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Common Myths about Adult ADHD

Published January 30, 2013 by Tabby

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I have noticed several articles lately that have painted those with ADHD in a poor light and furthered false stereotypes. Contrary to these articles, all of us are not running around stealing everything we can get our hands on and spending the majority of our lives unemployed or in prison. Also, the disorder affects people differently. There are two types of adult ADHD: hyperactive where the person is more physically impulsive and inattentive: where we just can’t pay attention and the disorder is more about internalized chaos.

 In this post I simply hope to raise awareness, foster understanding, and counter the recent articles that imply we are all hopeless and will always be a menace to society. The following myths are ones I’ve encountered, heard in conversations, and read in articles. I have cited the sources and recent myth-busting articles after the text.

 Myths

 -ADHD is not a real disorder

I’d really like to smack someone every time someone says this-I hear it often in my presence as I don’t have a neon blinking light on my forehead that I suffer from it. Several medical studies consider it a biological disorder, meaning that it’s connected to genes often passed through offspring. Recent studies have shown that kids with ADHD have genes that their more attentive counterparts don’t have (see Note 1). ADHD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The American Psychiatric Society recognizes ADHD as a medical disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the official mental health “bible” used by psychologists and psychiatrists. You could read these articles, or you could just observe me or anyone else suffering try to work a desk job without any medication.

 -ADHD only occurs in children    

ADHD does not magically disappear once you turn eighteen. Several American health insurance companies seem to think so in their coverage of treatment for children and cutoff of treatment once that person has turned eighteen. The symptoms do appear differently in adulthood, such as less hyperactivity and more inattention. In a way, ADHD can be more debilitation for adults because children are expected to have shorter attention spans and be hyper while adults are expected to deal calmly with all the still, boring, and minute details of life. For adults, sitting down to do bills (as an example) is fine for a short amount of time but once that person has reached their limit they get an insatiable mental itch to get up, do something else, be more active. Or perhaps that person has already been distracted by absolutely anything and has now forgotten what they originally sat down to do.

 -All adults with ADHD are hyperactive and bouncing off the walls

I personally do not always have the urge to randomly start running a marathon (although sometimes I do). I once described it to my boyfriend: I drew up a picture from several cartoons that show miniature versions of that person inside their brain running its operation-I said that sometimes having ADHD is like having all those little people running around with their heads on fire. While hyperactivity is and can be part of it, the less visible and more common component is inattentive. In the inattentive type, the person is more likely to struggle with distractions, forgetfulness, poor time management, disorganization, etc. For example, we are notorious for losing our car keys, even if we just had our hands on them and/or they are in our pockets.

spongebob-brain-fire

 -People on stimulant medications are addicts

Ok, first of all I want to say that yes some medications are overprescribed. However, this does not mean that absolutely every single person taking them does not need them and only does so under the advice of drug-happy doctors or because of an addiction. This medication does help people that need it. As someone who needs the medication, I greatly envy those who can make it through a day without it. For myself and many others, getting through a single day is a panic-inducing struggle without help. It is true that if quitting a medication, such as Adderall, the person must step down slowly so not to experience withdrawals, but that is more from chemical issues rather than personal ones. Some do get addicted to these medications, but those are more often illegal users and not what this article is focused on.

 -People with ADHD are drug or alcohol abusers

I have read/heard a couple of times that people with ADHD are more likely to be addicts because they take medication. Actually people who are not medicated or do not receive help with the disorder are the ones more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs (see Note 2).

 -“Everyone” has ADHD these days

Yes technology and our fast-paced lives have decreased our society’s attention span but that does not mean that absolutely every single person has ADHD. Those with the actual disorder have it much worse than being distracted by Facebook or a text message and suffer in their everyday lives. Everyone has problems focusing at some point or other but those with the disorder have it every day. For example, if you’ve ever been sad for a short amount of time that does not mean that you have clinical depression.

 -People with ADHD don’t want to focus and are lazy and/or stupid

I would loooove to be able to sit still, not take medication, not forget things, etc. It’s not that we don’t want to focus, it’s that we can’t. We simply do not have the ability. Some people have said that those with ADHD just need to try harder: would you tell someone with poor eyesight to just see better?

