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Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic!

Symptoms of ADHD ​​continued

Dr. Russell A. Barkley, an internationally recognized authority on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children and adults (2), suggests that the DSM-V—used to diagnose ADHD, learning disabilities, mental disabilities and other conditions—is completely off-base in its definition of ADHD. His research shows that it is a disorder of self-regulation, and has been misnamed. It is a very serious disorder with innumerable consequences, based on the severity of each individual case. Developmental delays in brain growth leave those with ADHD as much as 30% behind their peers developmentally—a significant gap. In other words, a 10-year old with ADHD will often be operating on the emotional/developmental level of a 7-year old, yet without proper diagnosis and treatment that 10-year old is expected to be on par with his peers, and fails miserably: not only in school, but socially, emotionally, and sometimes physically. 

These delays include a motivation deficit, or being unable to follow through on a series of actions leading to a goal. They cannot resist distractions, and may respond to distractions more than others, because their attention cannot be inhibited; then they cannot re-engage the original goal to pick up and finish what was started before the distraction. Their lack of working memory makes it extremely difficult to recall previous goals and intentions. Additionally, there are emotional and social deficits due in part to impulsivity and immaturity. (Examples of this in untreated adults with ADHD are road rage, job dismissals, marital difficulties, and parenting problems.)

Part of the problem in defining ADHD is the difficulty of measuring many of the symptoms. Rather than relying on research and promoting additional studies, the symptoms are simply overlooked or ignored; 'yes, we know you have a low frustration tolerance but that doesn't mean you are disabled.' Really? Emotional disregulation is a very large part of the problem with ADHD. Not only impulsiveness, but research has proven that people with this disorder actually do feel their emotions more intensely than people without the disorder (based on brain scans and individual feedback). This is a core symptom, yet is completely discounted in the DSM-V. There is simply an inability to regulate normal emotion and moderate, or self-soothe, the overwhelming passions, so those with ADHD are often quick to anger, with low frustration levels. Is it any wonder that a staggering majority of those with ADHD—most of whom are undiagnosed and untreated—also suffer from Oppositional Defiance Disorder and/or Conduct Disorder?

These traits can be miscontrued as character flaws, leading to devastating accusations, blame and guilt. Researchers have found that the social challenges of children with ADHD include disturbed relationships with their peers, difficulty making and keeping friends, and deficiencies in appropriate social behavior. Long-term outcome studies suggest that these problems continue into adolescence and adulthood and impede the social adjustment of adults with ADHD.

Over time, such negative labels lead to social rejection of the individual with ADHD. Social rejection causes emotional pain (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) in the lives of children and adults who have ADHD and can create havoc and low self-esteem throughout the life span. In relationships and marriages, the inappropriate social behavior may anger the friend or spouse without ADHD, who may eventually "burn out" and give up on the relationship or marriage.

I have first-hand experience of this in many work and personal relationships. And yes, my ADHD can be very frustrating to you, and makes me angry and frustrated and sometimes overemotional. I, however, have also been tremendously blessed to have deeply supportive personal relationships (I have the BEST FRIENDS in the world). Although I find it difficult to pinpoint the differences between successful and failed relationships (a glaring symptom of ADHD), I can say with complete confidence that I had nothing to do with the successful ones—my dear friends, and my amazing husband, are completely to blame.