What is this ADHD? .
First lets look at the formal definition of ADHD. Below are couple of definitions from different websites.
From add.org -> “ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors.”
From Dr Hallowell (Top Doctor for ADHD) -> “ADHD is a neurological condition that is usually genetically transmitted. It is characterized by distractibility, impulsivity and restlessness or hyperactivity. These symptoms are present from childhood on, and with a much greater intensity than in the everyday person, so that they interfere with everyday functioning.”
When you look at the above definitions you might think this is some kind of disorder etc. It may be from the clinical definition. If you have heard (most probably not – unless you are my friend or you know some one with ADHD) about this word then most probably you would think this some problem with children with hyper activity and impulsiveness, etc. But actually this is a bigger problem in Adults !!. But when it comes to adults we may write off saying he/she is not “focused” or “not stable” or “addictive” etc. Lot more goes behind the scenes. Really lot more. Since most often we don’t understand the scientific aspects esp when it comes to personalities we simply try to generalize the real issues.
I will write lot of details on this topic as we move forward. But for today, try to think of any person whom you know might have ADHD symptoms. The surprising and good news is that this is NOT a disorder really…this is a “Creative” gene type. Yes it is !!. More will come …
Why I am writing about this?
People often think about ADHD as a some simple problem for Children. ADHD grows from childhood to adulthood. I see good number of adults are struggling with ADHD. But they do not know that they have ADHD. Especially this is a big problem in India. We often mix many things and come up with some generic names for the actual underlying problem. Until people saw the movie “Taare Zameen Par” we had no idea about “Dyslexia”. I am very sure very soon there will be a movie on ADHD. I hope Amir Khan (Director of Taare Zameen Par) is aware about ADHD. If he is then he will really make a movie out of it.
My this little writing attempt is to bring some awareness on ADHD. Before I get into lot of technical terms related to ADHD, let me give a very simple of concept of mine on this topic.
If you go and type ADHD in google you will get lot of sites which talks about ADHD as problem. And if you type “ADHD Gifts/Talents” then you will see all kinds of great things about ADHD and called as gift or genius type. Fortunately or unfortunately both are true !!. Magic is very simple. If you understand ADHD and take necessary actions ( on diet, exercises, focus on strengths, etc ) then it is gift otherwise it is really painful (most often not seen by other person).
The simple metaphor I use for ADHD is “ROSE WITH THORNS”. Got it?
My focus would be on how to cut the thorns and enjoy the ROSE !!
Negatives and Strengths
Lets first look what are the real negative and positive sides of ADHD.
By looking at the above negatives and strengths, would you say ADHD is a problem (Thorns) or gift (Roses)??. Answer is NOT the usual “DEPENDS” kind of response !!. Answer is simple – if ADHD is diagnosed then focus will shift to gifts side, if not, then ADHD is only about problems. In fact, un-diagnosed would be a real disorder.
Now the tricky part is you have to be masterful to remove the negatives (Thorns) and reach full potential strengths (Roses). I will talk about how to do this later. Right now spend some time thinking about people around you (your kids, family members, Bosses, Colleagues, etc) who might have above symptoms ( both). I can guarantee you that you will not find people with right side of symptoms without left side and vice versa. This makes me feel that this is part of the design. If it is part of the design then how can it be disorder??. Nature gives every thing in a package.
Are you convinced that ADHD can be a gift? Look at the right hand side more closely?. Look at it 10 times and you will get convinced.
What causes this?
We quickly looked at symptoms of ADHD in the previous blog. Now let us understand what causes really this ADHD? There are no exact scientific reasons why this occurs. But the main reason you hear is – Imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitter called “Dopamine”. For someone with ADHD the only GOD they know about is this Dopamine. I will cover more on this later.
In very simple terms, people with ADHD brains will have less production of Dopamine. What is the role of Dopamine? “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them”. Basically this theory says that low production of Dopamine is the root cause of ADHD. And this is true as well. Essentially any solution towards ADHD is mainly focused on increasing Dopamine ( Exercise, Sleep, High Protein diet, Achievement, etc).
