I have been asked to speak to a group of mental health professionals (mainly psychologists and social workers, possibly some GPs or psychiatrists) next week about Adult ADD. I have an hour. And my dilemma is, I don’t know what my focus should be in this hour.
I could tell them about the neurobiology of Attention Deficit Disorder, how it really is a neurological condition and it really does impact on the way a person thinks and behaves. I could show them diagrams of the brain and the faulty thought patterns that arise due to insufficient dopamine. I could then explain why the ADD person gets stimulated by doing things that are new or exciting, fun, challenging, interesting, fast, illicit or reckless.
Or perhaps I should give examples of how Adult ADD impacts on close relationships, how, if you are the one with ADD, your tactless comments, thoughtless behaviour and sharp bursts of anger, cause loved ones to withdraw and start to resent you. Chances are, you are not even aware that you are doing it. And if your partner tries to speak to you about it, you will deny it, because you do not even remember acting in that way. Her criticism hurts you. You may think she is exaggerating, and anyway, she should just “get over it”, like you do.
Perhaps it would be best to role play what it is like to BE a person with Adult ADD, so that non-ADDs can understand what my ADD brain feels like. How it is always thinking, and I can’t switch it off, which explains why I have trouble getting to sleep at night. How my brain feels like it has many streams of thought all at once, like TV channels. I go from channel to channel, finding the most interesting topic, which explains why I tune out sometimes when others are speaking, and I often make random, irrelevant comments.
The worst thing is the anxiety. It seems that everything I think about, has a possible negative outcome. I am constantly thinking ‘what if?’, and playing out scenarios in my head of all the things that may go wrong. Similarly, I feel as though I could be and should be doing better than I am. Regardless of what I have achieved, I still feel as though I have not reached my potential. There is so much inside of me that I can’t explain, I often feel I want to burst! It is SO FRUSTRATING. It feels like an anger, a restlessness, inside me.
No. I’ve decided. I will tell them a summary of all the above, and then focus on the GOOD things about Adult ADD. How ADDs have a zest for life and heaps of energy (most of the time!). How they are creative and think outside the box. How they are persistent, sometimes stubborn, even when they should just quit. How they can get involved with a project that interests them and get totally absorbed, and end up with a brilliant outcome. How they can be funny, and the life of the party. I will tell them how to help ADDs unwrap their gift of potential, and be proud of who they are.