October seems to be the month of awareness, with mental health and ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or Attention Deficit Disorder, once seen as a condition depicted by the stereotypical cheeky little boy, who cannot concentrate or sit still. The little boy who can be disruptive and struggle in school. The little boy who can be seen as naughty, impulsive and doesn’t seem to listen. Often ignorantly confused as a behavioural issue.
Unfortunately because of this stereotypical idea of what ADHD is, we’ve misdiagnosed, over-diagnosed, under-diagnosed and simply missed the mark. We now have a situation where adults are being diagnosed well into mid life, having struggled all their life. Many of these are women because as girls they didn’t fit the ADHD mould. To get a diagnosis here in Australia isn’t easy, as it can only be diagnosed by a psychiatrist and the waiting times to see one can be in excess of 6 months and in many cases more. The ADHD test costs more than $1000, which sadly discounts a lot of people from being tested, so we are left with a situation of people left struggling without the support they need.
This chronic condition can present differently, especially between girls and boys. So whilst the little boy may present in that stereotypical way- the little girl maybe the distracted kid looking out the window daydreaming all day.
In his book Scattered Minds Dr Gabor Mate provides an incredible insight. He himself a sufferer of ADHD who wasn’t diagnosed until his late 30’s. Studying and getting himself through medical school he acknowledges as a real struggle, but he managed because he was engaged in what he was doing. All three of his kids were diagnosed as kids with different presenting symptoms.
Scattered Minds an apt title for a book about ADHD, as those I have spoken with that struggle with this condition, feel exactly that scattered. Some treat with medication (schedule 8 here in Australia), and this works well for them. Some are unmedicated and try other treatments. Some self medicate with varying substances. Most have varying degrees of success with keeping their ADHD at bay.
Dr Gabor Mate states that ADHD is rooted in multigenerational family stress and in disturbed social conditions in a stressed society. He offers a completely new perspective. If you suffer or know somebody who does this book is an insightful read.
Awareness of ADHD is critical if we are going to support those struggling, improve the outlook and actually start to understand what ADHD actually is. It’s not simply a naughty kid. It’s kids and adults with poor impulse control. It’s the anxiety that often comes along with ADHD. It’s the busy mind, that often jumps from thing to thing. Addictions and addictive personalities often run in conjunction with ADHD. It’s focusing on a host of different things and either not finishing or being unable to stick with things. Adults flitting from job to job or having grand ideas and starting new ventures that are often short lived.
As frustrating as it can be to be around someone with ADHD, it’s not deliberate and awareness helps. The challenge is them being able to get the help and support they need.
As a society we need to gain a better understanding, as like mental illness, ADHD is a growing condition. With misdiagnosis we are seeing adults struggle with the symptoms of ADHD for many years, seeking help and trying treatments for the symptoms, without being formally diagnosed or treated for the actual condition of ADHD that they have. In-turn they are going around in circles, and sadly they continue to struggle.
As individuals we can do better. As a society we can do better. ADHD awareness, let’s do better.