There is also second theory, which i firmly believe is – lack of Love during child developmental stage. Basically, if the child has not experienced enough love (for whatever reasons) then also ADHD symptoms might appear. This is like a chicken and egg kind of a situation. We do not know lack of love creates low dopamine or vice versa.
Bottomline is ADHD is a neurological condition with Dopamine deficiency. This is what one need to really understand rather than making general labels for this condition.
Dopamine = GOD
The low production of Dopamine mainly causes ADHD. The negatives of ADHD are directly related to low Dopamine. And strengths would show up when Dopamine is induced. Basically the delta factor is Dopamine between people with ADHD and without ADHD.
The only GOD for people with ADHD is Dopamine. Now the question is how to get the Dopamine? All the ADHD solutions are directly related to Dopamine production. Most recommended treatment you get when you go to doctor is obviously some medications (for e.g Retalin). Basically what this medication produces is Dopamine. And there are many natural ways one can get Dopamine. For e.g Exercise, Meditation, High Protein-Low Carb diet, Sleep, Music, etc.
Once Dopamine need is taken care ADHD person feels like a superman. All the creativity, hyper focus, innovative ideas, etc will zoom like any thing. But the trick is many people are not aware about Dopamine scientifically. They go all around world and try all kinds of GODs. Finally for ADHD the real GOD is in Dopamine. Period.
In simply formula:
ADHD is a Gift = ADHD+Dopamine
ADHD is Pain = ADHD -Dopamine
You can search online on “How to get Dopamine”, you will lot of information. You can chose easy options to fill your Dopamine.
Unfortunately, there are many unhealthy/destructive way of getting Dopamine. Most people try to go with this way then ADHD will become devastating from simple pain. More on this tomorrow.
So far we talked about – what is ADHD, what are the main negatives and strengths, what causes it, Dopamine, etc. Now lets look at how ADHD is Diagnosed?
I am not a Doctor so obviously I do not know all possible available diagnosis methods, etc. But what I know very well is that there is NO real foolproof method for diagnosing ADHD. Even if you go to the most experienced ADHD doctor (very less in India) what they do is basic symptom based questionnaire and inquiring on family history, etc. In my personal view, the BEST Diagnosis is self diagnosis supported by qualified Doctors diagnosis. Why?. Because person with ADHD would exactly know what happens in his/her mind and which is not very well understood by other people. Only two ADHD people can understand each other and correlate well. Do you know most interesting thing?. The best ADHD Doctors and ADHD Coaches have ADHD !!. This is the basic criteria to understand full spectrum of ADHD. Half knowledge about anything is dangerous and it is more so in case of ADHD. Because it is very easy to write off saying “Everybody is having ADHD symptoms now a days, etc”. This is not correct. While everyone might be having distractions, what comes with ADHD is very different.
So, in summary – 1) Do not make your own assessments/judgement about ADHD people, if you do not have ADHD. This is best help you can do !!. 2 ) Of course, take qualified doctor help in formal diagnosis but equally learn a lot of ADHD and get fully equipped. This will solve 70% of the problem.
There is so much of information available on ADHD online. I refer to the Dr Hallowell website. Refer to the below site on ADHD Diagnosis and other useful information.
Most often people are not aware that they have ADHD. Even if they know that they have different traits they would not know it as ADHD. Often people come to know about it later in life (esp adults).
What to do after diagnosis?. There are multiple approaches/solutions to manage ADHD. Below are some of key solutions often used.
- Medication : This is most debated – to use or not use. Side effects vs benefits, etc. Of course, one has to go with qualified doctor advise. But my personal view is one has to try and see how much medication is beneficial for ones situation
- Diet: Diet plays a significant role in managing the symptoms. High protein and low carbs is a must. Simple carbs makes things worse. Sugar is most dangerous for ADHD people. Extra care should be taken care in diet selection. Experiment with High protein vs High carb diet and you will find the difference. There is a direct relation between Dopamine and Protien diet
- Exercise: Diet combined with Exercise will make miracles in a such a way that you yourself will not believe that you have ADHD issue. 30 mins exercise will produce enough Dopamine to sustain entire day focus and it is almost equivalent to taking medicine. For normal people exercise could be optional. But for ADHD people it is a MUST. You can easily and very easily make out the difference between the days with exercise vs no exercise. This is really a gift for ADHD people
- CBT/Coaching: Prolonged undianosed ADHD will result into lot of psychological issues like low self esteem, anxiety, etc. Professional CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) will significantly help to get rid of deep rooted beliefs and patterns. ADHD Coach can help and really make a big difference. Finding one could be very challenging though.
