Archive for September 2011
As I promised in my last blog entry, here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about ADHD, which I will use this entry to debunk and explain the facts. So here comes the debunkification! (Is that even a word? It sounds like the process by which one takes apart bunk beds. Come to think of it, the proper term would not be “debunkation,” because the verb is “debunk,” not “debunkify.” Yes, here I go on a tangent; typical ADHD behavior. Anyway…)
MYTH: ADHD doesn’t exist. It’s just a scam by the pharmaceutical companies to get your money. If parents weren’t lazy and just disciplined their children, they wouldn’t need to be on Ritalin.
DEBUNKED: Ah, yes, the old “it doesn’t exist” arguement. Bob Dylan sang “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand,” in his song “The Times They Are A-Changing.” Even though the times sure have been a-changing since 1964 when Dylan wrote that song, one thing hasn’t changed: people are still far too quick to make uneducated judgements without knowing all the facts. I have ADHD and I struggle with it every day. Trust me, it exists. Trying to convince me that ADHD doesn’t exist is like an Iowa farmer trying to convince a Massachusetts fisherman that the ocean doesn’t exist.
Now, I’m sure that there are many people taking medication for ADHD who were misdiagnosed. However, this in no way means that ADHD doesn’t exist, it just means that their doctor made a mistake. A few years ago, I had a very painful earache, and my doctor told me that I had a bacterial infection in my inner ear and put me on antibiotics. A few days later, I still wasn’t feeling any better, so I went to a different doctor. This doctor said that I didn’t have a bacterial infection at all, but that the tube between my nose and my ear was clogged, and put me on an over-the-counter nasal spray. Soon, I was completely better.
Does this mean that ear infections don’t really exist and that they’re just a scam by the people who make antibiotics? Of course not, because when you really do have an ear infection, antibiotics are effective.
In the same way, just because some people are misdiagnosed with ADHD doesn’t mean that ADHD doesn’t exist, and it doesn’t make the medications any less effective for the people who really do have ADHD.
And yes, there are some parents who don’t like to discipline their children. We’ve all been at a restaurant, at the movies, in a store, or even in a house of worship where some bratty little kid is running around screaming; while the parents just simply ignore their child’s behavior, or even worse, say, “Isn’t he/she the most adorable thing ever?” But to it’s absurd to suggest that I or anyone else with ADHD wouldn’t need to take Ritalin if those damn parents would just discipline their kids. Believe me, my parents were very strict with me and my sister when we were growing up, and they did not hesitate to discipline us if we misbehaved.
MYTH: Children outgrow ADHD when they hit puberty.
DEBUNKED: ADHD is a lifelong condition. It may seem that it goes away after puberty; because the kids who used to run around the classroom and stand on the desks all throughout elementary school are able to stay in their seats when they get to high school. However, that’s because by now they’ve learned that it’s not socially acceptable to run around the classroom when the teacher is talking or to stand on furniture!
If you observe them closely, you’ll notice that they are constantly fidgeting with pencils, pieces of paper, or their hair; tapping their feet; doodling in the margins of their notebooks; shifting their position in their seats; and other socially acceptable ways of dealing with their hyperactivity. If they attempt to sit completely still, they are unable to pay attention to the class because they are focusing so hard at not moving. They will continue these behaviors into adulthood when they attend staff meetings at work. A former colleague of mine, who also has ADHD, would often bounce in her seat during meetings.
MYTH: ADHD is caused by eating food that is processed in factories or that is not organic.
DEBUNKED: If this were true, then all siblings who were raised by the same family would have ADHD, and this is not the case. How many families do you know who feed chemically processed food to one child, and organic food to their other child? Unless one of the kids has some kind of food allergy, I’m sure the answer is zero.
MYTH: ADHD is caused by watching too much television in the preschool years, particularly shows such as Sesame Street that consist of a series of two or three minute scenes unrelated to each other rather than one unified consistent plot.
DEBUNKED: If this were the case, then everyone who watched Sesame Street every day as a preschooler-which is pretty much everyone who’s been born since the show first premiered in the late 1960’s- would have ADHD. Since only a small percentage of the population has ADHD, we can conclude that Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster, Ernie, and Bert can teach your kids the ABC’s, but they won’t give them ADHD.
MYTH: ADHD medications turn children into brain dead zombies.
DEBUNKED: I’ve been on Ritalin since 1986. If I were brain dead or a zombie, I wouldn’t be able to sit here and write coherent thoughts on a blog. There goes that theory!
MYTH: If you put kids on ADHD medications, they’ll become drug addicts when they get older.
DEBUNKED: Studies have shown that children with ADHD who are not medicated are more likely to get into trouble with the law, including abusing drugs. Plus, when your child starts taking prescription drugs at a young age, it offers you a great opportunity to teach him or her the difference between legal drugs and illegal drugs.
Thanks for reading and please comment!
Just about everyone has heard about ADHD or knows someone with the diagnosis. Perhaps you even have it yourself. But how much do you really know about it? These days, when everyone from Dr. Phil to Tom Cruise has something to say about ADHD, it can hard to separate the facts from the uninformed opinions. Therefore, I thought I’d devote this blog post to explaining what ADHD actually is.
