Over many years and name changes, the American Psychiatric Association has arrived at a revised definition in 2013, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Symptoms of inactivity and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity must be present in adequate number, showing up in multiple settings, and causing life difficulties for that person over an extended period of time.
As Yogi Berra said, “You can look it up”
…here with the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html )
…or here with the American Psychiatric Association http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/ADHD%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf (DSM 5 changes)
But how do I view ADHD, over many years in which I have been caring for those with ADHD.
First off, one must determine IF a person has it or not. Fulfilling a check-list of symptoms is, by itself, a poor indicator. Stress, abuse, anxiety, epileptic disorder, and medical problems are just a few of a very long list of conditions which simulate ADHD. A thorough evaluation by competent physicians and psychologists is absolutely needed to make this diagnosis.
If you do have ADHD, the single most important thing to understand is that ADHD is neurobiological. That means a person is born that way. It is no one’s fault. There is no need for shame. ADHD does not define the character, gifts, or personality of a person. ADHD does have a strong genetic underpinning, and a parent may have it (though they may claim that they got their ADHD from their children.)
But since ADHD shows up mainly when a person is bored, doing unstimulating or difficult or repetitive work or homework, people accuse that person of being willful, oppositional, or lazy. And those comments, dumped on a person with ADHD, can feel like acid eating away at a person’s sense of dignity and worth. Those cumulative and often invisible effects, over the years, can cause low self-esteem, poor motivation to succeed, and a sense of hopelessness. That is, it can seriously damage a person for life.
Finally, I would say this: people with ADHD are among the bravest and most determined people you will meet IF…you understand and support them, while helping them remain both positive and accountable. Their energy, originality, creativity, and zest are life-promoting, as long as they are not suppressed or rejected, and as long as they receive feedback and interaction from others who care about them.
These are my “pearls” of personal understanding.
The essence of those with ADHD – both for them and for those without ADHD: strive to understand, motivate, encourage, challenge, discover your strengths, apply your potential to important life opportunities, and grow into your own unique personhood.