Understanding ADHD

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I think that many of us are aware of and have some understanding of what ADHD or ADD means or looks like.  Usually it conjures up images of young children, often boys, who cannot sit still and require medication such as Ritalin.  Unfortunately, this generalization leaves many girls undiagnosed and thus not able to receive the support they need.  As they continue to grow into adulthood, this lack of understanding by themselves, teachers and family members creates an environment of judgment, pain and confusion.  Often, women who struggle with ADHD or ADD are very intelligent and creative, but struggle to handle daily tasks such as running errands or staying organized.  To fend off this image as someone who is lazy or disorganized, they will keep their struggles a secret and work twice as hard to accomplish certain tasks, inevitably leading to intense fatigue, stress and burnout.  Additionally, in order to keep it a secret, they will refuse or not ask for support; leaving them feeling alone and intensely self-critical.  Further, they often struggle with verbalizing their needs and boundaries and often taken on more than they can handle.

In the text, ‘Women with Attention Deficit Disorder” by Sari Solden, the author shares her struggle with ADD as well as her work as a therapist with ADD/ADHD clients.  Solden provides an eye-opening account of what it is like to go through life feeling like an outsider, and ultimately her own healing journey towards self-acceptance.  She also includes stories from clients of the impact of their ADD on everything from their careers and relationships to co-occurring struggles with other mental health issues such as depression, eating disorders and addiction.  

stressed-woman-cartoon-2-tinyAt the outset, Solden addresses the misconceptions.  “ADD is not just for kids, not just for boys, not just about being hyperactive, not about a ‘deficit of attention’, and not about being irresponsible or having a character flaw”.  Further, she clarifies that it is “a neurochemical disorder (not a psychological one) … it is extremely important to understand that while ADD is a serious disorder, it is not characterlogical or psychological, but neurobiological.  Neurobiological or neurochemical means it’s not your fault, and it means it’s the way your individual brain works.  It does not mean you have brain damage”.  

Learning the above is such a critical part to one’s own process of understanding and healing, not only for the person suffering, but for their loved ones as well.  Removing the blame and guilt around this disorder can free the person to begin to accept support in various ways and allow them to succeed with their disorder instead of in spite of it, burying it with shame and secrets.   

So how does someone treat their ADD or ADHD?  Solden breaks it down into the three R’s: Restructure, Reintegrate and Redefine.  To restructure means to take account of current strengths and look at what has been working thus ar.  Then, taking account of their own needs  and of those around them (family, boss, etc).   Lastly, clarifying or identifying what they are passionate about or how they include fun in their lives.  The next “R”, Reintegrate, addresses how to go about applying this restructuring to their lives.  It can often be quite tricky as family and friends may be very supportive and understanding at first, but unprepared for the fact that they will have to make some changes as well.   When there is any change in a system, the effects are felt by all in the system (i.e. work, home, extended family) and some members may be more ready or accepting of change than others.  Believing and trusting that ultimately this change is best for all involved will sustain you through this phase of reintegration.  

It is critical at this juncture to put in place as much support as possible to keep the motivation and hope alive.  As mentioned previously, setting limits with others and asking/receiving consistent support can be very new and difficult.  Working with a therapist could help you determine the best ways to address these changes with those close to you as well as persevere through the self-doubt and fear when times get tough.  Joining a support group is another great option that will provide you with a sense of community.  Further, witnessing how others succeed or struggle can significantly decrease the isolation this disorder creates.

After the restructuring and reintegrating of the important ‘outside’ components of healing, the final step goes inward.  Redefining is about looking at your self-image.  How have you been talking to yourself and how do you really see yourself?  By becoming more aware of the disorder,  knowing that you are not alone and finding a sense of community are  all tremendously helpful ways in which to develop a greater sense of self-acceptance.

I hope this brief summary of the text inspires you to continue your own education and understanding of ADD or ADHD.  If you do not struggle with it personally, most likely you now someone who does.  Through awareness and support from friends, family, support groups and/or individual therapy; shedding the cloud of secrecy around this disorder can lead to life changing transformation!   

 Check out the book on Amazon.com here.