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December 14th, 2010
08:19 AM ET

Do I really have ADHD?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Thomas of Dallas, Texas:

I have just been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, but I am questioning the diagnosis since I feel that I don't exhibit most of the symptoms. I mean, I do get distracted while I am working on my research or studying, but I feel everyone gets distracted just as I do. How is normal distraction different from ADHD?

Expert answer:

Dear Thomas:

The answer to your question is straightforward: Distraction is different from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) by a matter of degree. That, plus adults with ADHD tend to struggle with other symptoms in addition to distractibility, such as chronic lateness, poor self-control, irritability and mood swings, as well as additional problems.

The key to ADHD, as with all psychiatric disorders, is that the symptoms must be causing distress and/or disrupting one's ability to function in life. Note that these two things need not completely overlap. In some psychiatric conditions, such as depression, they always do. Depression by definition is a miserable state, and it is that misery that in large measure leads to life difficulties. But in other conditions, such as adult ADHD, misery and distress can be only marginally connected.

Let me say this in other way. ADHD is one of those conditions in which the impairment can come as much from the suffering of those around you as from your own struggle with concentration and distractibility.

Lots of folks with ADHD know that they are profoundly disorganized, frequently lose things, often "spaced out" unless they are hyper-focused on a task of interest to them, reliably late for appointments and so on, but feel that this is just "how they are." They wonder why people close them, such as parents or spouses, are so chronically frustrated with them.

Of course, I don't know anything about you other than your quick question, but your ADHD diagnosis means that someone other than yourself thinks your distractibility is severe enough and enough of a problem that it warrants treatment.

I can't comment on whether this is an accurate assessment, but I can say that because people with ADHD often don't fully recognize the breadth and depth of their symptoms nor the toll these symptoms are exacting on their lives, the opinions and insights of others are well worth considering seriously.


soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Joe

    I was going to read this article, but I got distracted.

    December 14, 2010 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scrappy

      hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!

      December 14, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
    • ADHDStruggler

      That is not funny.

      December 14, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse |
    • James Also Has ADHD... Ooooh, shiny!

      I have ADHD, and I think it's hilarious. Just because you suffer from ADHD doesn't mean you get to decide what's funny and what isn't.

      Lighten up.

      December 15, 2010 at 04:08 | Report abuse |
  2. Korreon

    There is no such thing as "ADHD" only greedy, spoiled, vikings.

    December 14, 2010 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      What???
      What do vikings have to do with ADHD. I do not see the tie in to vikings

      December 14, 2010 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
    • Thor Baldor

      don't forget greedy Vikings with Pizza!

      December 14, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
    • uncommon but true

      ADD and ADHD do exist but have been vastly overdiagnosed in people, especially children. The way to know for sure is whether the person in question has an immediate beneficial response to a LOW DOSE of medication. In these people, stimulants improve thinking and calm them down. In normal people, those people get speeded up. A good phys. will immediately spot this and taylor treamtment (if neccessary) from there. Not sure after the first dose? It's not AD(H)D.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
    • Phred T Darth

      Unfortunately, ADHD has become an easy catch-all for a lot of things, because a lot of issues have the same characteristics. I have PTS, but it was not diagnosed for years because it was just labled as ADHD... without examining all issues, diagnoses is easily mislead (it’s sort of like people getting diagnosed with Anxieties or Depression without the doctor realizing/taking the time to diagnose an individual suffers from BP).

      December 14, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  3. g

    I worked with a guy who claimed ADHD, but amazingly these symptoms disappeared for anything non work related.

    December 14, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L in Seattle

      That's how ADHD works for a lot of people. If your brain isn't engaged in something that is completely absorbing (and work for most people seldom is), your brain flies off in a hundred other directions. When he is away from work and doing something he finds interesting, of course he will be able to focus.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
    • Jason the Saj

      ADHD is basically "hyper-focused" or "hyper-distracted"...

      Work environments usually have a lot of interruptions, this pretty much inhibits people with ADHD from obtaining a hyper-focus. Thus they are usually overly distracted and unable to focus on the tasks at hand. Afterward, they might seemingly go out on the soccer field and seem dedicated and focused. Because they are, they're consumed by that one moment.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
    • uncommon but true

      No, AD(H)D is all the time. It is not selective. It is caused by too little dopamine in the frontal cortex and sometimes limbic systems. People who concentrate just fine outside of work should be able to do the same at work. If not, they should look for a new job or get their discipline on.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • L in Seattle

      Uncommon, I earned two college degrees. I am educated. I came in early and worked late every day at that job, so your opinion that I did not care or did not try is untrue. Passing the kind of judgment you did on someone you don't know, based on a 3-line comment on a board like this, is pathetic.