People with ADHD are of above-average intelligence, recent studies show. They certainly aren’t lazy. In fact, many well-known, high-achieving individuals from the past are thought to have had ADHD, including Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali. The list of high-achieving ADDers in business today includes top executives, such as David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s. People with ADHD tend to be higher in intelligence than a lot of the average public. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence. It is a disorder of regulating attention, and affects how well you can sit there and get stuff done.

 -ADHD isn’t a big deal

People with ADHD struggle in all areas in their lives: professionally, personally, and everything in between. ADHD is also very tough on relationships because of inattention during communication, irritability from having to sit still, frustration with conditions, miscommunication, and/or a lack of experience with or understanding of the disorder.

I’m sure I’m missing some myths-feel free to include them in the comments. Have you had a hard time dispelling these myths? Have you never heard of these?

 Notes and Further Reading

1. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry in 2009 identifying specific ADHD genes: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v14/n5/abs/4002139a.html.

2. A study on substance abuse amongst those with ADHD: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18316421.

3. Margarita Tartakovsy, “Nine Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes about ADHD,” Psych Central, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/24/9-myths-misconceptions-and-stereotypes-about-adhd/ (accessed January 30, 2013).

4. “Seven Myths about ADHD Debunked!” ADDitude, http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/873.html (accessed January 30, 2013).

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What It’s Like to Be Me…a Ph.D. college student with three jobs…and more

Published January 22, 2013 by Tabby

Contrary to what the title may suggest, I am not writing this to complain about my lot in life. I am simply venting in an attempt to create an understanding of why my life (and potentially that of others) is the way it is.

This post has been a long time coming. Since beginning college at age 17/18, I have lost many friends and had several conversations/arguments of why I’m never around, always busy, or too tired to live a life similar to that of my peers. I have been accused of avoiding people, not truly living my life, giving up my young age, etc. Recently, out of frustration I told someone to please attempt to imagine what it is like to be me. He replied, “Does anyone know what it’s like to be you?” Good point, maybe this will help.

When I, often regrettably, tell someone I can’t go out because I’m tired or have homework it is because I am tired and have homework. Any single mother, serious college student, workaholic, etc. has been/is there. For example, I attend a university as a full time student to earn my Ph.D. degree. I concurrently work a forty-hour-a-week day job and teach two courses at a nearby community college. I also sell books online. Lastly, I am researching and saving maniacally to buy my first house this summer. This doesn’t leave a lot of time (or money) for going to movies, clubbing, or that elusive free time everyone keeps talking about. At the same time I am suffering from a couple of chronic illnesses and fighting a potentially life-threatening situation. Don’t you think all of these things are constantly in the back of my mind? This hinders me from being your beck-and-call girl.

Oh and I choose to be here? As in you’re insinuating my crazy schedule is completely my fault? Well yes, it totally is but excuse me for pushing myself to fulfill my ambition and dreams. How hard are you willing to work for a dream? Am I to be punished for success? (That happens but that will be another blog post later).

Despite my complaints, I do have a few very wonderful people that understand when I have to disappear at the end of each semester. They patiently wait for me to clear my schedule and resist the resentment resulting from believing I don’t want to see them. I love you guys, you rock.

So if you have someone that has been a ghost in your life lately, maybe they are actually busy or have something going on you don’t know about or don’t understand. Talk to them. Please, at least try to understand. How would you feel if you were going through that? It sounds elementary but it is amazing how many people lack empathy. Don’t immediately become offended and defensive because you feel you are no longer that person’s patron saint. Be supportive and they will definitely notice and love you for it.

The End of Courtship?

Published January 16, 2013 by Tabby

A while ago I wrote an article regarding peacocking and the end of romance. This much more seriously written article is from the New York Times describing “hook-up culture.” In thinking about this, it makes me sad. Instead of actual dating we just hang out and have sex. Oh how romantic. It definitely isn’t the plot of a favorite romance movie. Then I started thinking about my own life, which is never a good thing and often depressing. I realized after reading this article I have not gone on a first date since I was fifteen years old. Granted I haven’t dated a lot of different people but since that first date when I was fifteen it’s all been group hangouts. Facepalm.

