I Am Not an ADDer

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • Huh? Did that get your attention?

     

    I have a personal pet peeve that I would like to share with you. Many adults with ADHD like to refer to themselves (and others with ADHD) as being an "ADDer." Now, I may and probably will get some flack over this statement, but let me explain.

     

    ADHD is only part of who I am. I am a woman who happens to have ADHD. I'm a mother with ADHD. I'm a clinician with ADHD. I parent a (grown) child with ADHD. We are not "ADDers" any more than we are "depressionERs" or "bipolars."

     

    Why does this irritate me? Well, for a number of reasons. First, I don't want ADHD to define who I am. ADHD is just part of who and what I am, just like having brown eyes, being right handed and standing 5'8" tall.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

     

    Second, being an "ADDer" sounds trendy or like one belongs to a clique or privileged crowd that is by membership only. Ok, so I'm exaggerating. Many of you would probably say if given a choice, you'd rather hand in your membership card. Or maybe not, but that is for another post.

     

    My gripe with this cute acronym is that ADHD is anything but sweet for many who struggle with hyperactivity, impulsivity or distractibility, among other symptoms of ADHD. For most, it's no fun having electricity shut off because you've forgotten to pay the electric bill. Or perhaps you know very well that the payment is due, but you just can't....get yourself to... sit down long enough to write out a check. Instead, you procrastinate.

     

    There is often a lifetime of other pains and failures, like broken marriages and relationships that fell apart due to ADHD symptoms that run amok. There is the chronic sense of underachievement, knowing that intelligence isn't the issue, it's knowing how to use it.

     

    We see our children struggling in school, socially challenged, bullied and for many, behaviorally out of control. Are they ADDers? Or are they children with a significant neurobiological impairment that, if not treated appropriately, can cause a lifetime of struggles? Why make this altered DSM term sound so...cute? To me, it only diminishes the intensity of the challenges people with ADHD face.

     

    For years, parents, advocates, educators, clinicians, researchers and even organizations like CHADD, worked hard to prove that yes, ADHD does exist and it should be considered a true disability so that people can be protected by law whether at school or at work. They prevailed and ADHD was coined a disability that is now covered under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

     

    On the bright side and yes, I do think there is one, ADHD is by far not a death sentence. Those of us touched by ADHD often feel that there are ADHD traits we would never trade in. There is much talk about ADHD and creativity, sensitivity, empathy, "out of the box" thinking, and more. But are those traits BECAUSE of our ADHD or are they in spite of it?

     

    At any rate, if you wonder why I don't use the term "ADDer", it's because I don't take this whole thing lightly. I've heard too many stories and seen too many tears shed by those who are touched by ADHD and I just can't bring myself to call any of these folks "ADDers."

     

Published On: February 15, 2008