See my previous post for the petition – a standard request for extra funding to remedy the disaster that is ADHD on the NHS
Once again the Department of Health and Social Care have swerved giving any kind of boost to funding to reduce the, frankly, pathetic (catastrophic) waiting lists to be treated for ADHD on the NHS.
18 weeks has always been a bit of a dream – we’re talking years. I know people that have waited over three years…and it’s a serious condition if left untreated.
They will always point out that some people are seen in weeks – I took someone to be diagnosed seven weeks after seeing their GP – but those are flukes, usually urgent cases lucky enough to come in when there’s been a cancellation.
It’s been common, in my area (Greater Manchester) to be quoted a minimum of a year…but that’s usually the starting point. Multiple years is the norm.
If you thought mental health was a low priority think again. The word ‘priority’ has no business in the same sentence as mental health.
Katy examines something that is a serious problem (a cause of much unhappiness) in the ADHD community. Probably.
Take it away Katy!
The definition, science and controversy of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and ADHD
This is a long post so please feel free to scroll down to the headings that most interest you. You don’t need to read it all to understand each section.
Rejection sensitivity. It’s a hot button topic in online ADHD circles these days. Go to any ADHD forum or peer support page and you’re likely to find some mention of it, whether it’s a “does anybody else feel like this?” post or a link to an article about how common rejection sensitivity is for people with ADHD. However, it’s also a controversial topic with mixed scientific support.
“Huh? What’s rejection sensitivity?”
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief explanation of what rejection sensitivity is. Social rejection, the feeling that somebody has lost respect for you or that their opinion of you has gone down in some way, is unpleasant for anyone. But some people have a tougher time dealing with rejection than others. Rejection sensitive people are more likely to expect that others will reject them, interpret other people’s actions as rejection even if they’re not, and often have extreme emotional reactions to it. 
Here’s an example scenario. A rejection sensitive person sends a text asking their best friend if they want to hang out this weekend. 3 seconds after they hit send, they start convincing themselves that their friend will probably say no because they hate them, which there is no convincing proof of (expecting rejection). When their friend doesn’t respond for 5 entire minutes they are hit by a crushing despair that they are clearly hated by everyone and have no real friends (perceiving rejection, sometimes based on shaky evidence). While they are in the midst of crying and making plans to move to a remote deserted island where they can never be hurt again (intense emotional over-reaction to rejection), their phone buzzes. The friend responds “Sure I’d love to hang out, let’s do Saturday!”
If this is a common kind of experience for you then you might be rejection sensitive. I know I certainly have been. I’ve ruined friendships in the past by cutting people out of my life who I assumed hated me, despite no real evidence of that being the case and no need to react with such extremes. It’s even worse when the rejection is real. Folk with ADHD seem to experience these feelings an awful lot, leading some to argue it’s “an ADHD thing”.
“Wait – is this a symptom of ADHD?? Or just one of those things the internet says is a symptom of ADHD when it really isn’t?”
Yes and no. Until recent years this wasn’t nearly as much of a talking point. Enter American psychiatrist Dr William Dodson. In around 2017, Dodson wrote an article for ADDitude where he calls it “rejection sensitive dysphoria” (RSD) and claims it’s a core symptom of ADHD . I’ve seen his articles about RSD linked in so many places. Since then Google searches for “RSD ADHD” have steadily increased as more and more people feel they can relate, want to find out more, and want help. Everywhere you look in online ADHD-land people are talking about their experiences of RSD.
Dodson certainly appears to be right about the sheer amount of adults with ADHD who seem to be struggling with it. And having a label like RSD to unite under can be an amazing way to feel less alone with your struggles. At last, a name for the issues I’ve been having!
“Sounds great that people are finally talking about this. Surely there’s no way people on the internet or qualified clinicians could find a way to ruin it. Right..?”
