ADHD Stigma

Many people with mental health conditions report the stigma and discrimination they experience from their families, friends, employers and society as a whole. As with other Mental health conditions there is the same stigma associated to ADHD and like other mental health conditions just because you can’t see ADHD it doesn’t mean it’s not there. The more negative aspects of ADHD frequently present as behavioural problems and as like people with specific types of mental health conditions people with ADHD often have difficulty controlling how they think, feel and behave yet there seems to be less tolerance for those with ADHD. They SHOULD just know better, and are often labelled lazy and told their ADHD is just an excuse for bad behaviour.

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People in our society generally don’t understand ADHD and when we generally don’t understand something, we tend to fear it. That is why in the old days here in the UK and Ireland if you had a mental health condition you were branded a lunatic and locked away. Looking back it was society that was insane treating the vulnerable so poorly. Look at our prison systems today, or perhaps they should be called our modern day lunatic asylums, 40% of young offenders present with ADHD. Again fear and lack of understanding and our refusal to look at ourselves as part of the problem. I’ve personally spoken to young people that find life easier locked up because of difficulites they have living in our society due of their condition.

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Even when ADHD is treated it can be extremely stressful and lonely. Especially if you have no one else to talk to about what you are experiencing. Not only do we have our condition to deal with the traits of ADHD, having ADHD means you are also six times more likely to have other conditions such as depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, social exclusion as well as finding it extremely hard to maintain daily structure, manage relationships with people or hold down jobs.photo.PNG-48

Let me make this clear WE DON’T GROW OUT OF IT. Like other mental health conditions some of us manage it better than others, depending on our circumstances, or the severity of the ADHD. I recognise that it can be very difficult for people prone to prejudice and judgmental thinking to accept that some of us find life more difficult but that is the reality of mental health conditions such as ADHD.

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There is a major difference that I have identified between other mental health conditions and ADHD. If a person with depression for example felt that they were being stigmatised by family, friends, employers and society there is usually a reasonably adequate mental health system that understands the condition and willing to help the person experiencing the depression reduce symptoms. In regards to ADHD this is simply not the case. Healthcare professionals throughout Ireland and the UK are simply not trained adequately to help people with ADHD. There is a lack of willingness to try and understand and treat the condition and this mistreatment can have devastating effects on people’s lives. Many psychiatrists don’t realise that Antipsychotics are not recommended for the treatment of ADHD in adults. Here in Northern Ireland adults have been misdiagnosed and given Antipsychotic medication simply due to untrained psychiatrists refusing to recognise ADHD as a real condition.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

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ADHD and Creativity

One of the more positive aspects about having ADHD for me is the continuous flow of new and creative ideas. Unfortunately for many with ADHD, including myself, many ideas remain ideas, due to various factors such as difficulty organising and planning projects appropriately, frustration, and perhaps an inability to sustain the long term focus needed to bring a project to life. I’ve heard many people with ADHD sharing great ideas that if implemented correctly could certainly be successful but the ideas more often fade into nothing after weeks or months leaving behind a sense of failure and depression.   In this post I will attempt to examine why people with ADHD seem to be very creative yet often fail to follow their ideas through. Using my own experience my hope is that others with ADHD can relate and perhaps understand themselves a little better and overcome some of the barriers and perhaps learn to bring their ideas to life.steve-jobs

The widely held understanding of ADHD from the scientific community is that there are abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex of the brain in those with ADHD. The Neurotransmitters which release dopamine and noradrenaline appear to be impaired in this area of the brain that controls emotional responses, behaviour, judgement and Attention.

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Due to these differences in the pre-frontal cortex a person who has ADHD often will have great difficulty regulating their attention an impulses and will often appear hyperactive or extremely fidgety. Rather than being described as a deficit, meaning a lack of, ADHD has also been defined as a dysregulation of the management system. This may explain why sometimes there appears to be no attention what so ever and other times there is hyper-focus which although sometimes can be a positive, if you are in the zone you get things done, more often the hyper-focus can be an unproductive quality. For example playing GTA 5 rather than doing homework that needs to be in by tomorrow, a child with ADHD may find it more difficult to prioritise and focus appropriately due to being unable to regulate their management system.

