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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

It’s not just about getting distracted

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A conversation about living with ADHD

While I’m overjoyed that the conversation about mental illness is one that we’re having in society and on campus, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not often discussed on the same level as other mental illnesses. It is substantially worse than just being easily distracted and it can be crushing in many aspects of life.

ADHD and its effects are far underestimated—we need to work to destigmatize it from the myriad of stereotypes and outright false assumptions associated with it.

People without ADHD realize it can be hard to pay attention, but the extent to which this inattentiveness can make life difficult is unnoticed.

Conversation, even about interesting subjects or with people who are close to us, can still be a battle to focus. Creating plans becomes increasingly difficult as indecision and poor time management are staples of ADHD.

For me, something as easy as responding to texts can take a lot of emotional and intellectual energy and time. Getting dressed is the longest part of my morning; having to make decisions about what to wear before taking medicine takes forever.

Larger areas of life are also a struggle. We often feel discouraged to do things that require long mental effort, like going to classes, doing homework, reading and driving. Routines and necessary tasks become strenuous.

ADHD’s effects on emotion are often unrecognized as well. Emotional dysregulation has almost always been a symptom of ADHD, but the diagnostic protocol moved to emphasize inattention, and emotional dysregulation was removed from the official diagnosis. This dysregulation can aggravate other mental illnesses, like anxiety or depression.

I also have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the emotional intensity brought on by ADHD has made it much more difficult to treat. However my PTSD has become less intense after my ADHD was better treated.

While the symptoms and effects of ADHD are often unknown to the public, its medicines are household names. Ritalin and Adderall can help someone with ADHD function like someone with a neurotypical brain.

However, these drugs are easy targets for controversy in the media due to their prevalence, potency and misuses by those without an attention disorder. Increasingly, people fret over the overdiagnosis of ADHD and are rejecting medication options for their children and themselves.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#cecece” txt_color=”#000000″]“So, to the world without ADHD, remember us. Remember us when we talk about mental health, and take our disorder as seriously as it deserves.”[/mks_pullquote]

The stigmas around ADHD medication dehumanize and delegitimize a vulnerable group of us.

Stigma goes beyond the medicine, and makes those with ADHD feel stupid, less-than and lazy. Many people even wrongfully assume that ADHD could be ceased just through better habits.

“Try Google Calendar!” “Have you used sticky notes?” “Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do and just push through the distraction.”

Useful tools? Yes. A cure? No.

The truth is, ADHD affects not only children, but adults too—4.4% of the U.S. population in fact. The other truth is that treatment exists, and we are not as useless as the world sometimes stereotypes us to be.

So, to the world without ADHD, remember us. Remember us when we talk about mental health, and take our disorder as seriously as it deserves. Do not assume we’re useless, or that we are not listening when we’re talking and there’s a TV on in the background that our eyes wander towards.

And to my fellow ADHD friends, forgive and affirm yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes, to be distracted or to have a moment of not being productive. You are not the sum of your mistakes. You are not only valuable when you are medicated.

There is hope for you. You are heard and understood, regardless of how serious ADHD can be.

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