      December 14, 2010 at 15:01 | Report abuse |
  4. Sure

    YES THER IS Korreon! As someone who had ADHD I know. It is real.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sure

    G some people do use it as an excuse, those people likely don't have most of us who do or have had it don't want others to know, also when it comes to distractions its mostly because of interest loss, when i was forced to read books in school i would lose interest extremly fast if the book didn't capture me fast.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L in Seattle

      Amen! Just after I was diagnosed I had a boss who said her stepson had ADHD and she would never dream of letting him work in an office environment. Then she fired me. There's a reason some people feel a need to hide it.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
    • uncommon but true

      Sure, with grammar like yours, you wouldn't need ADHD to do poorly at work or get fired. Remember, your diagnosis on paper is meaningless. Your performance at work is everything. Do what you need to do to perform well. Medications can help people concentrate but education and give-a-dam-n help people perform well too. That includes grammar in e-mails and reports. They do matter. That is how people form opinions: observed behavior.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      Uncommon but true – learn how to write proper sentences before criticizing someone. Thanks!

      December 15, 2010 at 03:56 | Report abuse |
  6. CreativeDood

    Ah ADHD, the medicalization of creatives. All of the 'symptoms' described above: Easily distracted, hyper focused on tasks of interest , chronic lateness, poor self control, and mood swings (I won't list irritability because I have a hard time swallowing that one, it's just too generic, everyone is irritable) are all known attributes of right brained creative personalities. People with these attributes should be put in dance, art, music, and creative writing courses instead of given drugs to suppress their natural personality. We have a chronic need for more creative directors and artists who can bring their unique abilities to the table in today's economy but we're missing out on so many amazing ideas because our teachers and bosses want us to sit still and listen quietly to their next boring lecture. Moral of this story: You might have 'ADHD', but you might also be highly creative and should be out there coming up with the next awesome app or story idea... check into that first, I beg you, before you take the meds and pacify your brain.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • T3chsupport

      That's all well and good and everything, but the truth of the matter is that artistic and creative jobs tend to not pay the bills so much any more. It's a good way to help learn discipline and control, but unless you strike really lucky, you'll end up working in retail or something once you're done with college. The economy is too crappy, artists are getting too cheap, and the market is way over-saturated with artists who all want to do the same thing.

      What we have a chronic need of is realism.
      ADD drugs suck, but so does being a 'starving artist' who ends up working at McDonald's.

      December 14, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
    • CreativeDood

      That was true, over the past twenty years (I know, I've been working as a programmer to pay the bills) but today with the rise of content distribution systems like the Kindle and application platforms like smart phones we're seeing a huge upsurge in the ability to turn creative talent directly into money. These technologies have the potential to substantially change the relationship between the creative talent who make the content and all those other people who turn the ideas into reality. Already the publishing business is terrified that big name authors will soon start to first publish their new works to Kindle to get the (massive, amazing) 70% royalties offered there. And that's just talking about creating content.. that's not discussing the need that so many businesses have to innovate through creative thinking: They NEED us. Those little two day seminars where everyone tries to draw with the right side of their brain (Don't make me laugh!) aren't going to save them.. The irony is the people they need to change the game in their business were probably fired from low level jobs the week before for being late. Those that learn how to use creative talent properly will prosper, those who don't, won't.

      December 14, 2010 at 10:53 | Report abuse |
    • gertrudestein

      CreativeDood – aka SmartDood....I think I'm in love with you.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse |
    • CreativeDood

      Thanks gertrudestein, you can find me on twtter as dystopicthinker. You can see some of my artwork there and I have a creepy horror story coming out on kindle pretty soon too and there will be much more where that came from. (see I actually practice what I preach, lol =)

      December 14, 2010 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • Dina

      There is also a matter of many with ADHD not being able to socialize well. My son IS right brained and creative and still is on meds. Before meds he was completely unhappy because no one wanted to be around him. Also please be aware that this is more than just being hyper or distracted. Think of it as your thoughts being a radio in your head, and the static and words from other stations are constantly interrupting your thoughts.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:48 | Report abuse |
    • CreativeDood

      Oh believe me Dina, I completely understand the thoughts radio thing, except that I would say calling it a radio is a good way to help left brained folks (who actually speak thoughts in their head) understand but it's not usually what happens in us right brained weirdos. I actually have very little internal brain dialogue, thoughts just come to me unbidden and they flow together. Sometimes I see pictures and sometimes movies, but most of the time there is nothing I can pin down from my thoughts other than a feeling.. yeah that's probably the best way to describe it: I think mostly in feelings. I also have a son who is exactly the same as me (he's 10 now) . I don't judge you for the decision to medicate, I had a very hard time in school for exactly the reason you state. The other kids were merciless to me because they just didn't understand (heck, I didn't understand me). They wanted to learn the work and get home, they didn't want to hear about how what the teacher said just reminded me of this awesome show I watched the previous week where a snake swallowed an entire rat by walking it's jaws over the rat (An actual thing I said once in grade school). I understand that not everyone can home school their little right brained kiddies like we do and we are very lucky to be able to do so. It has meant a great deal to my son that we've been able to do it that way though. He's been able to really explore his artistic side (the boy is fountain of ideas I need to get him his own youtube channel soon).

