Inattentive, not being able to keep focus.
Hyperactive, moving excessively not fitting to the setting.
Impulsive, acting hastily in the moment without thought.
Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD) and Attention-Deficit-Disorder (ADD) are mental disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
For those who have ADHD it is a sometimes welcome and sometimes unwelcome part of who they are. (The acronyms ADHD and ADD are used interchangeably in general discussions with ADHD used throughout this article.)
ADHD is, “A complex thought process that drives our decisions” according to Cindy Lea1, a coach/counselor and owner of the ‘Succeeding with ADHD’ practice in Eden Prairie.
She explained that our conscious mind controls just 12% with the unconscious controlling a whopping 88%. And, that number is true for all of us, not just the ADHD diagnosed.
Taming the ADHD Mind
In her practice Lea has found, “Those with ADHD have a very hard time doing things they are not interested in, or don’t want to do.” She continued, “When we don’t tell our unconscious mind what we really want. It just listens to our grumbling and helps us with that. Like when the alarm goes off, I don’t want to get up versus telling our unconscious I want to feel like getting up.”
Setting and conveying the right intention to the unconscious is key to success, according to Lea.
Taming the elephant with…nothing
Colin Peterson2, a researcher at WillPowered.com explains it in another way. He uses an analogy to describe the tussle between the two minds. He equates the intuitive or unconscious mind to a strong, hard to maneuver elephant with years of memories that shape judgment.
Too often instead of having the scientist in our rational brain force a course correction, we let the lawyer present inside to rationalize the elephant’s misdirected path. He believes it is possible to break the pattern by watching for when the elephant might take over, learn how to communicate with it, and proactively steer it toward the right path.
“You cannot silence your elephant–but you can learn how to tame it” Peterson says with conviction.
Without mentioning ADHD, he has an interesting tip for those who balk at the start of project such as sitting to write an important, but not as interesting, report. It is typical for an ADHD individual to jump on his/her emails instead.
Peterson points out that, “…the elephant is doing everything to distract.” He suggests, “…a method called the nothing alternative. Either write or do nothing, stare out the window or pace around the room, and do not allow any other action until at least 500 words are on the paper.”
He claims, “This subtle change would tame the elephant through sheer boredom.”
According to Harvard Medical School (HMS) research3, ADHD prevalence among adults was 4.4% in the U.S., as of 2001-2003. The rate of ADHD in adults is underreported as 85% of children with ADHD will likely have the disorder as adults.
It was earlier believed to be exclusively a child-based condition. This work refers to research conducted at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that also found it to be a serious public health problem affecting many children and adults alike.
Although the exact causes of ADHD are not known, research is suggesting that it is hereditary and, in many cases, passes from parents to their offspring.
ADHD treatment costs can be significant. HMS researchers estimate that the United States spends $31.6 billion annually4 on treatment and work absences. So, timely interventions and improved ADHD management tools would help reduce the financial burden on families and the country’s health system.
Reputable medical practitioners across the nation support the CDC findings. Many others are actively developing and implementing nonintrusive and cost-efficient solutions for long-term sustainability.
Approaches to ADHD management
Dr. Mark Hayman, Founder & Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic talks about young kids on strong medications. He strongly questions their efficacy by demonstrating serious ill effects from strong medicines. He instead offers Functional Medicine, an alternative approach that he claims, “…cures the body, not the symptoms.” He described the approach and benefits with real life stories of individuals in his 2010 TEDMED talk.5
Dr. Edward Hollowell, MD and Dr John Ratey focus on the strengths and talents those with ADHD exhibit. Both have been diagnosed with ADHD. Hollowell is a former Harvard Medical School professor who currently directs the Hallowell Centers for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Dr. Ratey is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
In their book: ‘Driven from Distraction’6 they point out that most diagnoses describe only the downside of ADHD. That focus on the downside creates, “…secondary problems, like shame, fear, and a sharply diminished sense of what’s possible in life.”
Moreover, a focus on the downside, they note, leaves out the fact that “… ADHD people have unique gifts: originality, creativity, charisma, energy, liveliness, an unusual sense of humor.”
In their practice, Hollowell & Ratey help their patients identify their talents and strengths, then they show them how to leverage those capabilities. They do not find value in focusing on weaknesses for ADHD diagnosed individuals.
A University of Memphis7 study also confirmed that adults with ADHD show “higher levels of original creative thinking and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD”.
The Hollowell & Ratey team propose simple things like making lifestyle changes, adding structure to daily tasks, regular physical activity, and supervised nutritional counseling. They advise their patients to not expect quick results. They claim that this approach is effective, cost efficient, and does not have ill side effects.
Following lifestyle changes they evaluate prescribing medication as a complement. They have seen the approach significantly enhance the lives of people with ADHD.
There is no scarcity of success stories involving people with ADHD, including such notables as Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, John F. Kennedy, Terry Bradshaw, Babe Ruth, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, John Denver, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake, and many more.
They all belong to the ADHD club.
Following are a few resources readers may like to check:
- Colin Peterson; ‘The Will of Heroes,’ www.WillPowered.com
- Nicholas Makris, et.al.; ‘Attention and Executive Systems Abnormalities in Adults with Childhood ADHD,’ Cerebral Cortex Journal: 18 (5) 2008
- Louis S. Matsa, Clark Paramore, Manish Prasad; ‘A Review of the Economic Burden of ADHD,’ Cost Effectiveness Resource Allocation Journal: 3 (5) 2005
- Dr Mark Hayman;’ When is a Hacksaw a Necessary Medical Device?’ TEDMED 2010
- Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
by Edward M. Hallowell MD & John J. Ratey MD
- Holly A. White & Priti Shah; ’Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,’ Personality & Individual Differences: 40 (2006)