I was once an unbeliever… that ADD is a real physical disorder. In 1993 I began hearing about a problem that some children and teenagers were having with their ability to concentrate and pay attention. I recognized the symptoms because I was close to young people who exhibited them. Back then there were few tools available to a sufferer, the family, or physician to help or heal the affliction that became known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and is now known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They are both the same dysfunction but people with the former lack the hyperactivity problems. For several years I denied the existence of ADD as a real dysfunction suffered by a growing population of people and I accepted some of the following myths about ADD:
- MYTH 1: ADD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.
FACT: ADD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.
- MYTH 2: ADD is a simple problem of being hyperactive or not listening when someone is talking to you.
FACT: ADD is a complex disorder that involves impairments in focus, organization, motivation, emotional modulation, memory, and other functions of the brain’s management system.
- MYTH 3: Brains of persons with ADD are overactive and need medication to calm down.
FACT: Underactivity of the brain’s management networks is typical of persons with ADD. Effective medications increase alertness and improve communication in the brain’s management system.
- MYTH 4: ADD is simply a label for behavior problems; children with ADD jut refuse to sit still and are unwilling to listen to teachers or parents.
FACT: Many with ADD have few behavior problems, chronic inattention symptoms cause more severe and longer-lasting problems for learning and relationships for those with ADD.
- MYTH 5: Those who have ADD as children usually outgrow it as they enter their teens.
FACT: Often ADD impairments are not very noticeable until the teen years, when more self-management is required in school and elsewhere. And ADD may be subtle, but more disabling during adolescence than in childhood.
- MYTH 6: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.
FACT: Many adults have struggled all their lives with unrecognized ADD impairments. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other impairments that did not respond to the usual treatments.
- MYTH 7: ADD doesn’t really cause much damage to a person’s life.
FACT: Untreated or inadequately treated ADD syndrome often severely impairs leaning, family life, education, work life, social interactions, and driving safely. Most of those with ADD who receive adequate treatment, however, function quite well.
1Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D. (Yale University Press, 2005)
There are many more myths about ADD but suffice it to say that those listed above provide the justification of much ridicule of a person struggling with the problem. The result is a person with a demolished self-esteem, and yes, Christian families struggle through ADD too.
I am now a believer…but more than that I am a professional ADD/ADHD Life-Coach providing needed ongoing support for people struggling to function, to have a family, to hold a job, and to be loved. Is this not what everybody wants?
A GROWING DISORDER
In February 2014 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a disturbing report regarding the continuing increase of AD/HD. (Link to CDC Report). Here are a few facts from the report:
- More than 1 in 10 (11%) US school-aged children had received an ADHD diagnosis by a health care provider by 2011, as reported by parents; 1 in 5 high school males and 1 in 11 high school girls.
- The percentage of US children 4-17 years of age with an ADHD diagnosis by a health care provider, as reported by parents, continues to increase; A history of ADHD diagnosis by a health care provider increased by 42% between 2003 and 2011 and the average annual increase was approximately 5% per year.
- The average age of ADHD diagnosis was 7 years of age, but children reported by their parents as having more severe ADHD were diagnosed earlier.
- As many as 11% of US school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many adults struggle with the disorder beyond their teen years. Some estimate that from 17 million to 23 million people in the US have some degrees of ADHD.
SYMPTOMS OF ADD/ADHD
ADD/ADHD has been studied long enough for researchers and caregivers to develop a set of symptoms. However, one is not diagnosed with the disorder based on the following behavioral factors alone but it also requires brain scans (EEG), brain SPECT imaging (single photon emission, computed tomography), and corroborating testimony of parents, teachers, and caregivers. Here is an example of symptom clusters of people with ADD/ADHD:
- “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation
- extreme distractibility
- difficulty paying attention or focusing
- struggling to complete tasks
- tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work
- poor listening skills; hard time remembering conversations and following directions
- poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
- trouble starting and finishing projects
- chronic lateness
- frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
- constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
- underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks
- frequently interrupting others
- have poor self-control
- poor personal hygiene
- blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
- act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences
- have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways
- trouble staying motivated
- hypersensitivity to criticism
- short, often explosive, temper
- low self-esteem and sense of insecurity
These issues make it difficult for ADD/ADHD sufferers to enjoy life, develop a career, keep a job, and even maintain loving relationships with friends, family, and a marriage.
LIFE-COACHING: A PROMISING NEW TOOL
A promising new intervention tool is now available to parents as well as adults struggling with ADD/ADHD called life-coaching. Certified life-coaches are now specializing in working with people and families suffering from ADD/ADHD. Life-coaches are not healthcare workers and their training and certification is not regulated as yet. Thus, it is important that potential clients do some checking to find out about the background, training, and experience of a coach before hiring him/her. That being said, there is a growing number of qualified ADD/ADHD Life-Coaches that can significantly improve the function and quality of life for people with the disorder. Also, be sure to hire a coach who matches your faith values, meaning—if you are a Christian, hire a Christian life-coach specializing in working with people with ADD/ADHD.
There are three needs that people with ADD/ADHD should recognize:
- Acceptance: own the fact that you have the condition but don’t use it as an excuse for poor behavior or performance. Instead rise above the dysfunction. There are now a number of medications and nutritional regimens that can help diminish the problems.
- Develop a healthy safety net of family and friends. This is one of the most challenging issues for those with ADD/ADHD because during intense and repeated outbreaks of symptoms, relationships are often broken and relational bridges are often burned. However, families can often adhere to the principle of love and “leave the light on” for family with ADD/ADHD. Of course this is easier said than done.
- Get a Life-Coach! This person will be the one who can challenge the person with ADD/ADHD. He or she can also absorb some of the negative issues in order to protect the person’s family. This may help maintain the safety net described in #2.
Some may balk at the prospect of paying for ongoing Life-Coaching but that is a small amount when stacked against a series of job losses and broken family relationships. This problem will continue to grow as the incidence increases but new treatments and approaches to managing life and work can go a long way to these people and families living a quality life.
If interested in information regarding ADD/ADHD Life-Coaching, complete the following contact form:
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of the Leadership Chair. He has 20 years of experience as a pastor, and is an author, certified professional coach and coach trainer, leadership specialist, and a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team. He provides Life-Coaching, ADD/ADHD Life-Coaching, Leadership Coaching, and Sales Coaching.