Hello. My name is Selena. I am the President of the student body council….a drummer...a singer, a guitarist, a violin player, a physicist, a psychology student, a trekker, a dancer, a painter, a reader, a columnist in the local newspaper, a part-time DJ, a theatre actor, a set designer, a bird watcher, a local mechanic, an editor, a tutor….and also a student consultant. I am Selena and I have ADHD. I was first diagnosed with ADHD i.e Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when I was about 10 years old. My mother took me to a psychologist and that’s when my love for bird-watching began. My then therapist had a window on the right side of her office. There was a beautiful, old mango tree there and that’s when my 10-year-old eyes spotted something. My mother was talking to my therapist about how my teachers in the school are sending remarks back home about how inattentive I was and how I was constantly restless. But I was busy peeking through the window to look at the green bird with a reddish ring around its neck. It would sit at one place for some time, fly somewhere and then come back to that same spot. At one point I got so frustrated with its movement that I got up and ran to the window, much to my mother’s dismay. That’s how my first therapy session went. Extremely fascinated by a bird.
“Why aren’t you paying attention? Why are you so fidgety? Why did you forget your assignment? How did you forget, I just taught you this? Why is your class notebook always incomplete?” This was a fairly common hearing for me in school and college. Now to put my psychology cap on, ADHD is not just inattention, it is a change or a difference in cognition. ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. Many adults too get diagnosed with it. It doesn’t get cured, but it can be controlled and calmed down using various treatment options. It continues through adolescence and adulthood. ADHD makes it difficult to pay attention and control some impulsive behaviours. It may also make people restless and active. It is known that some objects, some bright colours catch attention instantly but for individuals with ADHD, anything can catch their attention instantly. People similar to me, tend to flit from one activity to another can if some activity but if some activity interests us, we tend to hyperfocus. I can (I may already have actually) spend hours editing a video, spend hours reading a book continuously that I love, instead of something that I don’t like but I still have to do like paperwork.
There are predominantly two categories of ADHD which are a presentation of the symptoms.
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. People may appear to not pay attention to what others are saying. They may get distracted easily, lose important assignments and paperwork, they may not be able to pay attention to detail and may even make careless mistakes.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Children may run, jump or climb constantly. Some may feel restless and may be impulsive. They may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person
Symptoms of ADHD can differ from person to person and also in severity. There can be 3 types of symptoms based on the 3 presentations of ADHD. they include:
Difficulty paying attention (inattention)
Being overactive (hyperactivity)
Acting without thinking (impulsivity)
These symptoms tend to affect functioning according to general societal norms. Some combination of symptoms are:
Having problems sustaining attention in a particular task or play or anything that requires attention at length
Unable to listen when spoken to directly
Fail to not follow through on instructions, fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace, or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked
Having troubles with organizing tasks and activities.
Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers
Tend to lose items easily like school supplies, keys, mobile phones, wallets etc.
Get distracted easily
Forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments
Signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity may include:
Fidgeting and squirming while seated
Unable to maintain being seated and tend to get up and move around when they are expected to be seated
Unable to sit silently and engage in activities that require doing so.
Being constantly in motion
Talking nonstop and blurting out answers before the question is completed or speaking out of turn
Interrupting or intruding on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities
These symptoms are not necessarily only restricted to ADHD but are also a part of many other mental and neurodevelopmental disorders but either way, visiting a specialist is a good idea if symptoms from these presentations are observed. One specific cause of ADHD is not known. It could be genetics, head injury, substance abuse during pregnancy etc. There may be many scientific causes for ADHD but I can tell you this, research suggests that ADHD is not caused by things like eating too much sugar, watching too much television, or parenting. It may make the symptoms worse but it is not a cause of ADHD.
ADHD has no cure. I don’t even want to cure my ADHD. It is a part of me. What I do want is to manage some of my symptoms and calm me down. For this exact reason, I visited a psychiatrist and started medication along with psychotherapy. Some of the medications include:
Stimulants: Many researchers think that stimulants are effective because the medication increases the brain chemical dopamine, which plays essential roles in thinking and attention.
Non-Stimulants: These medications can also improve focus, attention, and impulsivity in a person with ADHD. Two examples of non-stimulant medications include atomoxetine and guanfacine.
Sometimes even antidepressants are used for the treatment of ADHD. Sometimes several different medications or dosages must be tried before finding the one that works for a particular person. Psychotherapy is also advised along with medication.
I have parents who supported every new activity I wanted to pursue. Some of my teachers and professors were rude but for the most part, they were good because I was an “all-rounder”. But many of those whom I meet in my support group or schools do not have this privilege. This I think is mainly because people think ADHD is all bad. It is a part of me and I am not ashamed of it. It does get very frustrating for people around me when I can’t complete some tasks or when I forget something. People often judge me for having tried out so many things in life. I have played sports, I have played instruments, I was average in my studies but wasn't too bad either. But I tend to get weird looks from people when I tell them about my current work status or even previous activities. I have succeeded at some and completely failed at some. But at least I am enjoying whatever I do and not stuck with some corporate job that I would hate. So I think I win here.
Barlow, D. H., Durand, V. M., Lalumiere, M. L., & Hofmann, S. G. (2021). Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach. Nelson Education Ltd.
This article on 'ADHD' has been contributed by Smruti Pusalkar, who is a graduate Psychology student from Fergusson College. She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is under the leadership and guidance of Anil Thomas. GIRP is an Umang Foundation Trust initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.
Smruti wishes to develop herself to be a more patient listener and a sharp observer to understand the happenings of the world and grow increasingly empathetic. She is passionate about mental health and well being and plans to pursue a career in this field. She is extremely curious about psychology and wants to spread awareness about mental health problems to help those in need.
Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification