ADHD Awareness Month: A Call to Action

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By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

The month of October is ADHD Awareness Month. It also marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of my book Driven to Distraction on ADHD. When it was first released, many medical experts dismissed the effectiveness of coaching as an ADHD management technique, or worse yet, questioned the validity of ADHD as a real condition. Now, ADHD is recognized as a real, brain-based medical disorder that affects people from all walks of life. We’ve come far since 1994 in our nation’s collective awareness of ADHD, but we still have far to go when it comes to our view of those with ADHD.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood but persists into adulthood in about 60 percent of cases. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4-5 percent of adults worldwide have ADHD. The percentage of children with ADHD continues to increase steadily, from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and to 11 percent or 6.4 million children in 2011.

However, despite the increase in diagnoses, stigma still hinders many with ADHD. Factions still prevent the unified efforts that would bring greatest success to the field; ADHD is too often misunderstood and mistreated because it is mislabeled as only a “disability.” As a result, most people who are diagnosed with ADHD, whether they are children or adults, suffer a great deal of pain. The emotional experience of ADHD is still filled with embarrassment, humiliation and self-castigation. By the time the diagnosis is made, many people with ADHD have lost confidence and blame themselves. Try as they might, many with ADHD have great trouble accepting the syndrome as being rooted in biology rather than weakness of character.

Yet, despite the existing stigma, we have made progress; there are plenty of people that recognize ADHD as manageable and that people with ADHD can be quite successful. Now the great task is to educate this country-and the world-as to how to identify ADHD and how best to deal with it.

ADHD Awareness Month is a time to feel grateful, but also to rededicate our efforts and embrace the condition not so much as a disorder, but as a trait. It is a trait that can lead to very bad outcomes when mismanaged, but it is also a trait that can lead to huge success, joy and fulfillment in life. Having ADHD is like having a race car engine for a brain with weak brakes. Once you strengthen your brakes, you’re ready to win races.

People with ADHD often think outside the box, are intuitive, persistent and creative. All these positives are what make people with ADHD so interesting and potentially successful. Furthermore, people with ADHD are often natural entrepreneurs — in fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs credit their ADHD for their accomplishments. Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson and JetBlue Airways founder David Nelleman both speak openly about their ADHD and how they wouldn’t be anywhere without their creativity, vision and ability to take risks.

So if you or a loved one has ADHD, take action now. Don’t fight it or view it as a negative thing. Persist in finding new and different ways to support. ADHD can be managed effectively and lead to the cultivation of positive traits. I encourage you to look at treatment as the unwrapping of gifts, not as the rectification of a disorder or the filling in of a deficit.

Read more here:: Huffintonpost


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