Despite almost everyone and their dog saying that RSD is a huge part of their ADHD, the use of the term RSD does attract some criticism. For those like me who like to scroll down to the “controversies” section of Wikipedia pages, this is for you. Disclaimer: my previous points still stand – it’s incredibly useful as a way to find other people who’ve experienced similar things, and I’m in absolutely no position to say it isn’t real. Hell, RSD has been a horrible problem for me that I can imagine being related to my ADHD. But there are some things you should be aware of when using the term in regular conversation. Some of these criticisms are not entirely unwarranted.
Firstly, RSD appears nowhere in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Not in the DSM-5 or the ICD. The term RSD has pretty much no meaning in scientific research on ADHD. Even the broader concept of rejection sensitivity isn’t really a huge thing in ADHD research (probably because they’re too busy researching medications and behavioural therapies that can make us less of a burden on society, rather than treatments for things that primarily impact our quality of life and mental health, but that’s a rant for another day).
This all means that in many cases, if you walk into a psychiatrist appointment and talk about RSD then you may as well be telling the psychiatrist that you’re a Pisces. They won’t be likely to take it seriously as a core feature of ADHD. Well, unless the psychiatrist you’re seeing is William Dodson, who popularised it in the first place. In reality, when you use that term while talking to a doctor, their first thought often seems to be “wow, this person has read a lot of stuff online about ADHD that has no scientific backing. What else have they read?”
There is some reason to be sceptical about whether we can trust Dodson’s claims. After all, Dodson is a private clinician who claims he can help people with RSD in his clinic – in fact, he’s pretty much the only one who claims this so publicly. Always be cautious believing anyone who has a financial incentive to convince you about anything.
Some of the ADHD community is openly wary of RSD. One of the biggest ADHD forums, r/ADHD, has an automatic response message for anyone who mentions it. They urge caution and mention the lack of credible research, and even call it “popular science”.
Another criticism is that RSD is not unique to ADHD. That’s also partly true – rejection sensitivity can be found in the diagnostic criteria for other things like borderline personality disorder, social anxiety disorder, bulimia, substance abuse disorder etc. I won’t go too much into this argument here, other than to say I think the rejection sensitivity people with ADHD experiences is probably very different from the other kinds, and to note that misdiagnosis/comorbidity with those other disorders are fairly common.
“So what DOES the science say about rejection sensitivity and ADHD?”
Well, I’ve read quite a few peer-reviewed papers on it. Spoiler: the link is most definitely A Thing. None of it mentions RSD by name but refers to it more generally as rejection sensitivity. There is recent evidence that some ADHD specialists should probably be taking a little more seriously. Here’s a summary of some interesting psychological findings you might like to know.
Theories about different types of rejection sensitivity
Psychologists have come up with two main types of rejection sensitive reactions – anxious and angry.  Researchers recently suggested a third component of RS which is expectation, or the tendency to expect rejection before it’s actually happened. 
Initial findings from those studies suggest that expectation could be related to low self-esteem. Anxious-type reactions can make people socially withdrawn and depressed, whereas angry-type reactions can lead to conflict and even aggression. In other words, expecting rejection before it happens might be its own separate issue from the ways you emotionally react to it when it does happen.
The conceptual difference between components of rejection sensitivity is important – they might lead to different consequences, have different causes and require different treatments. This is a relatively early-days idea in the world of psychology and needs more research.
Evidence of teenagers with ADHD experiencing more rejection sensitivity than those without ADHD
A 2015 study with a respectable sample of 1,235 found that 10-19 year olds with ADHD had higher rejection sensitivity than non-ADHD controls. Anxious rejection emotions contributed to feelings of depression and low self-esteem, whereas angry rejection emotions contributed to conduct problems. 
Could this mean that some of the depression, low-self esteem and “bad behaviour” that’s often associated with ADHD is actually triggered by feelings of rejection sensitivity?
Rejection sensitivity as a part of emotional dysregulation in ADHD
A slightly smaller 2017 study with 161 participants found that “sensitivity to criticism” could be a core feature of the emotional dysregulation of ADHD, and the authors argue for emotional dysregulation in general to be included in future revisions of the DSM criteria for ADHD.  That’s backed up by a 2020 study, where young adults were more likely to be rejection sensitive if they also found it difficult to manage their emotions in general.  But it’s important to remember that everyone is different – some people with ADHD have difficulties with different emotions, e.g. excitement vs. sadness, and some people experience more emotional dysregulation than others.  So it can’t be claimed that rejection sensitivity is a universal ADHD experience.
