Attention Deficit Disorder - Forever Frazzled ?
This sort of a thing happens with many of us, recently I had to cut short a telephone call to my close friend to handle some other urgent business. The distraction lasted only a couple of minutes but by the time it was over, I had already forgotten about the call. By chance something jogged my memory and I called my friend, but not until the next day , in the evening to be exact , thankfully my friend was being very understanding! This made me think that if you are feeling torn in a million directions, the cause need not necessarily be stress, it could be what is termed as Attention Deficit Disorder ( ADD) or at least something very close to it.
Unfortunately, that kind of disconnect is not unusual for many people. I have seen my friend walking around the house in the morning, narrating reminders to herself - turn off the iron, put the keys in the right place, call the electrician, pick up niran (her son) etc etc, with all that there have been times when she had to rush back home because she had forgotten notes of lesson or an important file that she had kept ready ! I have had others too complaining about the same thing.
One of my relative had this to say about her own – “For years friends, family members and colleagues kindly chalked up my many lapses to my being a little spacey and forgetful. They would always tell me that I had many charming qualities to compensate for those lapses. But the other day one of my close friends told me firmly that my absent mindedness had gone out of control. More and more people were getting insulted by those neglected phone calls!” We see many people doing this and many of them don’t even realise that they are being anti social and sometimes it even seemed as though they were being down right rude. However when we closely watch them we realise that they are jittery and unable to focus on anything for even a short period of time, their mind wanders even as you are trying to make a conversation with them !
Tendency to procrastinate sometimes can reach pathological proportions in some people, also not being able to concentrate even where their work is concerned and being inconsistent can all drive some people to their wits end and may need psychiatric help and counseling. The relative I was talking about had to go for one such treatments since she too had reached her wits end and so had everyone around her ! Apparently after having a lengthy conversation with my relative, the psychologist offered a surprising hypothesis about her case, that perhaps she had the adult version of Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD as it is popularly called.He also told her that she was suffering from ADD type 2 !
It has also been told that ADD is often present along with other similar mental health problems like learning disability or an inherited neurological disorder called Tourette syndrome that normally appears in childhood. This syndrome is characterised by physical tics and sometimes vocal tics as well. These may include rapid eye blinking, facial twitches,constantly clearing ones throat,sniffing and barking out words as if in a hurry and grimacing.
What exactly is ADD
Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder is now termed as a psychiatric and a neuro-behavioral disorder
There are many different views that surround ADD with some people claiming that people with ADD are hyperactive since the official name is after all attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder and most people suffering from this operate everything on high gear.
- Typically the person who has ADD finds his/her mind wandering from tasks that are uninteresting or difficult.
- They are also unable to focus and concentrate on what is being discussed in a group.
- They also get upset by minor annoyances ,losing temper very easily
- They could also be impulsive often saying things that don’t mean or on the spur of the moment and later regretting it.
- Because of their mood swings, their relationship with other people tends to suffer – they talk first and think later which can lead to many misunderstandings sometimes very serious ones. They also feel hurt that people are not able to understand them.
- They tend to make quick decisions without considering all aspects, without making room for failures if any and what steps to take in such an event. Such an attitude can hamper any major decision taken in life.
In most people even when the brain is working fast and furious, the body barely budges and this can be true of children too when ADD is generally diagnosed. However there are two distinct types of conditions, the more familiar one called predominantly hyperactive and one that is now gaining recognition which is predominantly inattentive. People with the later variety are notably absent minded, the daydreaming types, who quietly tune out at meetings, lectures or in class. Often they go un-diagnosed because their symptoms are so subtle and not surprisingly, majority of them are females. This type is popularly referred to as ADD type 2, the one my relative was diagnosed with.
ADD people cannot focus most of the time, meaning that they are not consistent in focusing their thoughts. They tend to have too much o their plate, working on many projects at the same time , being over-extended!
