Call it what you like - ADD, ADHD, AD/HD, Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without hyperactivity) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This condition, by any name, gets the majority of its 'press' from in the public arena -- failure at school or work. But that's just its outward face. At least for adults, the really insidious stuff often occurs in the private sphere. As a result, many adults who suspect that they have the condition fail to get treatment; they figure if it's not affecting their job so the problem cannot be ADHD. That's not just wrong, it's also a cause of preventable misery.
Simply, people with ADHD tend to crave stimulation and stink at moderation. That's a bad combination when there are so many ways to achieve instant gratification with lasting, nasty consequences. It's even worse, arguably, for people who do manage to perform well at work but are so bored that they're constantly seeking a new thrill.
What follows are the big three. These tend to get misrepresented as just 'moral failings' but are really very common ways that out-of-control ADHD adults seek stimulation to their own detriment.
1. Sex: Sex is a good thing, except when it's not. For example, sex with someone other than your spouse/partner on a regular basis can lead to nasty break-ups, divorce, custody battles, etc. Sex with strangers (without the proper use of condoms) can lead to all kinds of STD's, which you might inadvertently share with people you love. In fact, all kinds of legal sex can ruin your life. This doesn't mean that everyone with ADHD is a slut (male or female), but it's a common 'high risk' behavior that many untreated people with ADHD tend to indulge.
2. Gambling: I have never gambled, precisely because I'm so sure that once I start, I'll love it. Unfortunately, lots of people with ADHD do get the fever and are more than happy to blow all kinds of money that they have or don't have. And you don't need Vegas, a bookie or an Indian casino to make this happen. The stock market will do quite nicely, as will a credit card with a very high limit. For many, reckless spending is just as stimulating as losing money on games of chance.
3. Drugs: For me, caffeine was the drug of choice. I would try to limit myself to a dozen shots of espresso a day. I often failed. For others, crystal meth (methamphetamine) turns out to have been even better. And despite what many people think, most adults with ADHD aren't doing this to party: they're doing it to work. Stimulants, for many of us with the condition, are focusing and calming. That leads to better performance at work, happy bosses, financial reward, etc. Those are the precise 'rewards' that tend lead us beyond moderation and headlong into the realm of excess.
Like most activities, sex, drugs and gambling are just fine for most people in moderation. If you have ADHD, however, you don't really 'do' moderation. Fortunately, coginitive therapy, behavioral coaching, appropriate pharmaceuticals and understanding the realities of your condition can help you to curb excess and manage your condition. So, if you think that you might have ADHD or know that you do but remain untreated, get yourself some assistance. Treatments aren't always perfect, but they do frequently lead to happier lives.
Michael B. Laskoff
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