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  • Writer's pictureTricia Thornton

The Strengths and Challenges of ADHD

We all have heard of ADHD. When you hear that acronym, certain experiences, descriptions, and individuals come to your mind. I am inviting you to see the strengths and challenges of ADHD in a new way. Let's take the ADHD acronym and think of it a bit differently. Each individual with ADHD embodies many challenging situations each day that require courage to handle with fortitude and confidence. How can an individual with the diagnosis of ADHD use their strengths to embrace life?

I will be going through each of these letters through the next few articles...

A-aptitude and anger

D-devotion and destruction

H-happiness and heartache

D-dedicated and disbelief

First, Let's Look at the History of ADHD

We all know what ADHD stands for, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But, do you know that individuals with ADHD have some wonderfully positive strengths? First, though, let me give you a brief history lesson of ADHD and what it means today. ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder most commonly diagnosed in children and can persist through adulthood. It is marked by a significant amount of inattention, hyperactivity and sometimes impulsivity. ADHD first came on the scene in the early 1900's but labeled more of as an abnormal moral condition in children. It was not until years later in 1968 when the APA first recognized the disorder in the second addition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In this addition it was described as a hyperkinetic impulse disorder. In 1980, the third addition of the DSM was released and the name was changed to ADD with two subtypes, with hyperactivity and without. Seven years later, the APA revised the DSM-III and changed the name to ADHD combining the three symptoms (inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) into one type. In 2000, the fourth addition of the DSM defined ADHD with three subtypes, combined type ADHD, predominantly inattentive type ADHD and predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD. Finally, in the most recent DSM-V, ADHD defined as a developmental impairment of the brain’s self-management system, its executive functions. The symptoms and criteria have stayed the same.

A - Aptitude and Anger:

Does ADHD equal a higher or lower IQ? The two are not always linked. It is also a myth to believe that a child or adult with ADHD always has a learning disability. In fact in one study ( researchers show no correlation with ADHD and IQ. When channeled correctly, individuals with ADHD have several positive traits such as, a hyper-focus, creativity and intuitiveness. With a laser focus, an individual with ADHD may be able to be quite an entrepreneur. The founder of Kinkos, Paul Orfalea, suffered with severe dyslexia and ADHD as a child. As an adult, he learned how to manage his tendency to become distracted by "wandering" to different stores. By doing so, he realized how many businesses could expand. Many scientists believe the creative and artistic Leonardo De Vinci would have been diagnosed with ADHD. Many individuals with ADHD do struggle with mixed emotions because they may be perceived as not as smart, but we now know that is not true.

This article,, outlines 7 reasons why ADHD individuals may experience anger more intensely than someone without ADHD. Some of the seven I would like to highlight are the impulsivity, low tolerance to frustration and mood swings. An individual with the impulsive type of ADHD tends to react quicker than an individual without ADHD when triggered by frustration. Therefore, without coping strategies in place, their anger threshold is lower. An ADHD individual sometimes will not tolerate frustration well. Their response time is quick and can result in an impulsive response to anger. Along with anger, a person with the impulsivity resulting from ADHD may experience mood swings. Within in a day, they may swing from happiness to sadness to confusion and withdrawal and back to joy quickly.

In general, people with ADHD may experience emotions with more intensity. Many times another diagnosis may exacerbate the variety of strong feelings. Emotional sensitivity can sometimes halter a healthy reaction to a situation. The A for "aptitude and anger" in ADHD can be a positive when it comes to being aware of the feelings that arise in a situation. If channeled correctly, an individual with ADHD can respond with strength and sensitivity.

Tune into the next article as we explore the D - devotion and destruction.

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