When an ADHD Diagnosis is an Assault on Self

Dr. Ned Hallowell argues that the current medical model of diagnosing and treating ADHD is destructive and needs to be replaced.  I agree.

Ned Hallowell has been a voice for compassionate and thoughtful treatment of ADHD for many years.  His recent blog post in response to Esquire's recent article on Drugging the American Boy is really worth reading if you have ADHD anywhere in your family.  Yes, dealing with ADHD can be really hard, and at no time is it harder than when the person who has ADHD is unwilling to admit it's can cause problems for self or others.  That's denial...and that is what causes divorce (not ADHD!)  But to me, that denial often makes total sense.  If one "admits" that he or she has a brain with ADHD and that it is causing problems that are "bad" then it's too easy to translate that to "I must be bad."  As Ned writes in this post,

""I” essentially refers to one’s mind, because that’s where the sense of self resides.  You don’t identify with your throat or your kidney (when you have throat or kidney problems), unless you’re psychotic; but you do identify with your mind.   When you tell a person he has a sick mind, you assault his sense of self."

When I work with couples I try hard to help people differentiate between their 'core selves' and their 'ADHD symptomatic behavior.'  Behaviors can be changed...and by the time people find me, many ADHD symptomatic behaviors should be changed for the sake of both partners (and, BTW, so should many of the behaviors their partners have adopted).  Couples who simultaneously seek out the positive as they make these changes seem much more likely to succeed.  For them it's not just a slog of negatives and hard work, there are also bursts of sunshine to remind them of why they are doing all this work.

Ned's blog post is well worth reading.  You can find it here.

P.S.  The article in Esquire is, at least in part, an article about sloppy diagnosis and treatment - something which clearly happens more often than we wish, and it's a reminder that getting a good diagnosis is important.  It also points out that the latest science on treatment for ADHD suggests low levels of medications plus behavior therapy work best.