Thursday, February 7, 2013

ADD--It's Real And In My Face

I know there are a LOT of people out there who think ADD is some made-up diagnosis used to put energetic children on meds so parents don't have to parent.  I would like to talk about how that thinking is a load of total BS.  How do I know it's BS?  Because I have ADD.  And I wasn't even diagnosed until I was in my 30's.

First, everyone should understand that ADHD is not the only type of ADD out there.  There are actually several different kinds of ADD.  My ADD happens to be ADD-PI, which stands for "Attention Deficit Disorder, Primarily Inattentive."  This form of ADD lacks the hyperactivity, and in fact causes extreme fatigue.  The attention problems, however, are the same.

So how do my days go?  For starters, it seems like I can't remember anything.  I can set something down right in front of me and lose it five seconds later.  I'm not making this up.  I rely on others to remember where the hell I've put things and what I'm supposed to be doing.  Even putting reminders on my phone doesn't help--the reminder pops up, I read it and think, "Oh yeah, I've got to do that," then get distracted by something else and completely forget.

And don't get me started on making lists.  I've done that too, only to lose the list, try to make another one, know that I'm forgetting something important on it, go with the list anyway, and lose that one too.

My thoughts never stop.  Never.  I can't turn them off.  In fact, I frequently have thoughts that interrupt other thoughts before I've had a chance to complete the initial thought to begin with.  Yes, my brain constantly interrupts itself, making any linear thinking a complete impossibility.

And then there's the hyperfocus.  What is hyperfocus?  Hyperfocus is what causes people to believe ADD is some made-up disorder.  This is because when a person with ADD finds something very interesting, they can focus on it for hours without realizing how much time has passed.  These periods of intense focus lead many to assume those with ADD are just too lazy to focus on boring stuff.  This is NOT the case.

In fact, more medical studies are showing that not only are ADD brains wired differently, but that there is a problem with dopamine levels in ADD brains.  Either the receptors aren't receiving properly, or the brain isn't producing enough, or both.  The ADD mind is constantly searching for a way to get the dopamine it needs, and when it finds it, it will focus exclusively on whatever is causing the dopamine levels to increase.  When we do something we find interesting, our brains produce dopamine in response.  And that's why those with ADD are able to hyperfocus on something--their brains are literally making them do it to get the chemicals it needs.

And that's also why boring things are nearly impossible for someone with ADD to focus on.  Our brains constantly try to distract us with other things in order to get the dopamine it needs.  It's not that we're lazy; it's that our brains quite literally won't let us focus.

Imagine this--you're trying to focus on doing the family budget.  You know it's important and that it's got to get done.  But while you're working on it, there are twenty people crowded all close to you, screaming about any and all topics, none of which are related to what you're trying to do.  Now, you tell me how productive you're going to be with your budget project in that situation.

That's how it is for those of us with ADD.  Only the twenty people never stop screaming, and sometimes there's a hundred or more people screaming at us, all day, all night, all the next day, and so on.  None of these screaming people are saying the same thing, they frequently interrupt each other, all demand your full attention, and they all switch topics without warning.  And that's how my thoughts are every day, all day.  It's why even with the extreme fatigue associated with ADD-PI, I have trouble sleeping.

And the more stress we're under, the worse it gets.  Hounding people with ADD only makes their symptoms worse, not better, as the ADD brain goes into overdrive trying to get dopamine levels back up.  The best thing you can do for a person with ADD is stop trying to force them to be like everyone else, and work with them to help improve their lives.  Heaping guilt, shame, negative labels, and pressure on a person with ADD is only going to blow up in your face, while making the person with ADD depressed and increasingly unable to function.

So please, stop with the ADD is BS nonsense.  I can tell you from personal experience it's real, and I wasn't even diagnosed until well into my adulthood.  I haven't been "indoctrinated" to believe ADD is real since childhood, as some people might claim.  Having undiagnosed ADD led to anxiety, OCD, and depression for me, and has made my life a living hell.  At the moment, I can't afford my meds, so I get by as best I can without them, and understanding my condition does help that tremendously.  As does having supportive and understanding people in my life who put up with me and do their best to help me every way they can.


  1. It's VERY real, and I'm so glad you posted this. My son has add (the adhd kind), and I often get the judgey look when meds are mentioned, but he NEEDS them, he really does. It's not lazy parenting. It's proactive parenting, so he can be happy & succeed in school. He's miserable when he can't focus.

    I'm also glad to see this, because I've often suspected I have add too, but I don't have the hyperactivity, I DO have the fatigue & hyperfocus for interesting tasks...I didn't know that was part of it, & it's those very things that made me doubt it. You've basically just described me. I guess I'll look into it further!

  2. *HUGS* If I've helped, then I'm thrilled. ADD-PI is extremely underdiagnosed, because the symptoms aren't as obvious as ADHD. I actually was diagnosed as "borderline hyperactive" as a child (this was what they called ADD before "ADD" was a diagnosis), and it was after puberty that it I lost the hyperactivity and got the fatigue instead.

    People with ADD-PI are often seen as daydreamy, lazy (because they sleep/lay around so much), are thought to "zone out" easily, and so on. It also affects more females than males--males are much more likely to have ADHD. Thankfully, the treatment for ADD-PI is the same as ADHD. The medications are equally effective for both conditions. The great part too is that while the stimulants can calm ADHD, they actually help ADD-PI'ers have "normal" energy levels throughout the day.

    Definitely look into it more, and follow-up with a healthcare professional. We don't have to suffer!