ADHD: Keeping It Real

Dan Bolton


I can't emphasize enough how important it is to identify folks with ADD/ ADHD, children AND ADULTS alike. Let me put a few facts down here on the blogosphere that encompass the social, emotional, and educational impact of ADD/ADHD:

The Social

52% of untreated teens and adults abuse drugs or alcohol

19% smoke cigarettes (compared to only 10% of the general population)

43% of untreated hyperactive boys will be arrested for a felony by age 16

50% of inmates in a number of studies have been found to have ADD 

75% have interpersonal problems; untreated ADD sufferers have a higher percentage of motor vehicle accidents, speeding tickets, citations for driving without a license, and suspended or revoked licenses

Parents of ADD children divorce 3 times more often than the general population 

* These statistics were obtained from Daniel Amen’s book, Healing ADD, pg. xvi, and can be verified across multiple publications 

The Emotional

Here is another scary statistic that was published in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. The study followed a sample of 125 children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD between when they were between 4 and 6 years old, and 123 children between the same ages without ADD/ADHD. The findings showed that the children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD between the ages of 4 and 6 were at greater risk for depression later when they were between the ages of 9 and 18.

12% of children and adolescents with ADD/ADHD said they had a specific suicide plan at least once during the time period between age 9 and age 18 (compared to 1.6% of kids without ADD/ADHD)

More than 18% of the children with ADD/ADHD made a suicide attempt at least once (compared to only 5.7% of the children who were not diagnosed with ADD/ADHD)

Source -

The Educational

35% of children with ADD/ADHD never finish high school (25% repeat at least one grade)

Research conducted at the UC Davis MIND Institute, published July of this year online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found that  compared with teenagers with no psychiatric disorders, teens with combined type ADHD were more than twice as likely to drop out or fail to finish high school on time. Furthermore, high school incompletion rates for teens with ADHD were higher than for any other mental health disorder. This study involved interviews of 29, 662 respondents regarding the age of onset of psychiatric diagnoses, substance use, and high school graduation. Of the 29,662 a total of 5,310 (16.9%) did not complete high school or did not graduate on time. Of the 5,310 who did not graduate on time 15.2% had no psychiatric diagnosis before the age of 18, while the rates of those with ADHD combined type was 33.2%

For those who dropped out, the highest drop out rates were found in the respondents who were diagnosed in childhood or adolescence with either the inattentive or combined type of ADHD at 28.6%. The rate of high school drop outs with ADHD beat out those with diagnosed with mania at 26.6% and panic disorder at 24.9%. This is an astounding figure, as a diagnosis of ADHD is more predictive of high school drop out compared to any other psychiatric disorder!  

The list can go on, but I hope these statistics caused some alarm, because it is vital for us to start paying attention even, and especially, when the children suffering for ADD/ADHD cannot.  

Let me also be clear here that I am not only pointing to parents or teachers who may be missing the boat with ADD/ADHD here, but there are also many mental health professionals out there who either subscribe to a clinical philosophy that does not believe that ADD/ADHD is real, or are not informed enough about all of the signs and indicators of ADD/ADHD, as well as it’s prevalence. To be fair to this second group of mental health professionals when ADD/ADHD is combined with other emotional problems as anxiety, PTSD, and depression, it can be very difficult to discern what is ADD/ADHD and what is something else. This is why new brain scan technology is vital to advance our understanding of the brain, how various emotional disorders differ, and how they interact.

When we do not recognize that a child has ADD/ADHD, or we do not accept that ADD/ADHD is real, and communicate that it is simply a matter of putting in more effort to do better, that child begins to build certain beliefs about himself, that he is a failure, he can never get anything right, that he is just dumb, or that there is no point in trying, etc. In addition to getting into trouble due to acting impulsively, children with ADD/ADHD that goes unrecognized begin to make bad choices because it reflects how they think and feel about themselves. Low self-esteem for children with ADD/ADHD is a consequence of coming against failure and hearing responses from us that they “just need to try harder” or “did not try hard enough”. When children feel they have tried their best and hear these responses from the adults in their lives, they begin to feel alienated and they turn away from us. Like the main character in the new animated film, Megamind, says at the point he is sinister before he later turns good, “being bad is the one thing I’m good at.”

Underneath this self denigration is a deep rooted wish to fit in, to be accepted. They seek out people who recognize the good in them, or at least, in their perception, do not always point out the bad. Who might these other people be? It’d be great if it turned out to be a happy ending where the child finds the sympathetic ear of an understanding adult who provides them with guidance, but most often it is other like-minded peers with low self-esteem, who are also impulsive, and possibly also suffering from ADHD. And when you put a group of impulsive children or teens with low self-esteem together without guidance it is a recipe for disaster. Guidance is essential, but guidance alone is not enough. Talk therapy can be extremely helpful in helping to change the negative self-perception that has built up over time and to understand what is and what is not under their control to change. Medication, and in some cases Natural Supplements, can help restore brain function to its most optimal to give the individuals with ADD/ADHD stronger faculty to make choices about their behavior instead of acting impulsively and figuring out what went wrong later.