distractedblog

Archive for October 2011

   As I approached the checkout line at the supermarket, I happened to glance at this month’s issue of “Vogue.”  The front cover of the October 2011 magazine displayed  the usual photograph of a beautiful model in an elegant dress, accompanied by headlines about beauty, fashion, and celebrities.  Had it not been for the caption on the upper right hand corner of the magazine cover, I would have simply gotten in line to pay for my groceries and not given “Vogue” a second look or thought.
    The caption read, “DISTRACTED? FORGETFUL? ANXIOUS?” and then beneath it in smaller letters, “ADULT ADHD OR NORMAL LIFE?”
   While I was somewhat disappointed in the editors’ choice of words suggesting that people with ADHD are not normal (after all, ADHD is my normal life) I was pleasantly surprised that a major fashion magazine would run a story on a topic that was once restricted to periodicals such as “Parents Magazine” and “Psychology Today.” Intrigued, I added the issue of “Vogue” to my cart.
   The article was accompanied by a large photograph of a woman wearing a sparkly, glitter-covered dress, several layers of eye makeup, and a hairstyle that made it look like a fluffy yellow puppy was sitting on her head.  The woman was staring at a TV in the corner of the page and holding a remote control;  unaware that the faucet on her kitchen sink was on full blast, and water was spilling all over her floor and splashing her appliances.
   When I first saw the photo, I laughed. People with ADHD aren’t really that clueless! We’re not so inattentive that we’d be completely oblivious to our entire kitchen being filled with water!
   I looked at the photo again, and considered that perhaps it was intended not to be taken literally but metaphorically- like so many things in this world are. The water overflowing in the sink is a very appropriate metaphor for all the time rushing by without me noticing, all the appointments that I miss, all the obligations that I need to do piling up behind me like water rising in a flood; while meanwhile, my attention is completely focused elsewhere, just like the woman in the picture watching TV (though I can honestly say that I’ve never had a hairstyle that resembled a small furry dog). 
   I turned the page and read the article.  It was written by Andrea Cooper, a free-lance journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in a number of prominent publications.  After her daughter was diagnosed with ADHD,  Cooper noticed that she, too, exhibited many of the behaviors listed as ADHD symptoms. Cooper wondered if she had ADHD as well, and made an appointment with a psychotherapist to be evaluated.
   Although the results of Cooper’s evaluation revealed that she did not have ADHD, she wrote a highly informative and accurate article about ADHD. I learned that adult women with ADHD are less likely to get diagnosed than men or children.  However, the number of U.S. women aged 20-44 on ADHD medications is significantly higher than it has ever been before.  Cooper attributes this increase to people having more knowledge of ADHD than ever before. 
   Another reason for the increase, although Cooper did not mention it in her article, is that many of the women in this age group were diagnosed with ADHD in their childhood.  People once thought that children outgrew ADHD, but today we know that it continues into adulthood.
   As yet another generation of children with ADHD enter into adulthood,  it is increasingly more important that we are educated about this disorder and how it affects us.  This is why I am pleased to find articles about ADHD in unlikely places such as fashion magazines, alongside photo spreads of the latest styles in jewerly and ads for Calvin Klein shoes.

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I recently came across this interesting article:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44583431/ns/health/ 

It describes a study done on rhesus monkeys; which found that putting them on Ritalin delayed the onset of puberty.

I was disappointed, although not surprised, that the study only focused on males; which furthered the false stereotype that only boys have ADHD.  Still, it made me think back to my own middle school years.  From fifth grade through eighth grade, I was the shortest girl in my class, because I hadn’t had my growth spurt yet.  I remember my friends bragging about going to “first base”  with boys (that meant French kissing) back when I still had no interest in dating and thought boys were “yucky” and had “cooties.”

My mother worried that Ritalin was stunting my growth, despite my doctor’s insistence that it did not.  Still, I remained short and flat-chested for most of middle school, and worried that there was something physically wrong with me. Eventually, I had my growth spurt, went through puberty, grew breasts and hips, and finally got my period a month before my 15th birthday.  I grew up to be a physically healthy, sexually mature adult woman.  

Recently, I read that doctors now believe that puberty begins when you reach a certain weight; not when you reach a certain age as was previously believed.  I was very skinny throughout my child and adolescent years, which certainly would explain my delay in puberty.  Like most kids with ADHD, I was very active and so I had a high metabolism. I also took ballet and jazz dancing lessons. It’s highly possible that my delay in puberty was due to factors other than Ritalin.

Does this mean that even if I hadn’t been on Ritalin, I still would have hit puberty late?  We’ll never know.  I do know, however, that had I not been medicated for my ADHD,  I would have continued to have had problems in school; both with my behavior and my academics. It would have been like first grade and second grade, before I was diagnosed with ADHD and treated with medication and counseling. That’s when I was constantly getting in trouble in school, even though I didn’t mean to. I just had trouble controlling my impulses and would often do things I knew I shouldn’t be doing; such as talking out of turn or getting up out of my seat during class. I spent many of my recesses in the principal’s office as punishment for my bad behavior. I also made careless mistakes in my school work because I wasn’t paying attention. As a result, I got poor grades even though I knew the material.

After I started taking Ritalin and meeting with a counselor, my behavior and academic performance dramatically improved. I no longer got in trouble and I got all A’s and B’s.  I continued to do well throughout my school years. In high school, I took a number of advanced placement classes, almost always made the Honor Roll, and was involved in several extracurricular activities, including theater, chorus, band, and the literary magazine. I never got in trouble or behaved badly. The only time in high school that I went to the principal’s office was when he congratulated me on being chosen as the Student of The Month. I went on to attend a highly ranked selective college, where I also made many achievements both in and out of the classroom, and graduated in four years with a 3.2 GPA.  Would any of this have been possible if my parents had chosen not to treat my ADHD because they were worried that I’d hit puberty later than my peers? Probably not.

The scientists who worked with the monkeys determined that while the monkeys on Ritalin reached puberty later, it is too soon to tell if ADHD medications will have a similar effect on humans and that we shouldn’t worry yet.

So, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD, don’t monkey around–make sure your child recieves the appropriate treatment. You’d be bananas not to!