So what has this got to do with creativity? From my own experience growing up as a child with ADHD, when my brain switched off in the classroom due to a lack of stimulation or a boring Feckin teacher, my brain would create its own stimuli. I would drift off into a world of my own and my imagination would take over. Although I was physically present within the classroom my mind was usually elsewhere. I often felt stupid and frustrated because I couldn’t concentrate on algebra for instance. Looking back I was extremely creative in my imagination as a coping mechanism to get me through the boring school environment. Although I was unable to sustain concentration on certain subjects my mind was always active and thinking new ideas. In my imagination I could run wild whilst being confined to a bloody seat. It was all well and good until I had to sit an exam or answer a question on what the teacher had just been talking about. My point is, perhaps the brain of those with ADHD compensates for their lack of attention during mundane tasks allowing the person to develop a more innovative and creative type of brain.

Every now and again a thought or a new idea will pop into my mind. I’ve actually had one in the last few weeks that I’m quite precious about and that can be a problem in itself. I don’t always have the necessary skills to bring my ideas to life and if you are overly precious or cautious, you could potentially fail to connect with the right people that could bring the idea to the next level.

I mentioned earlier that people with ADHD experience difficulty organising and planning projects appropriately, so again having a clear and realistic understanding of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to identify possible partners with the skills you are lacking and help implement the ideas to become a reality.

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In my own experience in the initial stages of an AHA moment there is usually an adrenalin rush or perhaps dopamine and noradrenaline rush were all of a sudden you have deep focus and even organisation skills. The idea feels like the best idea in the whole wide world. You can’t think of anything else. You sit up nights on end working and without realising you can actually plan and deliver during this time. For me it’s very useful to identify these patterns and behaviours.

Then comes the dreaded decrease in activity, suddenly the new project feels like the stupidest idea in the world. Perhaps you’ve told the wrong person about the idea or they fail to see your vision. Alongside a life time of difficulties due to having ADHD the mind starts to doubt. ‘Why did I start this’ ‘It is so stupid’ I’ve heard many people saying ‘all of a sudden I can’t even look at the project’ which is quite sad considering the effort and sleepless nights invested in these projects. I’ve known people to spend their life savings on their ideas to the despair of loving partners, who perhaps have also seen these patterns before. Once the dip in the initial excitement appears the ability to focus and implement the work decreases often leaving a sense of humiliation and depression. Then before you know it another idea pops into the mind and away you go again. The ADHDer often moves from one idea to the next, perhaps just to feel again what it is like to be able to focus. The repeating of this pattern leaves a feeling of uselessness as well as lots of unfinished projects that are worthless.

I have learned from previous experiences to recognise and almost expect the dip in energy and by doing so better prepare for it. If there is a sudden feeling of negativity towards the work you’ve invested in it may be useful to take a step back and revaluate in a few weeks to see how you feel. I recognise that not all ideas or good and sometimes the negatively comes from the realisation that the idea is silly, a few weeks away can help clarify if it is or not and prevent you investing anymore unnecessary time. Having supportive people around you with your best interests at heart can also help you clarify and give you the extra nudge when needed.

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I am sure that there are those that will argue that people with ADHD are no more creative, good for you. The aim of this blog is to try and help those who can relate to the common problems that many with ADHD experience. By understanding ourselves a little better perhaps we can overcome some of the barriers we face. In my experience working with Adult ADHD NI I’ve met many unique and creative people and I’ve seen how a little support and encouragement can transform lives. Perhaps the bursts of creativity and innovative ideas that people with ADHD experience is the brain trying to experience deep focus and the organisation skills they are lacking, unfortunately it never remains.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

Vulnerability, hero’s and ADHD

The point of me writing post isn’t to create a sob story the aim is to raise awareness. When I write about my childhood experiences in particular my hope is to illustrate what other children with ADHD may be experiencing due to there ADHD. I certainly didn’t have the words to explain my difficulties back then nor did I have the courage to express them. Perhaps what I write today will help some, whether it be a child a parent or a teacher. Through my work supporting those affected by ADHD it’s became evident that many children with ADHD experience the same vulnerabilities, exclusion and issues. I think it’s imperative we try to bring understanding to the phenomenon of ADHD.

