A popular myth about ADHD is that it “pathologizes normal human behavior.” Consider then Myth #10, that the symptoms of inattention in ADHD are nothing more than “daydreaming.”
When a website called The Farmacy posted this misleading and stigmatizing “meme” (above) on Facebook, my new Egyptian friend Madiha responded with the essay below (she’s granted me permission to share it).
(Funny enough, the particularly annoying meme above inspired my friend Jaclyn to write an excellent post: Bad ADHD Memes and my Real Reason for Taking Stimulants.)
I love hearing from newly minted ADHD advocates, especially late-diagnosis adults. They bring fresh vigor to the online “discourse.” And they don’t back down. They know how high the stakes.
The Difference Between ADHD and Daydreaming
Average daydreaming doesn’t cause you to grapple to remember thoughts, tasks, names and dates everyday.
It doesn’t make you lose friendships, lose jobs, and fail subject after subject because you were so enveloped in your daily racing thoughts, jumping from one uncompleted task to the next, only to realize its been days or weeks since you have returned that call—or missed that wedding.
Average daydreaming doesn’t keep you up restless almost every night.
It doesn’t cause so much anxiety and depression.
It doesn’t ruin schoolwork, prevent you from applying the knowledge you know or cause you to be the last person to leave an (uncompleted) exam.
It doesn’t make you feel like you are a victim of your mind, constantly carrying you away from the best intentions and plans to a tornado of obsessive hyperfocused distractions that never end and result only in lost time. Constantly failing at perseverance and commitments of any kind.
Average daydreaming doesn’t make you more prone to accidents, intense moodiness, job loss, failing education, drug addiction, suicide, and not being taken seriously and judged by others.
Average Daydreaming Doesn’t Severely Impair Life
The difference between ADHD and “daydreaming” is the difference between
- Feeling sad and being clinically depressed
- Being shy and having social anxiety
- Being scared occasionally and suffering panic attacks
- Being moody sometimes and having bipolar disorder
These sets of comparisons may seem very similar to the person who cannot relate, but they are not environmentally provoked, and the people suffering from these afflictions have no conscious control over them.
There is more science behind ADHD than you may know. ADHD symptoms can even be caused by head trauma. Its existence has been traced back to at least the 18th century (“Newsflash: ADHD Dates Back to 1798—At Least!). It is no less legitimate a neurobiological and psychological disorder than Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia or Autism.
Yes, I disagree with giving stimulant medication to young children without exhausting alternative treatments first. But millions of children and adults suffering from ADHD have experienced dramatically changed lives thanks to these medications.
Of course, it saddens me that people would give medications to children simply to curb normal childhood behavior. But it also saddens me when people write off ADHD as simply daydreaming. That is like telling someone who is clinically depressed they are just sad and need to cheer up and don’t need medication.
ADHD might be over-diagnosed in some cases but it is also under-diagnosed in thousands, especially girls and adults.
People once resisted any psychological diagnoses and saw no point to them; they preferred labeling people with mental illnesses simply as crazy and weird. This black-and-white thinking helps no one.
Here is the irony: I used to be anti-medication, just like this post suggests. Medication literally saved my life more than once when everything else failed.
I hope others will take this condition called ADHD as seriously as those affected do. I urge them: don’t be quick to write off other people’s experiences simply because they cannot relate.
Well done, Madiha!
Your comments always welcome.