Welcome to ADHD awareness month! October is the month to promote awareness of ADHD and educate people on the condition.
While it is great that awareness-raising on ADHD is assigned to a month of the year, I do wonder if there is anything significant done on the rest of the months to shed light on ADHD-related matters. Can we promote, educate, and build awareness regardless of the time of the year? The answer is yes, we can.
Let’s call this the ADHD awareness 365 days a year movement!
When I was a child, there was very little awareness of ADHD compared to now. The four letters, “ADHD”, did not mean much to me until I was at least twenty-two and did not resonate with me at a deeper level until at the age of twenty-seven! Because of this, spreading awareness on various aspects of ADHD is so important to me now. It makes me think about others in a similar scenario. It also makes me think of the lack of awareness on ADHD which still exists to this day.
When there is no proper awareness, people go undiagnosed, get misdiagnosed, suffer from mental health effects, are unable to tap into and live to their full potential, have a lack of knowledge and worst of all, do not get the support they need to move forward.
Here is a rundown of the history of ADHD to give you an understanding of how far we have come; however, the fact is that there is still a long way to go.
History of ADHD:
493 BC: Greek physician Hippocrates observes individuals who respond quickly to sensory stimuli but also have less persistent reactions as they quickly move onto the next stimuli.
1775: German physician Melchior Adam Weikard describes ADHD-like behaviours of the “inattentive person” and advises on possible solutions like cold baths.
1798: Scottish physician Alexander Crichton describes a “disease of attention” that is prominent early in life. He describes it as a disease that causes extreme sensitivity to stimuli and learning difficulties.
1902: English paediatrician George Still publishes a journal that is based on behaviour problems in children which include an incapacity for sustained attention. He believes it to be hereditary.
1917-1928: Many children that survive the encephalitic lethargica epidemic display problematic behaviours like hyperactivity, distractibility and emotional instability. Studies result in more pronounced interest in hyperactivity in children and influence the developing concept of what is now known as ADHD.
1932: German physicians Franz Kramer and Hans Pollnow report on “hyperkinetic disease of infancy”. They describe children who struggle to stay still and whose movements have no goal. These children are also described to be prone to easy distraction, emotionally excitable and unable to focus on tasks.
1952: DSM-1 describes ADHD-like symptoms as a result of minimal brain dysfunction.
1968: DSM-2 defines “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood” although a lot of children are diagnosed with attention deficits without any signs of hyperactivity.
1980: DSM-3 introduces the term ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) with or without hyperactivity.
1987: DSM-3-R replaces the term ADD with ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).
1994: DSM-4 defines three subtypes of ADHD: mainly inattentive, mainly hyperactivity-impulsive, and both combined.
2013: DSM-5 updates the definition of ADHD to a more accurate version. It is defined to also more accurately characterize the experience of adults rather than that of children and adolescents only.
2015: Research continues on ADHD to deepen the level of understanding of the condition, especially the role of genetics, brain chemistry and environment.
It is essential to raise awareness and educate others on ADHD matters around the correct information. This can make a significant difference for someone thriving or struggling with ADHD.
While ADHD is historically and factually proven to be a neurological disorder that affects some individuals, there are still some glaring myths about the disorder that causes people to misinterpret, misjudge and worst of all, misunderstand the impacts of ADHD and how it affects individuals.
Some of the most common myths about ADHD I have come across:
Spreading such misconceptions about ADHD can confuse individuals with ADHD and make things harder. The impacts of these are very real.
I have had many diagnoses in my lifetime and not one of them ever led to or even investigated the possibility of ADHD. This caused me to live a life of fear, shame, and guilt. When I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, I then faced a lack of awareness of the condition from those around me.
You got through university and have a job; how can you have ADHD?
You are well organised; how can you have ADHD?
You are an adult; how can you have ADHD?
Oh yes ADHD, everyone has that!
These comments from others are typically made to make you feel better by finding commonality and a way for them to relate to you. However, comments like these that lacked the right knowledge ended up making me feel undervalued and perpetuated a feeling of invalidity. It felt as though my words were all made up and false.
This caused me to question my diagnosis and even myself and my worth! It took me a long time after my diagnosis to shut out the noise, find the right people to talk to, educate myself and find the right support that empowered me and my neurodiversity! The journey of getting there was extremely hard due to the lack of awareness surrounding me.
I always wondered if there could be an easier way. Unfortunately, based on the current situation surrounding the problem, there are still potential roadblocks that can make the journey of moving forward harder for individuals with ADHD. Many are yet to still learn the truth about ADHD and what it is not.
Having the willingness to understand and get past the implicit biases and stigma that ADHD has around the world will surely help as a first step. We can and must make our path of awareness. Our own way of figuring out what ADHD means to us, figuring out our own accommodations, our own people to surround ourselves with and hopefully, if there is enough of us on this path, we will all meet and intertwine one day!
Here are my top I’s to spreading ADHD awareness 365 days a year:
Find the correct information: Finding the correct information lays at your fingertips quite literally! Search and read up more on the topic by going online. Unfortunately, there is so still so much downright misinformation that you have to mindfully dig a bit deeper to find reliable resources. A good place to begin with is a notable starting point like ADDA and ADDitude; their resources are factual and can provide you with the information you are looking for.
Take it little by little: Fighting ADHD myths and misconceptions every day can be exhausting. Dropping nuggets of facts to people when you witness these myths being voiced out and educating your loved ones can make a difference. Just remember to do it little by little and piece by piece because if not, it tends to feel like a full-time job!
Having understanding & compassion: Just remember that as much as you can try and educate others, not everyone is willing to try and understand. Just having compassion and realising you are doing your part will help you to maintain resilience. If someone does not want to learn about the facts, tell yourself that this is their decision and not yours! Surround yourself with people who want to understand and have compassion.
Spread the word: Share what you can verbally or on social media to get the right information out there. The butterfly effect resulting from these actions can have an impact that brings positive results.
Get involved in communities: There are so many people out there on Instagram, charities, Twitter, YouTube etc. Get involved and speak with others. This will help you connect with those that are on the same page as you. Remember, you are never alone on this journey!
Spreading ADHD awareness is and shall be a year-around, 365-days a year movement and, it will take a while to get the right information out there. As long as you do what you can to pass on the correct information to those around you–slowly yet surely–the butterfly effect will take off and make a difference!