Differences in the ADHD brain related to rejection sensitivity
Rejection sensitivity might be linked to neural differences in the ADHD brain. 10-15 year olds with ADHD symptoms may not only be more likely to experience rejection sensitivity, but there may be actual differences in the brain which cause it, according to a study published in 2019.  391 participants, which is not too bad for a neurological study. A much smaller study in 2005 studied the brains of twenty one 8-12 year olds. The findings suggest that ADHD causes differences in the reward pathways in the brain, causing people with ADHD to be more emotionally sensitive to criticism and failure.  Small samples aren’t that uncommon in brain studies because they’re super expensive to run.
Evidence AGAINST a link between ADHD and rejection sensitivity
A 2007 study commonly cited by sceptics of RSD is that by Canu & Carlson. They found no differences in rejection sensitivity levels between college students with and without ADHD.  However, there are reasons to take these findings with a pinch of salt. Firstly, they only had 78 participants, only 25 as control. Secondly, they only studied men. Some researchers have found that girls/women with ADHD tend to be more likely to experience emotional dysregulation.  If rejection sensitivity could be considered part of emotional dysregulation , then isn’t it to be expected that fewer men with ADHD experience it?
Although many psychologists (wrongly) take interview findings less seriously than surveys and correlations, researchers have noted adults with ADHD talking about their intense fears of failure and the anxiety it could cause – even when the researchers weren’t specifically asking about that.  My own qualitative research, unpublished as yet, found that women with ADHD could recall instances where their high sensitivity to rejection and failure caused them great social and emotional difficulties.
“So what now? Is rejection sensitivity a symptom of ADHD or not? If there’s all this evidence then why aren’t doctors taking it seriously? Should I stop using the term RSD?”
I’m not here to police anyone’s language on this. I’ve laid out the basic arguments. I’m of the opinion that it’s a big part of the disorder that needs more attention. Please feel free to check any of the sources, you may even come to different conclusions than me. And it’s extremely likely that I’ve missed out some crucial research. After all, most of what I’ve read is about children and adolescents since that’s what my masters dissertation was about. But it really does seem like rejection sensitivity is a big contributor to many of the social and mental health problems that people with ADHD experience.
As for why it isn’t taken as seriously by doctors as it is by the ADHD community… in my opinion it’s because our wellbeing is not a priority for them like it is for us. Researchers and clinicians want to keep us out of prison, make us easier for parents/teachers/employers to manage, make us contribute more to society, make us more outwardly successful. They are typically less concerned with our anxiety and self-esteem. A lack of interest also leads to a lack of funding for vital research in the area. If I propose a study about how rejection sensitivity causes people with ADHD to have fewer friends, and another person proposes a study about how a certain ADHD medication reduces anti-social crime, you can guess which one is going to get prioritised for the scant available funding.
TL;DR: Scientific evidence suggests a link between ADHD and rejection sensitivity. Be cautious about what you read online about RSD and its treatments. But don’t stop talking about it. Maybe one day the diagnostic criteria and research priorities will catch up.
