Whenever someone's having a particularly hard time staying focused on a task, it's pretty common for them to say something like, "I'm feeling so ADHD today." While a remark like this might seem like NBD, it can actually come across as insensitive to those who really do have the condition. The truth is, there's a lot that people don't understand about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and that's exactly why freelance journalist Yashar Ali wrote a Twitter thread about ADHD. In a series of tweets, Ali shed light on some of the most common misunderstandings and challenges that can come with the disorder.
Before diving into Ali's thread, though, it might be helpful to have a reminder about what it means to have ADHD, clinically speaking. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a mental disorder that affects roughly 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults, and includes symptoms like difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While no cause has been determined, as per the APA, genetics, premature birth, and different factors during a mother's pregnancy could all possibly contribute to the disorder.
Ali, who said on Twitter that he was 13 years old when he was first diagnosed, began the thread by emphasizing that the ADHD community is very diverse in terms of experience. "Because many people think those with ADHD all have similar symptoms and challenges, we don't often get the empathy and support we need," he wrote. "ADHD is something we live with every day, hour, minute. It can ravage our lives and you may not even be aware of it."
To anyone who has friends or family members who have been diagnosed with ADHD, Ali offered some guidance: "Those of us with ADHD don't need your sympathy, we need your empathy," he wrote in one of his tweets. "We need you to understand that we are capable of so much but just need you to understand what our limits and challenges are." Instead of viewing these challenges as "excuses," he emphasized, it's best to understand them as explanations.
Another misconception that Ali sought to clarify was the notion that only young boys have ADHD. He claimed that not only are adults in general under-diagnosed with the disorder, but women are as well. According to a study published in the APA's medical journal, Psychiatric Services, he's right: Per the study's findings, less than 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about 25 percent of those adults seek help. And as for under-diagnosis in women, Ali seems to be right about that as well: A 2014 review of 41 studies on ADHD in women and girls, published in the journal The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, found that the condition's symptoms often present differently in women compared to men, which can "contribute to the underdiagnosis and undertreatment of ADHD in this population," per the research paper.
To say the least, ADHD is a complicated condition, and it certainly doesn't have a singular or narrow definition. Jamison Monroe, a mental health treatment facility expert and CEO/founder of Newport Academy, echoes Ali's point that ADHD can look pretty different from person to person. "Another common misconception is that there is only one kind of ADHD. There are actually three main categories within the definition of ADHD," Monroe tells Elite Daily in an email. "Inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined (including symptoms of all three: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity)." The disorder can also affect different people with varying levels of severity, he explains.
So how can you provide compassionate support to those who have the condition? If you know someone who's been diagnosed with ADHD, do your best to remain calm and patient with them, says Dr. Bethany Tucker, a psychiatrist at the eating disorder treatment center, Alsana. "Help people with ADHD figure out what works for them," she suggests. In other words, she tells Elite Daily, just like ADHD itself can look different from person to person, treatment for ADHD can look different depending on a person's needs. For example, Dr. Tucker says that some people go to therapy to work on specific skills, like paying attention to details or blocking out distractions in a classroom or office environment. "There are also stimulant medications, like Ritalin and Adderall, and non-stimulant medications, like Strattera and Tenex," she adds.
Overall, says Dr. Tucker, it's extremely important to show empathy to those who have ADHD, just like Ali pointed out in his Twitter thread. Instead of assuming that someone with ADHD is lazy, will always be disorganized, or can't control themselves, she suggests supporting them in any way you can while they seek appropriate help.
"It all boils down to this," Ali wrote on Twitter. "We have things that challenge us, things that may seem simple/silly to you, but they're things that can quite take over and destroy our lives if not addressed."
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.