Above are some key solutions. There are lot more approaches and techniques to be used especially when we start focusing on strengths of ADHD. More on this in the coming parts.
It is not just about attention issues!!
Most people think that ADHD is simply lack focus/distraction issue. Actually this is not a big issue. In fact, most ADHD people would have hyper focus when they are interested in the task. They get distracted only when the task is boring (no challenge or no novelty). I personally think ADHD label is very wrong and misfit. Need a better suited label. Lets say if the problem is only with attention then any attention enhancing medicine and even some natural remedies could fix the issue. But that is not just the only issue. This is one of the reason why ADHD medication won’t resolve the problem and most people don’t use them for long term.
So what is the issue beyond attention?. As I said in the previous article, there are two possible root causes for ADHD. One is brain neurological condition/dopamine issue and other is due to lack of love during early childhood. Whether we believe in these root causes or not, most ADHD people struggle with low Self Esteem/lack of Self Love problems. Dopamine issue can be fixed simple solution we discussed in the last blog.
But fixing low Self-Esteem/Lack of Self Love problems are hard to fix but very much possible. Read my earlier blog on these topics.
Unless these are fixed, really gifts of ADHD can not realized or experienced. Get enough knowledge in these areas and these would give real personal breakthroughs.
“Everybody is having ADHD now a days” – Not correct
When a non ADHD person reads about ADHD and about the symptoms like distractibility, impulsiveness, etc they usually will say ” now a days everyone is having distractions,etc”. Even after reading this blog series some people told me that they also have the distraction issues so they may have ADHD ;). Yes, most people now a days have distractibility and addiction (esp social media) issues but that does not mean that people have ADHD. As i said many times ADHD is not a simple focus/attention problem.
ADHD people have different brain structure and different personality trait. It is estimated that about 4% of adults in US are ADHD. It is very much possible that this number might go up in the coming generation due to various factors like biological, stress and other addictive factors from parents.
The main reason to bring this topic is – it is very easy for a non ADHD person to write off saying this is all non sense and every one is having the same issue. Absolutely wrong !!. The simple way to test this out is, don’t just compare on negative traits of ADHD but compare with positive traits like creativity, risk taking ability, high problem solving skills, etc. Then everybody should be having all these skills. Do they have? .I hope you got the point.
The best you can do for any ADHD child/adult is – try to really understand what ADHD is all about before making easy and free judgement.
After reading this you would wish you have ADHD !!
So far, I talked about different aspects of ADHD especially from issue/causes perspective. From now on, I will mostly cover about the real gifts of ADHD. Before I do that, I want to quickly convince that why you would wish you have ADHD personality ;). Here is how I will try to convince you.
World’s top people from entertainment world, authors, inventors and most entrepreneurs have this trait. Don’t believe? Lets look at the below list.
- Walt Disney – The Founder Of Disneyland Walt Disney
- Michael Phelps – Most decorated Olympian ever
- Justin Timberlake – Singer/Actor/Producer/Businessman
- Michael Jordan – The Greatest Of All Time NBA
- Jim Carrey – Has been making us laugh for over two decades
- David Neeleman – Aviation Entrepreneur
- Will Smith – Actor/Producer
- John F. Kennedy – The 35th President Of The United States
- Richard Branson – Business Mogul
- Albert Einstein – Theoretical Physicist
The list goes on…..
Does this mean everyone with ADHD personality will become either Albert Einstein or Richard Branson. Not necessarily and not required. But the key point to remember here is – if you ADHD trait then you would definitely have creative genius like above people depending up which field you are into. May be at different magnitude and level. But for sure you would be different and have very unique talents.
Still not convinced?. Even Seth Godin (search about him if you don’t about him) has ADHD. Listen to below podcast.
Search and read on ” World Famous ADHD People” and you will be amazed to see who all are there in those lists.
