What Exactly is ADHD?

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“What is ADHD exactly?”

“What is the difference between ADHD and ADD?”

“Aren’t people with ADHD stupid or slow?”

“Isn’t ADHD just a made up condition for naughty kids?”

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These are just a few of the questions many people have about ADHD and I can tell you that ADHD is definitely a real condition. I have it, and I am not stupid, but I sometimes appear stupid because of the restrictive way my brain works; most notably my poor short term memory.

I am also Dyslexic, which is very closely related to ADHD. I am slow at reading and writing because ADHD and dyslexia have a lot of overlapped faults in the brain. I can be slow to get some jokes sometimes; even taking only two seconds longer than others to get a joke, it can still make you look stupid! And sometimes I get hold of the wrong end of the stick completely, and only later realize and wonder how on earth I could be so mistaken. But I also have Aspergers and therefore have a lateral thinking brain. Many people have ADHD together with Aspergers syndrome.

The Dore Program (a private ADHD/Dyslexia treatment program) actually regard the two conditions synonymous with each other, although the rest of the world seem slow to catch on (no pun intended), and statistics for the two conditions of ADHD and Dyslexia vary greatly. From what I have read about the cerebellum and how it is under-developed in ADHD/dyslexic patients, I have come to believe they are one and the same condition, and they also incorporate mild Dyspraxia in most cases (clumsiness).

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What Causes Poor Short Term Memory in ADHD?

I have an abysmal short-term memory, also known as “Working Memory”. This is what made me useless at working behind a bar. If anyone wanted three or more drinks, I would say “What was the first one again?” “OK great. And what was the second one again?” People just think you are dumb, and stop taking you seriously.

That dialogue might suggest I just wasn’t listening the first time, but because the cerebellum is under-developed, a person with ADHD needs all their working memory to concentrate on each separate bit of information received. While neurotypical people with fully developed cerebellums have many tasks automated (using a different part of the brain), they can free up short-term memory (working memory) in the cerebellum to pay full attention and retain the information for longer. In order to achieve anything of any significance, the very least a person with ADHD/dyslexia has to have is To Do lists every day – and lots of them.

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What is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

So what exactly is the difference between ADHD and ADD? Nothing! They are the same thing. ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a myth that only children have ADHD and adults have ADD. People think the Hyperactivity part refers only to crazy kids charging around at full speed with no sign of slowing down to take a rest. A lot of official ADHD literature separates the two and talks about children having ADHD as being physically hyperactive. Even resources that acknowledge that adults have the Hyperactivity part too, claim that the adult in question is usually physically hyperactive as well as the child.

But the Hyperactivity part actually refers to how the brain works. It races ahead all the time while processing accelerated thoughts. This can mean children being physically hyperactive too, but children do generally have lots more energy than adults. The mental hyperactivity makes its host interrupt others when they talk. They know they’ll forget their point if they don’t speak up now, so they interrupt people and appear rude. The irratic way the brain thinks means the person is often impulsive and very easily distracted, as they are being bombarded with new ideas all the time.

The brain processes the reading of text in the same way (dyslexia), racing ahead. Poor eye-tracking means the eyes are unable to follow words in chronological order. The eyes jump around and make up sentences of their own. Even words from the lines above and below the line they are supposed to be reading will jump into the sentence and often produce some quite funny or rude results. I often see adult material where there is none. Freud would have had a field day analyzing me!

People with ADHD and dyslexia also often don’t come across very well in conversation. They will often appear as though they are stupid or have a limited vocabulary, when they pause, stutter, “um and ahh” a lot, backtrack or simply cannot recall the correct word to use. This happens a lot with me. I am always forgetting regularly used words. I simply have a mental block and you just feel so stupid when it happens.

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“Isn’t ADHD just a made up condition for naughty kids?”

No, it is real and for each time you suffer a naughty child, I can assure you the child is suffering more than you.

Children with ADHD who are naughty have to work many times harder to concentrate on things other kids take for granted. The brain never switches off, so new ideas and thoughts come to them constantly. They are often poor sleepers because of this, and consequently are tired and irritable during the day. They also feel imensely frustrated at not being understood, and this manafests into bad behavior.

The other reason for bad behavior is that all children need attention, but naughty children with ADHD/dyslexia often only receive attention when they are naughty. What incentive do children have to be well behaved when they receive no attention for being good, but get lots of attention for being naughty?

No child likes to be ignored. As a former naughty child, I know for sure that a child will rather be screamed at, smacked, severely reprimanded or punished before they will want to be ignored, yet most parents do not realize this.

All the ADHD and autism literature says the conditions are not due to bad parenting. No the ADHD isn’t due to bad parenting, because it is a neurological condition. But the resulting bad behavior is not helped by parents who use the Stick approach because they don’t know what to do for the best. When a child is screaming or playing up, the first instinctive thing for an adult to do is to reprimand, yell or smack, but that is just adding fuel to the fire.