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability and how it relates to those with ADHD.  Having ADHD myself I have no clear memories of feeling vulnerable as a child. I probably felt invincible rather than vulnerable. I was always quick with my tongue and I used it as a strong defence to protect myself. If someone said something smart I was always able to fire a smart assed comment back just as quick. I would have definitely felt isolated and secluded but not really vulnerable. Due to my birthday being July I went to school a year too soon and because of this I was very small compared to my classmates and possibly a year less mature. I cannot say for sure but I would imagine my ADHD traits may have irritated my peers adding to the reasons why I may have been Billy no mates. I was never invited to a birthday party in primary school and although I felt that rejection throughout I somehow learned to deal with it.  I never really enjoyed playing with big groups anyway and I was happy enough to run around on my own pretending I was superman.

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During my Primary school years Barry McGuigan became the world champion feather weight boxer. Barry is from Clones Co. Monaghan only 7 miles from the village I’m from. I remember my Uncle Paddy used to get me posters of Barry, sponsored by Champion milk lol, and I had them all over my room. (nostalgia) In my mind I was his no.1 fan. I became obsessed with boxing; I had boxing gloves, a punch bag and an older brother who was only glad to get punching the head of me when we sparred. I’m not saying I was like Barry McGuigan, far from it actually, but I did get to the stage that if I needed to I could physically defend myself despite my scrawny build. So again, I didn’t feel vulnerable yet in many ways I was. As I got older and entered secondary school I learned that bad behaviour, by this stage I was a specialist, meant instant access into the cool club. All of a sudden I was accepted and had “friends”. Unfortunately this was when I became much more vulnerable.

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One of the vulnerabilities for people with ADHD lies in the underdevelopment of effective self-discipline or self-control. My insecurities where easily tapped into and I found myself doing things that were suggested by others. ‘Niall, I dare you to tell Mrs to fuck off’. In my mind I had to maintain my new “friends” even if it meant detention for a week. I was one of the first of my class to start smoking because I now was hanging out with the older Kids, one must keep up appearances. I even got in fights with people for no other reason than somebody saying, hit him. I was a child who was easily influenced. Many young people with ADHD end up in the Criminal Justice System due to this vulnerability. In the company of the wrong people ADHD children, teenagers and Adults can be very susceptible to having their thoughts emotions and actions manipulated and controlled without even realising its happening.

The School experience as a whole wasn’t a very positive environment me. I was always in trouble but at least I was now getting rewarded for my poor behaviour by having people that said I was their “friend”. Don’t get me wrong I was no angel an I loved an audience. I had a natural ability to act like an edjit and make people laugh both of which I have tuned to a fine art to this day. Education became of no interest to me what so ever as long as I had people that I could call my “friends”.

As I got older I had other vulnerabilities to contend with, addiction for one. For me my escape was alcohol and towards the end I was battling with drugs as well. It’s a very frightening thing when a substance has so much power over you that our willing to do almost anything to get more. Approximately 60% of those with ADHD will also have drug and Alcohol issues. That is more than one in two. I will expand further on Addiction and ADHD another time. I could probably write a book on that subject alone.

Children with ADHD are much more vulnerable to accidents such as falling of bicycles or skate boards, falling out of trees and running out on roads without looking due to impulsivity and failing to recognise risks. As adults the risk taking vulnerability manifests as drug, alcohol and gambling addictions or riding motorbikes or cars at 150mph and having a feeling of invincibility. A Danish study that came out last month showed that people with ADHD are at higher risk of dying due to some of what I’ve just described.

