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E35. Does Everyone Have "a Little ADHD"?

Welcome to ADHD Crash Course, today we're going to talk about comments that we receive when we tell someone we've been diagnosed with ADHD, we think we may have ADHD, our child's been diagnosed with ADHD. It's not going to be long before you hear one of these comments. It could be from your Aunt Fe, the Keller's next door, or even your family doctor.

One of these comments is, "Doesn't everyone have a little ADHD?"

Now, understandably, this can be really triggering for some of us. For many of us, we haven't had answers for a lifetime about things that we've really struggled with. A diagnosis of ADHD starts to connect the dots!

Instead of us believing that these are our character flaws that have made things so hard for us, we have a brain-based explanation that we can do something about. ADHD is one of the most successfully supported mental health diagnoses.

A diagnosis of ADHD, for some, is going to open up doors of possibilities. To have people dismiss that, minimize that, or even call into question the validity of that for that individual, is hard.

When we're talking about Aunt Fe and your next door neighbor, you understand that you're going to run into that. Not everyone's up to speed about ADHD and what exactly it includes. What's challenging is when you run into that with your medical team, or when you run into that with your educators, because those are people who are positioned to play a big role in supporting ADHD brains.

Being met with skepticism and being met with that dismissive comment can be very challenging. There's a lot of misconceptions about ADHD. The whole idea that everyone has a little ADHD is based on this idea that ADHD is just about attention. ADHD is "Oh, butterfly," or ADHD is just about hyperactivity.

Well, you're not bouncing off the walls, so you don't have ADHD. These leftover ideas of "this is all ADHD is," can be really frustrating. Those kinds of comments just reflect a lack of understanding of what ADHD includes.

Executive functioning skills are absolutely impacted with ADHD. Studies have pointed to that group of skills being more indicative of academic success than IQ.

When you look at somebody who is struggling with this group of skills, the impact is huge. It ripples out for a lifetime. Looking at something like emotional regulation, the impact of emotional regulation or emotional dysregulation on people's lives is profound.

It underpins everything. Our ability to regulate emotionally is something that we're tapping into all day, every day. If that is a struggle for you, that is a big, significant struggle. When someone says, "Doesn't everyone have a little ADHD?", they're saying, "Doesn't everyone struggle paying attention at times?"

"Doesn't everyone misplace things at times?" The answer is, yes, of course. This is the human experience, that we're not going to be able to pay attention every time we want to pay attention. We're going to forget things. We're going to misplace things. When you're talking about ADHD, you're talking about this on a scale that is not typical.

That's why it gets diagnosed as ADHD, because of the functional impact that is not your every day, "I forgot to pay a bill, to call someone, or whatever." This is not the same thing. ADHD's biggest impacts, in my opinion, are on emotional regulation, which underpins absolutely everything that we do, and on executive functioning skills.

When we look at those two things that are absolutely impacted with ADHD, and yet don't show up in the name of this diagnosis, it's understandable that there's some misconceptions about what ADHD actually is. I mentioned emotional regulation, and I mentioned executive functioning skills. I think these are some of the biggest impacts that ADHD has on people's function.

Even if you're just looking at attention, it's easy to make light of that. "Oh, squirrel, butterfly, whatever." Inattention with ADHD is not about daydreaming. I saw this post that some guy posted recently about how "we didn't have all this ADHD when I was young. Let the kids be kids and daydream".

It's like, Oh, yeah, that sounds like really wholesome. Right? Let the kids daydream, don't drug them up. Daydreaming is not what inattention is. Inattention means when I need to pay attention, I can't rely on it even if it really benefits me. I can't rely on it even if it has to do with my safety. This is not something I get to turn on and off.

Let the kids daydream, right? That sounds like "Oh, you know, Cue the music." That's just great. Look, those kids are going to grow up, and they're going to drive motor vehicles. Do you want them "daydreaming" then? Do you want them in and out of paying attention then? It becomes a very dangerous thing when someone is inattentive and driving.

