Sunday, November 02, 2014


Parents: New research views “ADHD” as a positive trait

Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.

by Larry Geller

Hey—that’s me! No, I was never diagnosed as ADHD, but I am a novelty seeker.

In public school I was bored. I knew everything they were going to teach already, so sitting still while others around me stumbled was b-o-r-i-n-g. In math class, the teacher would write the exam for the next higher grade on the blackboard while we completed our test, and then would pull a chart down to cover it. I completed our exam and then turned the paper over and did next year’s on the back. It was exciting. What—was I supposed to sit there for half the hour doing nothing, since my test was already completed?

A girl in my second-grade class could identify all the states on a blank map and name their capitols. In the second grade. I’m guessing she might have been bored as well in future grades. That’s probably not all that she already knew. Being ahead even by a little bit can make class uninteresting, or I guess falling behind so that nothing makes sense but you have to sit there anyway can also be a problem. Or just wanting to get outside or check one’s Facebook page while stuck in history class could do it.

Yes, school can appear boring. So can work. I think I could never have survived if I had a job that repeated the same thing day after day. That routine would stifle me.

So it has come about that people who are bored by routine risk getting labeled as ADHD and may have to take pills for it.

To compensate, they are drawn to new and exciting experiences and get famously impatient and restless with the regimented structure that characterizes our modern world. In short, people with A.D.H.D. may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture.

From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.

[NY Times, A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D., 10/31/2014]

Check out the full article. Does it describe you, one of your kids, or one of your pupils?

My patient “treated” his A.D.H.D simply by changing the conditions of his work environment from one that was highly routine to one that was varied and unpredictable [he quit a routine job and joined or formed a start-up company]. All of a sudden, his greatest liabilities — his impatience, short attention span and restlessness — became assets. And this, I think, gets to the heart of what is happening in A.D.H.D.


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