Paying attention to teachers, parents telling you to clean your room, and conversations you’d rather not be a part of, are a natural part of life. But what if you wanted to listen to your teachers, clean your room, and have those conversations, but you just couldn’t, no matter how hard you tried?
Those are only a few dilemmas those who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have to struggle with on a daily basis. In simple terms, ADD as well as ADHD interferes with someone’s ability to pay full attention to everything that’s going on around them.
Attention spans are short, concentrating is a challenge, getting easily distracted is a regular occurrence, and in the case of ADHD, extreme hyperactivity also weighs into the equation. There are a couple of theories as to how ADD/ADHD starts to affect a person’s mind, and according to Vancouver based physician and author, Dr. Gabor Mate, a lot of it has to do with where someone comes from.
“With an ADD teen, there’s usually a life long history that goes back very early,” Dr. Mate explains. “You usually notice it by the second or third grade. It may get worse in teens, but usually when you talk to the individual and to their parents, you can see these patterns being there for a long time.”
Dr. Mate goes on to note that most cases of ADD/ADHD have a lot to do with the environment in which an individual is growing up in. “The brain is very much in interaction with the environment,” adding that if someone grows up within a household of constant and intensely stressful events, their chances of developing ADD/ADHD is much greater.
Though someone may be able to be diagnosed at such a young age, it isn’t usually until the teenage years that stronger negative behavioural patterns reveal themselves. Such issues like constant conflict with family, peers, and siblings, not to mention continuing struggles within the classroom, begin to fully come into play.
Luckily there has been a long list of strategies developed to help those dealing with ADD/ADHD, as well as the families involved. They all fall under the umbrella of openness, awareness and communication. These include regular visits to a counsellor/psychiatrist, taking into account the weaknesses of the family environment, keeping educators aware of a students’ diagnosis, and finally, keeping all lines to communication open all the time.
Without that dialogue, the road to adapting could be much rockier than it needs to be. “Teenagers don’t want to believe that there’s anything wrong with them. So they’re afraid that ‘if I get diagnosed, it means there’s something wrong with me,’” Dr. Mate elaborates.
“Of course that makes them very vulnerable. It takes a certain amount of courage to accept that ‘some things aren’t working for me in life, and I need help with that.’ A lot of kids are afraid to admit that, but that’s the first step.”