Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the group of signs and symptoms, typically appearing in childhood, characterized by a marked and persistent pattern of impulsiveness, inattention, and sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity that often gets the patient into trouble in school, at work, or in his social life. ADHD, however, includes not only negative traits like impulsiveness, distractibility as shown by a short attention span, and hyperactivity, but certain positive traits as well.

These positive traits include spontaneity, creativity, and incredible focus regarding certain topics. Thus, ADHD is not all bad news. A better way to view it, which also happens to be the more realistic way, is to see ADHD not only in terms of how it interferes with a child’s or an adult’s academic, occupational, or social performance, but also how it may enhance them.

What ADHD is Not

  • ADHD is not a conclusion, after a diagnosis, on whether or not a child or an adult is good or bad.  For one thing, ADHD cannot be “diagnosed” by subjecting a child or adult to a pathological lab test. Furthermore, ADHD cannot after only one test of any kind.
  • Contrary to what its name suggests, ADHD is not a deficit in attention. If a deficit is a shortage of something, ADHD is not a deficit in attention for the simple reason that children or adults with ADHD sometimes pay more attention, especially if the subject interests them.

In other words, it is not true that people with ADHD have an attention problem.   It’s just that they lose attention quickly—and become easily distracted– if the subject bores them.  If something interests them, however, you’d be amazed at the kind of focus they could bring to it.  This could be good, if the child or adult is creating something.  It becomes bad, however, if the focus prevents them from paying attention to concerns others find more important.  An adult with ADHD could spend hours formulating a brilliant strategy for a new product launch, but may not be able to get himself to work out the many details.

  • ADHD is not all about a problem with attention.   Impulsiveness is also a problem, as is distractibility, and, sometimes, hyperactivity.
  • ADHD is not a disorder if we define “disorder” as an illness that affects bodily or mental functions, for instance, eating disorder.  ADHD is merely a difference, with ADHD children or adults simply doing things differently.  A person could be left-handed, but we don’t consider his left-handedness a “disorder.”

The only time we could justifiably call ADHD a “disorder” is when a child or an adult cannot function in school or at work without major interventions.  Until then, we should probably view ADHD people as having a “disadvantage,” not a “disorder.” This is the better approach, especially because the severity of ADHD symptoms is not the same for all people with ADHD.

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