A Little ADD Lens™ Background
Saturday, June 11, 2011 1 Comment
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Looking through The ADD Lens™
by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
This excerpt will give you a little background context and introduce the concept of looking through The ADD Lens™ — as if every single reader had a full-blown case of diagnostic ADD.
The ADD Continuum
I’m sure I’m not the first to share the news that ADD/EFD is a continuum disorder. So what does that mean, exactly?
All human beings exhibit varying degrees of difficulty with various elements of living, many in common with those who qualify for an ADD diagnosis, for example.
Somewhere along the continuum from “no ADD” to “lots of ADD” we slap a diagnostic line that refers only to those above it as “having” ADD.
What about the individuals immediately below the diagnostic line?
Isn’t it silly to assume that, since they cannot be benighted with a formal ADD diagnosis, they have NO attentional problems?
What about the individuals well below the diagnostic line who are dealing with extremely complicated lives and “juggling a lot of balls?” Doncha’ think THEY might be struggling with more than “the standard number” of attentional problems too?
Does anybody seriously believe that the human evolutionary process has been able to keep pace with our technological advances and the volume of information we expect ourselves to be able to process these days?
Does it make any sense at all to assume that only those individuals above some arbitrarily placed diagnostic line will have more than a few attentional problems resulting from the increasing number of elements we expect ourselves to be able to pay attention to?
That silly expectation becomes especially shortsighted when we remember that the diagnostic line is a moving target. It can move up or down for every single “disorder” any time the American Psychiatric Association revises The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) in preparation for the publication of an updated version – each new version incorporates the findings and interpretations of the most recent studies to include new treatments and protocols.
Working with ADD Challenges
The DSM was developed to provide a reference book for physicians (who can’t possibly be expected to specialize in every single disorder in the book!), as well as to provide some degree of diagnostic and treatment standardization to protect the public. It was never intended to be taken as THE book of ironclad diagnostic criteria for all behavioral anomalies.
If you talk to one hundred ADD-knowledgeable physicians, you will get one hundred slightly different answers to questions concerning the relative importance of each particular area currently considered part of an ADD diagnosis.
Their answers will vary concerning how many ADDers in their practice exhibit how many of each of the markers, and to what degree.
Even though they will all agree on some basics, they will all tell you that ADD can sometimes be tricky to determine by anyone who doesn’t really know ADD and ADDers, even if they happen to be extremely good doctors otherwise.
As time goes by, more and more doctors are beginning to become aware of the subtleties of an ADD diagnosis, but a poll of physicians conducted in 2000 revealed that the majority did not feel that their training prepared them adequately for confidence in their diagnostic and treatment skills where ADD is concerned, including some who specialize in ADD.
- The good news is that they were aware of that sad fact and had the integrity to say so when polled.
- The bad news is that, after diagnosis, most of you still will not be able to count on your doctor for information and guidance.
That would still be true, by the way, if every single physician in the universe was intimately familiar with every single nuance of what I refer to as Attentional Spectrum Disorders.
Medical doctors simply do not have the time to work directly with every one of the ADD challenges of every ADDer in their practice.
Trust me, it’s pretty much a full-time job to keep up with every newly developed coping technique for hundreds of combinations of functional challenge – EVEN if you are not the one developing the coping techniques – especially in a field as complex and complicated as this one.
When would they have time to see patients?
Sorry, Charlie — you will have much more to do to learn to manage your ADD than any doctor would be able to supervise directly (even if you could afford it!)
Diagnosis is an excellent start. It is important to determine the presence or absence of other conditions that mimic some of the ADD traits. It can only be made by a professional licensed to deliver it, and it is essential if you want to explore pharmaceutical treatment options.
Medications alone, however, won’t do the trick.
Expecting medication to change much of anything all by itself is like expecting a pair of glasses to magically allow a child who has been struggling academically to catch up with everything s/he missed when s/he couldn’t see clearly.
You must also be prepared to do a lot of work outside your doctor’s office, even if your doctor is a leading-edge ADD expert lauded by all, and EVEN if that doctor were to spend an hour with each and every patient each and every appointment.
Unless you want to spend a lot of time backtracking and starting over, however, make sure that you do work with people who really know ADD, whether they are physicians, neurologists, therapists, authors, educators OR coaches.
Check out my article on Brain-based coaching on
Dr. Charles Parker’s CorePsych blog
Coaching, out where the ADHD rubber meets the road of reality
The Source of MY Expertise
I have ADD.
I did not discover what was “wrong” with me until I was thirty-eight years old. Although I am extremely intelligent and was always told that I could do so much better than I was doing, my life did not begin come under my own control until I found a “label” to explain my experiences.
A person can make a real mess of a life in thirty-eight years!
