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Thoughts on ADHD


As a newcomer to this site, I'm still feeling my way around. But, for a bit of information, my background is in Psychology and Social Research (postgraduate level), as well as having worked in mental health services. My interests centre around a fascination concerning human development, neurodiversity, construction of identity, as well as race, gender, and suchlike.

Found this post on ADHD, read it, and my interest was piqued. Just adding some thoughts/observations (whether they will be helpful, or not, I cannot say)...

With respect to things like ADHD, I find it hard to understand why they are societally so problematized, if we are to accept that humans are a neuro-diverse species. In reality, no two human brains will function exactly alike, because being products of nature-nurture, our neural pathways develop as a reflection of both our innate traits, and of our external environment. What our innate traits are, it is hard to say, because from the very moment of birth, an infant is interactive (i.e. its nature immediately starts to interact with its nurture). Given that diverse humans have very diverse life experiences, it may be expected that neurologically, they will develop in different ways - be that subtly, or highly overtly. 

Now, I don't know whether any of you have read theories about so-called "Dandelion Children And Orchid Children", or theories concerning what are considered to be "Highly Sensitive People". It would appear that those with ADHD have some of the traits of both "Orchid Children", and of HSPs (highly sensitive people). Dandelion versus orchid is a theory that proposes that some children are of a nature that is placid, requires little stimulus, is not highly-excitable, is not energetic, is not very questioning or challenging, and ends to thrive in situations where there is minimal input from parents and caregivers, whilst thriving no better in situations where a lot of input and stimulus is given (Dandelions). Such children are often easy-going, but are rarely gifted and talented, or high achievers. Bu contrast Orchids can be hugely temperamental, very sensitive to all stimuli and thus requiring careful management of them, are excitable, passionate, energetic, question and challenge a lot, have a thirst for knowledge, and only tend to thrive in those situations where they get optimal parental/caregiver input. Where this occurs, they may be very gifted individuals, with a propensity for high achievement - BUT, the circumstances have to be ideal for them to flourish. If they are in less than ideal circumstances, they really struggle because of their sensitivity, passion, energetic and questioning natures, and their need for carefully-regulated stimulus. All of these, individually and in combination, are likely to lead the Orchid into trouble, should they not be recognized for what they are, and understood by others around them (especially adult caregivers and role-models). For instance, the questioning and challenging nature can be interpreted by some adults as rude or confrontational. The energetic, passionate nature can be misunderstood as restless and demanding. The need for carefully-regulated stimuli, ditto. But, in the right environment, these same traits become gifts, where a child can be encouraged to channel them towards a high level of learning and achievement.

HSPs, too, have traits that in the wrong circumstances, can create havoc for them. They are much akin to Orchid people, in that they are very sensitive to stimuli of all kinds (perhaps overly so) and thus need stimuli to be carefully regulated. HSPs can be easily distracted in the presence of multiple stimuli - for example, if they have to focus on doing something like reading a book in a noisy, crowded atmosphere, they may find the noise and/or crowds distracting and find it hard to concentrate on the book. But if left peacefully to read, they are the sort of people who will gain a more in-depth understanding of the literature they are reading because their interest level in it is greater than for most people, and also they interrogate the subject-matter more rigorously. HSPs are sensitive to human emotions, also. They are very attuned to what others are thinking and feeling, and can easily suffer from "emotional contagion" (being overwhelmed by other people's emotions), or worry a lot about what others are thinking/feeling.

Might it be that ADHD is something akin to the traits of an HSP or an Orchid, but viewed within the wrong environmental or circumstantial context? So, the person with ADHD, as noted, has an interest in novel experiences, has a high sensitivity to stimuli, can be very energetic... but, because those who are around them view such traits in a negative context, the person with ADHD is slowly conditioned to view them as negative too? Look at it this way...

For example, imagine that a kid in high school is very energetic, has a thirst for novel knowledge, likes to ask lots of questions (both because this is a factor of how they learn, and also because it reflects the high level of stimulus they require either because of their deep interest in a topic, or, conversely, because it helps keep them interested in a topic), and sometimes asks what adults (including parents and teachers) might consider to be difficult or challenging questions. It is likely that some (perhaps many) people might view this child as somewhat annoying, challenging, maybe even disruptive in a classroom situation because the child places a lot of demand on the adults' attention, requires considerable one-on-one time, and also asks things that the adult may find it difficult to answer and explain. But, in the optimal setting, with an intelligent adult who has time to give to the child one-on-one, and who is happy to answer lots of questions (even ones that others may dismiss as silly or challenging), the same child might be less disruptive and annoying - might even thrive and be highly capable.

It is hard when somewhat perjorative labels (including, perhaps, ADHD) come to be attached to individuals because our human society cannot actually cope with what it means to truly accept and embrace neurodiversity. I have no idea if I am ADHD myself, as I have never been tested, though I definitely have some traits that are similar (as well as very similar to Orchids and to HSPs). I have definitely had negative experiences in life when people do not understand my sensitivity to stimuli, my sensitivity to other people's feelings and emotions, my need to ask questions, my desire to immerse myself to what some people consider an extreme degree in academic and other topics that fascinate me, and my ability to multi-task and also to think about multiple topics simultaneously. I tend to find that I am treated by many as somewhat of an outsider, an oddity or curio. Yet I also found that my traits lead to academic success, and to a considerable deal more learning as an autodidact. Result being, I am currently in the process of completing my first novel, and am also writing a factual book on hegemonic masculinity! 

I think, maybe, that a part of anyone's being human is the necessity to learn to understand oneself in a very frank and honest way. To evaluate oneself, strengths and weaknesses. To comprehend what ones traits are. And, then, to find some direction in life that affords these optimal expression. That affords optimal meaning in terms of who we see ourselves to be. To find a purpose that gives our strengths and traits meaning, and which allows us to use them to best effect. This is not easy, and nor can it be done immediately. I would argue it is a lifelong process. Sometimes, the best we can hope for is an approximation of it that allows us to feel partly fulfilled whilst simultaneously giving us the impetus we need to improve upon matters yet again.

"To know thyself" - perhaps that is the important starting position?