tomhanksrph: a guide sort of thing—ADD/ADHD.
I’m writing this because I’ve read a lot of misconceptions about ADHD/ADD. I want to clear the air as someone who has been diagnosed with it for six years, and has three siblings who also have ADHD/ADD. No case of ADHD is exactly alike, and I’d like to think I’ve got the experience and authority to write about it.
First things first: ADD is Attention Deficit Disorder. ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. The difference? In ADD, the body doesn’t show that the brain is working a million miles an hour. In ADHD, the body has to move, fidget, or tap, the disorder manifesting itself partially in motion. But make no mistake, in both ADD and ADHD the brain is running haywire. For the purpose of this guide, when I refer to “ADHD” I’m referring to both ADHD and ADD, unless otherwise denoted.
- One common misconception is that they are unorganized. This isn’t true. It may be characteristic of some people with ADHD, but it isn’t a definite result of the disorder.
Often times, people with ADHD are highly creative. Because their brain makes connections quicker and differently than everyone else, they tend to have the ability to be out-of-the-box thinkers. The brain of an ADHD person has a chemical inbalance in which the brain is always… stimulated. It would be like if a normal person were always drinking espresso; the energy not coming in bursts, but the hyperactivity of the mind just being a mess. That said, the ADHD brain tries to multi-task at this hyper-speed and ends up being inefficient when it comes to doing things one task at a time.
A chemical inbalance in the brain doesn’t result in that person being unorganized, messy, or unpunctual. How a character can get like this is if they are also a perfectionist and/or anxious. ADHD is extremely frustrating. I can’t sit down and tell myself “You’re going to knock out a rough draft,” or “you’re going to finish this paper before you get up to grab a snack.” It just doesn’t work because my mind can’t stay focused for that long. What will end up happening is I’ll get lost in a doodle, reading, or writing something else, or I’ll just ignore my original ultimatum and I’ll get up and walk away because my brain physically can’t focus on one topic for long durations of time.
- The misconception that ADHD kids skip school, are bad in school, or are bullied.
This isn’t true. Kids with ADHD may feel a need to skip school because they think they are bad at it, when in reality, school may not cater to the needs of their ADHD. When teachers or specialists don’t help kids with ADHD/it goes untreated, the frustration eventually turns to anger, spite, or self-loathing. It creates a sense of “I can’t do it.” This negative “I can’t do it,” is partially true, because their brain is different from most of their peers, and their teachers may not know how to teach to their needs. Because the ADHD brain is a multi-tasker, when it sees a task it repeatedly has told itself it cannot do or it will fail, the brain will move on. It may still be a priority to that person in their character, but their subconscious doesn’t see it as a priority. A despondent state of “can’t do it, won’t do it,” builds up inside.
Kids with ADHD aren’t bullied, either. They may be socially awkward or introverted because their brain is moving a million miles an hour, and they don’t know how to slow down to socially be relevant to their peers. It’s also very taxing to try to slow your brain down to keep up with others. Lots of times, because the brain is moving so quickly, it acknowledges information without necessarily generating some sort of response to it.
- Misconception: They are druggies because of their meds.
Nope. Not true. The medication prescribed to ADHD people are stimulants. This may sound backward because the brain of an ADHD patient is already stimulated, but for some reason, the chemical unbalance processes the stimulants as a depressant. So coffee, tea, and caffeine all act like a depressant and slow the brain down.
While non-ADHD people may be interested in the ADHD medications, the drugs are highly monitored. There is a limit that a doctor can prescribe to one patient.
Another thing is that there are so many varieties of ADHD medications. Some have little to no effect, others really change the personality, some work well, some only kind of work. ADHD medications are recognized as diet suppressants. In some cases, certain varieties can make a patient suicidal or depressed (my sister took a certain brand for one day and by the end of the night she was crying herself to sleep saying she didn’t want to live anymore…).
- True conception: ADHD kids tend to not get enough sleep, and they lie to avoid punishment.
ADHD kids have to work harder and longer to get assignments done. Their brain is exerting so much more energy than a regular brain, so these kids tend to need more sleep than most, but get less than their peers.
One more symptom is that, in order to avoid punishment, trouble, or problems, they’ll lie, even if it isn’t necessary. For example, if a student has genuinely forgotten their homework, they’ll tell their parent they are sick and can’t go into school, or they’ll skip that class and say they didn’t know they had class, or that they did it and they left it at home. For some unknown reason, ADHD kids have trouble telling the truth if it means they’ll get in trouble. This creates an insecurity because they live webs of lies to certain people.
- Misconception: Society blames them for things or they have difficult times socially.
I don’t know why these are two misconceptions, I read about them somewhere else. I’ve never even heard of the former, but I can understand why the latter is generally accepted. But I can easily disapprove this with all of my siblings, namely my sister, who was Prom Queen, and she really struggled with her ADHD. Regardless, social problems a character may have are not related to their ADHD. They may tend to be quiet in social situations because they can’t follow the conversation because they get distracted. I know sometimes I’ll be in a conversation, and my brain makes a bunch of connections, and then I’ve switched the topic. Or I’ll think the conversation is over and walk away. It’s harder to judge, but I don’t feel uncomfortable necessarily. And if I do, it’s usually a result of my lack of security or confidence in myself, which can be symptomatic of the ADHD.
I hope this answers questions and helps people understand ADHD better! If you have any questions or feedback you’d like to share, just get me at my inbox!