(tip – if any are behind a paywall, try googling the title – the PDF may be legally accessible for free elsewhere)
 Downey, G. & Feldman, S. I. 1996. Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,70(6), 1372-1343. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1247
 Dodson, W. 2017. New insights into rejection sensitive dysphoria. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-adhd-emotional-dysregulation/
 Downey, G., Lebolt, A., Rincón, C., & Freitas, A. L. (1998). Rejection sensitivity and children’s interpersonal difficulties. Child Development, 69(4), 1074-1091. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1998.tb06161.x
 Preti, E., Casini, E., Richetin, J., De Panfilis, C., & Fontana, A. (2020). Cognitive and Emotional Components of Rejection Sensitivity: Independent Contributions to Adolescent Self- and Interpersonal Functioning. Assessment, 27(6), 1230-1241. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073191118817866
 Bondü, R., & Esser, G. (2015). Justice and rejection sensitivity in children and adolescents with ADHD symptoms. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 24(2), 185-198. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-014-0560-9
 Wu, Q., Ran, G., & Zhang, Q. (2020). Rejection sensitivity and trait anxiety: The indirect effects of regulatory emotional self-efficacy and shyness. Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-01070-y
 Bunford, N., Evans, S. W., & Wymbs, F. (2015). ADHD and emotion dysregulation among children and adolescents. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 18, 185-217. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-015-0187-5
 Adler, L. A., Faraone, S. V., Spencer, T. J., Berglund, P., Alperin, S., & Kessler, R. C. (2017). The structure of adult ADHD. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 26(1), e1555. https://doi.org/10.1002/mpr.1555
 Babinski, D. E., Kujawa, A., Kessel, E. M., Arfer, K. B., & Klein, D. N. (2019). Sensitivity to peer feedback in young adolescents with symptoms of ADHD: Examination of neurophysiological and self-report measures. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 47(4), 605-617. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-018-0470-2
 van Meel, C. S., Oosterlaan, J., Heslenfeld, D. J., & Sergeant, J. A. (2005). Telling good from bad news: ADHD differentially affects processing of positive and negative feedback during guessing. Neuropsychologia, 43(13), 1946-1954. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2005.03.018
 Canu, W. H., & Carlson, C. L. (2007). Rejection sensitivity and social outcomes of young adult men with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10(3), 261-275. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054706288106
 Mowlem, F., Agnew-Blais, J., Taylor, E., & Asherson, P. (2019). Do different factors influence whether girls versus boys meet ADHD diagnostic criteria? Sex differences among children with high ADHD symptoms. Psychiatry Research, 272, 765-773. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2018.12.128
 Levkovich, I., & Elyoseph, Z. (2020). College students with ADHD and their reasons for becoming teachers despite negative childhood experiences [Article]. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2020.1789912
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on ADHD Awareness Month – A Look Into Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (what?)
I’ve already mentioned that ADHD is an equal opportunities condition. But one of the strange quirks, according to my anecdotal evidence (many years of meeting ADHDers), is that ADHDers tend to be intelligent.
When I say ‘intelligent’ I mean having agile minds – fast moving and able to solve problems that you wouldn’t expect.
E.g. I ended up doing an A level I wasn’t cut out for – mathematics – with the Oxbridge candidates. Hardcore maths geeks. I was completely out of my depth and rapidly fell behind.
But every now and then I’d look at a problem and the answer would just leap into focus. I couldn’t explain the working out (and it was too complicated to guess) – and it didn’t save my failing ass. People who want answers to complex problems want to know your logic, so it’s no use – especially when it happens at random and infrequently.
I knew I’d solved the problems properly – it was like watching a film of the problem being solved in fast forward, but too fast to see anything in detail.
Which sounds about right – ADHD brains seem to have frequent roadblocks. Being forced into using tangential thinking is fairly normal for us – and tangential thinking is quite often seen as intelligence. Put just the right problem in front of me and I’ll smash it. Make it dull, or a bit too hard, and I’ll bog down. A proper Goldilocks zone. Life is rarely that convenient.
But if you’re in the creative arts then chasing red herrings down blind alleys isn’t so much of an issue, but pointing out what doesn’t occur to other people might be what you want.
There’s a profile for ADHDers – we tend to find employment in some sectors and not others (there are always exceptions). Performing arts/media is a big one. I once had a conversation with a former military air traffic controller, which was a surprise until he explained why it worked for him. They work you hard for short periods and then rest you properly – it makes sense when you think about it.
Simone Biles – gymnast. How many medals? All of them. Nearly. Performing at Olympic level needs dedication and hard work – yes, ADHDers can do that. But it’s tough for us. As if winning medals isn’t hard enough already!
Emma Watson – actor. It’s one of those open secrets, but she doesn’t talk about her ADHD. It’s not compulsory!