So guys, if you are interested in someone and get the Herculean courage to ask someone out…TAKE THEM ON A DATE! Not to a bar with your friends, not to your frat-boy apartment to watch a movie, etc. Please take him/her to dinner, movie, activity, whatever but a date with just you and him/her. And ladies, we need to stop agreeing to these things. Now I like doing the non-date things after date(s) have happened, but not for the initial getting-to-know-each-other phase.

Now think about it, when is the last time you’ve gone on a real date?

Denise Hewitt, “The End of Courtship?” The New York Times, January 11, 2013, http://shine.yahoo.com/work-money/single-america-thatll-cost-190100225.html (accessed January 16, 2013).

MAYBE it was because they had met on OkCupid. But when the dark-eyed musician with artfully disheveled hair asked Shani Silver, a social media and blog manager in Philadelphia, out on a “date” Friday night, she was expecting at least a drink, one on one.

“At 10 p.m., I hadn’t heard from him,” said Ms. Silver, 30, who wore her favorite skinny black jeans. Finally, at 10:30, he sent a text message. “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever?” he wrote, before adding, “I’m here with a bunch of friends from college.”

Turned off, she fired back a text message, politely declining. But in retrospect, she might have adjusted her expectations. “The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”

“It’s one step below a date, and one step above a high-five,” she added. Dinner at a romantic new bistro? Forget it. Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along. Raised in the age of so-called “hookup culture,” millennials — who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down — are subverting the rules of courtship.

Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.

“The new date is ‘hanging out,’ ” said Denise Hewett, 24, an associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape. As one male friend recently told her: “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing — going to an event, a concert.”

For evidence, look no further than “Girls,” HBO’s cultural weather vane for urban 20-somethings, where none of the main characters paired off in a manner that might count as courtship even a decade ago. In Sunday’s opener for Season 2, Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver), who last season forged a relationship by texting each other nude photos, are shown lying in bed, debating whether being each other’s “main hang” constitutes actual dating.

The actors in the show seem to fare no better in real life, judging by a monologue by Zosia Mamet (who plays Shoshanna, the show’s token virgin, since deflowered) at a benefit last fall at Joe’s Pub in the East Village. Bemoaning an anything-goes dating culture, Ms. Mamet, 24, recalled an encounter with a boyfriend whose idea of a date was lounging in a hotel room while he “Lewis and Clarked” her body, then tried to stick her father, the playwright David Mamet, with the bill, according to a Huffington Post report.

Blame the much-documented rise of the “hookup culture” among young people, characterized by spontaneous, commitment-free (and often, alcohol-fueled) romantic flings. Many students today have never been on a traditional date, said Donna Freitas, who has taught religion and gender studies at Boston University and Hofstra and is the author of the forthcoming book, “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”

Hookups may be fine for college students, but what about after, when they start to build an adult life? The problem is that “young people today don’t know how to get out of hookup culture,” Ms. Freitas said. In interviews with students, many graduating seniors did not know the first thing about the basic mechanics of a traditional date. “They’re wondering, ‘If you like someone, how would you walk up to them? What would you say? What words would you use?’ ” Ms. Freitas said.

That may explain why “dates” among 20-somethings resemble college hookups, only without the dorms. Lindsay, a 25-year-old online marketing manager in Manhattan, recalled a recent non-date that had all the elegance of a keg stand (her last name is not used here to avoid professional embarrassment).

After an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese. When she agreed, he gamely hoisted her over his shoulders, and, she recalled, “carried me home, my girlfriends and his bros in tow, where we danced around a tiny apartment to some MGMT and Ratatat remixes.”

She spent the night at the apartment, which kicked off a cycle of weekly hookups, invariably preceded by a Thursday night text message from him saying, ‘hey babe, what are you up to this weekend?” (It petered out after four months.)

Relationship experts point to technology as another factor in the upending of dating culture.

Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

“I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,” said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J. A typical, annoying query is the last-minute: “Is anything fun going on tonight?” More annoying still are the men who simply ping, “Hey” or “ ’sup.”

“What does he think I’m doing?” she said. “I’m going to my friend’s house to drink cheap white wine and watch episodes of ‘Dance Moms’ on demand.”

Online dating services, which have gained mainstream acceptance, reinforce the hyper-casual approach by greatly expanding the number of potential dates. Faced with a never-ending stream of singles to choose from, many feel a sense of “FOMO” (fear of missing out), so they opt for a speed-dating approach — cycle through lots of suitors quickly.

