Questions Teens Ask about ADHD

By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. & John J. Ratey, M.D.

Q: Any advice on how to deal with the fact that I feel like a reject because I have ADD?

A: Remember the good side of ADD. Keep in mind the pluses. High energy, creativity, warmth, openness, spontaneity, intuitiveness, resilience, persistence, and a good sense of humor are some of the positive qualities often associated with ADD. Keep those in mind, because you need them.The biggest negative that goes with ADD is not the ADD itself but the negative thoughts that churn up in the wake of it. The ADD symptoms themselves&emdash;distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness, and so on&emdash;can be dealt with. But negative thinking defeats you. Sometimes you probably get into a mood when you think one bad thought after another about yourself. You sit there hammering away at yourself, for minutes and hours, until you practically have to be pulled up off the floor, you feel so bad.

Don’t do this. The moment you feel one of those moods coming on, take action. Go for a run. Call a friend. Do something to get you out of the negative cycle before it gets you into its clutches and you can’t escape.

It’s good if you have a coach, too. Someone you can talk to. Someone who can help pull you out of the bad thoughts and get you back on track. It is hard to do this alone. A coach or a therapist or a friend can really help.

Q: How long am I going to have ADD? (I’m sixteen now, and I’ve had ADD since I was in the first grade.)

A: You’ll probably have it for the rest of your life, if you have it now. Kids who are going to grow out of it do so before they reach your age, usually. But that is not such a bad thing. Sure, you may need to take medication indefinitely, but once you get used to that, it’s OK. And many kids learn certain techniques or tricks while on the medication that carry over to when they’re not taking it. If this is the case for you, then you’ll be able to stop taking the medication.The nonmedication approaches to treatment last longer than medication anyway. Practice these (they’re outlined in chapter 7, “Making Up Your Mind”). In the course of a lifetime, ADD need not be disabling; indeed, it can be a definite benefit.

Q: Can I take the medicine just once in a while?

A: In general, it is best to take the medication regularly. On the other hand, it may be that your target symptoms appear irregularly. If that is the case, you may need the medicine only intermittently. This is OK. There is no danger or harm in taking the medication on an intermittent basis. The reason I say it is better to take it regularly is that, for most people, the symptoms are present most of the time. Therefore, by taking the medication on a regular schedule they get maximum benefit, and they also get into a dosing routine that decreases the likelihood of their forgetting a dose.

Q: I just read Brave New World. In that book there’s this drug everyone takes to keep them happy called soma. The government basically uses it to keep the people quiet. That made me nervous because I just started on Ritalin for ADD. How do I know Ritalin isn’t like soma?

A: Just ask yourself. Does your Ritalin make you serene and happy, as soma does in Brave New World, oblivious to the problems around you? If it does, you should stop taking it right away. I doubt, however, that you find Ritalin does that, because Ritalin is not a medicine that induces oblivious or “happy” feelings. All Ritalin should do is help you focus better. That means you can focus on problems better, as well as on pleasant topics.

Q: What is the best way to deal with my mom, who is constantly reminding me about everything, as if I had brain damage instead of ADD?

A: Ask her to back off. Explain to her that you think you can handle the details of everyday life on your own. Tell her you want to set it up as an experiment. If the experiment works, and you handle things successfully, then she will stay backed off. However, if you start dropping the ball, then she will have your permission to reinvolve herself. If you would like someone’s help with daily details, just not your mom’s, then talk over with her the possibility of another person’s getting involved. Tell her, “No offense, Mom. I love you, but you push my buttons when you remind me to do things, and it makes me not want to do them.” I think she’ll understand; she probably felt that way once about her mom as well.

Q: Ever since I got the diagnosis of ADD, I have this feeling in my gut I’ll never be successful. My mom and dad tell me it doesn’t matter, but they used to tell my brother it didn’t matter he had zits, and I knew it did. Tell me the truth. Just how bad is ADD?

A: It all depends. How bad is it to be nearsighted? If you never get treatment for your nearsightedness, it can be really bad to be nearsighted. You could flunk out of school because of it. Same thing with ADD. If you don’t know you have it, it can cripple you. But if you do know, as you do, it can actually prove to be an asset. First of all, you have to get treatment to take care of the bad aspects of ADD&emdash;the distractibility, the impulsivity, the restlessness, the forgetfulness, the procrastination, the disorganization, and the mood problems. Once you get a handle on these, you can start benefiting from the positive&emdash;the high energy, the creativity, the openheartedness, the resilience, the willingness to work hard, and the ingenuity. Not only can you be a success, you can be a great success. Many highly successful people have ADD. I have treated multimillionaire businesspeople, professional athletes, actors and actresses, doctors, lawyers, university professors, authors, real estate developers, racecar drivers, airline pilots, and many others.

 

APA Reference
Psych Central. (2011). Questions Teens Ask about ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/questions-teens-ask-about-adhd/00010491
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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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