First step to recognize about ADHD gifts is – to accept that you are different and having very creative gene !!.
It is there since beginning..Hunters vs Farmers
I am making one more attempt to prove that ADHD is not a disease or disorder. In the last blog, I have given a small list of creative genius who is having ADHD personality (it is almost a must). May be you got convinced or may be not. So giving another shot.
There is one theory called “Hunter Gatherer” theory. This theory says . –
“Humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, but as people started farming and living settled lives other personality traits, more suitable to a sedentary life, developed. The ADHD person is then someone who has retained some of the older hunter-gatherer characteristics. So-called “normal” people are the “farmers.”
“Normal People”/”Farmers” are the ones who are more systematic/process driven/compliance based. Hunters (ADHD personalities) are exact opposite. In the current world what do Hunters do?They solve problems. These are the people who are always observing/looking/thinking and hunting for patterns, solutions and creating some thing new. Entire human civilization and advancements were driven by hunters. Do you agree that we need hunters?. If everyone is 9 to 5 type then who would create the disruptions. This is one theory.
The other one is – if we take thousands years old Ayurveda personality types theory, there are 3 types of body/mind based profiles – 1) Pitta 2) Vata 3) Kapha. Vata is basically creative, impulsive and windy type. If you read Vata characteristics and ADHD and you will lfind ot of similarities. What I am trying to say is that nature itself has created such personalities by design.
Creativeness will become ADHD (as if a disorder) only when we try to compare hunters with farmers or vata people with kapha.
If you have ADHD then understand that you are a hunter type and you don’t need beat yourself up. You simply have different genetic make up!!.
If ADHD is gift then where is the problem?
If you are following this series from the beginning then it should be fine. Otherwise, you might be thinking one side we are saying this has lot of challenges and other side I am saying this is a gift, genius, etc. Unfortunately, both are true !!. As I said earlier, ADHD is a “Rose with the Thorns”.
So how do we eliminate thorns (challenges) and get to the rose (gifts)? . The main magic pill for this is “Dopamine Management“. I have put together a simple “V-D” (-Ve and +Ve Dopamine) framework. I will talk about this more specifically tomorrow. For today, lets understand at high level.
If you search online “ADHD Gifts”, “ADHD Strengths” or “Thrive with ADHD”, you will see tips and approaches on how to become a genius with ADHD. In summary what you will learn is as below.
- Focus on strengths (Creativity, Spontaneity, Problem Solving, Risk taking and Ideation)
- Outsource weak areas (very important)
- Take the diet which is high protein and low carbohydrates
- Regular rigorous exercise and proper sleep
- Most importantly choose careers which are aligned with strengths
- Need very supporting life partner
- Last but not least – complete awareness and knowledge about ADHD
Once you take care of these important aspects, you will almost will be able to thrive with ADHD and reach to the rose without much pain. But any slight deviation will make you kiss the thorns !!
That’s why it is very important to know how to manage Dopamine very effectively.
Bad People vs Good People : Here is the Magic
Do you know anyone who is an alcohol addict? What about someone who lost their entire wealth in gambling? Why is that person you know eats lot of food (food lover !!) ?. You know why lot of celebrities and rock stars take excessive drugs?. – What do we call all these kind of people in general? – Bad People/Addicts, etc? Hmm..
Now lets look at complete opposite spectrum of people. The guy who eats good food, exercises regularly and meditates every day, etc. And the person whom you know who is very passionate and works 14 hrs a day. For sure all these guys are good guys right?..Let’s see.
Good vs Bad is from general social/ethical reference points of view and it is relative of course. But for brain it is all same. All it needs is kick (Dopamine).
I have done enough research and observation on what goes behind this. Basically, there are two ways one can get Dopamine. Below picture should talk 1000 words. Spend 5 mins on the below picture.
Note: On Negative side bottom (violence) worst way of getting dopamine and On Positive side top (Meditation) is the best way of getting dopamine.
In the context of ADHD, the difference between thorns and rose is people who take the negative Dopamine approach vs positive approach. That’s all. Most people with ADHD would have started with negative side and transition to positive. But many are not aware about this and continue to be “bad people” but in reality it is mainly lack of deep understanding of our God – Dopamine.
