Monday, July 22, 2013
A Little Adult ADD Bookshelf Sampler
This book was one of my favorites. So apropos that there are a set of keys on the cover! I can't tell you how many times I used to lose my keys and drive myself and everyone else crazy. The author, Dr. Douglas Puryear, himself discovered he had ADD at age 60. He had developed strategies throughout his life to help him get through medical school and life. He writes in a very down-to-earth, readable, self deprecating (endearing), conversational style of his own challenges with ADD. I found it to be therapeutic to read about someone else who had similar challenges to mine (such as lack of time awareness and losing things, for example). And to see how much good he has done with his life and that he found a way to be successful in spite of his challenges. Oh yes, and his ideas are awesome! I found myself implementing some of them right away. This book is a gem. And even though I wrote about it first, this book is about strategies for dealing with ADD, so probably not the first book one should read.
These two books, Driven to and Delivered from Distraction, are both written by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey, both of whom are MD's with ADHD (did I mention that my very favorite ADD books are written by ADD authors?). I love the approach they take-- while warning of the perils of ignoring ADD (higher rates of addiction, divorce, incarceration, for example), the positive side of ADD is also explored-- creativity and the ability to think outside the box, for example. And it is even posited that ADD should not be considered a "deficit" or a "disorder" but rather a "difference." Out of the two the second is probably my favorite, and one of the best reads if you are only going to read one book on the subject.
This book, also written by two ADD authors, is also wonderful. I mean, the title alone will speak right away to anyone out there who has suffered from ADD. I found myself relating in a unique way to the women who wrote it, and this was therapeutic in a way too. There are some unique challenges women face with ADD (we are expected to be universalists, if we stay home, for example, and can't, say, specialize in something that we are good at). My one complaint here might be how often they talked about ADD as a "disability." But overall an awesome book.
I really enjoyed the suggestions in this book. Would work for anyone, but it was especially helpful to see which organizing activities and strategies are more suited to the unique ADD brain, and which ones just don't work.
This is the best book I've read about how ADHD affects relationships. A very interesting look at how, in some couples, the non-ADHD partner will often get worn out compensating for the scattered ways of an ADD partner. For example, if the ADD partner means well but forgets or procrastinates paying the electric bill, then the other partner will either take on a parenting role to ensure they aren't living with the lights off, or will take on more and more responsibilities to cope with the ADD partner's behavior. In the first case, increasing nagging and parenting behaviors will turn off the ADD spouse, who is doing his/her actual best and doesn't really know what to do differently (some research shows that they harder they try, the more they shut down). If it's the former, the non-ADHD spouse can become overloaded and depressed trying to keep all of the balls in the air, while the ADD spouse is left feeling confused about the increasingly hostile behavior of his/her spouse (adding to years of accumulated shame). In addition, communication, empathy, easily triggered anger and/or defensiveness, possible spotty work performance or tendency toward addictions, and poor self-awareness (including a tendency to be inattentive toward a spouse, which can appear as uncaring) can be challenges for the ADD partner, all of which are bad for any relationship. A very interesting read about how to seek treatment, draw new boundary lines to eliminate the nagging and other negative effects on both partners. Melissa Orlov also has a blog she shares with expert Ed Hallowell.
Even though this book is less personal (in some ways) than many of the books I've mentioned above, this is probably the gold standard when it comes to the most recent, science-based look at ADHD, pioneering the field. If you are to read only one book, let this be it. Dr. Amen, who practices in California and became interested in ADD when he could not get control of his own children (even though he was a therapist), practices a unique method to understanding the actual biological effects of ADD and the brain. He does SPECT brain scans on his patients to understand each person's unique brain. Pictured in his book are scans that show an ADD patient's brain at rest and during concentration, showing the actual prefrontal cortex slowing down when forced to concentrate. Not only that, but he has identified 6 ADD sub-types rather than the usual three. One reason his work is so revolutionary is he reveals why the typical medications may not work for every brain thrown into the ADD bucket (incidentally, one of those brains belongs to one of my children), but would actually make those select few worse (they need something to calm their brain rather than stimulate it). Amen discusses a rounded approach to treatment, such as diet, exercise, over the counter supplements for those who can't or won't do medication, and neurofeedback. He also has chapters on how ADD affects relationships and families (some with ADD are driven toward conflict, because it stimulates their brain, so they may seek to push their parents or spouse's buttons, for example, without even really knowing why). If there was to be an ADD bible, this would be it, though it sadly leaves out some of the gifts that Hallowell talks about (though Amen's style is not condescending or judgmental in any way).
If you, a loved one or family member, struggle with ADD, I would highly recommend picking up just one, any one book on ADD. I was amazed at the power that came through information. I understood myself and others better. I instantly made some changes in my life, things that I always wondered why they could work for everyone else but not for me. There is some self acceptance, some understanding of life's challenges, that comes with learning about these things And if you have a loved one with ADD, understanding is essential to healing both your loved one and yourself if you've experienced any collateral damage! Honestly, I look at the world in a different light now that I understand ADD better. I wonder about all the unnecessary suffering out there, people who feel guilty or just plain frustrated and don't realize that on the other side of the wall lies a treasure chest of tools just waiting to help them. As Melissa Orlov put it, we don't need to just try harder, as we have so often been told, we need to try "differently." And then we can begin to unlock the potential in the gifts of ADD.
In the near future I will do a post about the books I've read about parenting an ADD child (though Amen's book is a great start!).