Steve Jobs – the Apple guy. Dared to think outside the box – nearly invented a new kind of box…one much more user friendly, but three times the price. Wins out over Bill Gates for ‘most exciting ADHDer in charge of half the world’s money’.
Will.I.Am. – songwriter. Just can’t stop songwriting. Or tweeting. Or social media-ing. Can’t. Stop.
That’s a very short list – people in the ‘performance’ business. Media/sports/arts/entrepreneurship are havens for ADHDers – the fast pace and creativity play to our strengths (I can’t draw for toffee, not even slowly. Ho-hum).
The above are all known to be diagnosed – here’s one we’re claiming.
Obviously he died before ADHD was discovered…
But the more you read about Einstein the more you’re sure he was an ADHDer – his descriptions of how he worked stuff out is just bang on. He refused to memorise many facts…because they got in the way and you could always look them up when you needed them, is typical. The messy desk/board…and personal relationships. Very messy on the affairs front.
But overall he’s a corker and a benchmark for genius.
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on October Is ADHD Awareness Month – Famous ADHDers
Way, way (way) back, in season 1 of The Last Leg, I noticed their bias in favour of the mobility impaired.
They used to have disabled guests on…so I thought I’d see if I could. Coz I’m disabled.
One Too Many?
I did some research and couldn’t find any way to contact them…except by Twitter. A single point of access, which I couldn’t manage – disabled, see.
This type of restriction is typical of organisations that wish to control who accesses them – might as well remove those ramps and put the stairs back in.
I emailed Chanel 4 about it.
Obviously it was dealt with by the work experience minion – whose opinion was ‘if you can’t manage Twitter then you should give up’.
Which I did.
Many years later and The Last Leg is still majoring on mobility impairment, though they have also taken visible impairments under their wing – hello Rosie Jones.
But Rosie is there as a disabled (visibly) entertainer – they gave up inviting disabled people, as front line guests, long ago. Yes – we’re not all entertaining.
But the bias still seems to be there – if you can’t show your prosthetic, or genuinely stumble onto the set, then you aren’t really disabled, are you?
It’s currently ADHD Awareness Month. I’m doing my bit to increase awareness of my variety of disability – one that you can’t see.
When I go to my GPs I notice their massive front door, with low level/low pressure opening switches – a massive investment in hardware. Behind which are the receptionists, who are barely trained bouncers. Guess which is the greater barrier to access to my GP, the door or the receptionists? That’s an access problem.
Guess what, Last Leg. After all the blustering on tonight’s show about PIP guess who still isn’t recognising invisible disabilities? I can’t use public transport, but it’s not the high step that stops me. No access all areas.
For many of us it’s not an issue – we aren’t forced to wear funny hats or anything, so it’s not that easy to spot us when we’re out in the world. It’s an invisible disability (it is a disability), sometimes it would be helpful if it wasn’t so invisible.
Seriously folks – you get people that will say to you ‘You don’t look like you’ve got ADHD’, like there’s an ADHD look. Or ‘If you’re disabled why don’t you have a blue badge?’
Actually – some of us do, but not many. There’s nothing wrong with our mobility, usually, unless we happen to have a mobility impairment or a severe amount of social phobia.
But we do have impairments – that’s how we got diagnosed.
I’m terrible at relationships – personal/work/whatever – it means I’m single, when I don’t want to be, and have never been promoted in my life. That means I’m close to retiring and am still only employable in entry level positions – would sir like fries with that?
Bosses and me are like…petrol and air. Just waiting for a spark.
For some of us it’s more of a problem. Some have family members that refuse to believe that ADHD is real or have workmates with ‘strong opinions’ or bosses that don’t take it seriously. So we might not admit we have ADHD (no funny hat, remember?).
And some of us have jobs where having a neurological condition could be seen as a liability.
For example (an analogy) I have a driving licence. I passed the driving test, not a special, easy, driving test for disabled people. I’m as qualified as any driver (except I’m better qualified – I have advanced driving qualifications). But I definitely passed that test and have that qualification.