      December 14, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • Sandy

      As a creative and organized person married to a creative ADHD sufferer, let me say that your world view is limited (I am trying to be kind here). It is simply not true that every creative person is some kind of right-brained nut who stumbles through life. It is perfectly possible to be creative and highly organized, even if it doesn't fit the stereotype.

      I'd also add that it's not unusual for ADHD sufferers to resist their diagnosis, even when it is perfectly obvious to everyone around them that they have it. That's why they have objective tests to help diagnose the condition. I'll never forget my husband talking about how easy one test was, but he scored 30%. Not knowing what you are missing is a big problem, and it's 100% real.

      December 14, 2010 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • CreativeDood

      Sandy,

      Thanks for replying! Let me say that I definitely didn't say that you couldn't be creative if you weren't right brained.. If I did say that, I'm sorry because I don't believe it's true. My wife would be a great example of someone with a more left brained organized way of being and she also loves to create things (but she does it in an organized systematic way, plus she's female and I've recently been wondering if, because of their differentcorpus collosum, women can access both sides of the brain easier than men). Anyone CAN be creative. I am not given to believing in stereotypes either, more in spectrums, ranges of behavior, but I do think that randomness, right brainedness are advantages for creativity especially when it comes to coming up with new and novel ideas. (The kind of things smart employers say they are hunting for these days, but few can stomach the distracted, late, weird people they find). I also wish you wouldn't say 'right brained nut' you just reinforce the stereotype you claim to dislike.

      Also, as an aside: I love it when people talk about psych tests and use the term 'objective'. Yeah, there are objective criteria for a psych evaluation, but it's still done by a human being and it still amazes me how closely the problem behaviors that they have medicalized with ADHD and ADD so closely resemble the exact attributes of the right brain preference. That said, I'm not saying that ADD or ADHD don't exist, and I'm not saying that that NOBODY should ever be treated by the drugs, but I AM suggesting that we at least consider the possibility that there may be an alternative. It worries me that psychs are just labeling a normal but different brain as aberrant because it doesn't fit the 'good little child', 'good little coworker' mold. But hey, I obviously didn't get a Phd so why listen to me eh? =)

      December 14, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
    • amysee08

      CreativeDood I think you are on the right track all the way around. My son is ADHD and he is 14. He says he doesnt think so much as it just flows through his brain. We do not have the luxury of home schooling as much as we would like to but we did put him in a private school this year for above average special needs kids. Most people dont see ADHD as a LD but when the rest of the world is geared towards people without – it is a LD and public school cant handle it especially when your kid is gifted which I find most ADHD/ADD people are. Society is too bent on everybody thinking the same and doing the same. Embrace your ADHD/ADD kid for their differences because that is what is going to make the world go farther.

      December 14, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      My son has ADHD..apple does not fall from the tree...my son's case is more severe than mine...but I understand his struggles. He was unable to self organize...he was a total disaster...violent as a result of his inability to cope at school. It is true he has a special mind...he is brilliant..however, he needs to lay a basic education foundation...and thus medicine is crucial for him.

      I have never medicated...but wonder whether I should try...the mental fatigue I experience each evening after work each day becomes more and more frustrating...I have been fortunate to find jobs in the corporate world that allow me to leverage my "non-standard" thinking processes...I am so much smarter than the average bear in some regards...but struggle in other regards...again...would medicine help me?

      December 14, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
  7. brett petracek

    I never thought it was real either, that is until I was 24. Six or seven jobs, mounting debt and no relationship. Its the distractions that everybody experiences but the stress that builds up because of distractions that creates an inability to live a "normal" life. Left untreated, an adult cannot hold down anything, it creates dangerous stress levels in the body and can LEAD TO depression. If you have to constantly remind yourself to avoid situations, or change things in your life to work around being distracted then get help.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Grinch

      Feel stress? Take a drug.
      Can't sleep? take a drug.
      Feel sad? Take a drug.
      Dude, for all your problems at 24, there are billions of people around the world who would love to trade places with you. You really have it bad. I suggest you stop feeling sorry for yourself and exercise.
      Also, regardless of your age, the US is full of people who overextend themselves financially...buying on credit. Live responsibly and you won't have so much stress.

      December 14, 2010 at 10:54 | Report abuse |
    • Oligohome

      Grinch,
      Help doesn't have to be drugs. It can be counseling/education to learn how to improve behavior. Drugs can be taken short term to show the person w/ ADD/ADHD how to behave. They can also be used during periods of great stress to help the person focus. Some folks are unable to work it out on their own and may required medication to help them. There are varying degrees of ADD/ADHD. and the social/job and finacial price is very high. Unless you have it, you have no idea what life is like. No excuses, just understand where the person w/ ADD/ADHD is coming from and learn how to communicate with them.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
  8. Worried

