I’m not really a do-er. Don’t get me wrong – I’m really busy. (See also: a working mom.) But, when it comes to down time, I talk a good game. I would love to craft something that makes my house more of a home. I need to stretch and meditate during yoga to let the toxins out of my body. Instead, I’m a self-proclaimed couch potato. Except….
My fingers are busy…
They are fast forwarding shows on my DVR.
They are clicking on Facebook and swiping back to Angry Birds. (Don’t judge; I’m still playing Angry Birds and shunning all invitations to Candy Crush and Pokeman Go.)
They are tapping on Safari to load my tracking info from Amazon faster.
Like most Americans, I suffer from cultural ADHD.
Following the Code: Nature vs. Nurture
I am surprised how often I am asked about “real” ADHD. My answer, always careful not to offend, is that there have been a lot of environmental factors, our ever-growing technology, that may have contributed to the over-diagnosis of an actual struggle for thousands of children and adults.
I was first taught about ADHD when I was studying to be a teacher. It was the latest example of a real mental illness that had become mainstream due to the dedication of altruistic doctors who felt terrible about not recognizing this illness earlier. Added to the need to correct earlier mistakes was the near-immediate impact of an early drug; Ritalin showed a marked improvement in handwriting! Now, parents were demanding the miracle drug that calmed down their sons (yes, mostly boys) long enough to care about capital letters touching the top and bottom lines of their paper.
ADHD diagnoses rose 43% between 2003 and 2011. The newest version of the DSM (released in May 2013), the manual that details names and criteria for mental health disorders, has included new guidelines for diagnosing and treating adults. But, when you actually examine the criteria, you will see that ADHD is a very specific combination of struggles.
- Inattention: Someone with ADHD must check off at least 6 of the following attributes for a minimum of 6 months. Not only does inattention have to last persistently and consistently, but these behaviors should rise to the occasion of being inappropriate for age or developmental level. Some of the qualifying behaviors are: failure to pay close attention/makes careless mistakes; doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly; doesn’t follow through on tasks; and losing things necessary to complete tasks (glasses, paperwork, etc.). I ask you: anyone know of a pre-teen who can’t check these boxes? That’s. Not. ADHD.
- Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Another mega-list of behaviors that must add up to at least 6, over 6 months, and are not explained away by being THAT age. This list reads like a daily journal for my 4-year-old.
I have actually met a four-year-old on ADHD medication; it’s hard to figure out how that toddler qualified. Here are some behaviors that may check boxes for ADHD: fidgeting, running and/or climbing, loud participation in “leisure activities”, and excessive talking or blurting out.
There is another set of criteria that involve caveats, like behaviors that interfere with typical activities and timelines for initial onset of behaviors. IF you can still qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, there are a bunch of permutations of that diagnosis. I think of these like the rules for spelling: “i” before “e” except after “c” and if it sounds like “ay”…
Spark Notes Summary
Our big, supercomputer brains are always being rewired, by diet, supplements, medication, or age. Certainly, our fast-paced, technologically-driven environment can simulate a real mental health disorder. Unplugging your technology gives your brain its chance to unplug and slow down. Oh, and you know the bouncing ball on the screen that you follow to sing along favorite songs, I’m always two lines ahead…out of place and out of tune.