The million dollar question: What is ADHD? We'd think that this would be a simple question with a simple answer, and some of us may feel like we know already. ADHD is "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder." But how we think about ADHD, our understanding, is crucial to how we respond to it. So maybe it's time to revisit this seemingly basic question with a pair of fresh eyes.
Before the advent of the modern allopathic medical model, people with “ADHD” would have been termed lazy, bad, or stupid. That was what we might call the “Moral Story” of ADHD.
With the advent of modern medicine, these individuals were thought of as having a malfunctioning or defective brain function. In the early days it was even referred to as brain damage, until later being called "minimal brain dysfunction."
This narrative took some pressure off parents being "blamed" for their children's behaviour, and also helped to combat the shame and guilt that came from the individual being automatically labelled lazy, bad or stupid. Now it was something malfunctioning in their brain for which they had little to no control.
It also meant the use of powerful drugs that quickly led to lessening of symptoms, because ADHD was now being thought of as primarily genetic and chemical. This was what we might call the “Medical Story.”
As we can see, what is ADHD yesterday is different from what is ADHD tomorrow. Indeed, it now appears that we are moving into another phase – Neurodiversity – the realisation that people with ADHD are neither bad, lazy, stupid, and neither are their brains necessarily “damaged goods." Instead, their brains are "wired differently." And whilst drugs may be helpful to control symptoms, we are worth more than medication alone.
ADHD: Malfunction or Super Power?
One of the most controversial polarisations in the “world of ADHD” is due to one camp believing at one extreme, that ADHD is a “disorder”, whilst at another extreme ADHD is in fact an unrecognised “Super power” or even doesn't exist.
But like many things in life, when we ask a seemingly simple question such as what is ADHD expecting a simple straightforward answer, the truth appears to be somewhat more nuanced. The truth, in fact, may lie somewhere in the middle of these extremes.
By considering the merits of all the research, perspectives, experiences, and approaches to ADHD, we can understand that there is some truth to be found in all of them, and also some inaccuracies.
The question is: What happens when we integrate these perspectives? What we end up with is what I call “The Mis-Fit Model of ADHD”, the model that I share with my clients to this day, and which helps make so much sense out of the confusion and mystery that tends to shroud this highly controversial diagnosis.
The Mis-Fit Model of ADHD
There is not one kind of brain, there are different kinds of brains (neurodiversity).
Some “types of brain” (neurodiverse, rather than neurotypical) struggle to “fit in” more than others. They end up being the “Mis-Fits” in society who get labelled.
The more “mis-matched” the person is to an environment, the more stress they will experience within their body-mind system. All of us, depending on our personality and biological make up, will express a specific type of “stress response” when there is a “mis-match” between ourselves (interior) and the world (exterior). Think of this mismatch between the two being like two tectonic plates rubbing together; when that happens an earthquake results. In this case, the symptomatic earthquake we call ADHD!
The good news is that whilst we may not be at liberty to move into a better environment that “fits” our particular neurology/personality more efficiently, nonetheless when we understand how, and with enough support, we can make changes on both the interior and exterior, that lead to a “better fit”, and in turn a reduction or even resolution of symptoms
Moving from ADHD Hell to ADHD and Loving It
It is often said that that the first step in the process of recovering from ADHD is knowing that you have, and secondly understanding it better; answering that question what is ADHD.
When a person learns about their unique brain wiring and how that is affected by various interior factors (such as mindset and gut-microbiome) as well as exterior factors (such as routines or lack of, career path, and exercise or lack thereof), they can move from ADHD hell to ADHD Management, and even with time to “ADHD Mastery.”
At this point, the symptoms may not only be resolved, but we may find someone that learns to capitalise on their ADHD in a more positive way, or even end up "ADHD and loving it". After all, behind these symptoms we tend to find a particular personality type, generally described as “creative, intuitive, sensitive, energetic," and it's important - vital in fact - to recognise those qualities as positives, not negatives.
So you see, the truth was somewhere in the middle after all. The psychiatrists are right that ADHD really is a disorder, in terms of symptoms of stress and dysfunction. In that sense they are right that "you have it for life."
But the “Super Power” people are right too, in the sense that behind the symptoms of stress, you will find a particular person with a particular set of strengths. We can think of this as “ADHD in the negative” (stress) and “ADHD in the positive” (positive traits).
Part of the controversy here is due to people confusing these two together. The psychiatrists and many people with ADHD themselves, are right that ADHD symptoms are not a good thing. They are potentially disastrous.
In this sense, we can build a bridge between the two apparent poles of perspective, and reach a fuller perspective, that acknowledges the genuine struggles of those suffering from “ADHD the symptoms”, as well as embracing the positive traits and potential of those same people when they are able to move past their state of “dis- ease”.
I hope this “ADHD positive” model of ADHD has been helpful for you. Do let me know in the comments what you think, and share your thoughts and stories.
If you'd like to find out more about the The Mis-Fit Model of ADHD, then be sure to sign up to my mailing list so you can be the first to get access to Parts 2 and 3 where we will explore the evidence to back up this model and how to apply the MisFit Model to begin the process of practically managing and even mastering our symptoms of ADHD. ADDVANTAGEHYPNOTHERAPY Email Marketing - (activehosted.com)
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~Albert Einstein