That also means that suitors need to keep dates cheap and casual. A fancy dinner? You’re lucky to get a drink.

“It’s like online job applications, you can target many people simultaneously — it’s like darts on a dart board, eventually one will stick,” said Joshua Sky, 26, a branding coordinator in Manhattan, describing the attitudes of many singles in their 20s. The mass-mailer approach necessitates “cost-cutting, going to bars, meeting for coffee the first time,” he added, “because you only want to invest in a mate you’re going to get more out of.”

If online dating sites have accelerated that trend, they are also taking advantage of it. New services like Grouper aren’t so much about matchmaking as they are about group dates, bringing together two sets of friends for informal drinks.

The Gaggle, a dating commentary and advice site, helps young women navigate what its founders call the “post-dating” landscape, by championing “non-dates,” including the “group non-date” and the “networking non-date.” The site’s founders, Jessica Massa and Rebecca Wiegand, say that in  a world where “courtship” is quickly being redefined, women must recognize a flirtatious exchange of tweets, or a lingering glance at a company softball game, as legitimate opportunities for romance, too.

“Once women begin recognizing these more ambiguous settings as opportunities for romantic possibility,” Ms. Massa said, “they really start seeing their love lives as much more intriguing and vibrant than they did when they were only judging themselves by how many ‘dates’ they had lined up.”

THERE’S another reason Web-enabled singles are rendering traditional dates obsolete. If the purpose of the first date was to learn about someone’s background, education, politics and cultural tastes, Google and Facebook have taken care of that.

“We’re all Ph.D.’s in Internet stalking these days,” said Andrea Lavinthal, an author of the 2005 book “The Hookup Handbook.” “Online research makes the first date feel unnecessary, because it creates a false sense of intimacy. You think you know all the important stuff, when in reality, all you know is that they watch ‘Homeland.’ ”

Dodgy economic prospects facing millennials also help torpedo the old, formal dating rituals. Faced with a lingering recession, a stagnant job market, and mountains of student debt, many young people — particularly victims of the “mancession” — simply cannot afford to invest a fancy dinner or show in someone they may or may not click with.

Further complicating matters is the changing economic power dynamic between the genders, as reflected by a number of studies in recent years, said Hanna Rosin, author of the recent book “The End of Men.”

A much-publicized study by Reach Advisors, a Boston-based market research group, found that the median income for young, single, childless women is higher than it is for men in many of the country’s biggest cities (though men still dominate the highest-income jobs, according to James Chung, the company’s president).  This may be one reason it is not uncommon to walk into the hottest new West Village bistro on a Saturday night and find five smartly dressed young women dining together — the nearest man the waiter. Income equality, or superiority, for women muddles the old, male-dominated dating structure.

“Maybe there’s still a sense of a man taking care of a woman, but our ideology is aligning with the reality of our finances,” Ms. Rosin said. As a man, you might “convince yourself that dating is passé, a relic of a paternalistic era, because you can’t afford to take a woman to a restaurant.”

Many young men these days have no experience in formal dating and feel the need to be faintly ironic about the process — “to ‘date’ in quotation marks” — because they are “worried that they might offend women by dating in an old-fashioned way,” Ms. Rosin said.

“It’s hard to read a woman exactly right these days,” she added. “You don’t know whether, say, choosing the wine without asking her opinion will meet her yearnings for old-fashioned romance or strike her as boorish and macho.”

Indeed, being too formal too early can send a message that a man is ready to get serious, which few men in their 20s are ready to do, said Lex Edness, a television writer in Los Angeles.

“A lot of men in their 20s are reluctant to take the girl to the French restaurant, or buy them jewelry, because those steps tend to lead to ‘eventually, we’re going to get married,’ ” Mr. Edness, 27, said. In a tight economy, where everyone is grinding away to build a career, most men cannot fathom supporting a family until at least 30 or 35, he said.

“So it’s a lot easier to meet people on an even playing field, in casual dating,” he said. “The stakes are lower.”

Even in an era of ingrained ambivalence about gender roles, however, some women keep the old dating traditions alive by refusing to accept anything less.

Cheryl Yeoh, a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco, said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.

“If he really wants you,” Ms. Yeoh, 29, said, “he has to put in some effort.”

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