    I find this advice a little disturbing. Yes, others' opinions of one's behavior and behavior problems should be taken into account by anyone facing this sort of question, but I feel a caveat should have been added. Are patients completely at the mercy of the opinions of friends and family, when they themselves do not feel impaired or distressed? This is most risky for children. An adult can and likely will shrug off any comments or suggestions that they have ADHD unless they truly feel they have a problem. Children may fight taking any medication a little, but in the end they'll go along with what their parents tell them to do. (Furthermore, any resistance to taking medication might be interpreted as a symptom of ADHD by the parents rather than a legitimate objection on the part of the child.) If diagnosis of children is based only on the opinions of parents or teachers (who may simply be looking for the easiest way to keep a child quiet) rather than interaction with and observation of the the children, these children may grow up unnecessarily medicated and constantly treated for a disease they do not have. Many people think ADHD medications are perfectly safe, but they come with risks and side effects: insufficient growth, risk of heart problems, a small but very real risk of amphetamine psychosis, just to name a few. Parents may be willing to take risks on medications if they treat a disease that their children actually have, but it doesn't make sense to take these risks for a healthy child or worse to misdiagnose a child who really has a different psychological problem that is not being addressed.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KDW

      Though I see your point, the author of the question sounds like they are an adult not a child. Obviously something had to have been amiss in their life for them to seek out some sort of intervention. If they don't agree with the diagnosis they should seek out a second opinion.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • Worried

      KDW–I agree that the asker of this question probably is an adult and probably does have some concerns. I felt compelled to write about how dangerous this advice could be for diagnosing and treating children because this article is on CNN and many parents, teachers, or others who interact with children may read it, thinking about their children and their children's behavior.

      December 14, 2010 at 20:10 | Report abuse |
  9. John in NY

    I am sure that there are severe cases of ADHD but in most cases I think we are just trying to use drugs to treat being human.

    A perfect example is an 11 year old kid on my son's bowling team, he has been diagnosed with ADHD but his mother constantly says that he can't settle down, but for some reason she doesn't see an issue with him having two large cups of cappuccino by 10:30 in the morning.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CreativeDood

      Totally agreed. There are a range of human personalities and we've decided over the last couple of decades that those that don't fit a specific pattern of behavior must be medicated in to line. I was a dreamy excitable, distracted youngster who couldn't pay attention in class and failed several classes in grade school... If I had gone through the school system today I have no doubt I would have been medicated for ADHD or ADD. The truth being that I should have been put in a school that stressed art to develop my creative talents as I would have been much happier. As it was, it took me twenty years of introspection before I realized that if I can draw and paint and write (and come up with ideas) like I can, maybe I shouldn't be working as an Engineer. We're forcing our kids into the 'gotta go to college for a real degree to get a real job' mold and it's not what's best for them.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
    • Robert Eanes

      Actually, caffeine has the opposite affect on an ADHD brain than it does on a "normal" person's brain. Back in the 70's the drug of choice was Ritalin (synthetic speed), caffeine accomplishes the same thing on a lower level with much less side effects. The advice above bothers me. The problem with relying on others input and advice about your mental health is that that input and advice is filtered by their motivations and manipulations. It was very hurtful to grow up listening to my parents and siblings complain about how irritating I was or how I always forgot stuff. 40 years later, and things are quite the opposite now. My creativity, and hyper-focus tendencies allow me to succeed where others fail. I simply chose not to listen to all the "advice" on how to be more normal. Take where God gives you and make something of it. It's not a disorder, it simply another way to be.

      December 14, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse |
    • CreativeDood

      Well said Robert! Agreed on Caffeine too, I find it relaxing and occasionally have a cup of coffee in the evening (but if my wife does she's up all night). I also think that having a supportive home could make a big difference... My mother and father weren't that supportive, didn't understand me and consequently I went through a lot of denial and self flagellation before I finally found my way.

      December 14, 2010 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      I'll second the statements about caffeine. My brother was put on Ritalin as a child but could not take it due to the drug causing tremors. Back then the only drug was Ritalin. The doctor suggested my mother trying giving him something with caffeine in it and it made an improvement in his ability to concentrate and sit still.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:39 | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      You guys are making me feel like I am right brained now. I can't focus to save my life unless I get on a cleaning binge, playing video games for hours, working out, or reading a book. Coffee tends to calm me down and help me relax, not get me going, and to save my life I can't focus on work or be on time. Maybe I need to go back to drawing some...

      December 14, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • CreativeDood

      Greg,

      Maybe it's not drawing, maybe it's painting or music, or tatooing, or writing stories or any of a hundred other things. My main passion is writing, which I love to do. Actually I come up with the ideas for stories constantly, implementing them is tougher, but it's possible (with time taken training myself by starting small) Find your passion and you'll find something you can focus on that lights your way to a future that is right for you. Sir Ken Robinson has a good book about that.

      December 14, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • T3chsupport

      My mom used to give me espresso so I'd take a nap. I would never take naps otherwise, but load me up on caffeine and I'd be out like a light!

