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ADHD (part 3): A picture of how ADHD works inside the minds of those afflicted

confusion 3
confusion 3

What is it like to cope with ADHD on a daily basis, as experienced through the perception of high school students? This is the question the article will address. It is the mechanics of ADHD through the perception of two high school students--student A and student B. Ultimately, another significant flaw concerning how ADHD is defined and treated is revealed.

Suppose student A and student B arrive one day in class. The teacher reveals there will be a test the tomorrow, but assures it shouldn't be difficult so long as students pay attention during today's review, in which he would summarize the relevant topics and hint at most of the test questions.

However, from the beginning student A has trouble keeping up. Whenever the teacher pauses--answering questions posed by classmates--student A loses concentration and by the time his focus returns his view of the whole is broken. Now student A, in an attempt to compensate what he feels was lost, concentrates  intensely on every detail, which results in his further losing sight over the general subject matter. He experiences a mental overload of disconnected details causing him to give up. The block he has experienced may be compared to a "circuit shut down"--a current of concepts unable to disperse evenly though a network of mental cables and wires, so to speak. And instead of clear conception forms an indistinguishable blur of reality.

As result of his frustration, student A turns and tells his buddy that the teacher's voice sounds like elevator music with lyrics. The comment is overheard by others, causing an outburst of laughter. Since student A is marked as the ‘hyperactive' culprit, the teacher, having already warned countless times in the past, decides to send student A to the principal's office.

On the other side of the classroom, student B has experienced similar frustration. But she sits quietly withdrawn, having given up keeping up far before student A had his mini-meltdown. However, student B's distraction doesn't arise from the teacher answering students' questions; instead it is the result of her mind relapsing into 'daydreams'--or rather, a dull fragmentation of thoughts and scattered imagination. It is a habitual pattern. Her mind wanders during class, and she begins to scribble hearts, flowers and peace signs instead of taking notes. She once explained this debilitating distraction process to her school counselor, describing it as "a numb kind of thinking." But because student B appeared to the counselor so gentle and quiet, the possibility of ADHD was not considered.

There is in reality little difference between student A and student B. Both have attention deficit disorder; both become easily distracted and blocked during class; both score below average on exams. But since student B does not demonstrate symptoms of "hyperactivity," internalizing her frustration instead, she does not appear to fit under the conventional label of ADHD. Instead of ‘acting out' student B blames herself instead of the teacher, and in addition diagnoses herself with "stupidity," which down the line, if left untreated may result in crippling low self-esteem and clinical depression. Moreover, student A would stand a greater chance of receiving treatment for externalizing his confusion through misconduct. But then the greater question is whether he benefits from long-term treatment with psychostimulants such as Adderall?

Again, one might wonder how a problem such as ADHD may be solved when it is so poorly defined, and thus misunderstood by parents and teachers who should be the ones to initially recognize the symptoms. Confusion and frustration projected outward result in "hyperactivity,"--as it commonly does with the "extrovert type." But there are also those such as student B who internalize and withdraw--the "introvert type"--and they therefore stand a greater chance of falling through the cracks of parent/teacher observation and also a greater chance of false clinical judgment/diagnosis.

The conventional definition of ADHD appears as scattered and laced with confusion as the condition itself.