What if you’re a doctor? Same tests passed, same qualification as other doctors. But somehow having a condition makes people nervous, as if you aren’t as good. I’ve got news for you – you’ve been surrounded by ADHDers (including doctors) for ever – and they weren’t diagnosed. Us diagnosed are actually an upgrade – I’m better than I was before. And I passed my driving test before I was diagnosed.
So now you know there are doctors with ADHD you might be surprised to hear that a lot of them are undiagnosed, because it might put a brake on their career. They passed those exams, you know!
ADHDer OfThe Day – Dr X
Dr X is great. Kind, caring and supportive – just how you want a doctor. Fairly recently qualified, they now work at *********** hospital as a junior ***********.
It’s a long way from *********, where they still have family, but that’s how it is at this stage of a doctor’s career – you move around a lot.
Dr X finds the situation difficult and has taken to social media as an outlet for their frustration at the stigma.
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on October Is ADHD Awareness Month – Day 4
Today I took four dogs for a walk in the woods. Four. A whippet, a hyperactive cockerpoo, a broken down lurcher (effectively a greyhound) and an ancient terrier. Don’t mess with the terrier, she’ll give you a nasty suck.
This can be quite tricky – four dogs, each with their own agenda. Concentrate. One lapse and you could lose one, which is hours wasted. And distressing.
So I have to be properly medicated and in the zone. All dogs have ADHD (have a think about their behaviour) and one of this quartet is truly hyper, he can wear you out with ease.
Can you spot him? It’s tricky.
Less than two weeks ago I did this walk and disturbed a wasps nest – got well and truly swarm-stung. I felt a sting on my left hand – looked at it to see about six wasps on it and tried brushing then off with my right hand. Which had another gang of wasps on it. Then the buzzing in my ears and the stings inside my jacket sleeve started. One even squirted venom at my eyes, but I was wearing glasses. Let’s say it was a nightmare – and worse than you imagine. There’s no point to this anecdote – it’s just cathartic and a warning to steer clear of autumn wasps.
I tried to think of how I’d have coped with four dogs before I was medicated. What’s the difference? I don’t wander off into Daveworld (it’s lovely) so easily. I don’t lose my temper so quickly when things go wrong – and with four dogs there’s a lot of potential for wrong. Fights. Insane other dog walkers. Stinking black goo/fox poo to coat themselves in. Rivers (just the one – the Tame – but it’s deceptively deep/quick in parts). It’s an adventure every time and you need your wits about you – meds make you ‘wittier’.
So at the end of a walk you’re less likely to be worn out with the effort, which means you have the rest of the day and not need a lie down in a dark room. There’s more hours in your day.
Random ADHD Fact No3
ADHD is an equal opportunities condition.
It doesn’t care about sex/gender/race/disability/IQ/sexual identity or any other differences you personally bring to the party. Nothing suggests that the ADHD population isn’t evenly spread between the sexes (though obviously you can have clusters, where ADHD families have settled).
So if you want to be diagnosed with ADHD – be a boy. Boys are where’s it’s at, ADHD wise. The ratio of boys to girls has always been skewed – it used to be about 20/1 (!!!) but it has dropped – maybe we’re at 2/1 now. I’ve not checked for ages – giant strides have been taken, more need to be.
In adults the female to male ratio (of diagnosis) isn’t worth looking at – it’s even enough. So no need to bother about that then.
Hang on a minute! If the adults are even-ish then what happened to all those girls that didn’t get diagnosed and are now adults? Where are they?
A major part of our awareness needs to be pointed at finding those ‘lost’ women. It’s difficult for any adult to be diagnosed with ADHD – we tend to be the less obvious ones – living quiet lives of misery (or ‘not as good as we could do’) – but for some reason/s women aren’t coming forward so much. It’s not a huge NHS problem (though some dinosaurs still tell women not to be so silly) as it is a standing up to be counted problem. We’ll come back to this subject later in the month.
Which brings us to *insert fanfare here*
ADHDer Of The Day– Dennis Queen
I know very little about Dennis. But when I sent Dennis a PM a couple of hours ago, asking for an article, one was whipped out before I finished my next cup of tea. Quick work, Dennis!
