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“I’m always so hyper…I must be ADHD!”

April 14, 2013

Although I’ve never been formally diagnosed with ADD or ADHD (Attention-Deficit Disorder, with or without Hyperactivity), there are a lot of times when I think I fit all the criteria. In fact, many people believe they have ADHD simply because they get really excited and easily distracted. This creates the perception that ADHD is over-diagnosed. The truth is ADD or ADHD is only found in about 3% – 7% of school-aged children. So, in a classroom of about 25 – 30 kids, there will likely be only one child who meets the criteria for a diagnosis. Data on adults with ADD or ADHD is more limited.

It's easy to get distracted when you have ADHD

It’s easy to get distracted when you have ADHD

Thinking that someone may have ADHD when they really don’t raises two important points. First, just because someone meets some of the criteria for a particular disorder or problem does not mean they actually have that disorder. In other words, just because it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and talks like a duck, does NOT always mean it’s a duck.

Here are some of the problem symptoms of ADHD in adults. As you read them, ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced these same things.

  • Interpersonal relationship problems (e.g., “It seems like you never listen to me!” or “You’re always late!”)
  • Financial commitments (e.g. impulsively buying everything that catches their eye, overspending)
  • Occupational problems (e.g. difficulty being organized at work or school, unable to do just one project at a time, procrastinating on every project)
  • Anxiety (e.g. mind is always racing, difficulty focusing on the present moment)
  • Restless and difficulty sitting still

I have worked with clients who have displayed many of these symptoms, but did not have AD/HD. Instead, they may have suffered from depression, or an addiction issue, or they were living with an abusive partner and quietly suffering. In each of these circumstances, they manifested many of the symptoms of AD/HD . However, they were missing additional symptoms that could only be identified by a trained professional who is familiar with the diagnosis.

A second important point to know about AD/HD is that it’s an organic brain disorder, and NOT simply a way that people choose to behave. For decades, many believed that a child’s inability to pay attention was really a choice. For example, when a child was unable to sit still, or if they forgot to follow through with their chores, or when they seemed to have difficulty listening when spoken to, most parents believed it was a choice their child was making. “He’s choosing to ignore me!” is a comment I’ve heard from quite a few parents whose child lives with AD/HD. The truth is that their child is not trying to be disrespectful or defiant. It’s just that their brain won’t let them focus on only one thing at a time.

Today, there are effective medications and behavioural treatments that can make a huge difference in someone’s daily life. Here are some strategies that have been shown to be effective.

1.Exercise and spend time outdoors
2.Get plenty of sleep
3.Limit your sugar and caffeine intake
4.Develop structure and neat habits
5.Use an organizer or a To-Do list
6.Give yourself more time than you think you need
7.Set aside time for organization

By doing a bit of research and spending a few hours with the right health care professional, a person living with AD/HD can make significant changes in their life. Check out some of the links below to get you started.

The points I’d like to leave you with are, firstly, if you have the symptoms of a disorder, don’t be so sure you have that disorder. Secondly, in the case of AD/HD, a person’s hyperactivity or impulsivity is not always a reflection of how they are choosing to behave. In most cases, it’s just the way their brain works.

Hope this bit of psychology helps with your personal growth …

Here are some useful sites on the topic of ADD and ADHD

Help Guide on ADHD
Psych Central
Canadian Psychological Association (Fact Sheets)

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!! (Well it’s special to me, anyway)

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a new layout for my website and blog. The new site will be called “PsychologyForGrowth.com” and will give my blog posts a whole new look and feel. I also plan on being more interactive by using social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN) to connect with my readers. I’ll keep you posted on the changes.

Keep sharing psychology…

Dr. Richard Amaral

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