“Tapping into apps didn’t cure my ADHD, just like taking that salmon-colored pill didn’t make my symptoms disappear. But using a range of apps has allowed me to evolve from tech geek to productivity geek. When you go through life being clueless about managing any of the details of life, and then you crack the code, it’s hard not to geek out.”
Dr. Nicole Brown’s quest to understand her misbehaving pediatric patients began with a hunch.
Brown was completing her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, when she realized that many of her low-income patients had been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
These children lived in households and neighborhoods where violence and relentless stress prevailed. Their parents found them hard to manage and teachers described them as disruptive or inattentive. Brown knew these behaviors as classic symptoms of ADHD, a brain disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and an inability to focus.
When Brown looked closely, though, she saw something else: trauma. Hyper-vigilance and dissociation, for example, could be mistaken for inattention. Impulsivity might be brought on by a stress response in overdrive.
“For the study, a team of Dutch neuroscientists analyzed MRI scans of the brains of more than 3,200 people between the ages of four and 63 years old (with a median age of 14 years old), measuring total brain volume as well as the volume of seven brain regions thought to be linked to ADHD.
Roughly half of the participants had a diagnosis of ADHD.
The brain scans revealed that five brain regions were smaller in people with ADHD. These include the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure involved in processing emotions like fear and pleasure; the hippocampus, which plays a role in learning, memory and emotion; and three brain areas within the striatum ― the caudate nucleus, the putamen and the nucleus accumbens. The structures within the striatum are involved in the brain’s reward system and in its processing of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control motivation and pleasure.
These differences were more dramatic in children than in adults, leading the study’s authors to conclude that ADHD involves delayed brain development. It appears that as the brains of people with ADHD develop and mature, these brain regions “catch up” to the brain regions of people without ADHD.”
One of the biggest challenges in relationships is when a partner misinterprets ADHD symptoms. For one, couples may not even know that one partner (or both) suffers from ADHD in the first place. (Take a quick screening quiz here.)
In fact, “more than half of adults who have ADHD don’t know they have it,” according to Orlov. When you don’t know that a particular behavior is a symptom, you may misinterpret it as your partner’s true feelings for you.
Orlov recalled feeling miserable and unloved in her own marriage. (At the time she and her husband didn’t realize that he had ADHD.) She misinterpreted her husband’s distractibility as a sign that he didn’t love her anymore. But if you would’ve asked him, his feelings for her hadn’t changed. Still, to Orlov his actions — in reality the symptoms — spoke louder than words.
Do you pop up from your seat during meetings and finish other people’s sentences? And maybe you also procrastinate, or find yourself zoning out in the middle of one-on-one conversations?
It’s possible you have adult ADHD.
Six simple questions can reliably identify adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a World Health Organization advisory group working with two additional psychiatrists.
“The idea that young adults, particularly women, actually have ADHD routinely evokes skepticism. As a fairly driven adult female who found the strength to sit through biology lectures and avoid major academic or social failures, I, too, was initially perplexed by my diagnosis. My peers were also confused, and rather certain my psychiatrist was misguided. “Of course you don’t have ADHD. You’re smart,” a friend told me, definitively, before switching to the far more compelling topic: medication. “So are you going to take Adderall and become super skinny?” “Are you going to sell it?” “Are you going to snort it?”
Dr. Peter Gray, professor at Boston College, brings us this article (with citations) on the impact of increasingly rigid classroom expectations.
“Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, and pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today. In the real world few questions have one right answer, few problems have one right solution; that’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world. But more and more we are subjecting children to an educational system that assumes one right answer to every question and one correct solution to every problem, a system that punishes children (and their teachers too) for daring to try different routes. We are also, as I documented in a previous essay, increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure—that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential.”