As usual I’m not editing or interfering or anything – it’s naked publishing. I just said ‘send me something ADHD related’ and this is it.
Mx Dennis Queen – Awareness, Access and Activism
Photo by Brian Hilton. Really captured the moment there, Brian.
ADHD awareness month..
Hello it’s great that you want to find out more about people with ADHD and here’s some things to also be aware of.
We are all wonderfully different, as you will see from the selection of blogs here this month.
It’s great to have some awareness of who we are, and it’s even more important to remember that this doesn’t replace connecting with the people with ADHD that you encounter in your lives.
You cannot be expected to already know everything about everyone with ADHD – you must listen to, learn from and trust the people you know who have ADHD. Only each of us can tell you our personal experience and we are the experts on ourselves.
For example, When somebody tells you they have an access issue, that is their access issue and you must accept it and make reasonable adjustments for them. You don’t need me to tell you their access issue is valid, because I don’t know them.
Often it’s our access problems that people need to understand, not so much to learn general information about our ‘condition’. We’re people not conditions.
Me, I was a ‘naughty, inattentive’ child whose wonderful skills in hyperfocus, asking questions and challenging authority figures was completely undervalued.
Now I am a middle aged disability rights activist and I am utilising these skills for good in the world, and encouraging others to speak up and fight back. I’m a natural protester and I have skills in being awkward that come in handy. I do other more grown up campaigning, but protests are my favourite.
There are lots of neurodivergent people who do activism in this and other movements. We are often people who naturally see other ways to do things.
Right, that’s it. I’ve run out of ideas. Two days of finding material – it’s too much!
Random ADHD Fact No2
Know any ADHDers? No?
You’re wrong. You’re surrounded by us. That person that cut you up in traffic and then shouted abuse at you? Probably an ADHDer. The friend whose finances are a complete train wreck, despite them having a well paid job? Possibly one of us. The chronically late/early person in the office? Being on time is a real struggle for us. The intelligent friend that can’t read a book?
As usual – these are just pointers – taken on their own they mean nothing, but if someone does all of these…..is it you?
When I say surrounded by ADHDers – I’m talking massive under-diagnosis. As an absolute minimum 2% of the world’s population has ADHD, it might be as high as 5%. That’s up to 1 in 20 of everyone you meet – if there’s 20 people in the room with you there’s likely to be one of us, lurking. Are they lurking in the mirror?
Today’s ADHDer OfThe Day – Katy B
I’ve known Katy for a couple of years and she’s great. All this *looks around* was her idea.
No, not the interwebs. This awareness month blog.
She’s leading by example – this is her contribution. I’m just copying and pasting – no spellcheck, no editing, nothing. This is naked publishing (hope she hasn’t libelled anyone!). So get yourself a brew and a biscuit and strap in!
From Moody Teen To Grown Woman – The Katy B Story
One of the biggest misconceptions that even professionals have is that you can’t have undiagnosed ADHD and still succeed in school. I hear lots of stories from people who were told by health care professionals like GPs and psychiatrists that their academic success is proof that they don’t have ADHD. But there is ample evidence that this is just untrue. My journey is just one illustrative example of how you can have undiagnosed ADHD and still “succeed” in education.
I was diagnosed with predominantly inattentive ADHD (ADHD-I) when I was 26. I already had 3 A levels and a 2:1 undergraduate degree. If I had ADHD the whole time then how on earth did I manage that? Well, that was the first question I asked myself when I was walking out of the psychiatrist’s office after being given my diagnosis.
The answer: at the expense of my mental health. Let me explain.
I was raised to value education and always wanted to go to uni. My ADHD symptoms didn’t change that. ADHD-I isn’t the stereotype where you’re bouncing off the walls and getting kicked out of class. Although I did get kicked out of French once for reading a book when we were supposed to be watching a serious French film. I was quiet, shy and intelligent. There’s another misconception, although a less popular one – ADHD does not, in fact, affect intelligence. So I never questioned the idea of going to uni when I turned 18. I wanted to and I felt able to.
