ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder wasn’t identified as a mental disorder until 1980. Back then most people including medical professionals considered it just some young boys who couldn’t sit still. It was considered as more of a ‘behavioural problem’ than an actual disease. It was in 1980 when they first put the words ‘attention deficit’ to its name and realised it was rather a problem of the brain’s management system and executive functions. Another important thing to know while trying to understand ADHD is that it has got nothing to do with the individual’s IQ. High, average, below average, slow- the person can be on any side of the spectrum and still have trouble doing the basics. So one thing’s clear it has nothing to do with how smart you are.
So then what is ADHD?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as, “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active."
That’s a very brief definition of ADHD while there’s a lot to the condition. The inability of being attentive manifests into many other everyday social problems. What’s important to always remember is that when you hear about their day-to-day troubles you might think that happens with you also. So what’s the big deal! But let me tell you IT IS! Let’s take a deeper look at some of these challenges and understand how they affect people with ADHD.
Can’t stay focused for long:
One of the symptoms of ADHD is that individuals have a major problem with staying tuned to one thing, be it a meeting, a lecture, a book- their mind is unable to stick around as a result they register half of the things from that activity. Just like how your mobile phone would lose on the signals in an area with poor reception- the signals would come and then go away and then come back again. ADHDers have a similar issue where their focus keeps coming and drifting away to something else. Now again, you might think you experience this quite often at your workplace or college, but people with ADHD have no control over this no matter what.
For many distractions might seem like a very common thing. Some might not even consider it a real problem, but with ADHD it is! It is largely misunderstood and ill-treated by most parents, guardians, and teachers as they think the child is just not paying attention. While in reality, they cannot do so. This problem is seen in adults with ADHD as well. While a normal adult with a sound mind would be able to tell his mind to focus when asked, an ADHDer would have a compulsive need to see what’s happening around, or where a sound is coming from, or look outside the window. Imagine watching a TV that played 15 different channels all at the same time. Their brain also acts similarly, as a result, they feel restless and distracted as their brain is throwing out a lot of information at a given time. Hence it’s not something that’s in their voluntary control and not something one can deal with strong willpower.
This is another common problem experienced by people with ADHD. For many it is the difficulty in organising their things- it can be as simple as arranging their backpack for the next morning or their filing system, living space, work desk, etc. However, some individuals fighting ADHD might not face difficulty in any of these tasks but they have trouble managing their time, prioritising all of their tasks for the day. Moreover, if they do go past this stage and put their tasks in order, they’d often find trouble in starting with the first task until it becomes a sort of emergency and it cannot be further procrastinated or compromised.
By now it must be fairly understood that people with ADHD have trouble paying attention, but some of you may disagree with this because there are some things that they can do for hours without getting distracted. It is mostly a thing of their interest, be it a video game or a sport, art or a hobby- and people would be surprised to see them glued to it for hours non-stop. And at this point, most people think that it is just a willpower problem when it's not. It is a fact that every ADHDer will have a few things that engross them- to an extent that it is difficult to get their attention off of that thing.
If you happen to talk to anyone who has ADHD and you ask them how good their memory is, you might get an answer like, “ I’ve got the best memory in my family! I can remember things in such graphic detail that most people forget.” But you might also notice that they would forget something that just happened a few minutes ago or maybe is a reference to the recent past. The problem with ADHD is not with long-term memory storage, but the short-term ‘working’ memory. Working memory is what you depend on when you go to the other room. But people with ADHD would forget and stand clueless why they came into the room in the first place. At times they’d forget the name of the person they are in conversation with but would remember everything from their last meeting. Some kids who study a night before the test, would completely forget a chunk of what they studied and go blank during the exam but would suddenly remember all of it when something related to it comes up. The problem with their memory does not lie in the ‘storage’ part but the ‘retrieving’ part. The information does not pop up when they need it in time.
There are a lot more such problems that people experience as a result of having ADHD, and these were just some of them explained. And surely you must be experiencing all these problems mentioned above, but ADHDers have a lot more trouble dealing with all these things and more that come along as a part of being attention deficient. And that’s something to be sensitive about especially in the case of children as most people think of it as a ‘willpower’ issue, while in reality, the problem lies in how their brain is wired.
What can be done?
It is extremely important to get it diagnosed right and understand the areas where the individual with ADHD faces challenges with. Consulting your doctor and then seeking the right medication ( which is often a difficult choice for a lot of parents) is the next step once the problem is thoroughly diagnosed.
Cadabam’s offers different therapies and techniques that help an individual focus better and become more efficient with doing day-to-day tasks. We recommend everyone to encourage people with ADHD to seek guidance and therapy and create an environment that is rather inclusive than judgemental in nature. Over our 3 decades of work in mental healthcare, we have understood that seeking early help is the most crucial step in treating almost all mental health disorders. ADHD treatment is possible, and you can save yourself a lot of hassle by seeking help early.