Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder...

Tonight I watched a discussion on Insight about ADHD, it´s diagnosis and issues sorrounding medicating for ADHD.

I don´t often discuss my ADHD (or ADD as I was diagnosed as having when I was 18, though apparently now there is no distinction made between the two, though adults, and a percentage of children often DON´T exhibit outward hyperactivity), but tonight´s episode of Insight has prompted me to put a few thoughts down on this topic.

The entire disorder is often questioned, and on that count, I will say I can see both sides of the argument. Specifically for myself, I have questions over my own diagnosis because although I experience 'classic' symptoms of ADHD, and as a child exhibit many classic symptoms, I also have an abnormal brain structure, which might also account for these symptoms, I´m sure.

I noted that many of the people on Insight who had experienced great personal success with medicating themselves to combat the symptoms of ADHD seemed to take personal offence to those who argued that ADHD is often over-diagnosed and over-medicated. It was as if they felt they were being called liars for experiencing their difficulties with the disorder, and their successes with the medication.

I tend to think that if you are experiencing ADHD symptoms, and you take the medication and do not experience adverse side effects, but experience positive results from the medication, then it is likely that the you were correctly diagnosed and correctly medicated. This does not, however, negate that their are probably many, too many children and adults who are incorrectly diagnosed and incorrectly medicated. Why do people have so much invested in it being just one or the other?

I don't know if I was inccorrectly diagnosed. Certainly ADHD adequately covers the symptoms I have experienced. The difficulty remaining focused, the fidgeting, the impulse control issues. Once I became aware of ADHD, it really helped me to be aware of what was happening with me, and how to, through cognitive exercises, regain some control in my life! I was offered the opportunity to take medications, but I never remember to take them, and besides I didn't like the sound of the side-effects. I've managed to get through the past 35 years fairly well without medication, and certainly with awareness the past 17 years have even seen some great improvement in my day to day life. I work WITH my ADHD, and I could really relate to a statement by one ADHD diagnosed dad, who said he almost felt sorry for people who DON'T have ADHD. I DO experience aspects of my way of being as an out and out asset!

For example, I think on four "channels" simultaneously. That is, at any one time, I have four trains of thought going through my head. Which means that right now, I'm thinking about that show and what I'm typing here, while thinking about a conversation I had with Jen the other day on another topic, while thinking about the logistics of getting the boys to school in the morning, and the logistics of getting to my psychic reading on the 3rd of June after taking the boys to Liam's birthday... Yes, this can mean I'm easily distracted as sometimes I become more deeply involve with a different "channel" to that which I'm working in irl, and it can mean that I'll "jump about" or "jump ahead" in conversation in a way that only makes sense to me. At the same time, it means I CAN multitask successfully and more "fluidly" than others...

When I'm pregnant my "pregnancy" brain in the first trimester tends to be worse than the "average" pregnancy brain, I tracked that down to thrush in my last pregnancy, as thrush tends to exasserbate ADHD symptoms, and treat it with Acidopholus, which did help a lot. During my other two pregnancies, I did things like leave the house with the door not only unlocked by wide open - visible from a main road - for hours! I once left Luey asleep in his stroller, in a handbag shop for 15 minutes! I was leaving the shopping centre when I realised I was missing "something"...

Dave really helps me manage my distractibility. He is the opposite to me, anally retentive, fastidious, unable to focus on more than one thing at any given time. I often complain to people that he fathers me. EVERY time I leave the house he goes through, "Have you got your keys, your phone, you purse, your travel pass, your taxi card?" I moan and bitch about him not having to remind me, but more often than not I'm secretly realising I've forgotten one of the things he mentioned.

So, why am I writing about all of this?

Well, as you know, I'm having Erik assessed in July. I'm NOT having him assessed for ADHD, but obviously I'm aware it might be on the cards. He has impulse control difficulties that I've been aware of for years, and he is restless. In some ways he's really not as "bad", as impulsive or forgetful or distractable as I was as a child. He has never just left the classroom or the school on a whim the way I did often. He doesn't lose "something" every week the way I did. But still there is an impulse control difficulty there. I'm not going to walk into the clinic and say, "I have a ADHD diagnosis" and then ask them to assess him, I don't want to colour their investigation like that. But what if, independantly, they come to that conclusion?

Would my childhood have been "easier" if I'd been medicated?

My brother has ADHD, I believe, he has never been diagnosed, so that's my "diagnosis", my mum has it too - I'm like her, basically, and she is like her dad. The thing is, Mike has the "daydreamer" version of ADHD. He wasn't hyperactive, but rather he seemed to live in a daydream. In one way, he was never labelled a troublemaker, but in another way he suffered because he was completely overlooked at school. He didn't learn to read until he was 13. He is very intelligent (like me, hehehehe), but never did well at school (neither did I until half way through my undergrad. degree). There was this kid on the show tonight who was described to be just like Mike, he said once he was on the meds, he could concentrate, and put everything together and he did brilliantly well after that. What if meds could have helped Mike?

I'd be EXTREMELY wary of putting Erik on meds for impulse control. I'd want to know what else could be done to help him. At the same time, I don't want him to suffer because he can't fire those neurons sufficiently to get the messages through to control his impulses.

ADHD doesn't adversely affect my life now, as an adult, but it did affect me well into my teens and early twenties (even after my diagnosis it took a while to figure out the impulse control issue)...

Hey, I'll burn that bridge when I get to it, I guess, but this discussion tonight did make me think more deeply about the possibility that if I was correctly diagnosed, and ADHD does exist, and it is heredity, and some people can be greatly helped by medications, that maybe Erik might be one of those people's and I need to make sure I don't just turn my back on that avenue of treatment simply because I managed without it...

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Good Job!