That doesn’t mean I had no symptoms of ADHD. I almost never did homework. I never listened to what the teachers were saying in class. I had awful insomnia and fell asleep in lessons constantly. I was socially awkward because I found it hard to pay attention or remember what people said, and had trouble stopping myself from saying the first thing that came to mind.
But I had ways of coping. When my teachers gave me detentions for not doing homework, I just didn’t turn up to them. I knew how to get just enough homework done on the bus to school to avoid detentions when I could. When I didn’t, I used every excuse in the book (I don’t remember them exactly but safe to say my poor nan died a few times). And I was still clever, meaning my actual grades were fine, so teachers didn’t mind too much. When I didn’t listen to teachers in class, my friends sitting next to me would tell me what we were supposed to be doing. And I would sometimes catch up on sleep at lunch times and in free periods when I was in sixth form. My sociology teacher was very understanding and never told me off for literally interrupting his teaching with snores. I left school with enough A levels to get into a red brick university. I graduated with a 2:1, having got a distinction in my undergraduate dissertation.
But Katy, if you managed to cope so well, why did you even need a diagnosis?
This is where mental health comes in.
Things were hard as a teenager. Those years are hard for everyone, granted. But being constantly told by teachers that you “have potential but need to try harder” gets to you. Especially when you are already trying as hard as you possibly can. I could not understand why my friends experienced procrastination differently to me. They would moan about doing homework, and then just… do it. I would moan about homework but feel utterly incapable of even starting it. I’d feel bad about it until I went to sleep, and then I’d feel bad about it when I didn’t hand it in. And when I say bad, I mean soul-crushingly guilty and ashamed. “Why am I like this? What’s different about me? What’s wrong with me? If I can’t do this, how am I going to do anything with my life?” Big questions for a 14 year old.
I got depressed. At uni, it got far worse. More free time and personal responsibility? How will I get anything done? But I still valued my education. I desperately wanted to do well because I cared deeply about doing well. So I tried my hardest. But my life just fell apart around me. It got to the point where I was pinning notes to my wall that had horrible insults on them in an attempt to guilt myself into doing more work. Because I thought my problem was laziness. I used all the self-discipline tricks in the book. I told myself I wouldn’t sit down until I’d written 100 words. So I’d be standing up until my legs were sore because I couldn’t organise my thoughts or focus no matter what. I told myself I wouldn’t sleep until I’d done the required reading. So I didn’t sleep at all. I told myself I’d stay in the library until I had finished my assignment. So I stayed there for days at a time, only going home to shower and sleep for a couple of hours. I told myself I wouldn’t eat until I’d done what I needed to. So I didn’t eat. Oh hi, eating disorder! I ended up unable to physically function. I wasn’t looking after myself because I thought that withholding basic care would motivate me to be better. It didn’t work and I ended up needing to take a year out of uni to recover. I went back, used some healthier productivity tips like eating a balanced diet and taking regular breaks (but still pulled regular all-nighters and lived in the library), managed a 2:1, and vowed to never put myself through the ordeal of university again.
The story has a happy ending. I went back to uni and got a Masters degree, with my grades on average 10% higher than in my undergraduate. My mental health is the best it’s ever been. I’m on no anti-depressants whatsoever. I am finally reaching the potential everyone said I had.
That was only possible because of my ADHD diagnosis and treatment. ADHD and mental health go hand in hand. Untreated ADHD can have disastrous effects for some people’s mental health. As I said to someone recently, treating undiagnosed ADHD with antidepressants is like fixing a leaky pipe by putting a bucket underneath it. You might be limiting the damage, but you’re ignoring a blatantly obvious cause which could have a fairly easy long-term fix. At least easier than replacing the bucket every day.
That analogy might not be perfect but whatever. Hopefully you know what I mean. The moral of the story is that so-called “twice-exceptional” students, i.e. those with learning difficulties but good grades, are likely to be at increased risk for mental illness because of what goes on behind the scenes to manage learning difficulties completely alone. Look after your 2e kids. Look after yourself. It’s not your fault.
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