Living with ADHD: An Introduction

Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Living with ADHD | No Comments
Living with ADHD: An Introduction

I don’t have a short attention span, I just…

This week, I’m beginning a series call “Living with ADHD.” I will be chronicling various aspects of life live in the distraction zone; cooking, cleaning the house, working, going to church, driving, eating out, phone calls, reading books, conversations, parenting, and an insanely bad short-term memory. This is a disorder about disorder. It’s poetic really.

A brief history of ADHD:

ADHD was first mentioned in 1902 by British pediatrician Sir George Still. He described it as “an abnormal defect of moral control in children.”

In 1952, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual listed all of the recognized mental disorders. It also included known causes, risk factors, and treatments for each condition. (Doctors still use an updated version today.) In the first edition, the APA did not recognize ADHD. In 1968, a second DSM was published, which included “hyperkinetic impulse disorder” for the first time.

The APA released the third edition of the DSM (DSM-III) in 1980. It changed the name of the disorder from “hyperkinetic impulse disorder” to attention deficit disorder (ADD). Scientists believed hyperactivity was not a common symptom of the disorder. This listing created two subtypes of ADD: ADD with hyperactivity, and ADD without hyperactivity.

The APA released the DSM-3 in 1987. They removed the hyperactivity distinction and changed the name to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The APA combined the three symptoms (inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) into a single type and did not identify subtypes of the disorder.

In 2000, the APA released the fourth edition of the DSM, and established the three subtypes:

  1. combined type ADHD
  2. predominantly inattentive type ADHD
  3. predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD

The DMS-5, released in May of 2013 does away with these three subtypes because they have “proven to be problematic because many children who met criteria for a given subtype at one point, met criteria for a different one a few months later.”  Apparently, even ADHD has ADHD.

DMS-5 also changed the age of onset from “on or before age 7” to “on or before age 12,” and requires fewer symptoms for a diagnosis of adult ADHD.

A brief history of my ADHD:

I was born in 1953.  If you were paying attention to the history above, you will notice that no one was diagnosed as having any form of ADHD until 1968 (I was 15 years old), and even then, it was almost exclusively about little boys who were literally unable to be still.  These kids were disruptions to the classroom and home life.  They were very observable.  It wasn’t until 1980 that the diagnosis for ADHD was about much more than hyperactive kids.  In 1980, I was 27 years old.

So I was not diagnosed as having ADHD as a child.  None of my peers were.  And my ADHD manifested itself in disorganization, distractibility, and inattentiveness. (I have nine out of nine DMS-5 core inattentive symptoms.) In school, I daydreamed a lot. I made good grades. I was not a problem in the classroom.  I struggled in silence.  I had no idea what was wrong with me. I just knew I was not like everyone else.

I did, however, learn a lot of self-coping mechanisms.  While I was a student, I learned that I studied most effectively late at night – when things were quiet and distractions were at a minimum.  I learned to doodle in order to listen to lectures.  I learned to take notes while reading a textbook so I wouldn’t completely lose my place.  I learned to self-medicate with caffeine (and a few other things when I was in college).  I learned how to look like I was listening.  I learned to ignore things that would derail me.  Life wasn’t ideal.  It was a cluttered mess.  The things that were the most difficult to handle, I did my best to avoid entirely.

So when I learned that I had ADHD in my mid-forties, I was already about as on top of it as anyone could be.  I tried medication for a about a year.  There was remarkable improvement in some things.  I could actually have a phone conversation!  But I hated the way the medication made me feel, so I eventually stopped taking them.

I’m glad I know, though.  It makes my life make a lot more sense.  It explains some of my shortcomings.  I have been able to embrace the good and the bad of ADHD.  As an adult, I actually embrace the idea that ADHD is also a gift… albeit one with a lot of challenges.  People with ADHD bring a certain perspective into the world.  I often kid that if there were no people with ADHD, no one would ever notice the poor squirrels!

So, over the next few weeks… or days, depending on how things go… I’ll share with you what it’s like to live life with no off-switch and faulty filters.  So go ahead…

Ask me about my Attention Deficit Disorder

or pie or my cat.

A dog.

I have a bike.

Do you like TV?

I saw a rock.


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