If I had been praised when good and ignored when bad, I would have had no incentive to be naughty and would have made my parents’ lives much easier. In turn my childhood would have been much easier and happier and I would have been a lot more confident as an adult. I know that’s easier said than done, and it takes a lot of willpower to ignore a naughty child, but many experts including Jo Frost, the Supernanny, have proved that this technique works time and time again.

And consistency is the most important thing in ensuring that the child remembers their parents mean business. If a parent fails to stick to a routine of discipline and praise, the child will not take them seriously.

I personally believe all badly behaved people; children and adults, have ADHD or ASD. In the UK in 2001, the TV show The Tonight Show reported that 70% of all British criminals had ADHD, while official figures state that 1 in 20 children have ADHD. If the official statistics say 70% of criminals have ADHD (which is a huge majority already), then what’s to stop the other 30% from having other AS disorders, or undetected ADHD? There must be a strong reason people behave badly. I find it frustrating that most people don’t even think about why criminals do what they do. But with each terrible news story I hear about, while most people are baying for their blood, I always wonder what the criminal had experienced that made them choose that path. Scientists have found brain damage and a history of abuse in many serial killers. Autism/ASD is a form of brain damage.

A lot of people with ADHD (adults and children) have trouble with reading, writing and mathematical calculations (Dyscalculia). They can be argumentative and aggressive, and are often thought of as being deliberately difficult, when they actually just want to fit in with everyone else, but do not know how. A lot of information on the subject of ADHD assumes that unruly behavior is naturally part of the condition, and that it can only be prevented with the use of prescription drugs. As I have said earlier, bad behavior can be managed effectively, and it can even be prevented to begin with.

No baby is born bad. While ADHD is genetic or due to environmental factors when the brain is developing, a child’s bad behavior is the result of all the other mounting pressure that ADHD puts upon the child. Once they are treated negatively they will develop low self esteem, inconfidence and depression due to the frustrations they encounter on a daily basis.

I believe that Ritolin and mood stabilizers are over prescribed and are largely prescribed to make the parents’ and teachers’ lives easier, not the child’s. While they can be helpful in severe cases, this type of  medication is a way of papering over the cracks, rather than getting to the root of the problem. I’m totally with Tom Cruise on this one.

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I believe a lot more people have ADHD than the official figures suggest, as I meet people almost every day with the symptoms. Depending on which website you look at, 10-20% of children are stated to have ADHD, while only 4.1% of adults have it according to this site. This is ridiculous. If you have it as a child, you will most likely have it as an adult. Your brain doesn’t just fix itself when you turn 18 or 21. But most adults learn what behavior is acceptable, and their symptoms no longer show as much, but they will still have a lot of the same neurobiological difficulties that they did as a child.

ADHD is believed to be treatable by using regular mental exercises devised by The Dore Program. Winford Dore, a successful business man developed the program after his own daughter became suicidal at the age of 16 because of her difficulties. He enlisted scientists and NASA technology to refine a program that requires 10 minutes of mental exercises every day for a year.

Singer/actress Toyah Willcox has been on the Dore program and swears by its effectiveness in helping her to be able to read a book in a week, rather than months. She describes her experience in a video available on a free DVD available from their website. The findings of The Tonight Show are also on the DVD. This is not an ad for the program. I wanted to write about it, as I am a fan of Toyah and believe she would not endorse something that did not work. I have not been on the program myself but I plan to go on it soon. I have been to their local office and seen some of the technology they use. I am in favor of any effective ADHD treatment that does not involve drugs.

Some believe doing certain types of puzzles is enough to give your brain a workout, in order to maintain concentration. I also know for certain that I can maintain concentration for much longer after reading a few pages of a novel, than when I haven’t. (Reading a magazine or website doesn’t appear to exercise the brain as much, as those can be a lot easier to read due to the graphic layout). But I think the Dore Program is designed to permanently increase cognitive function, as you only need to do the mental exercises for one year.

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“Aren’t people with ADHD stupid or slow?”

There are a few misconceptions regarding ADHD and intelligence. Firstly “slow” is often a diplomatic word for dumb or stupid. I can literally be slow in understanding stuff as described above, but I’m not generally dumb.

Most people think ADHD means the sufferer is stupid, or below average intelligence. But the experts at the DORE center say that most people with ADHD are above average intelligence – usually 125+. Although the IQ score is not a definitive indicator of intelligence; I know people with high IQs, who have little common sense or who are emotionally immature, so IQ ratings can only go so far in indicating how intelligent a person is.

I’m told the average IQ score is around 100. I have taken the IQ test 3 times since leaving school and it has always been 135. But as technical engineers average out at IQs of 112, that makes me wonder if perhaps I am just good at the diagram/puzzle type questions you get in the IQ test. (People will ADHD are mostly visual learners). I once knew a care worker whose score was 176!

When I first got diagnosed with ADHD in 2005 at the age of 38, I told my Dad, and he was shocked. I asked him; did he not remember that I was absent-minded and daydreamed a lot as a child? (and in fact at age 6, I was sent home from school at lunchtimes, because in the time it took me to eat my lunch at school, two different lunch sittings had taken place). My father’s response was; “No, we thought you were clever!” to which I retorted; “I am clever, Dad!”

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