and strengths and other life areas are going well. She does not get a diagnosis but then two years later she gets promoted to a job which has increased demands, does not suit her skill set, and her boyfriend who helped with the finances and housework etc., leaves. With insufficient support and more pressure, the ADHD may be much more problematic, and over time her health may be affected - seeing her qualify for a diagnosis.
4) ADHD can affect a person in childhood or adulthood or both
ADHD in adulthood can be masked, but in school there is less freedom to choose and the ADHD may be more apparent. Although many individuals do find their ADHD is less problematic as they get older, there are still many who experience ADHD impairments that persist well into adult-hood. The scientific research is still not adequate enough to conclude on the effect of ADHD in middle-age and later life.
5) ADHD has been repeatedly shown to be linked to many other conditions
Other learning difficulties such as dyslexic and dyscalculia have been seen to be completely separate from ADHD. Now we know that the difficulties often overlap between the conditions and you are more likely to have dyslexia or some form of learning difficulty if you have ADHD. OCD is linked to ADHD as well as sleeping difficulties. There are also overlaps with the autistic spectrum. However they are still separate conditions and you can be diagnosed with two different conditions if they both affect you significantly.
I have included this, so anyone who thought as I did, ‘I couldn’t have two different conditions, that would be greedy!’ would know this isn’t true. Being diagnosed can really take the pressure off and is especially useful for children, university students or adults who may want some adjustments at work.
6) People with ADHD are different to non-ADHD people with similar troubles
People who do not have ADHD may assume that, because they forget things too, and find it hard to be organised,, people with ADHD are like everybody else. I can understand why they may think this, however although everyone does suffer from the typical ADHD symptoms (executive function impairments) sometimes, the brains of people with ADHD have been shown to be structurally different with modern imaging techniques. The brain development and functioning is different in several specific ways, with the ADHD brain taking to longer to mature. There are global reductions in grey matter, unusual development of white matter across various areas of the brain and less effective communication over white-matter circuits which links various regions of the brain.
I am not aware of any studies into the positive brain differences of ADHD so this data is focused on the negative. Hopefully one day we will have evidence of the positive sides too.
7) The medications do work.
There is evidence from imaging studies to show stimulants given to adults with ADHD demonstrate improved working memory, they are less distractible, less easily bored and brain connections are improved. Large numbers of studies have compared a placebo against both stimulant and non-stimulate medications. They also showed significant improvements ADHD symptoms in a large percentage of children and adults. However they are not a cure and only work while they are active in the body.
In conclusion I have highlighted some of the common myths of ADHD and why they are wrong.
Being better informed about ADHD can help people who want help to get it, which can often be life changing. Just knowing about it and learning some ADHD specific coping skills can help to improve self-esteem and reduce anxiety making you much happier. Also understanding can help you to be more accepting of a friend or family member with ADHD.
Stephen v Faraone, Joseph Sergeant,Christopher Gillberg and Joseph Biederman (2003) “The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: is it an American condition?” - World Psychiatry Jun; 2(2): 104–113.
Thomas E. Brown (2013 - A new understanding of ADHD in children and adults - New York : Routledge.
Disclaimer - Although I have made every effort to be accurate, any information I write could be inaccurate (it is possible, I am not infallible). I may also include some of my own opinions in anything I write online.
I would like to make it clear to you (the reader) that were I to accidentally offend or hurt anyone’s person or feelings as a result of them reading and or acting upon any or all of the information and or advice found here, it is entirely unintentional of me to do so.
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Karen Hayns MSc - Future PerfectSeptember 11th, 2017