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ADHD Awareness Month: Charlotte talks misconception and acceptance

People with ADHD are more likely to be discriminated against, suffer from mental health issues and sadly, people with ADHD are more likely to take their own lives. MRI scans and decades of neuroscience research evidence that ADHD is indeed a neurological condition meaning that it’s the way the brain works, yet we still have government leaders and schools arguing that ADHD doesn’t exist or is down to poor parenting. The time for change is now and the time for educating people on basic human behaviours is now.

So what is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is an inaccurate but current term for a type of neurodiversity – but why is it inaccurate? According to the DSM, which is the diagnostic criteria, ADHDers are inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive – but if you speak to somebody with ADHD they’ll tell you they actually have too much attention, a strong driven motor and a need for stimulation. There isn’t a deficit in our attention, we’re paying attention to everything all at once.

The Māori word for ADHD is Aroreretini meaning attention goes to many things; which is right! Think of ADHD like an operating system, like Autism. We’re all just humans, with different brains, and like computers we all have different operating systems to the way we think but we still function all the same.

In fact, there are 7 categories of ADHD – and any one person can have one, or all of them:

  • Classic ADHD
  • Inattentive ADHD
  • Overfocused ADHD
  • Temporal Lobe ADHD
  • Limbic ADHD
  • Ring of Fire ADHD
  • Anxious ADHD

 

Why are we talking so much about ADHD?

The more we learn and the more we recognise people with ADHD, the more we can support them. But as we learned, we realised how people are being failed in general life but also at work. One of the first steps is learning how ADHD actually affects people, and while everyone is different there are some common themes that stereotypically get linked to us that aren’t exactly true. For example:

  • Inattentiveness: this is defined as not being able to hold your focus. The truth is, we pay attention to everything, all the time.
  • Impulsiveness: this is defined as behaviours where we may not have taken the time to think of all outcomes when in search for a specific outcome. The truth is, we are highly motivated and determined.
  • Hyperactivity: seemingly having endless energy, fidgeting or having to keep moving. We are abundances of energy, but we aren’t Duracell bunnies. Periods of high energy can be tiring.
  • Emotional Dysregulation: this is where a persons emotions are more intense than most peoples and can dramatically change. This is not a mood disorder, just a way of living where emotions are more intense, on average 3x more intense – with rejection or criticism being 10x more.

A lot of ADHD information, treatment and support is hugely outdated and can often be negative. ADHD information used to focus on what the person CAN’T do, rather than what they can do.

 

What I want you to know as someone with ADHD

ADHDers are people just like everyone else, we just experience the world differently, we feel things differently and our thoughts and feelings are more intense – it can be a beautiful thing. But what’s important to know is that it isn’t our brains that disable us; it’s the barriers that society puts in place that create the struggles people with ADHD face.

So I’m here to bust a few of the misconceptions you might have about us:

  • ADHD is a learning disability: People often think this, but ADHD does not affect intellect or the ability to learn and understand. However, many people with ADHD struggle with school due to a lack of support and unfair treatment.
  • ADHD isn’t a disability: It can be disabling, but this is due to the environment and society not creating equal opportunities for us to thrive.
  • ADHD is just poor parenting: No, ADHD is a neurodiversity that affects people right from birth.
  • ADHD is bad behaviour: This is another societal barrier, holding us to a standard of what a typical person thinks good behaviour is. Sitting still and being quiet doesn’t automatically equal good behaviour.
  • ADHD is just an excuse: ADHD is a reason behind why people may act a certain way, not an excuse.
  • Everyone is a little ADHD: Everyone is a human, but they’re all different. But people with ADHD just do everything more intensely.
  • We’re all a little bit like that: Everyone experiences their ADHD differently, and while someone might have similar qualities, it can be intense, more frequent and consuming for a person with ADHD.

 

So what can you do this month?

There are three things you can do so we can move from ADHD Awareness to Acceptance:

  1. Unlearn what you think you know: We once thought we had to make eye contact during a conversation to be polite, but thanks to behavioural science we now know it can be perceived as a threat or an attraction.
  2. Learn what you don’t know: Use an understanding approach to why people are they way they are, empathise, don’t assume and adjust yourself or the environment – not the person.
  3. Change: Once we change the way society views behaviour and what is considers normal or acceptable, we’ll be on our way to understanding that every one is different and value them for who they are.

ADHD can be a great thing when you truly embrace it.  I personally love my ADHD. It wasn’t until I understood, accepted and adjusted my approach to myself that the struggles became strengths.

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