So What is ADHD?
At its heart, ADHD is not a deficit in attention. Rather, it’s a failure in the system of the brain that easily, and mostly unconsciously, sifts incoming information and decides how important it is, and therefore how much attention it deserves.
When people have ADHD, their attentional focus, and their ability to consciously direct their attention, is out of whack. They can’t maintain focus on what’s important, even when they genuinely want to. This causes problems in many areas of life, including time-management, organization, goal-setting, emotional balance and relationships.
I’ve found that MANY people who’ve been diagnosed with chronic anxiety or low-level depression (also known clinically by the term “dysthymia”), have undiagnosed, “hidden” ADHD. If you’re one of these, you may go to therapy for months or even years, and take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications, yet get little relief. But once your ADHD is diagnosed and treated, you begin to feel and do better.
ADHD is a “glitch” in the brain that, like a virus in a super-computer, makes otherwise intelligent people behave inconsistently, unpredictably and unreliably. This causes those who depend on an ADD’er, whether at work or at home, to think he or she “just doesn’t care.” It is this quality most of all that makes adult ADHD so baffling, upsetting and sometimes infuriating, both to ADD’ers and to those who count on them and care about them.
Do all people with ADHD look alike?
Some people with ADHD are speedy, highly creative whirlwinds. They can be enormously successful, yet leave chaos in their wake. Without meaning to, they steamroll everything and everybody around them.
Other adults with ADHD — probably the majority — are paralyzed by their inability to plan and execute what they want to do. As a result, their goals and dreams never come true. This is the biggest tragedy of ADHD: Little by little, the inability to be as successful as you know you can be crushes your spirit. It has been said that underachievement is so common among adults with ADHD that it should be one of the criteria for diagnosis.
There are even some, who, on the surface, don’t seem to have ADHD at all, but are suffering nonetheless. Sometimes, a person is intensely pressured — by a parent, a school, the military, or other life circumstances — to over-compensate for their ADHD without ever realizing they have it. This causes them to “white-knuckle it” through life, constantly trying to control their environment to stave off the overwhelm they feel inside. Deep down they’re forever terrified of ever “messing up” and causing something to go wrong. It’s a very exhausting way to live.