Since 1990 diagnoses of ADD have more than doubled, and the curve seems to be only getting steeper. There have been many books brought out on the subject and are selling briskly. At one of the conferences that I attended with a doctor friend I came across themes like ‘Living the ADDventure’ and there were special ADD date books, and even coaching services for the terminally scattered as they were called!In some places high school and college students who have ADD can get extra time on standardized tests because f their disability. This reflects also in rise in diagnoses among children. But it is also interesting to note that a portion of the newly diagnosed are adults.
I was reading that in 1990 Alan Zametkin, a psychiatrist at the National Institutes of Health, published evidence from positron-emission tomography scans that ADD was associated with at least one physical marker in the brain, lower levels of activity in the pre-frontal cortex, from which planning and self control proceed. Some other researchers have suggested that the condition trends to run in families.
These findings have only given strength to the raging debate about how common adult ADD really is. Some critics charge that psychologists are far too quick to diagnose the condition even without proper testing. But even skeptics agree that at least some of the newly identified are the personality type described by the psychologists and could definitely benefit from the right kind of treatment.
Evaluating and treating the condition
1. The most important factor is to go in for a rigorous evaluation before any conclusion can be drawn about the condition of the person’s state of mind. Psychiatrists carry out numerous tests on comprehension, memory, problem solving skills.
2. There is also a test that is called (according to my relative a very frustrating one ) TOVA which is Test Of Variability of Attention, which consists of watching an orange (in her case but could be another color as well) square appear and disappear on a computer screen. When the square appears below the screens center you do nothing. But when it appears above, you are required to hit a button, sounds simple right ? Wrong, despite humming and trying to stay focused many of those taking the test make in incredible number of errors.
3. The person’s childhood history is thoroughly examined to see if it was riddled with disorder. Many children are not able to concentrate even when they have some queries and it is being answered, after a while their attention gets diverted, this is an early sign of ADD. You see that the child does not have the patience to listen to what he or she is being told, gets that glazed look distracted by other concerns and impatient to move on to other things. They also become under achievers in school because of this lack, having difficulty in concentrating on the subject at hand.
4. A classic case of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, inattentive that is type 2 is not difficult to get round to when a concentrated and sincere attempt is made both by the sufferer and the doctor. However, just coming to know that they have been diagnosed with this type of disorder can make people fearful of the implications. In a way when the diagnoses is arrived at it also relieves them at having found an explanation for the problem that has plagued them all those years.
5. There are any number of behavioral approaches to treating ADD, such as Workbooks, coaching programs designed specifically to help people focus. But for the underlying attention problem like the kind that my relative had who had a career dealing with detail-oriented work , the doctor favored a low dose of Ritalin, which is apparently the chief medication being used to treat ADD.
6. I have to make a mention here that there are some controversies surrounding the drug Ritalin especially regarding its usage on children. But adults, those of who have used it , including my relative have testified that a minimal dose works wonders for them , with absolutely no side effect. According to my relative it keeps her editorial eye focused for at least three to four hours at a stretch and that she feels much less scattered . Most individuals with ADD, who have used this drug are of the opinion that there is a noticeable and a definite improvement in their moment-to-moment memory, and all these benefits come, as I told earlier with no side effects !
7. When you get your focus back with this Ritalin treatment other things too begin to fall in place. When my relative went to take TOVA (Test Of Variability of Attention) remember with the orange square appearing and disappearing, she got a much better score , almost perfect!
8. However, most psycho analysts are of the opinion that it is very important to be confident and face life with no inhibitions and self doubt. This aspect is dealt with when the individials are treated. They are made to realise that there is no point in worrying about matters like - whether people and co workers knew about the diagnoses, and might they consider you one of the shirkers, someone who just wants an excuse for flaky behavior? That kind of fear may be natural but it largely depends on how one handles it.
To conclude, one cannot say or be sure whether ADD is a fad diagnoses, but when treated by a clinical psycho analyst it can be a liberating exercise which only the sufferer knows like my relative did after her successful treatment. Most analysts and psychiatrists are of the opinion that instead of worrying about the past and other whats and ifs, it is better for the person to go on with their regular routine and work schedules and see the difference and get more confident each day also get more positive reactions from other people with whom you deal on a daily basis at home, at work place and friends.
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