Are you neurodivergent?

Understanding and living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

In 1998, Australian sociologist Judy Singer introduced the term neurodivergent, which stemmed from the word neurodiversity. The brain develops in a unique way. No two brains are exactly alike. A person who is neurodivergent, however, has a brain that processes, learns, and behaves differently from what is considered typical. 

For example, a neurodivergent may have the ability to calculate complex equations in their head. The differences in their brain, which can have both strengths and weaknesses, affect how it brain works.

We all probably had our moments of impatience, impulsiveness, inability to concentrate, restlessness, and forgetfulness. We do make careless mistakes too, right? If these behaviors are prevalent, extensive, and begin to affect or interfere with all aspects of an individual’s life, however, then it shouldn’t be brushed off.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the brain. ADHD may present in three different ways:

The predominantly inattentive presentation is characterized by making careless mistakes due to failing to pay close attention to details, difficulty sustaining attention, struggling with following instructions and sustaining attention, disorganization, avoidance of or dislike for tasks that require sustained mental effort, losing things, being easily distracted, and forgetfulness.

The predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation is characterized by fidgeting, inability to sit still, extreme restlessness, difficulty engaging in activities quietly or calmly, excessive talking, difficulty waiting, interrupting or intruding upon others, acting as if motor-driven and blurting out answers even before a question has been completed.

The combined presentation is characterized by an individual manifesting characteristics for both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive presentation.

Being diagnosed with ADHD and living with this medical condition doesn’t make one abnormal.

After all, each brain is unique just like our fingerprints. Therefore, it is difficult to state what is supposed to be normal. That is why the term neurodivergent was appropriately coined albeit not being considered a medical term.

A person living with ADHD can live a normal and successful life. The important thing is to have proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent consequences including failure in school or work, depression, substance abuse, delinquency, stress and disruption in the family and relationships.

“My ADHD features weren’t easily detected since I excelled in school and didn’t display significant behavioral problems as a child,” says Alyssa Leana Que, a mental health clinician at We Thrive. “My hyperactive features might have presented as ‘active participation’ in school (e.g., being vocal in class, leading projects, and joining extracurricular activities). I had a hard time focusing on subjects that I didn’t like and would do something else instead. I also had a lack of social awareness. I had a tendency to blurt, talk off-topic in conversations, or be unfiltered with my words, which unintentionally offended others. 

A neurodivergent herself, she shared that her managing emotions was difficult and she tends to be reactive in situations. She has bursts of creativity, special interests or fixations, and impulsivity. 

Symptoms that are left unchecked and not managed will lead to consequences especially in adulthood. “As I got older, my difficulties with organization and time management became more pronounced. I had difficulty with getting things started, keeping track of tasks, and completing them on time. My challenges caused significant anxiety. It was greatly affecting my functioning. This compelled me to consult with a psychiatrist,” said Que.

According to Que, developing self-management and wellbeing skills is essential for everyone regardless of age and ability. While therapy may sound intimidating, it is actually a safe space to explore your concerns and develop the necessary skills in order to thrive.

Patience is key understanding the needs and challenges of neurodivergent people requires patience and empathy (Photo Freepik)

“We are fortunate to have mental health resources that are readily accessible online (e.g., for ADHD). If, however, you think you need more support, I’d encourage you to consider consulting with a professional. Working with a psychotherapist and an executive function skills coach has been instrumental in my growth and in managing ADHD difficulties,” she adds.

Que expresses her appreciation for how we are now more open to talking about mental health and related conditions. There is still however some stigma attached to receiving a diagnosis. “I hope that we can all work toward creating a culture that is more inclusive and understanding of differences. We all have challenges, strengths, and the potential to impact our communities. Whether neurotypical or neurodivergent, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

She loves how social media plays a role in spreading awareness. A neurodivergent has needs and requires time to flip the script on how to view differences. Lastly, if you are caring for someone exhibiting, Que hopes that we choose to respond with curiosity and compassion, which will enable us to further understand the root problem and work on solutions together.

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