      December 14, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • Cristhian

      When thinking about how few ebarks students get in school, also consider that some children are worn out because they started school before they were ready. All the fun is gone before they actually are interested in the 3 R's. The word drudgery comes to mind. Then add the electronic changes society has experienced. Who wants to sit still, and look at a silent static white page with black lines after TV and computer games filled with high action, bright colors, and loud sound??? So, I'd suggest along with better nutrition and fresh air that parents also consider the over-stimulation of neuro-sensors and unplug rapid firing machines, replacing them with silence, nature sounds or soft music. Time to think, contemplate , and dream without interference might be a wonderful relief for students under heavy pressure to please adults. I prefer percocious kids to zombies, but some (just some) lazy teachers don't want the challenge. P.S. I've seen a huge change in school success since teachers began to marry and have their own families. When teachers were primarily old maids , their time and devotion were not divided. All their energy went into their charges. So I'd say ADHD is a convenient excuse to avoid real issues and solutions. When there's effect, look for the cause, not the symtom.

      April 8, 2012 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
  10. Grinch

    Look. Pharmaceutical industry is 2nd behind the Oil industry. Its influence has created a sales opportunity on basic, everyday human characteristics...characteristics that humans have "somehow" survived since Ancient Egypt.
    To get kids taking prescriptions now.... by the time they are 18 they'll be used to it and easier to convert to other pills for anxiety, depression, sleep, and other dependencies that make the drug companies rich. ADHD and ADD is bologna.

    December 14, 2010 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. B

    Grinch I have no doubt that there are many people out there who look to pharmaceutical drugs for a quick fix rather than opting for a healthier lifestyle and some boundaries, and plenty of schoolteachers/parents who drug their kids to suppress their natural exuberance, or mask other emotional problems they're having.
    But please don't make sweeping statements. Every human being has problems concentrating, staying on task etc etc. what separates the 'normal' person from someone with ADD is the severity and frequency of these problems. If these things are a severe, minute-by-minute everyday problem that prevents you from functioning, that's a very different problem that needs more help than just 'get disciplined, get over it'. I don't think drugs are necessarily the answer, but these people can have very severe problems functioning in everyday life, and need help. It's just like dyslexia. Everyone has problems comprehending what they read from time to time, everyone has problems with remembering how to spell a word from time to time, and I'm sure plenty of people switch letters from time to time- that doesn't mean that dyslexia is therefore a normal human condition and dyslexics should therefore 'just get over it'. ADD, dyslexia and other LDs have existed for ages. It doesn't mean that society is creating a 'new/fake' problem by medicalizing these traits as conditions, it just means that the kids who would have in the 19th century been made to stand in the corner, never be able to learn no matter how much it's beaten out of them, are finding new ways to learn, and be on the road to becoming productive members of society.

    December 14, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mavs09

    I have been in a relationship with my partner for 2years and he has adhd. I used to think it was an excuse for why he was late all the time, why he forgot my doctors appts when I was pregnant, why he couldn't stay in the waiting room with me when I gave birth to our son! But after reading several articles I realized it wasn't just bs. He used to take drugs when he was a teen but all they did was sedate him and turn him into a zombie. People are correct when they say that they should use creativity to get their hyperactivity out. You'd be suprised at how artistic they are or how smart they are as well

    December 14, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Bklynwebgrrl

    ADHD is not balogna. ADHD is not akin to the creative mind. Have you ever tried to write a piece of music or write a story when you can't sit still and can't stop thinking about what to make for dinner, and what clothing needs mending, and what projects are due at work, your kid's homework, a doctor appointment next week, your friend's wedding in a month, and what bills to pay... all at the same time. It's like trying to process scenery when you're driving 150 mph. And drugs aren't always needed. Sometimes you only need therapy to learn a new way of thinking and living.

    December 14, 2010 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • namont

      Thank you Bklynwebgrrl for that comment. Your description is exactly how I'd describe ADD for me. My relationship just ended because my BF could not understand my jumbled, crazy thoughts. He saw my distractions as being selfish and a sign that I didn't care. How wrong.

      December 14, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  14. Pamela

    I'm continually amazed at the lack of compassion that people have for what is a actual disorder. Are there people diagnosed with ADD and ADHD who really only have behavioral issues? Yes. But ADD and ADHD are real developmental disabilities that can have an adverse effect on one's ability to function. Like depression, it's not something that you can see and often people who have no personal experience with it also lack the ability to empathize and then realize how incapacitating this can be. Someone who really has ADHD can't help the lack of impulse control, their distractability and their need to fidget. ADD and ADHD are spectrum disorders ranging from extremely mild to quite severe. Someday the medical establishment will be able to better diagnose what is a true brain disorder.

    There are techniques that can be helpful that require no medication whatsoever. Since ADD and ADHD are often accompanied by other things such as autism spectrum disorders or sensory integration disorders, one should work with a specialist. Medication is most certainly overused and should only be given to children after other approaches are exhausted. That said. I've seen the difference the appropriate medication given at the appropriate dose can have. Would you condemn a child into believing that they could control their behavior and are simply "bad" kids? Untreated ADHD can lead to depression and can severely limit a child's ability to learn and function in a school environment.

