Due to the fact that the disorder is so often misunderstood, I encourage you to consider the following five frequently asked questions about ADHD:
What Causes ADHD?
There seems to be a large genetic component to this cluster of symptoms although some people may suffer a ‘secondary type’ due to various types of brain trauma. ADHD is associated with variable academic performance, family discord, peer rejection or neglect, accidents, job loss, increased legal issues and divorce. In my view it is also associated with a variety of potential advantages that including highly developed natural skills when allowed to 'go by the seat of their pants'.
Are there Specific tests for ADHD?
From a medical standpoint brain scanning is offered in a number of clinics. For the most part the utility of such scans appears to be limited apart from discerning brain trauma. Some claim to be able to discern specific types of ADHD with such scanning. Psychologically, there are a number of timed tests, screening tests, and educational testing available. These can be very helpful for the classroom and for ADHD coaching. In the end, an evaluation with someone who is familiar with ADHD and takes the time to gets to know you, your family, and your educational/work/social history remains the gold standard.
What Effect Does ADHD have on the Family?
There is often more than one person affected by ADHD in a family. When one or both parents have ADHD this can affect all areas of the family’s life from economic stability, marital stability, child rearing and impaired social activities. When a child in the family has ADHD it can cause marital stress as each parent often blames the other for the child’s struggles. Usually the mother is blamed for being 'too soft and forgiving' and the father for being 'too hard and angry'. They know their child should do better in school and behave better overall but nothing they try seems to help. Everyone, especially the child, eventually becomes frustrated. When several children in a family struggle with ADHD the home can get chaotic.
Schools can be very helpful but frequently have limited resources. Schools often require a number of meetings with the student and parents, follow-ups, coordination with various teachers, and educational testing to secure accommodations. This requires that the family be patient, persistent and tenacious. Parents also may need to push to get the service they feel their child needs. These qualities are in limited supply in a family that is struggling. Often parents are overwhelmed and conflict avoidant. Job loss, school failure and poor conflict resolution skills just add to the potential confusion. There are specialized schools that address each of these concerns that can be very helpful. School counselors, ADHD coaches and local ADHD advocacy groups can be helpful in locating available resources.
Are Too Many or Too Few People Being Diagnosed and Are They Being Over or Under Treated?
Yes to all of the above! Many people are struggling and have no clue that they may have ADHD. Many people may suspect they have ADHD but are procrastinating in their efforts to get help! Many ‘don’t believe in ADHD’ or in the treatments that would help them. Many specialists not trained in ADHD fail to understand the importance of treatment, or miss the diagnosis altogether. Some specialists have seen abuse of the diagnosis and are not open to making or treating this diagnosis. Some people are afraid of being 'labeled' and so refuse treatment. Some people are being treated by those who don’t specialize in ADHD and are often under treated. Then there are those who are so sensitive to the issues surrounding ADHD that they tend to over diagnose and treat.
My recommendation would be to learn what you can about ADHD. If possible, ask friends and family what they think. Often others may have been afraid to say anything or have been respectful so as not to mention the jitteriness, forgetfulness or chronic procrastination. Many times…most of the time…others have noticed! If you have depression or anxiety that is not responding to treatment, ask your professional about ADHD or ask for a referral to someone who might be able to help. Given all of the above you may want to seek out the opinion of someone you know who has been successfully treated locally. Often, if you have ADHD...at least several of your friends have it too! People whose brain are 'wired similarly' tend to understand each other and tend to choose each other as friends.
Where Can You Find Help?
There are several books that can serve as a starting point although many with ADHD have told me they have not read a book in years. The audio books have been very helpful and often a spouse will read the book and underline the portions that seem relevant. Know that there are many ways people have learned to deal with this cluster of symptoms and no two people are alike. No one will have all the presentations characterized in any book.
For children: Taking Charge of ADHD by Russell Barkley Ph.D. Understanding Girls with ADHD by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D. For adults: You Mean I’m Not Crazy Lazy or Stupid? by Kate Kelly, Women with ADHD by Sari Solden, MS, ADD in ADDulthood by Sari Solden, ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Kolberg/Nadeau, Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell, MD
Websites are available, for example, the web site of the National Institute of Mental health, NIMH at www.nimh.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit
‘CHADD’, Children and Adults with ADHD, CHADD is a national organization that sponsors a web site and local support groups. Here one can ask about local resources. You may also find a list of local ‘ADHD coaches’.
For children, schools have the resources to offer psychological and educational testing. These counselors also have direct connections to teachers to help secure and implement educational plans.
Pediatricians and family doctors are becoming more aware of local resources. They can rule out other medical issues and, as needed, make a referral to specialists.
Several kinds of specialists are available. Many work together in clinics to offer a full spectrum of care. Psychiatrists, psychologists, individual therapists of various types, family therapists, ADHD coaches, dietitians, physical therapists and educators who have shown a special interest in ADHD can all provide the help that may be necessary.
When needed, you can go to a nationally recognized center for treatment and/or a second opinion.
The Oneness Approach is another resource that helps anyone with ADHD to maximize their opoortunities.