The other day I was talking to a lady.
No word of a lie!
And we were taking about attention spans and so on, and I said to her, “I actually have ADD.” She replied with a shrug and said, “I think everyone has ADD.”
I had to admit the lady made a good point and she has good reasons for saying this. It’s true: our attention spans these days have gotten worse, as a culture.
On the other hand, some people say that NO ONE has ADHD and that it’s a made up condition to try and account for bad behavior and laziness. I got in a semi-heated argument with someone on Twitter over this. I say “semi” because I think I got pretty heated, while he remained cool.
So why does this happen? Why is there such a wide range of beliefs? I mean, we’re not talking about UFO sightings, are we?
Why is it easy to question ADHD and not, say….dyslexia, bi-polar or schitzophrenia?
To answer these questions, I’ll start by quickly listing some of the major symptoms in adults:
Avoiding activities that require mental effort
Time management; not up to snuff
Money management; weak
I would understand why anyone would look at that list and say, hey, everyone suffers a little bit from these things. Easily frustrated? Come on! I almost punched a guy today for chewing loudly. Does that mean I have ADHD? He was crackling his bag of chips too! How annoying!
So, what I’m saying to you is, I get that. I really get that.
Here is the outline for the topics I will use to slowly break down the “everyone wants to punch someone” opinion. This is not to smash the opinion, but it’s to open it up and give it a good look with a microscope.
In a nutshell, IMPATIENCE IS MORE RAMPANT IN TODAY’S WORLD THAN ACNE IN JUNIOR HIGH.
Due to new inventions making life easier, making wait times shorter, and giving us the ability entertain ourselves with smartphone games when we’re standing in line for a cheeseburger, we become in a manner of speaking, “spoiled.”
We forget what it was like to wait in the grocery line with no phone, forced to find out what Brad and Jen were up to, back in the day.
2 days ago, I was watching that old Weird Al video, “Amish Paradise,” that came out when I was 10 years old. That’s 15 years ago. Someone recently left a youtube comment saying something like, “man I hate how there are ads on the screen now.”
Then someone else decided to set that person straight and they said, and I quote:
“I know everyone wants to hate on Vevo and youtube. However this makes me grateful to live in this time. You little s**ts outta be grateful. When this s**t came out the only way for me to watch this whenever I wanted to was to sit by my freakin VCR and wait for Mtv to play a vid….AND you better acknowledge that a Weird Al vid came along about every blue f***in moon. So quit whining about a 30 second ad you technology b**ches.”
I just checked it now to get that quote, and it had turned into a crazy screaming fest in 2 days.
So, how was impatience demonstrated in this scenario? Let me count the ways.
1. Complaining about minor inconveniences and forgetting that there was a time when people had to walk to school in 2 feet of snow every day, uphill both ways.
2. Impatience with the personalities and differing viewpoints of others. Instead of having a mature debate over tea, they were yelling and screaming and using F bombs liberally.
(Sidenote, could you imagine having a chat with someone in a coffee shop, and you casually mention a minor annoyance in life, and some passerby comes up to you and starts cursing at you and calling you a horrible person? Fortunately, in REAL life, this is not considered normal. Anyway. I believe that in the Western World, venting about little annoyances is a big part of our culture, and it makes us feel better. So with all due respect, please deal with it!)
So getting back to the matter, if someone says to me, “what are your symptoms?” and I say, “impatience,” well, that is not going to sound convincing. Many people deal with impatience every day.
I was telling a good friend and fellow ADDer about a bad habit I have, where I use bank machines and I don’t read the questions. I always press the wrong buttons. I have everything set up to take out $40, then it says “the bank will charge you $1.50. Are you sure you want to continue?” and I think “eh, it’s probably asking me if I want a receipt. NAH.” then I hit “cancel” and wham, it spits out my card and I don’t get $40. And that makes me so angry because now I have to do it all over again, and it was already torture in the first place! That’s why I tried to cheat and skip the questions!
My friend said, “that sounds to me like general impatience, which always comes with ADD.”
When I read some of the book The Everything Health Guide to Adult ADD/ADHD, it said that whatever you do, don’t diagnose yourself. There are many things that mimic ADHD symptoms; anxiety being at the top of the list. And since this world seems to be expecting more from us every day, and crunching more deadlines, and making us more afraid of bad things happening to us, how the heck are we supposed to stay calm?