This is a complex topic and I tried to depicts in the above simple picture. Hope this helps some people some where who are struggling….from left side.
What Careers will suit these personalities?
Most ADHD people struggle with their careers. Not because they are not talented. In fact they are so talented that they can’t fit into regular 9 to 5 setups. Especially they will be breathless if they have to work under rigid corporate structures.
What drives these personalities is FREEDOM !!. Period. How Freedom is linked to ADHD?. I think there is a big link between these two. ADHD type people are typically very creative type (not art type as such). They are outside box thinkers, Innovators and creative problem solvers. Without freedom they won’t be able to express their wild thoughts and implement innovation. And also by nature these are very sensitive nature people (they behave wild but inside very sensitive). So under any kind of bossism and power politics they struggle big time. Hence the bigger need for Freedom.
The core need of Freedom drives them to chose careers areas where they can experience freedom to share their thoughts. Typical and best careers are – mostly self employed nature and where they can get best kick (through problem solving and restoring things). Below are the best areas.
- Entrepreneur ( For Freedom, Creating, Solving, Innovating and Chasing, etc)
- Doctor ( Helping people, solving problems and Emergency kick)
- Writer ( For outside box thinking and expressing wild thoughts)
- Emergency Services (for last min kick)
- Artist (For pure expression)
- Any kind of Self Employment (for Freedom)
List can be any thing but underlying need is Freedom.
Worst careers would be any routine, boring stuff with bosses, structures and procedures. You will be dead !!.
People unaware/un-diagnosed struggle with their careers until they find one that suits them. Then they will rock !!. Career selection so important. Use a career which are meant for you !!.
How low Dopamine (ADHD) helping Breakthrough Innovations?
As I mentioned in the previous blog = > Dopamine =GOD, low Dopamine is the root of ADHD and Dopamine filling will create life and happiness for people with ADHD personalities.
And in contrast, people with enough Dopamine and Serotonin often live in a somewhat happy (alternate names – Slow, self contended, etc !!) space. These are the people who are generally happy not necessarily driven. You may not see much breakthrough innovations from these kind of people. Actually they are happy and they don’t need to create any thing big. Not generalizing all but this is the case most often.
Where as people with ADHD personality will need to constantly do some thing or other to fill their Dopamine deficiency. An the trick about this Dopamine is – every time you need better kick than previous one. This happens both for the positive Dopamine and Negative Dopamine filling. On the positive side, for e.g., running. People who start running will get initial level of Dopamine then they need to run longer races 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Full Marathon…this can go upto Iron Man, etc. Why? Because if you run same 5K every time you will get bored so you need to move to next level of Dopamine/kick.
Luckily the same thing is applicable when it comes to innovations/breakthroughs. So people who are into any creative areas also keep pushing them to experience next level of kick. So they will push themselves to create some thing better than previous innovation hence we enjoy new things continuously.
Bottom line is – Low Dopamine/ADHD has been helping our human progress through the constant chase and innovations. Some ones personal need of happiness (lack of) is driving human progress. I think some time these kind of personalities are created with a purpose. And makes me believe this is not a disorder !!
Riding Relationships with ADHD
One of the origin theory about ADHD says lack of love results in ADHD. Whether this is true or not, most ADHD people are sensitive in nature and good hearted. But the problem comes with Dopamine. Here is what happens when ADHD person starts a new relationship. At first relationship looks and feels very exciting because of new dopamine. Once the initial dopamine tapers off then you start getting bored. Then keep moving to some other relationship. This loop continues. Obviously, this may not be the case in countries like India due to social stigma but very much possible in most western countries. The point is about how low Dopamine place a very brutal role in relationships. But 99% of the people are not aware what drive this relationship behavior. When I am talking about relationships it includes all kinds of relationships.
ADHD would be a strength if you are starting if you are an entrepreneur and you can become a serial entrepreneur (very proudly) by starting new venture after getting bored with exiting one. But you can not/should become a serial relationship builder. You will get hurt and others as well.