    Life isn't so simple. More folks should appreciate that fact before jumping to harsh conclusions.

    December 14, 2010 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paola Kipp

      Thank you Pamela for your post, there are so many people out there who couldn't even imagine what it is to live with a mind affected with severe ADD , and the pain of growing up in to an adult that has struggle for years to accomplish something ... while appearing "normal" and capable and even creative and strong and outgoing ... while letting people down for our lack of organization,time awareness, impulse control, scattered mind, constant daydreaming, insecurities,etc ... and the fear that sooner or later they will figure out that you are not all you "appear" to be, then you see them walking away slowly from your friendship/relationship .... for you know they already crossed you off their list ...

      December 15, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
    • Charlotte

      Hi Pamela, Great post. Helpful and informative. This country lacks a deeper awareness of this disorder. From school admin on through to parents and students, education on the subject is needed. Most know "hyper kid = maybe AD/HD" but in so many cases I believe that is it! I wish there was more focus in the media on exactly what helps these kids feel successful. Support, compassion & understanding are needed or we'll soon have large portions of our population feeling lost and alone. ~charlotte (Charlottes's ADHD Web Blogspot)

      December 23, 2010 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
  15. Karen

    Lectins and gluten, via the autoimmune pathway and opioid receptors (gut to brain), are more and more scientifically linked to mental diseases like ADD, ADHD, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia and depression. Here you can read more: http://www.cutthecarb.com/how-to-reverse-a-leaky-gut-and-stop-autoimmune-diseases/

    December 14, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Sheryl

    Drink coffee till bedtime. If you fall asleep right away, you may be ADD.

    December 14, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      story of my life. My wife and her family can't believe it. Had a cup on Sun night at 9:00 leaving church. Hit the bed at 9:30 and couldn't keep my eyes open.

      December 14, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  17. Tiffany

    Yes, there is a such thing called ADHD because i have it. i was born with it when i was a baby my father,brother, & i got it.

    December 14, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Bob

    ADHD is probably a bodily reaction to some toxin we put in the food/drinking, air that these individuals are more sensitive to.. It is similar to constant sneezing. It maybe more of an allergy than a Mental Disorder.. We need to do research on this.. But big Pharma needs to sell it's drugs! Shame our children are being used as lab rates..

    December 14, 2010 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jayson

    I don't have ADHD, I'm just really bored.

    December 14, 2010 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. DaveC

    Getting on Ritalin for ADHD was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I was dubious until about 45 minutes after my first dose, then the fog lifted. I did feel more distanced from other people for about a month. Most people I know with the diagnosis don't medicate, but it makes a huge difference with me. There have been times when I've forgotten to take it (insert obvious joke) and felt pretty spaced-out, so that tells me something.

    Like many medical problems, drugs may be the solution, or may not be. Some treatments haven't worked for me and some have. Don't let other people's opinion drive your choices. Don't be afraid that people may think you're "throwing a pill" at the problem.

    December 14, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Barking Alien

    I have ADD. I can add, multiply and divide:) Medication should only be used in the extreme cases of ADD or ADHD. I have a family member that was medicated with these drugs for years and did not help his life or productivitiy. He imporved more once he modified his diet, mood, and exercise.

    December 14, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. eben

    Most mental health issues are a spectrum with a certain percent who need meds and or counseling to get a handle on certain issues, down to the milder end who mostly function fine handling it on their own. There seems to be a huge surge in identifying 'new' conditions to medicate and advising a pill in nearly every situation. If you're worried about yourself or a condition you think you have I wouldn't just take the word of a psycologist/psychiatrist. There should be objective evidence out somewhere in your life that is observable where things clearly aren't working out succesfully, or talk to a trusted set of friends/relatives/teachers who could describe certain patterns or habits that they see causing difficulty for you. And anyone who gets some diagnoses should go do a little basic research on it themselves. Often there are things you could do for those with less severe symptoms that require no meds, just certain lifestyle or diet adjustments that don't have the nasty side effects of many medications.

    December 14, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Loney pill man

    I love the drugs they make me feel high and you can pass a drug test with it. Lie all the way to get the meds.

    December 14, 2010 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tanpa

      Thank you so much for the comparison, but I`m just an ADHD Life Coach trinyg to do the right thing to help people to change their lives for good- if that is what they are looking for.I`m just sorry that my english it`s not my mother tongue, so I can`t do a coaching process., but I can give good information,bless you

      April 8, 2012 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • Zeshan

      You don't have the right to mention my kids one bit!! they have been bruoght up and respect us as parents! Never once have I had to raise my hand to them because we actually bothered to bring them up correctly! they are a pleasure to take anywhere and I have always been complimented on them regarding manners, behaviour etc.Your just one of the typical people that will quite happily shove pills down their necks for a quiet life and blame some illness that doesn't exist!

      April 14, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
  24. Squrriel

    Hey, let's go ride bikes...

