What is ADHD? I mean what does it really look like?

For my first post in I want to reach out and talk about a subject I am passionate about, ADHD. ADHD is well known from television, cartoons and memes on social media. What is ADHD? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition defines ADHD as:

  • A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development
    • Six or more of the symptoms have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities. Please note: The symptoms are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behaviour, defiance, hostility, or failure to understand tasks or instructions. For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), five or more symptoms are required
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12 years
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are present in two or more settings (e.g. at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities)
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic or occupational functioning
  • The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal)

but like I said what does it look like?

Imagine sitting in class in elementary school, your teacher is talking about history, for some reason you start thinking about submarines, the next thing you know your looking at everything in your desk that could be used as a submarine toy, then, your name is called. You have no idea what the teacher was talking about, the last time you attentively listened to her was 20 minutes and  about and nine submarine voyages around your desk ago. How do you feel? are you happy that you now have been publically addressed and didn’t know the answer ? Your more then likely embarrassed, sad and more than a little confused.

What can be done? the person in this scenario, I’ll give you a hint, me, didn’t intend on being distracted for 20 minutes, but they did. In my case and many years of utter failure  later, I learned to cope.  This can be approached in many ways; most people’s first thought is medication, does this work? Sometimes, did it work for me ? No. What worked ? a combination of environmental and  behavioral changes. I learned I work better in a smaller environment, for students this can mean a closer seat to a teacher or aid, a special education classroom or numerous other interventions.  The second thing that worked for me was staying busy, I have to take notes! I don’t really need them after they are taken, but actively taking notes, makes me pay attention, maybe not 100% of the time, but 80-90%.  This was just my approach solution to paying attention and is easier in higher education. There are 100’s if not 1000’s of interventions and strategies for coping with ADHD you just have to find out what works for your situation, this is where a therapist experienced with ADHD can help!


In my next blog post I will address ADHD in adults and secondary diagnosis from untreated ADHD.   For further help with ADHD I encourage you to contact me, and if you like to read here is some further reading about  ADHD.

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