Concentrating is a lot more difficult than it used to be when my parents were in school.
So, long story short, ANXIETY IS MORE RAMPANT THAN SWEARS ON YOUTUBE.
Other things that cause ADHD symptoms: side effects from some medications, spinal misalignment, head injuries and thyroid disease.
Simply not going to the chiropractor can give you ADHD symptoms.
And not only do some conditions mimic ADHD, but ADHD mimics other conditions. So it all gets very confusing!
I’m not a skeptical person but for some reason I get along really well with skeptics. I might even say that some of my best friends are skeptics! 😉
This is because growing up with argumentative people, I’m always prepared for an argument, should one arise. Even though I am naturally more comfortable with common ground and cooperation, I tend to always have bits of facts in my back pocket just in case.
The problem with skeptics, and I mean this with love if you are one, is that sometimes you get into the habit of rejecting an idea out of habit, not because the facts are flimsy or because it sounds loony. That is when you run into trouble with me because rejecting an idea before you understand it is just as silly as…wait for it…:
BEING GULLIBLE. Which is supposed to be the opposite of what skeptics do.
The same silliness applies in both situations.
Similarly, it may be silly to complain about a little ad on youtube, but it’s just as silly to complain about that complainer like they are Hitler.
So as much as certain people will say, “prove to me you have ADHD with real facts!” Yeah, it sounds intimidating, especially if you don’t have any extraordinary story, just that you procrastinate and that you hate concentrating.
But immediately rejecting ADHD without knowing much about neurological disorders comes from habit; it doesn’t come from a solid place. Can that person prove to you that you don’t have it? Do they have facts and research to back up its non-existence?
Most of my life, my Dad was suspicious that I might have Tourette Syndrome, but he didn’t say anything until I was 19. That’s when he started planting the idea in my head.
I said, “come on Dad, I know I like to make funny noises, but I do that when I’m in the comfort of my own home. I don’t do it in front of, you know, real people.”
I assumed that since I had some control over what I did, that it couldn’t be Tourettes. But it might be possible that my Dad was a bit wiser than me, especially since he dedicated a lot of his time and efforts working with the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada creating awareness in New Brunswick; a province that had zero awareness until he was diagnosed with it in the States in the 80’s.
Eventually when I was 22 I realized my Dad was right. The cute funny sounds eventually turned into swear words, and the swear words turned into physical tics like jerking my neck and biting my hand. So I got diagnosed in 2008.
Then it took me two more years to figure out that I had major problems with inattentiveness.
Sometimes we don’t realize we have a condition because we assume we know what it must feel like for that person. And you don’t feel that way. You don’t feel the emotions that you’ve constructed in your mind for the person who does have it. So the last thing on your mind is that you might be a victim, yourself!
I grew up with Touretters, because they would always come over and ask my Dad for advice. So you might think it would be easy for me to recognize that I had it, in such a…pool of Tourette knowledge. But it was still hard to apply those symptoms and feelings to myself.
Before I realized I had ADHD, I didn’t know how frustrating and painful it actually was. I just thought ADHD was just being hyper and impulsive and wanting to have fun all the time. I had no idea that it was, well, a real challenge. Like, A REAL CHALLENGE! I was a skeptic, myself. And what did I think I had? I assumed I suffered from extreme immaturity and that I would eventually grow up and get organized. So my life really changed when it hit me.
The bulk of this article is why the definition, boundaries and symptoms of ADHD are always in question. The answer: Because everyone suffers from ADHD symptoms now and then, and it makes ADHD look like it might not be a legitimate condition.
So how do we know which is which?
It’s all about the source of your problems
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is partly caused by a deficiency of dopamine in your brain (as is Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other problems.)
Dopamine contributes to the executive function in your brain, which manages priorities, makes decisions and basically helps you keep your life and your thoughts organized. ADHDers are not as well developed when it comes to these skills and functionalities, which is what causes them to act impulsively (i.e. spending your last 5 dollars for the week on a frappucino instead of on dinner.), and to avoid anything that requires mental effort (i.e. most things you have to do as an adult).
If your ADHD symptoms are not caused by this, then they are symptoms of something else. The best thing to do is to get checked, because no matter who (or how many people) says (or say), “everyone deals with these problems,” the truth is, it’s actually not normal. We are supposed to be able to concentrate easily, so if you do have trouble focusing, make sure to find out what’s going on.
Then you can take real steps to make it better!