Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD, is a fairly common neurological issue that for years, has been classified as a learning disability. If you’re born with it or acquire it during your lifetime, you do not "outgrow" it--though it's likely you'll invent some useful coping strategies to make your symptoms feel less troublesome. This is a cyclical disorder that's attended by mood fluctuations, which coincide with periods of intense productivity, contrasted by periods of apathy or inertia. These cycles impact your self-confidence (no matter how talented or intelligent you are), because you're not able to consistently demonstrate your abilities.
Aside from various challenges you may face, there are a great number of positive aspects or characteristics associated with this disorder, which are discussed a bit farther down in this article. This self-diagnostic tool is intended to help you discern the degree to which you may have ADD/ADHD. If you've struggled with some of the obstacles mentioned here, there's help to overcome them! Imagine breaking free of the shame that's a by-product of this disorder, and creating a life more rewarding, than you've ever thought possible. You are on your way there, right now.
THE MOST TYPICAL HALLMARKS OF THIS CONDITION ARE:
*Chronic procrastination~ always putting things off until the last minute, or indefinitely--especially if it's a task you'd prefer to avoid.
*Reluctance to commit~ You make appointments 'on the fly,' when you're in need of seeing your doctor or chiropractor, 'cause you're never sure of how you'll be feeling, when you've booked that appointment weeks ahead of time.
*Mood cycles ~ sometimes up, feeling motivated, confident, “normal” and capable of getting a lot accomplished--and sometimes down, feeling unmotivated, inert, disorganized, insecure, overwhelmed, ashamed, “crazy or stupid” and mild to moderately depressed.
*Wondering if you're manic-depressive, or "a little bipolar." Believe it or not, lots of ADD'ers have questioned this at one time or another! Check out my piece on Bipolar Disorder, and discern the difference for yourself.
*Feeling like an underachiever~ no matter how much you’ve accomplished during your lifetime, and it just never seems like enough!
*Getting started, is the hardest part! Once you're at the laundromat you do okay, and momentum carries you along--but it's beginning a chore, that's the most difficult. Just start, and you'll be fine!
*You may feel like an impostor or fraud. Your accomplishments are usually within areas of innate talent or ability (you're born with 'em), which means they're fairly effortless! Because they've come so easily, you may take them for granted, and can't feel deserving of accolades, honors or rewards for your work or contributions.
*Lack of follow-through~ starting projects and seldom finishing them. Loss of interest, motivation, enthusiasm for an activity or goal that might have previously generated a lot of excitement (I've coined this, The Gym Membership Syndrome).
*You may be a Novelty Junkie~ you'll get really excited about a new health benefit or gadget, but lose the 'juice' soon after. You keep buying stuff on infomercials, and end up with a kitchen or closet full of items you've never used more than a few times (if at all). You may have solid plans to turn these into a service business--but before you can, the novelty wears off, and you're out another few hundred bucks. Great intentions fizzle-out before they get off the ground.
*You work best under pressure~ in the ‘eleventh hour’ when time's running out on a task or project you must handle, you're suddenly efficient, focused, driven and effective. (More on this below.)
*Chronic tardiness~ always "running late" (see 'pressure' issue above).
*You're inclined to find 'shortcuts' for resolving an issue, rather than going through the usual or "proper" channels to get something handled.
*You're drawn to work that allows you a lot of creative expression~actors, writers, artists, designers, photographers, directors, inventors, architects, plastic surgeons, cosmetic dentists, etc.
*So many goals, so little focus! 'Changing the channel' of focus feeds your need for diverse stimulation, and may inspire you to create several streams of income. More on this, under "The Good News" section (below).
*Attraction to jobs or careers that involve a high degree of risk or danger~ stunt people, firemen, paramedics, emergency room doctors/nurses, interventionists, etc. You're drawn to environments that are highly stressful and production oriented, or where various types of activities are all going on at once. Any kind of job requiring your attention to be several placessimultaneously, or hyper-focused when there’s a crucial situation you mustrespond to with the added pressure of time limited, high yield performance (i.e. physical rescue work).
*Attraction to high-risk activities for sport or pleasure: Jumping out of airplanes, off cliffs/bridges, high risk snow or water skiing/surfing, mountain climbing, dangerous, high-maintenance (Borderline) partners, or potentially fatal sex practices, etc. In other words, “adrenaline junkies” who insatiably crave intense stimulation.
*Intense relationships: A romance with someone who has personality disorder features (like NPD or BPD) is stimulating to an ADD'er, whether the partner is involking pleasure in them or pain. Pain is grounding, and makes us feel alive. The craving for a sense of aliveness keeps us going back for more, even when it harms us.
There are many symptoms associated with ADD and these are just a few! Not all of the above may apply to you, but if you resonate with several of them, it may serve you to (at least) browse the rest of this piece.
"I'VE ALWAYS FELT LIKE I WAS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PEOPLE."