So what is the solution?. First step is self awareness. Knowing what is driving this behavior. Then very importantly you need to choose a partner or friend with high nurturing and patience. Remember ADHD people needs lots and lots of appreciation and love. If you get into nurturing relationships then you get into the positive side of ADHD.
Bottom line – Choose a nurturing and caring partner. This will produce more dopamine and you will not look for next relationship.
Creative Minds but with constant Under Achievement Feeling !!
I some times think nature is very brutal in design some aspects of life. This is the feeling most ADHD personalities will feel. Why?. One side they are gifted with lots of talent, creativity and other side lack of sustained focus and concentration. End result is often very frustrating. Because they could not produce the end product at the level of quality and on time, etc. This is not a one time affair and this is a constant theme through out the life unless you have a strategy to break this pattern.
Let me explain life cycle of this pattern. Normal people get one idea (mostly not their own) and they work on it and take next one. Where as ADHD people will get at a time 10 different ideas and these 10 ideas will proliferate 10 more ideas and this cycle goes on. Many of these ideas could be very unique. Then this person start working on one great idea and then starts of with lot of enthusiasm and fully pumped up. This is the stage the Dopamine kicks in and he will be at peak zone. This is the hyper focus stage. Once the initial kick of idea/problem solving flavor becomes normal then Dopamine drops suddenly and you lose the interest slowly and exactly at this time two more ideas come (as such you have tons of ideas). That’s it. You move on to the next idea and the same pattern will repeat.
From outside for other people it might look like ADHD person is super talented and achieved already so much. But not at all the case from ADHD person perspective. Why? If a normal person achieves 10% of what ADHD person achieves they will be far more happier. But ADHD person would have 100 projects so finishing 10 big projects means 90 more ideas are pending. So there will be always a big gap between numbers of ideas and projects they come up with Vs what they really could execute. This whole pattern pushes them to Low Self Esteem. And they beat themselves !!.
Where to look for useful Information?
I thought it will be helpful to share some useful reference information on this topic. I have read many book, searched tons of sites and listen to different podcasts and watched many youtube videos. Based on all my experience so far below are some best resources (as per my view).
Best ADHD Books: There are many books on ADHD topic. I personally think there are two best books on this topic. I strongly recommend you read these books either for yourself (if you have ADHD personality) or for someone with in your family.
- Driven to Distraction – By Edward Hallowell
- Scatted Minds – By Gabor Maté
Best ADHD Sites: Again there are tons of sites on this. I recommend Dr Hallowell’s site and I personally consider him as the father of ADHD.
And the second best site I found is => http://www.untappedbrilliance.com/
Best ADHD Podcast: The best Podcast I have ever found is “FatherthanNormal”. They also have website. https://www.fasterthannormal.com/
There are tons of useful contents on this topic online. As such if you have ADHD then you will keep researching for rest of life for the kick of dopamine. So try to to limit to few books/sites/podcasts so that you don’t get scattered all over.
Hope this helps.
Instead of me giving the conclusion, you should give conclusion, if you have been reading this series. What is your conclusion? Is ADHD a disorder or myth or creative mind or genius geek or mental/crack/rebel mind? What is your view? What did you understood?. If you have ADHD then you will feel all of the above at one point in life and may be even once a day. If not then you may have only one opinion – mostly as “disorder” or “very different” person.
Here is my conclusion…
First of all, ADHD word is a big misnomer !!. I wanted to name the series as “Creative Mind” but then people might completely think about only rosy part and ignore the thorn part. And also “Creative Mind” may give a feeling as if this is for some special people not for people like you and me. So, I ended up using ADHD in the title. My view of ADHD is this really a gift but it takes lot of pain to get to the gift. Many gifts are unopened due to lack of awareness and knowledge about this. Hence my this little attempt of creating awareness.
If you have ADHD or any one in your family or friends don’t try to write it off with half knowledge. People with ADHD are really good hearted, sensitive and creative people. But untreated ADHD will result into all kinds of addictions and problems. ADHD people need lot of support from family members , esp from spouse.
If you read this series from top to bottom you should get a fair idea about ADHD and if you have open mind then you will conclude this as positive and consider as gift !!. I hope and wish lot of awareness will be created on ADHD and more genius people will be uncovered and become some kind of “bad people” and “addicts”.