ADHD. Blessing or Curse?

I feel that I have to preface this by saying that I have not read much of Dr. Ned Hallowell’s stuff. But I do have experience with many people who have had negative experiences with his Hallowell Center in Sudbury, MA. And, I’m reasonably familiar with the fact that he’s been touting ADHD as a blessing for many years now. Frankly, I think that’s bull shit. (Pardon my language.) So when the following came in my email I had mixed feelings.

From Shame and Stigma to Pride and Truth: It’s Time to Celebrate ADHD Differences
with Ned Hallowell, M.D., and William Dodson, M.D.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 @ 1pm ET

I’m certainly a big believer that ADHD shouldn’t carry the stigma that it does. Things have gotten a lot better from when I was a kid. I don’t think anyone has told me that they don’t believe in ADHD in about a decade. That’s progress. But to say that ADHD is a blessing is such an unbelievable stretch as to be insulting. 

I understand the desire to make ADHD into a thing that isn’t only negative. But, I’m curious how one can even define what the “benefits” are. ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that exists on a spectrum. It, likewise, negatively affects functioning on a spectrum. It can be diagnosed and is, thus, subject to standards. I don’t read the DSM V as having any positives listed in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. 

I like to think that the things I like about me are about me, not about my ADHD. Or at the very least that I can separate those two things. Here’s how I always put it: If a genie had come out of a lamp when I was, say, 15 and told me I could change one thing about me, without hesitation I would have said, “I wish I didn’t have ADHD.” But as I sit here a few weeks away from hitting my 40’s, I realize that you can’t separate me from the ADHD. I’ve always thought of it like when a tree grows into a fence and you couldn’t pry the two apart if you wanted to without destroying both. In essence they have become one and the same. 

Some people claim that ADHDers are more creative than “normal” people. As far as I know there has never been any research to prove this. There does seem to be a strong empathetic streak in ADHDers. Statistically, we are overrepresented in helping professions. But is that the ADHD? Is it how certain personality types respond to struggling with ADHD? Or is it something else? As far as I know, there have been no studies either way. 

I realize this has gotten a bit rambling and preachy. But, from where I sit, saying that ADHD is a gift is irresponsible. I undermines the decades of work ADHD and clinicians have put in proving that ADHD is a legitimate medical diagnosis. It minimizes the struggle and the desperation that accompany undiagnosed, untreated, and undertreated ADHD in many kids and adults. It can stigmatize the seeking of help and make people and families less likely to seek the pharmacological intervention that has been proven to really help people.  I defy you to find another “gift” that is diagnosable, treatable, and responds to both medication and behavioral intervention. Maybe the gift… is just you! So, treat the ADHD and let the gift of you shine through.

Standard Disclaimer:  In an effort to foil my own perfectionist tendencies, I do not edit my posts much… if at all. Please and typos, mistakes, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing. I focus on getting my content down. An imperfect post completed is better than a perfect post that goes unposted.

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