ADHD: Where’s the Deficit?

What is ADHD?

Many things can look like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, so it’s crucial to assess or diagnose it properly. To start with, the name doesn’t do the symptoms a lot of justice. While the term ADHD describes a deficit, the symptoms actually manifest as difficulty in shifting and maintaining attention. This podcast episode will give you some ADHD tips and help you better understand ADHD.

ADHD is a neural development disorder. This means that your brain has developed in a way that makes you exhibit certain symptoms. ADHD is stereotyped as absent-mindedness and daydreaming, which is not always the case. One of our ADHD tips is knowing what to look for. There are two types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; watch out for 6 of the following symptoms in children and 5 in adults.

a)     The inattentive subtype of ADHD

  1. Failure to give attention to details or making seemingly careless mistakes in school, work, or other activities.
  2. Difficulty in sustaining attention in class or play activities.
  3. Failure to listen attentively when spoken to directly.
  4. Failure to follow through on instructions. Often failing to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace.
  5. Difficulty in organizing tasks and activities.
  6. Avoiding, disliking, or being reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  7. Losing things necessary for tasks or activities such as keys, wallets, pencils, and school work.
  8. Easily getting distracted by stimuli such as thoughts.
  9. Being forgetful in daily activities such as running errands, returning phone calls, paying bills and appointments. A good example is going down the stairs a couple of times and forgetting why you’re there each time.

b)   Hyperactive, impulsive subtype

  1. Constantly fidgeting, tapping hands and feet, or squirming on seats.
  2. Leaving your seat in situations when remaining seated is expected, for example, the classroom, office, or workplace (restlessness).
  3. Children run about or climb in situations when it is inappropriate. For adults, it will manifest in the form of extreme restlessness.
  4. Inability to play or engage in leisure activities quietly, sit down to read or do anything that requires calm.
  5. Often being on the go acting as if driven by a motor; inability to stay still long during meetings.
  6. Talking excessively.
  7. Blurting out answers before a question has been completed.
  8. Having difficulty waiting for your turn.
  9. Interrupting or intruding on others during games, activities, and conversations.

These symptoms should have manifested before the age of 12, be two-dimensional, and harm the child’s life for a proper diagnosis to be made. This is because it is possible to manifest some of these symptoms because of stress or anxiety.


Getting a diagnosis

People with ADD often feel misunderstood and that’s because they often are. Compared to the typically developing child, they seem to have too much energy or cannot pay attention. Authority figures will often scold children with ADD making them believe that they are restless and rowdy.

Another one of our ADD tips is understanding that when children with ADD are punished by authority figures because of their symptoms, the following limiting beliefs can become present:

  • I am a disappointment
  • I am misunderstood
  • Something is wrong with me
  • People don’t like me
  • I should get defensive

Diagnosis often has different effects on different people. Some will feel extremely relieved because things will start to make sense for them. Others will go down a spiral where they believe that something is wrong with them.

However, the truth is that a diagnosis will help you understand yourself better. Knowing that it’s not a flaw in your character but how your brain functions has to be liberating.

ADHD Isn’t All Bad

Here’s another one of our ADD tips: understand the bad and the good. On the negative side, people with ADD seem either impulsive or bored. Some misinformed people even associate ADD with a lack of intelligence, which is not the case. However, they have some excellent qualities and are usually an asset in school and at work. Some of these qualities include:

  • Creativity,
  • Original out-of-the-box thinking,
  • A tendency towards an unusual way of looking at life,
  • Zany sense of humour, 
  • An unpredictable approach,
  • Resilience,
  • Intuitive style, and
  • Warm heartedness.

Secondary symptoms

People with ADD will often exhibit difficulty with motivation if something is not stimulating enough. This often attracts negative feedback from authority figures, spouses, or friends. It is this type of feedback that usually results in secondary symptoms. They include:

  1. Dreading certain activities which could result in anxiety and depression.
  2. Negative feedback and lack of affirmation from authority figures lead to limiting beliefs in children.
  3. Some children get defensive, which leads to Opposition Defiant Disorders.
  4. Rebellion behaviour from feeling misunderstood.
  5. Conduct disorder in adults entails lawlessness, strain in relationships, and difficulty at work.


Some ADD symptoms are worse than others; this could be because of triggers like:

  •   Poor diet
  •   Inactivity
  •   Skipping medication
  •   Lack of sleep
  •   Stress

Pro-social behaviour should be encouraged, particularly in children, and that is why treatment is crucial. Make sure that you see a doctor and find the proper medication.

However, pills don’t teach skills, so you need to combine your medication with a practical skills approach. Medication takes the edge off things, thus allowing you to concentrate and get things done.

Shedding off the shame and stigma associated with ADHD is vital. Especially for parents who may keep their children away from medication because of labels. ADHD is not a result of bad parenting; it is not a statement of your parenting style. ADHD can get in the way of your child’s life, so make a point of getting them the help and support they need.

ADHD and relationships

Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t seem to pay attention can be challenging. It is easy for the other person to feel unappreciated and unloved. Other impacts on relationships include:

  1. Forgetfulness (Significant events and activities),
  2. Distractibility,
  3. Difficulty in being present physically and mentally,
  4. Lack of chore balance, overloading one partner,
  5. Emotional impulsively,
  6. Low tolerance (impatience, explodes),
  7. Inability to handle feeling overwhelmed, and
  8. Being reactive.

However, there are things you can do. Here’s one of our ADD tips that can help you in relationships. Make an effort to help yourself remember things, such as writing things down and setting a digital reminder on your phone. Also, be honest about your symptoms and seek help if you haven’t. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who accept and support you unconditionally. Support goes a long way toward helping you achieve wellness.

Coping mechanisms

The first and most crucial step towards a full life with ADD is being self-accepting and self-compassionate. Some of the things that will help you include:

  •   Embracing a reminder system to remind you of important activities and events,
  •   Finding an organizing system that works for you, whether digital or physical,
  •   Reading and watching self-help material,
  •   Turning tasks into games to make them fun and keep you engaged, and
  •   Doodling even in adults helps you to stay present.

Find what works for you and stick to it. In addition, you can learn more about Shift’s approach to ADHD treatment here.