    December 14, 2010 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rob

    I've gone through childhood, college, even changed careers 3 times and never knew what was wrong. I was dating a social worker whom constantly told me I was showing all the symptoms but just thought it was me. That I was not intelligent enough to pass anatomy after a few tries, that my spelling and speech problems were just who i was, that so many aspects of my life was just that, "life". I started doing research into it on my own and it was making more and more sense. The dots all connected and while I was in a therapy session I brought this up to my therapist. Without any hesitation she agreed and showed me in her chart from our first few meetings where she had already suspected it and later confirmed it the more I opened up through the sessions.

    There are different forms of ADD. I am not hyperactive and never have been as a kid. As an adult I'm still not and many people perceive that as me being bored, uninterested/uninteresting, or stuck up somehow. My therapist gave me written proof for my MD to try medication for the ADD in conjunction with my therapy. It has worked wonders and really opened my eyes with answers to my past performances in grade school, college, and work. I've even worked with her on techniques for social interactions and how my ADD affects my relations with other.

    Its been a real change and I encourage anyone to do online research into the different forms of ADD and seek out a therapist/psychologist in this field.

    As to the medication, it is strongly controlled by the government. There is not automatic refill for the prescription or refills period. Every month I go into my MD office and sign for a new 1 month rx of adderall, sign for it with ID check at the pharmacy, and every 3 months need an appointment with my MD to monitor my body from the effects it has. As I know it, you can't just walk into a doctor and say "i'm distracted, give me adderall".

    December 14, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Gary

    This article is another example of how slippery these diagnostics are. It certainly sounds as if he is saying that you only have the disorder if it is causing problems in your life. In other words, the cure may be as simple as dumping your spouse for a more tolerant one, or finding a new career where being organized is not so important. Remove the distress and, voila, you no longer have ADHD!

    December 14, 2010 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fiona

      It's more subtle than that. If someone is diagnosed with ADHD, it's possible they could claim to be in a protected class. That would make it more difficult for an employer to fire (or lay off, as they say these days) the ADHD sufferer. In a contested divorce, a good lawyer might make a claim for more alimony for the ADHD-afflicted spouse. A diagnosis matters in more ways than you might imagine.

      December 14, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
  27. Chris, San Francisco CA

    Amazing though....a huge chunk of the population is on Ritalin...which is basically Amphetamine...which is basically Meth-Amphetamine. Yet you'll go to jail for along time for either using or selling a similar substance which seems fine to give kids or adults IF it's sold by the Pharmaceutical industry. Same thing goes for a lot of other meds: Vicodin/Oxycodone is similar to opium/heroin, etc. Does anyone else see the irrationality here between what's OK for Pharmaceuticals and not OK for self medication?

    December 14, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy

      Chris,

      There is a huge difference between street drugs with no quality control and legal pharmaceuticals that are manufactured under controlled conditions. Also, self-medicating tends to result in over-medicating more often than when taking prescribed medications according to a doctor's order. Nope, nothing irrational at all about it. Your attempt to justify use of street drugs is a big fail.

      December 14, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
  28. Please

    As someone on BOTH sides of the coin.....this country is so over diagnosed with "conditions" it is ridiculous. Why....so the drug companies can "treat" us. Come on people, we can't even wipe pur own a**es without a pill. Listen, I take a couple prescriptions to LIVE, but ADHD? Really? And the rest of the crap I see coming out every single day and all sponsored by a major drug manufactoring company. Hm......man up, grow up, get your act together, focus, get therpay, take an anti-depressant, exercise, whatever.....but give me a break............

    December 14, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • T3chsupport

      Sooo... take anti depressants, but not ADD meds?

      December 14, 2010 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  29. Joe Bukc

    I have it. Can I have my Adderall please.

    December 14, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. JP

    I used to use cocaine ocassionaly to relax: my brain felt unclenched and smoothed out, I could focus, even my body relaxed! I would have used it more often if it hadn't been illegal, expensive, and of unreliable quality. I had certainly heard of ADHD, but didn't think it applied to me until I told a trusted friend about my drug use. She told me that cocaine is not supposed to have that effect, most people feel "speedy" or "high", not relaxed! So I talked to my doctor, who sent me to a specialist, who diagnosed me with ADHD based on my lifelong history of symptoms and positive reaction to stimulants. Now I take legal speed and have learned some new tricks in addition to those I developed over the years to help manage my time and energy. Excercise, diet, and supplements are all part of my regime, as is a system of timers. I also have a supportive husband who helps me remember for what I'm accountable. All this and I still take "big pharma's" drug because at least now I don't get muscle cramps from being so tense, or keep forgetting to eat until I'm dizzy and shaky, or get bladder infections because I get distracted on my way to the bathroom and keep doing "one more thing" until I HAVE to go or pee my pants. I think those who believe this isn't a "real" condition or talk about "big pharma" are either being deliberately provacative to get others to comment on their posts or parroting sound bites they've heard elsewhere. It would be nice if life were this pat, but it is far more nuanced. For example, although I know this is an actual biological condition, I think medication is only part of the treatment. More excercise is crucial, as is a recognition of different learning styles. I am a visual learner, I'll remember almost everything I read, but have a very hard time taking anything away from a lecture or even a simple conversation. I also do better when I can stand at a desk instead of sitting. These are simple adaptations that would have really helped me in school, but our public schools operate on standardization. Obviously it is difficult to tailor each student's learning environment without being disruptive; however, I think flexibility can be achieved while attaining the ultimate educational goals, but it requires a rethinking of the entire system. See what I mean about nuance? I know it's out of style, but so are my jeans. I may have a trendy diagnosis (in my late 30's!), but I'm still capable of independent thought and insight. Try some kindness to others and yourself. It makes life much more pleasant in the short time we have to lead it!