I have always hated driving (long before I knew I had ADHD), because it was hard for me to pay attention. Especially when someone is in the car with me and they're talking to me, it is very difficult for me to focus on driving, on my surroundings, and on directions. For me, with inattention and driving, it is a really rough combination.

When we moved to this area, we lived about an hour away from the area we live now. I would drive to look at houses with the agent, and I would meet her out here. I had my youngest with me, he was a baby, so he would be in his little car seat.

Often I would need to drive because it was just too much work to move his car seat and all of that, and she would direct me. Oh, I can't believe I'm telling you guys this... There is a community rec center across from the neighborhood where we ended up buying aour house and there was a stop sign in front of it.

There was a stop sign outside of that rec center that was in the parking lot, somewhat, not quite on the road. With my agent and my child in the car, I took out the stop sign. It was... I love you Debbie Negley. Her eyes were like saucers, and we just looked at each other. I said, "What do I do?" She said, "I have no idea."

I went into the Rec Center and talked to whoever was there at the desk, and it was very nice person. They told me that, surprisingly enough, I was not the first person to do that. Which, you know, I was taking anything at that point. I was thinking, "I will take that, thank you."

Anyhow, taking out the stop sign and traumatizing poor Debbie was not, "Let her daydream." This was really embarrassing and dangerous. My child was in the car with me, I felt horrible. I also took down the stop sign. To speak a little bit more to this guy's point, which obviously irritated me because I'm continuing to talk about it here, I think it's human nature to overestimate the risk of action and underestimate the risk of inaction.

We see that in investing. People are concerned about investments and risks in that area, but they don't necessarily think of the risk of inflation. If you don't do anything with your money, it loses value as well.

The same is true when it comes to supporting ADHD. Many times we don't act out of fear of making the wrong choice, or out of fear of a lot of things with taking action with ADHD. Our belief is that we're going to pick the wrong thing, that there's going to be a label here, or there's going to be this fallout from the diagnosis or the treatment of ADHD.

Actually, the research is very clear that the fallout for unsupported ADHD is significant. Unsupported ADHD is linked to all kinds of negative outcomes. Minimizing and dismissing the impact does not just make this go away for people with ADHD. With an ADHD diagnosis, we're talking about a big functional impact across settings. ADHD doesn't just live at work, home, or school.

It is a global impact for the individuals that have this diagnosis. Just like me feeling sad one morning does not mean I have clinical depression, feeling anxious about my job interview doesn't mean that I have an anxiety diagnosis. Experiencing some of these traits of ADHD at times does not mean that everyone has a little ADHD.

This came up in my group last week. Someone asked me, "Do you have any advice on how to handle comments like this?" She was talking about a family situation when she was being met with comments like this. I will tell you what I told her... I don't know. I really don't.

I can tell you how I approach it personally. I strike a balance between the fact that it's important to me to be a mental health advocate across the board and showing up that way, but then also weighing out the fact that if somebody is not curious, the research is out there.

If somebody is not curious, there is no fact, there is no presentation of facts, there is no thing that I'm going to offer them in terms of statistics, numbers, etc. that is going to change their mind, if they're not a curious person, or if they're not open to learning about this.

I do think a lot of people are not. One thing that I have found to be powerful (if you are interested in helping somebody understand this), is presenting stories along with facts. Your personal experience of ADHD cannot be debated.

Now, that's assuming that this is somebody that you want to invest that kind of energy into. That's totally up to you (who is worth that kind of investment).

For me, I really work on guarding my mental energy; It's a part of how I support my brain with ADHD. That's just not going to be spent on just anybody posting on Instagram.

If it is somebody that I want to spend that kind of mental energy on, it becomes clear when you're sharing how ADHD shows up for you that you're no longer talking about the same thing.

Wrapping up for today, unfortunately, you're probably going to run into these comments sooner or later. If you spend a lot of time on social media, I'm guessing it's going to be sooner because people on social media platforms will not let a small thing like research or facts get in the way of them weighing in on just about any topic.

Even considering that, hopefully we can be a part of spreading awareness about ADHD and education about ADHD so more people are getting the support that they need for their brain. That's it for today and we'll see you next week.


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