You are. This is an extremely common perception among ADD'ers, because your rhythm or pacing is different from other individuals you've known. You may get various tasks accomplished and do them well--but this is according toyour tempo, and they're more easily managed when the “pressure’s on” or during periods when you're feeling more up or empowered. There are times you’ll feel productive, focused and on top of your game--but at other times, it's just the opposite! It's been my opinion for years, that Attention Deficit Disorder should be called Attention Inconsistency
Disorder, as this is a far more accurate description of how ADD affects literally hundreds of thousands of individuals.
While it's true that you have this learning disability, it doesn't mean you'reunable to learn--you just have special ways of doing it! ADD'ers are typically more visually oriented than auditory, which is a very typical characteristic of creative minds. You might say that your brain's "processing plant" is a little different from other folks; it generally needs to form mental pictures in order to make sense of information, and determine how to respond/react.
Visual stimulation can inhibit your ability to process auditory information, and this affects us in various ways. Have you ever noticed, you can't look at your waiter while he's describing that day's specials, and retain all the information? This happens because your mind's eye has to construct images that help it 'see' what's on those dishes being described, so you can more easily make your choice. Lowering or closing your eyes as you listen, lets your brain do what it does best (and no, it's not rude). By the way, foreign/subtitled films, or movies where much of the storyline is told through the characters' dialogue, can be troublesome to ADD'ers for the same reason. We become visually distracted, and afraid we'll miss important points that help us understand or 'track with' the story.
Most forms of learning are linear. People with ADD/ADHD have a non-linearway of learning. The creative ADD brain is capable of making abstractions, which is a higher order of thinking that we ideally develop between the ages of 9 - 12 years old (around the time we're supposed to learn empathy). Abright mind finds ways to process new information by applying it to various other similar situations in his/her life. This requires analytical ability! The ADD'er automatically looks for ways to make fresh data 'fit' with other parts of his puzzle. He presumes that if something's true in one sense, it could be true in others--and connects the dots! Someone stuck in a concrete (lower order) way of thinking can't do this. Their mental process is more childlike, simple or linear.
Problems can arise between adult children and their parents, if one is stuck in a concrete level of development, and the other has acquired the capacity for abstract thinking. Often, the child has surpassed the parent's mental/emotional capacity in this regard, and frustrating relationship dynamics ensue, because they're literally speaking different languages! It can feel to the adult child like he/she is trying to make themselves understood by a small child. A gifted therapist can illuminate this issue, and help them discover new ways of communicating with a shared language that can serve the relationship.
HOW (AND WHY) DOES THIS DISORDER EXIST?
There's a small structure at the base of your brain called the Thalamus. Your Thalamus combines with a tentacle-like structure called the R.A.S. (Reticular Activating System) that functions much like the valve on a garden hose, to allow stimulation to reach your cerebral cortex (thinking part of the brain) or not. When this “valve” is closed or shut down, it’s like having a kink in your garden hose, and water can’t flow through. Similarly, when this happens to your brain you’re unable to get the stimulation you need, to think clearly and function/perform as you would like. You work best under pressure, because when time's running out on a task that's needing your attention, your body'sanxiety response to it triggers an adrenalin release in your bloodstream. This chemical functions like high-octane fuel for your brain, so that it can go into 'overdrive,' and help you push through most resistance/procrastination.
The worst part of living with attention deficit issues, is you've carried around a lot of shame about not being able to get your ship in the water--and those around you (like your parents or partner) think it's your fault for "not trying hard enough."
WHAT CAN CAUSE IT?
*Head trauma; serious bruising/concussions, etc., during any part of your life, either in childhood or adulthood.
*Chronic/severe earaches; or multiple ear infections during childhood.
*High fevers; particularly, if they've lasted 24-hours or more.
*Encephalitis and/or Meningitis.
*Heredity; if your parent or close relative suffers with ADD/ADHD (or bipolar issues), there’s a genetic probability that you will too.
*Near-death experience (NDE); especially if your brain has been deprived of oxygen for more than a few minutes.
*Birth trauma; umbilical strangling during the birth process, or other types of fetal trauma involving oxygen deprivation or acute pressure to the head.
*Damage in-utero; if your mother regularly smoked or drank alcohol during pregnancy, this could have impaired normal brain development, and left you at risk for acquiring this disorder.
WHAT IS "ADHD?"
ADHD is ADD that includes a hyperactivity component. This disorder is far more readily identified (and treated) in childhood than ADD, and is more prevalent in males than females (nobody’s quite sure why). In children andadults it's generally characterized by restlessness, agitation, inability to focus or concentrate, irritability, inattention, lack of follow-through, difficulty resting, feeling relaxed or “laid-back.” Achieving scholastic or professional success might be easier for ADHD'ers; their ability to self-activate could be enhanced, simply because it's harder to sit still! Depressive episodes and inertia are not quite as common with ADHD, but the ability to focus/slow down enough tocomplete a task, may be more challenging. ADHD'ers are often flooded by stimulation, which can easily prompt sensations of overwhelm. When overwhelm occurs, it's like an electrical overload that 'short circuits' our brains, and causes a mental system shut-down that can literally feel paralyzing (and depressing).
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