    December 14, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Clete

    I think ADHD is very common but look how nice it is outside. Is that an ant on the ground? I really like cocoa puffs with milk but when I run sometimes I get a cramp. Man... my nose gets dry this time of year. I just got a new pair of undies and wouldn't you know it I put a skid in them. My eyes itch.

    December 14, 2010 at 17:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Fiona

    The Internet is a black hole for anyone with ADHD. Days can pass....

    December 14, 2010 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. JQ

    Uncommonbuttrue: on what do you base your (rather mean-spirited) comments? My doctor put me through an entire afternoon of deep testing to determine that I have ADHD before putting me on medication. It was literally a life-changing experience. Not only am I mentally and physically "where" I've known I should have been all my life, I also now fully understand my difficulties in school, the workplace, some everyday situations, etc. And Grinch – while I'm not a fan of big pharmaceutical companies myself, I know that they have helped to develop tools lthat have and continue to help thousands upon thousands of people learn to cope with their lives and the world around them (a few of which you might consider availing yourself.....).

    December 14, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Bryan

    You can find out more information about these so-called trumped up labels here. http://www.cchr.org/ Please get as much information as you can in order to make your own judgement. My own review of the situation is that there is a lot of money with drug companies and psyches that are behind drugging Americans. The more labels that are made up the more drugs can be invented to cure them, which is extremely profitable. Often times improvement in diet and sleep can change ones life for the better. All the best!

    December 14, 2010 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. PapaSmurf

    I smoke pot to help with my ADHD and ED and HIV. Helps with my COD score too. Haza!

    December 14, 2010 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. SoCalMatt

    Yeah, my parents tried telling me that I......................SQUIRREL!

    December 14, 2010 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jab

    From the time our son was 18 months old, we were told multiple times that he was "at risk" for being diagnosed later in life with ADHD. At four, we discovered he actually has Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Integration issues. He is considered a sensory seeker meaning he seeks out extra sensory input/opportunities to fulfill the needs of his Neurological System. He is now five, after a year of Occupational Therapy he is doing wonderfully. There are children who have difficulties in these areas. These are real medical issues. I urge all parents who suspect or are being told their child may have ADHD to llearn about these sensory issues especially sensory seeking behaviors.

    December 14, 2010 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Gma

    My partner has PTSD AND ADD I believe. What would be a good way to choose meds?

    December 15, 2010 at 01:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Janet L

    I was recently diagnosed with Mixed ADHD. I have tried several types of medications,
    BUT each one causes me to clinch my jaw.
    Which causes me to have jaw and head pain (different then a headache.
    Is anyone else having this type of reaction???????

    December 15, 2010 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Janet L

    BTW the gene for ADHD was recently identified...so, it does exist!
    Don't belive me... Google it...

    December 15, 2010 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charlotte

      Loved your comment on CNN's blog! ~charlotte charlottesadhdweb.blogspot.com

      December 23, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
  41. Brian

    I am 34 years old, I am well aware I have ADHD. I have never been to the doctor for it, I have never taken medication either. I have worked at the same Corporation for over 10 years and love cookies. You can concentrate on what you like, what is interesting to you. When I have to do something that is not interesting thats when I have a problem. Its not selective, its just what stimulates the mind keeps my attention.

    December 15, 2010 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. razzlea

    http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    December 15, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tela

    I think that you can help offset the debilitating aspects of ADHD without eliminating the gifts that it brings. The Brain Balance program recognizes the importance of preserving the personality of the child while using a non-medical approach to help children with neurobehavioral disorders to succeed! If you're interested, they have some great information on their website about ADHD and how their program can help! BrainBalanceCenters.com

    December 20, 2010 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Charlotte

    ADHD is misunderstood and on the rise. My 10 year old runs circles around EVERYone in his path but I'm a mom on a mission. A mission to accept & embrace his strengths. Overwhelmed? Yes! Run-down? Definately, but ADHD kids are going somewhere if we guide them strategically. What this web needs is just one more blog....so I started one. No previous experience in writing or blogging but here it is: charlottesadhdweb.blogspot.com Here's to embracing these kids and making their futures bright!!!!! ~ Charlotte

    December 23, 2010 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.