Of all the mental health diagnoses that can be made in childhood, the diagnosis of AD/HD seems to be one of the most familiar to the public. If you ask any parent, teacher, coach, or neighbor, it seems nearly everyone has an opinion about AD/HD. Some people think it is over diagnosed. Some believe it is an excuse for poor parenting or classroom management skills. Others believe that in order to be diagnosed with AD/HD, a person must be highly disruptive, unable to pay attention to anything, and unable to sit still.
In reality, although each of these beliefs contains a grain of truth, research indicates that they are fiction. The truth is that AD/HD is often misunderstood. Where do these misunderstandings come from? Part of the reason is that although we have made great strides, the psychological and medical communities are still learning about what AD/HD really is, what causes it, and how best to treat it. As well, the media has at times presented a skewed picture of AD/HD to the public. In response to this diagnosis, a number of groups have formed making radical and unsubstantiated claims. The facts about AD/HD come from years and years of extensive research. Here is some of what we know about this diagnosis. While it is true that there have inevitably been cases of mistaken diagnosis in the past, researchers have found that AD/HD is actually under diagnosed. In fact, some estimates indicate that 3 out of 4 people with this diagnosis may go undetected. It is my belief that in order to improve this statistic, we need to provide the public with more information about what AD/ HD really looks like, so that people are better equipped to identify children who need to be evaluated. There are actually three distinct types of AD/HD. Those with AD/HD – Combined Type have problems with both attention and hyperactivity. This group of people tends to look most similar to the picture most people hold about what AD/HD looks like. Those with AD/ HD – Hyperactive/Impulsive Type have problems with hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, but can generally pay attention to what is necessary. Those with AD/HD – Predominantly Inattentive Type have problems with attention but are not hyperactive (this type used to be called ADD, but we no longer use this term). These people are often classified as “daydreamers”, and are usually the Continued on page 3 easiest to overlook. Although we all demonstrate these patterns to a certain extent, in all types of AD/HD the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with school, home life, relationships, or work. Problems with attention are not difficult to miss. People who have inattentive types of AD/HD can actually pay attention quite well under certain conditions. It is what they are paying attention to, for how long, and at what time that is the concern. Children with attention problems can be highly attentive to what is interesting and stimulating to them brain, but struggle to pay attention to that which is not. This pattern is not a defiant choice, but rather the way his brain functions. They may be highly attentive when playing video games for hours on end, but during the reading of a chapter book by their teacher, they may be paying attention to the children outside playing soccer. Children with attention problems also demonstrate difficulty transitioning away from things they find interesting, and transitioning into things they find boring. Therefore, they may have difficulty leaving the TV show to come for supper, and they may resist or avoid when it is announced that it is time to begin homework. Alternatively, a child may begin a task with gusto, but have problems sustaining effort across time.
In regards to AD/HD being related to parents’ or teachers’ problematic management of children, it is true that all children do best when parents and teachers are skilled in behavior management. However, children with AD/ HD do not choose to be hyperactive or inattentive only when they feel they are free to do so. These children will demonstrate a pattern of vast fluctuations in attention and/or hyperactivity that is present across time and in more than one environment (i.e. not just over the past three months, or only when with a parent or a particular teacher). But here’s the catch – sometimes a parent or a teacher is stimulating, interesting and has a personality and style that naturally meshes well with a child who has AD/HD. In these cases, the child will usually do well when with this adult, but struggle when in other environments (e.g. when with coaches, other teachers, and other adults).
AD/HD is a complex neurological condition. Its effects should not be dismissed. However, with the right supports and treatment, people with this diagnosis can and have gone on to lead full and successful lives. If you have concerns for yourself or someone you know, talk to a qualified physician or psychologist. of emotional connection, trust, caring, and doing the “little things for each other”, such as remembering your partner’s favourite flower or touching his hand while driving in the car. Of course, improving sexual intimacy also comes down to breaking up monotony and unhealthy routines in our lives. Many lifestyle habits can detract from sex, like excessive drinking, over-eating, and lack of fitness. It is also all too easy to let comfort-seeking habits, such as television or surfing the net replace other activities that foster intimacy. These may include, taking time to sort out the day during a quiet time, having a quiet dinner in candle-light, or finding a joint activity such as Latino dancing or yoga. Feeling healthy and alive ultimately makes us feel better about ourselves, and self-esteem has a positive impact on libido and feeling wanted. Even so, many partners want to capture the days of the honeymoon phase. This is all too often expressed in the form of being too enmeshed or dependent on each other’s approval and reassurance. Sex then can become a measure of relationship quality and intimacy, which can lead to anxiety and sexual performance problems. In the long term, this style of relationship becomes suffocating and difficult to maintain. Sexual passion suffers as expectations fall through the roof. Communication about sex can be difficult, but these discussions can clear misunderstandings and differences in opinion about what should happen and how often. Some people believe that some topics are “off-limits” or “taboo” and this can compromise intimacy if only one person feels this way. It is important to remember that communication is the key, but the door swings both ways: it is as important to communicate needs as it is to listen to the needs of a loved one. Relationships can be helped, and there is no shame in seeking assistance with either communication or sexual issues. However, ultimately people are responsible for their own behavior within relationships, and there can be unspoken and painful truths that people need to confront. Learn to self-soothe and take responsibility for your own emotions. Accept and appreciate each other’s quirks and limitations. Including this type of sincerity and honesty in relationships allows sex to become more emotional and meaningful, and also makes for a more mature relationship based on a secure and lifelong attachment.