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Today as an adult with ADHD I have learned to manage life much more successfully. I keep my circles small and choose friends carefully. I can still be like the wee boy with the big dreams and my Barry McGuigan obsession has transferred to the Conor McGregor obsession and again in my mind I am his no.1 fan. I’m getting distracted here. My point is, adequate support and understanding of this condition is needed because the majority of people with ADHD remain highly vulnerable to substance abuse, depression, anxiety, accidents and manipulation by some.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

Defiance

It is commonly believed that there is a link between ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), known here in Ireland as POYWTMWTDS (Piss Off You Won’t Tell Me What To Do Syndrome). I was never officially diagnosed with ODD but I’m pretty sure I had it as a child. Back as far as I can remember I could never understand what gave people authority over me and couldn’t wait to become an adult so that I would no longer have to do what others said. How naive was I.

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Kids with ADHD and ODD don’t conform to rules or structures easily and as a result parents and teachers can feel frustrated and angry towards the child, often labeling them bad children. Parents frequently get the blame for the Childs behaviours even though it is not usually the case. The parents ive worked with tend to work extremely hard trying to maintain boundaries and structure, often with poor results. Due to the child’s behaviour they are often rejected from social events such as birthday parties , leaving both child and parents feeling rejected.

For me rules and regulations always caused me difficulty and my nature is rebellious. A simple rule at school was no running in the corridor. I understood the rule and why it was in place but for some reason I would defy the rule, especially, if I saw a teacher. Perhaps part of me wished to be an exception to the rule or maybe I just wanted to vex the teachers. As an adult my initial instinct is to do the opposite of the rule but I’ve learned that it’s myself that usually ends up worse off. I suppose I’m slowly learning to conform. I dislike authority figures such as traffic wardens as many people do. I understand that they are a necessary evil and ultimately I have a choice. Either I park where I like or receive a fine. In my mind the Red coats, as they are called here in Co. Fermanagh, get a high out of slapping tickets on cars and trying to tell me where I can or cannot park. If I receive a fine it’s all their fault and it takes me ages to accept that it was my own actions that caused me to receive the fine.

As I’ve gotten older I have a better understanding of why we have rules and authorities in place. Yet I still have disobedient streak, or an immaturity, towards authority figures and my defiant nature can still affect my life. If disagree with an imposed authority my natural instinct is to defy it.

From speaking to many people with ADHD as well as parents of children with ADHD it seems defiance is a very common trait and usually has a negative effect on the person’s life if they can’t learn to manage it.

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I remember when I was fourteen years old at Saturday band practice, how COOL was I. There I was beating my drumsticks against the inside wall of the community building where we practiced. I happened upon the Break Glass Fire Alarm Box and I fully understood that if I broke the glass with the drumstick I would be in trouble, yet I just couldn’t resist. It was like the DO NOT PUSH THE BIG RED SHINY BUTTON that you see in cartoons and in my mind I was thinking ‘you won’t tell me’

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The consequences of my actions didn’t seem to click until the siren of the alarm went off and all eyes turned to me. For the next hour I had to listen to an angry music teacher, caretaker, and fireman lecturing me on my irresponsible behaviour. When they asked me why I did it I gave the most honest answer I could at fourteen which was ‘I don’t Know’. I asked myself that question many times afterwards.

There is another thing that influences the defiant nature within me and it’s to do with how people communicate. If asked with respect I’d literally do anything to help. Tell me I HAVE to do something and it’s a whole different outcome. I have an instant urge to do the opposite of what the person said and if I happen to do what I’ve been TOLD there is usually is a feeling of resentment towards the other person and a sense that I’ve been controlled.

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This subject of defiance is relevant because large numbers of children, teenagers and adults with ADHD are failing to reach their potential. Many are being excluded from classrooms or getting suspended and expelled from schools or colleges and adults are getting sacked from jobs because of traits that is just part of who they are. I feel that as a society we need to change our approach to conditions such as ADHD and bring about a better understanding of differences. I recognise those with a defiant nature will probably read this and say ‘you’ll not tell me to change my approach to conditions such as ADHD’. Nonetheless I really do hope that we begin to recognise that some individuals, many of whom have ADHD, find it difficult to understand why rules are in place and perhaps need a different approach to help them understand and accept them.

Reading back on this I realize that there needs more balance in this post for it to be accurate to my own experience. I may do another blog called ADHD and Defiance No. 2 and explain the positive aspects of this trait and how defiance can also be a helpful quality on occasions.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com