On ADD/ADHD, Huffington Post Articles, and How People Respond to Things

Awesome photo.  Love to know who made it.

My friend sent me this article on the Huffington Post and it bothers me for multiple reasons.  Not just what Katie Hopkins said, but also the response of adults below who think that they are defending people, when really they’re just insulting and bullying a woman who clearly doesn’t understand ADD/ADHD. 

I understand that Ms. Hopkins feels that it is the diagnosis de jour, and perhaps it is, but I don’t think she understands what it really is.  She also feels that having a diagnosis is an excuse for students not to do work, to take it easy, or to not take responsibility for their lives.  Beyond that, she blames parents for not disciplining their children and seems to think that this is what causes ADD/ADHD.  She doesn’t seem to understand how the diagnosis process works (claiming that it takes seven minutes to get a kid labeled and seems to imply that parents do this in order to make their lives easier).

While she is wrong, flat out wrong, about most of this and blanket statements are the sign of someone who has published without doing more than a non-academic Google search, I take issue with the people who responded to her article as well.  It is not a good defense of students or adults with ADD/ADHD to swear at Ms. Hopkins, nor is it helpful to call her names, be angry about another topic she doesn’t mention, state one possible reason for ADD/ADHD and state it as The Reason (especially as no one is really sure why), or insulting the other responders.  It makes me wonder if people never did a debate in school.  There are certain rules to how you do a debate:
  1. No personal attacks.
  2. Back yourself up with facts.
  3. If it is a written debate, source those facts in a written form.
  4. Make sure that you are on topic.
So, the first thing I felt needed to be clarified:
  • There are multiple forms of ADD/ADHD and they present differently in girls and boys.  Girls are typically inattentive, while boys are typically hyperactive.  This means that boys are diagnosed earlier than girls the majority of time because they are more obvious in the classroom.
    • The basic symptoms for all types are:
      • Short attention span
      • Distractibility
      • Disorganization
      • Procrastination
      • Poor internal supervision
    • The more specific forms (according to Dr. Amen, the lead researcher in the field right now) include those symptoms and then add:
      • Classic: What most people think of with hyperactivity and poor impulse control.
      • Inattentive: Instead of hyperactivity, sometimes these folks have a lack of energy.
      • Over-focused: Negative thoughts and behaviors, such as opposition and arguing are a part of this and often look like co-morbid depression, anxiety, or OCD and ADD/ADHD
      • Temporal Lobe: Irritability, aggressiveness, memory and learning problems.
      • Limbic: Depression, low energy, and decreased motivation are all a part of this one.
      • Ring of Fire: This one sounds scary, and that’s because it is.  It is a cross between ADHD and bipolar disorder.  People with it deal with moodiness, aggressiveness, and anger.

Also, the way a diagnosis works is very different than Ms. Hopkins implies.  Doctors, parents, and teachers (in the case of children) are all involved in the process.  The parents and teachers look at behaviour, family background/history (it tends to run in families), home life, and then fill out an amazing stack of paperwork.  Doctors give children a full physical, hearing and vision tests, and work to rule out the following: recent life changes (divorce, death, recent move, etc.), undetected seizures (ones that don’t include shaking and such), thyroid issues, anxiety, depression, lead toxicity, psychological exams to ensure that there is not mental illness, and sleep problems through all of the appropriate tests.  Usually, all of the testing and paperwork is a 3-12 month process depending on how your medical/insurance program works and can cost a family thousands upon thousands of dollars.  After all of this, there is then a discussion about medication (many people with ADD/ADHD cannot take medication for various reasons, while others need medication to function in everyday society) and if the decision is made to try medication, it often takes more than a year to find a combination that works effectively, during which time, everyone is involved in watching the behaviours of the diagnosee and monitoring how they are feeling at every turn.  It is an exhausting, exhaustive, and expensive process.  No one does it on a whim.
Many people who do not deal with the disorder think that people are using it as an excuse, but that is really a situational thing.  I don’t argue that some do use it to excuse behaviour, but if the diagnosee has been taught to advocate for themselves, to speak with able-ist language, and to take responsibility for their ADD/ADHD behaviour, then it is taking control of their lives to say,”I have ADD/ADHD, which means that I will need your help/understanding with _________”.  

That said, some people are diagnosed incorrectly, medication is often not the answer, and many times the right combination of medications aren’t reached for months or years for people who really and truly need it to function.  Some children grow out of ADD, some people are not diagnosed until junior high or high school (girls typically), and others are not diagnosed until adulthood when they find that there are issues at work and they just can’t seem to get on the same page as their co-workers.

The reality is that ADD/ADHD is a complex disorder, not one size fits all.  There are many types and you have to take into account physical health, mental health, age, development, and behavioural factors.  Making blanket statements is unhelpful and uninformed.  

One of these days, maybe I’ll write up a first-person account of what it’s like for me to have ADD from childhood to adulthood, but today, I thought facts would suffice.  Readers-mine, I hope you’re all having a spectacular day and that you don’t let people’s ignorance get to you.  Inform them with kindness and you’ll be amazed the understanding that can occur.

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