So is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) a real thing, or is it just a byproduct of the times we live in? We have overcommitted, over-scheduled and overextended ourselves. We have to answer our emails right now. We have to check Facebook as soon as we wake up in the morning. Television shows have quick edits and short sound bites, and we have 800 channels to choose from. Have we been conditioned to be an ADHD/ADD society?
While overscheduling ourselves and constantly looking at our Blackberrys and iPhones can cause us to be distracted and inattentive, it doesn't really qualify as ADD/ADHD. Being overextended can mimic ADD/ADHD symptoms, but there is a big difference between having some symptoms and qualifying for a diagnosis.
Symptoms of ADD/ADHD include:
- Difficulty following multi-step directions
Now, you may say to yourself, "Are you kidding me? I had all those symptoms today before breakfast." I believe you. Sure, all of us lose our keys from time to time. And we may lose them even more so when we are supposed to be in five different places at once. But here is the difference between being "overloaded" and having ADD/ADHD:
The big difference is the intensity, frequency and duration of symptoms.
- How severe are the symptoms? Are they impairing your day-to-day functioning?
If you have ADHD/ADD, you most likely:
- Have had symptoms like distraction and fidgeting since childhood.
If you have ADD/ADHD, being over-scheduled and overextended just makes your symptoms (and functioning) worse. But being over-scheduled and overextended does not cause the symptoms outright.
Then why has it become more prevalent? Well, it really hasn't; ADD/ADHD has been around a long time, way before the technological age.
ADD/ADHD is a biological and genetic disorder. There have been several genes linked to ADD/ADHD, and children with ADHD have genetic variations not found in children without ADHD (Elia et al. 2010; Guan et al. 2009). And if you have ADD, there is a 75 percent chance that you inherited the genes from at least one of your parents (Rietveld et al. 2004).
So while it is best to get some downtime from your Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, what-have-you, they are not causing you to have ADD/ADHD. Your overuse may just be mimicking the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
The important thing to look at is how long you've been having difficulties with distractibility and inattention. Equally important (if not more so) is asking your family about its medical history, including any relatives that had symptoms of ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. Knowing that information can unlock many doors in determining whether you have electronics-induced ADD/ADHD or the real thing.
If you feel that your symptoms of inattention, distractibility and disorganization have caused you impairment in your day-to-day living, it's worth talking about it with a doctor. There is treatment available if you do meet the diagnostic criteria for ADD/ADHD.
And for everyone, ADHD/ADD or not, it's important to "unplug" on a regular basis.