ADHD is a neurological disability. Psychiatrists believe that it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Personally, I find the term “chemical imbalance” to be confusing. When I first heard the term as a teenager, I pictured something similiar to this image. This puzzled me, as I knew there was not a scale inside my head!
Several years later, when I was a college student studying psychology, I finally learned what “chemical imbalance” meant. Our brains produce several chemicals known as neurotransmitters that help us to function. When the brain doesn’t make enough of a particular neurotransmitter, you have a chemical imbalance. If you have ADHD, your brain doesn’t make enough of the neurotransmitter known as dopamine. As a result, you will have trouble paying attention, staying alert, and being organized. You may also have trouble sitting still, and find that you always need to be moving or fidgeting.
ADHD is commonly treated with prescription medications. These medications include stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall. The active ingredient in the stimulants cause your brain to produce more dopamine, which corrects the chemical imbalance, and it is easier for you to pay attention and stay focused.
Some people, particularly parents of children with ADHD-Predominately Hyperactive Type, are reluctant to treat ADHD with a stimulant. They argue that the last thing their children need is to be more “wound up” or stimulated, and fear that it will make them even more hyperactive and fidgety. However, recent studies have discovered the surprising reason why people with ADHD are hyperactive. It’s not because they are overstimulated; but rather because they are understimulated! When they move, get up and walk around, fidget, or tap their feet, it stimulates the brain to produce more dopamine. Somehow, children with ADHD must instinctively know this, as they are unable to control the urge to move and fidget even when they know they should be sitting still and listening to their teacher. Once they are medicated, their brains are able to produce enough dopamine and so they no longer have the urge to get up and move around. Fascinating, huh?
ADHD has also been described as “the lack of a filter.” When people who don’t have ADHD are in school, they can focus on the lesson because they filter everything else out- what the other kids are doing, the birds flying past the classroom window, the noises from the classroom next door, what they’re going to be doing after school, the book in their desk or their bag that is so much more interesting than whatever they’re studying- and devote all of their attention to what the teacher is saying. People with ADHD, on the other hand, don’t have a filter, so they are paying attention to everything else around them and are unable to completely focus on the lesson. For this reason, some people have suggested that the disorder is misnamed and that it ought to be called “Attention Surplus Disorder.” Ironically, people with ADHD often have a tendency to hyperfocus on a topic or issue that particularly interests them, to the point that they tune everything else out and they become very distressed if they are forced to focus their attention elsewhere. This is the reason why I ask my husband to please not interrupt me when I am writing or blogging. Even if he only comes into the room for a few seconds, it still bothers me as my concentration has already been broken and it’s hard for me to pick up where I left off.
My lack of a filter often causes me to be overstimulated in crowded noisy places such as malls, train stations at rush hour, museums during school vacation, or cocktail parties. I am unable to filter out the constant noise and crowd around me, and I become so overwhelmed that I can’t process anything that’s going around me. I’ll say to my husband, “I need to make a phone call,” which he knows is code for “I’m getting overstimulated.” I’ll step outside, take out my cell phone, and pretend that I’m making a call until I’ve calmed down enough to return.
Often, people with ADHD tend to blurt out whatever comes to their minds, even if it’s not always appropriate. In addition, they have trouble realizing that what is appropriate in one situation may not be appropriate in others. This is known as impulsive behavior, and it is also due to the lack of a filter. This used to be a bigger problem for me when I was younger, but over the years I have learned ways of controlling my impulses and it is not a major issue for me now.
ADHD still affects my life in many ways. Contrary to a popular belief, ADHD does not go away as we get older. I will discuss this and other common ADHD myths in a future blog post.
Have a good night/day, everyone!
Greetings, good people of the Internet!
I’d like to welcome you to my blog by telling you a little bit about myself and about this blog.
My name is Rebecca Rizoli. I live in Massachusetts, and I’m in my 30’s. I recently finished writing a memoir, “Distracted Girl,” about growing up with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and I am looking into getting it published. The book describes my years in school; beginning in second grade when I was first diagnosed, up through college graduation.
Today, the disorder is referred to as ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Children and adults who are diagnosed today are categorized as having one of three types: either predominately inattentive, predominately hyperactive, or combined type. However, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, people were diagnosed as having either ADD or ADHD. Today, I would be diagnosed as ADHD-Predominately Inattentive, but in 1986, I was diagnosed with ADD. For this reason, in my book I refer to the disorder as ADD, but in this blog I will refer to it as ADHD (except on the occasions when I am blogging about my earlier years, when I will refer to it as ADD).
I am hoping that my book, as well as this blog, will serve as an inspiration to those who have ADHD, as well as their parents and the professionals who work with them. I am particularly hoping to reach girls and women with ADHD, as there is not as much material for them as there is for boys and men with ADHD. Several men with ADHD have written similar memoirs about their experiences with the disorder, but there currently are none written by women with ADHD. I am hoping that I can be a voice and a role model for girls and women with ADHD.
I hope that girls with ADHD will read my words and know that they aren’t the only one in their situation, and that learning about my struggles and successes will help them to realize that they, too, can be successful in their lives.