Not much was known about ADD when I was diagnosed, and even less was known about ADD in adults. I spent the next ten years following every single clue that might help me understand the workings of ADD in a way that would make Sherlock Holmes look like an amateur.
I read every single thing I could get my hands on. I initiated a “one rat study,” with my life as a laboratory. I tried every technique anyone suggested, hoping to learn how to “drive” my ADD brain. Whether something was helpful or not, I tried to understand the connection between my neurology, my functioning challenges, and the degree to which this particular technique did or did not help me personally.
Along the way I developed my own techniques to bridge the gap between what I read and what I experienced. As I continued to sherlock, I came up with my own beliefs about ADD and how to work with it, a combination of my personal experiences and those of the many other ADDers I came in contact with over the years.
Little by little, my functioning began to improve
New information led to the development of new work-arounds. New people in my life saw me as high functioning, rather than “lovable but dingy” (which is how some of my “oldest” friends still think of me) – but it took a lot of time and single-minded focus. Some of my old friends complained that I no longer had time for them, worried that I had become a workaholic.
I was addicted, they were absolutely right about that. I was addicted to functioning! I didn’t want to stop until I figured out how to play at the top of my game.
I now believe that optimal functioning is our birthright.
“Good enough” functioning is simply not good enough for me.
I’m guessing that you probably feel the same way if you are reading the excerpts of this book.
This phase of my life is dedicated to sharing the things I have discovered in my personal journey toward sanity, for before diagnosis one feels with certainty that one is decidedly crazy. Restoring order is possible, I promise. It is essential to do so to be able to feel successful in this business of living a life – but first you have to clearly identify what you’re facing.
A Different Perception
I want to remind everyone of a concept that Thom Hartmann explores in his early books on ADD: the view of ADD as a disorder comes from a perspective that non-ADD is “normal” (whatever THAT is!). That idea developed primarily because the people who do not have the ADD brain wiring outnumber those who do.
If ADDers were in the majority, non-ADDers might meet the diagnostic criteria for OFD: “over-focusing disorder.”
Those OFDers would have just as much trouble fitting in with a world that ADDers would create as ADDers experience currently with OFD expectations.
It doesn’t matter.
In ADD support groups you can learn that your challenges are not unique demonstrations of some personally bizarre “failure to thrive,” and that others have found ways of coping with them. As long as you understand how you work, along with the expectations of your world, it is possible to develop systems that will allow you to do anything you really want to do.
Through The ADD Lens™
I’d like to invite the rest of you to allow yourselves to benefit from the coping techniques I developed for the ADD community.
I find the idea of looking at things through The ADD Lens™ extremely helpful: looking at your functioning challenges as if they were a result of Attention Deficit Disorder.
If things like uneven functioning, procrastination, disorganization, kludgy time-management, mood swings, low frustration tolerance (road rage!), black and white thinking, stubborness, unfinished projects – things like that – are ongoing problems for you for WHATEVER reason, pretend you have ADD and start to utilize a few of the techniques that have been found to work with people who have been diagnosed with ADD.
See if looking at yourself through The ADD Lens™ – as if you had full-blown, diagnostic ADD – gives you a way to approach areas of prior difficulty in a way that you can handle them successfully.
In The Journey toward Optimal Functioning™, we must give ourselves permission to utilize any trick, tool or technique that will help us to achieve it.
To help you remember that perspective, the rest of this book (including each following excerpt) is written to encourage each of you to look at your lives through The ADD Lens™ – speaking as if every single one of you who read these words has full-blown, diagnostic ADD.
By the way, I tell my clients that, in Heaven, everyone gets to have ADD — welcome to heaven!
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Related Content — A few BASICS of Attentional Issues:
Articles in the Boggle Series
**Below: SOME content overlap – different info – Read BOTH
Coming up in the Boggle Series:
- 3 – Boggle Considerations
- 4 – Boggle Background
- 5a – Boggle: Driving Miss Crazy
- 5b – An Example from MY Life (my NYC Boggle Space)
- 6 – Boggle: The TBZ
- 7 – Boggle: To Design is to Decide
- 8 – Boggle: Cooperation and Support
- 9 – Building to Boggle
- 10 – Anticipating Boggle
- 11 – Boggle Bait
- 12 – Avoiding Re-Boggle
- 13 – Brain Science and Boggle
Other related articles on this site:
- Distinguishing Distractibility
- Distinguishing Can’t from Won’t
- Sherlocking ADD Challenges
- Nine Challenges: What Are They?
Articles in the Intentional Attending series:
Articles in the ADD Overview series:
- Early Retirement for Asperger’s? (thedailybeast.com)
- Do I “Wiki-Meet” Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD? (psychologytoday.com)
- Why No One Is Satisfied With Psychiatric Diagnoses (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Defining Grief (jonathanturley.org)
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When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.