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Understanding ADHD

Before we get into this, I want to give a short disclaimer. This is a very personal topic for me. I recently discovered that I have ADHD and I realized that I didn’t know much about it when I found out. I’m still learning more on this, but I hope this will be an insightful article for someone out there.

What I understand about ADHD.

What is ADHD?

            I found a video on YouTube talking about ADHD, FASD and both. If you care to see it, here’s Dr Gabor Maté talk on the topic. But what I understand about ADHD is this:

            Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not a medical condition or mental disorder. It’s a deregulation of the normal functioning of the brain. Look at it this way: your brain is like a busy office and bosses send interns/messengers between departments to relay messages. These “interns” are neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and noradrenaline.

For someone with ADHD, these chemical transmitters don’t work as they should thus affect someone’s behaviour, both positively and negatively. It isn’t life threatening or anything, it’s just makes someone different.

How do you get ADHD?

            Well the cause is still a mystery, but there’s a hypothesis that it’s a hereditary condition. Studies show that 1 in every 4 people with ADHD has a parent with ADHD. However, I’ll take this opportunity to debunk one misconception I’ve noticed.

            I recently had lunch with a friend of mine and it was shortly after I told her I realized I have ADHD. She looked up at me from her food and asked “By the way, so when did you get ADHD?” Well the truth is I’ve always had it.

            ADHD just doesn’t suddenly happen in adults. I didn’t wake up one morning and have it. You don’t catch it like a flu. It’s something you’re born with. Looking back at my childhood and teenage years, I exhibited signs of ADHD and I still do.

How can you tell you have ADHD?

            Since the neurotransmitters don’t function regularly, people with ADHD tend to exhibit a variety of traits. When I first told my cousin that I suspected I had ADHD, she didn’t believe me. Her reasoning was that I don’t behave like her friend who she knew had ADHD.

            But in general, these typical behaviors are categorized into three major traits, with combinations of different attributes. People with ADHD typically struggle with hyperactivity (can’t sit still, excessive talking, fidgeting etc.), impulsivity (aggression, poor interpretation of social cues etc.) and poor functionality (disorganization, forgetfulness, trouble prioritizing etc.)

            For me, I know what my major traits are. But since they were slightly different than my cousin’s friend, I could see what it was hard to believe at first.

Are there different types of ADHD?

            With the different combination of attributes, you can classify ADHD into three types. Kind of like how there are types 1 & 2 diabetes. The three types are: Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive type ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive/Distractable type ADHD and Combined type ADHD.

            To try and explain the different types, I’ll use examples. But I don’t know anyone with the 3 types, so I’ll do a little fan fiction with the golden trio—mainly because I’m currently rereading The Philosopher’s Stone and can’t think of three names.

            Imagine Harry has the first type. Out of the listed attributes earlier on, this would mean Harry fidgets a lot, talks too much, is constantly on the move all over Hogwarts. Hermione has the second type, so in comparison to Harry, she doesn’t move as much but her mind wonders more. She has a harder time concentrating on conversations: if she talks to Luna about sweets from the Hogwarts Express trolly, she could think of chocolates…chocolate factory…Charly and the Chocolate Factory…novels…basically her train of thought gets carried away. And finally, we have Ron, who has the third type, meaning he’s both up and about and a bit scatterbrained.

            This could also bring some confusion about ADHD, especially when comparing it between two people. I guess that’s why my cousin found it hard to believe I have ADHD when compared to her friend. But it could also help someone figure out what exactly could be done to help manage it.

How can you manage ADHD?

When I first found out I had ADHD, it was confirmed by my school’s psychologist. And she told me that what I wanted to do next was entirely up to me.

            Earlier on I had mentioned that ADHD isn’t as big as a problem as perceived. I also said that ADHD could be hereditary. My psychologist told me that she knows people and noticed they had ADHD but didn’t say anything about it. That’s because these people are living their lives, with businesses and families, so telling them that they have ADHD isn’t going to benefit them in any way whatsoever. A good example would be my dad.

            When I first told my dad about all the common traits for ADHD, he told me he recognized some in himself. Now whether he has ADHD isn’t useful information to him. He’s raised his family; he’s retired and relaxing. This doesn’t mean that you can do absolutely nothing about the ADHD.

            For myself I’ve opted to do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to work on my own traits. What this does will help me learn to manage my own traits and use them to my advantage where possible. Another alternative is medication, but I’m not very sure how that works for someone on the chemical basis.

Is there anyone I know with ADHD?

            You know at least one person with ADHD. Some public figures out there have ADHD and have come forward about it. Some of the most famous personalities include: Adam Levine, Ty Pennington, Howie Mandel, Sir Richard Brandson and many other people. These guys are living proof that ADHD could be overcome and even advantageous to some extent.

How is ADHD an added advantage to someone?

            It’s true that people with ADHD have trouble focusing on some things, but we also have a kind of superpower in that we can hyper focus on topics we’re interested in

            For me I’ve always wanted to work in the hospitality sector. I tried going in through the finance department, even in my interview with my university I said the same thing. For the past two years, I was studying financial engineering. But my interest wasnn’t in it and I couldn’t focus on my units and kept barely passing. Eventually, I gave up and switched courses to Hospitality and Hotel Management.

            But that doesn’t necessarily mean I have a poor attention span and memory. I couldn’t read some case study on inflation rates for Financial Mathematics for more than 10 minutes without losing focus—if my lecturer reads this, believe me I tried reading your case studies—but I can read all sorts of novels, I can play Tomb Raider for hours, watch National Geographic’s nature documentaries without budging, write my articles till I fall asleep. I even started teaching myself Gaelic with a copy of Colloquial Irish-The Complete Guide for Beginners since my end goal is to work in Ireland or France. This is where I put my hyper focus.

            Other than the fact that we can hyper focus, we tend to think outside the box in almost everything we do. This is a huge advantage in the work force. I personally look at problems from a very different perspective than most people and come up with very strange and interesting solutions. But I also take things a bit too literally for my own good.

Some other positive traits include creativity in our spontaneous moments. So if you have ADHD and aren’t sure what kind of careers you can do, look at these aspects and come up with a game plan. Good career options are in sports, music, entrepreneurship, software development, but most important is anything else you’re most passionate about.

What are the most common myths and misconceptions out there?

            I’ve already debunked some myths earlier in this article, so this shouldn’t take too long. Before I sat down to write this, I had sent out a Google Form to conduct a survey to see some of the myths out there. I’ll highlight the most misleading myths and misconceptions I had noticed:

ADHD can be developed by adults. ADHD can be averted by proper parenting in kids. ADHD workers can’t meet deadlines at work. People with ADHD are really bad at conversations. Students with ADHD tend to perform badly at schoolwork.

Well, all of these are misleading information and half truths that hope I had rectified in the article.

My closing remarks on this article

            I admit that a lot of this is more of personal stories and doesn’t give a detailed explanation on ADHD. There’s still a lot out there for us to learn about ADHD so let’s not keep a closed mind on it.  If you ever suspect that you might have ADHD and would like to know, some online links approved by the W.H.O. allow someone to check for themselves. But this isn’t a clear indication you have ADHD, and you should consult a mental health expert. If you’d like to test yourself, click here.

            I hope this article helps spread awareness about ADHD, and please feel free to engage me on Twitter or Instagram about the topic, be it clarifications, questions or comments. I also want to thank everyone who responded to my survey, I couldn’t have made this article without you guys.

Thanks for reading!

 

Mbugua Kibe,
April 24, 2021

Leave a comment

Regina Mbugua : 5 months ago

A very informative article am happy I have learned a lot. I think I will help my son too. Keep it up cousin