ADHD & What It Really Is

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ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, has been displayed in the media countless times. When you think of it, you may imagine a hyperactive young boy that can’t sit still or a child that’s super talkative and expressive. But what many don’t think of when they think of ADHD is how it affects individuals and the extent of the disorder.

ADHD is more than not being able to sit still or being super talkative, it’s an actual disorder that affects people’s everyday lives. As a part of the neurodiverse group, it causes individuals’ brains to function differently than what is seen as “normal,” as it stems from a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects the way neurotransmitters work, especially dopamine. Because of a lack of dopamine, individuals are constantly seeking things that will provide dopamine without being understimulating or overstimulating, like hyper-focusing on a task or appearing to be doing things with reckless abandon. This can lead to people with ADHD being seeing as very reckless, childlike, out of control, and incredibly hyperactive. While hyperactive is quite literally in the name, it doesn’t always mean what people have come to believe. Many think that the hyperactivity is seen with fidgety children or children that run around constantly, but it can also be seen in racing thoughts or non-stop talking. The racing thoughts and non-stop talking, as well as the running around may seem fun and childlike at first, they are incredibly debilitating as the individual grows older, as it’s exhausting to feel like there’s no moment of peace, as the brain is on 24/7, or the non-stop talking combined with racing thoughts can make conversations painful for both parties. The racing thoughts can make it difficult for an individual to express what they mean correctly, or they may leave out important details as they are talking so fast so they can get all their thoughts out.

ADHD is also debilitating in the fact that it can cause one to “hyper-focus” on a task for hours, days, weeks, or months. It’s incredibly stressful, as the individual is getting the stimulation they crave, but there are other things to be doing, leading to chores and work not being accomplished, and basic needs not being met, as they may forget to eat, drink water, bathe, or take necessary medication. Hyper-focusing is often seen from the outside as a “gift” in a sense, as it allows an individual to become so engrossed in a task that it becomes all the focus on for an extended period of time. But hyper-focusing isn’t what it’s made out to be. It can be researching a topic for hours, or baking all day, or cleaning the entire house in the early morning, really anything. This leads to other things being neglected, like a chore that they hate or an important assignment. While people with ADHD need a certain amount of stimulation, hyper-focusing can lead to sensory overload, due to a large amount of stimulation. When one is overstimulated, regular things like quiet sounds, talking, or everyday sounds to be incredibly overwhelming, as they are intensified, leading to distressing effects.

Understimulation can also be incredibly difficult to handle, as it causes individuals to not gain any enjoyment from tasks that are normally exciting, which thus leads to nothing being satisfying. When nothing is satisfying, it can lead to individuals to spiral into a depressive episode or to frantically try to find something that provides stimulation, which can lead to an obsession with anything, like a TV show, character, object, everything. This can then lead to adults with ADHD having issues with money management, as they are trying to find stimulation from new obsessions.

ADHD is also commonly not diagnosed in women and adults, as most of the signs and symptoms have been studied in young boys, leading to young boys being diagnosed at around 3x more than girls. While this may not seem like a big deal, it causes misdiagnosis and leads to many individuals not being treated correctly, which can feel like a failure on the individual for “not getting better,” when in reality, they are just not being treated correctly. This may also lead to the belief that ADHD can be cured, as misdiagnosis is a double-edged blade, and ADHD has many similarities with other things like autism, anxiety, and depression. While these can all coexist, and it does in many cases, it can possibly lead to things like anxiety and depression being misdiagnosed as ADHD, leading to an individual being treated for a disorder they don’t have, which can cause the idea that it can be “cured,” even though it cannot.

ADHD is not an absolutely horrible thing to have though, and t0 some people, it may feel like a “superpower,” if you will. Every individual that has ADHD is different and unique, with their own quirks and traits. Simply, it is not something to be ashamed of. While it does affect the very foundation of a person, it also leads to things like an expressive and creative person that can provide a different approach and a new way of looking at things, which isn’t a bad thing, as it makes you who you are!