I am an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My psychologist officially diagnosed me with combined type ADHD. Combined type ADHD means I have a reduced attention span and hyperactive behaviors. My doctor prescribed me medications to help me manage my panic disorders, improve my focus, and improve my impulse control. For the first time in my whole life, I felt calm, confident and capable. Looking back on my childhood, I realized how much ADHD impacted my childhood. Today when I see parents resist medicating their children I get frustrated. Treating mental illness should not be taboo. Through my own experience, I want parents to understand medicating their child with ADHD is the best option.
Growing up with ADHD is challenging for most individuals that have the disorder. My childhood memories are marked with a lot of sadness and frustration from my lack of impulse control. I think back to sitting in class. Learning and understanding new concepts is invigorating for me. However, if I struggle to understand a topic, I completely shut down and lose focus.
My report cards consistently had comments on the side that said “Excessive Talking.” I had a hard time sitting still. Because I could not be still, I fidgeted, doodled, ripped paper, chewed on pencils, and kicked my feet under my seat. My actions annoyed my classmates and teachers.
In social settings, I struggled to bite my tongue. Anything that came into my mind I felt compelled to blurt out. I didn’t understand how to be tactful. If my friends told me secrets, I found it impossible not to share the information with others. When I felt any emotion, I acted out the emotion. My temper was hot and cold. I cried easily and felt overwhelmed most of the time.
Due to my ADHD, I had been consistently rejected all throughout my childhood. To fit in, I started giving into peer pressure. Despite all my efforts to be “cool” and fit in, I never fit in. My impulses and hyperactive behavior isolated me from social groups. I had terrible social anxiety due to my verbal impulsivity.
Looking back on my journey is not easy for me. I have to admit how much ADHD impacted my life. On the inside, I felt laid back and go with the flow. However, the anxiety ADHD gave me made me high strung and incapable of managing change.
I tried to do everything on my own to calm my anxiety. People suggested meditation. In high school, I bought classical music, candles, and practiced deep breathing to calm my nerves. In college, I self-medicated with marijuana so I could fall asleep. I practiced yoga, used oils, herbs, and various supplements to calm my mind. Absolutely nothing worked.
When I finally got on medications to increase my dopamine levels, my anxiety and paranoia disappeared. My impulse control improved because my brain no longer sought out a dopamine fix. I found myself able to sit and watch movies. My brain was able to focus on one task at a time. I could organize my home and not feel overwhelmed. Piles on my counter no longer gave me anxiety.
However, my biggest change was in how the medications improved my social interactions. My thoughts were no longer consumed by what others thought of my actions. I had better control of my words. Additionally, I learned to embrace the introvert I had desperately wanted to be my whole life.
Now that I am mentally healthy, it is important for me to advocate for children with ADHD. I see parents struggle to raise their children with ADHD. The most common phrases I hear from them are:
“My child is so difficult.”
“They are so impossible.”
“Why is my child so naughty?”
“I wish my child could just listen.”
I have to be honest I get triggered by hearing these statements. Growing up with ADHD, I heard all of those same phrases. All of those words beat me down, made me self-conscious, and spiraled my life into chaos. I believed I was bad, naughty, and difficult. I wish parents understood how much kids with ADHD want to listen, obey, and fit in. Unfortunately, the lack of dopamine our brains have makes all of those tasks impossible.
A child and adult with ADHD lack dopamine in their brains. Research and scientific studies over the past 20 years have shown a connection between low dopamine levels in the brain and ADHD. Studies conducted have also shown that when people lack sufficient dopamine, they seek out “dopamine” fixes. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical of the body. Thus an individual with ADHD is constantly seeking ways to increase their dopamine by doing activities that naturally increase dopamine levels.
Mental illness and physical illness are no different. The only difference is the stigma society places on individuals that have a chemical imbalance in their brains. By parents understanding the disease, embracing treatment can be a lot easier.
For example, if a child has type 1 diabetes, their doctor prescribes insulin to control blood sugars. A child that has hypothyroidism is given Levothyroxine to increase thyroid levels. Most parents don’t view medical treatment for disorders like diabetes or hypothyroidism as optional.
Why should medicating a child with a brain disorder be optional?
In my opinion, it shouldn’t be an option. Research has already shown us what happens to the brain when it lacks dopamine. Children with ADHD are at higher risk for drug and alcohol dependency than their peers. Studies conducted on individuals in treatment for drug or alcohol dependency showed that 25% of the patients had ADHD. Alcohol and substance abuse in children with ADHD can start as young as 14. Self-medicating is much more dangerous than using medications controlled by a physician.
My final message to parents is to stop viewing the disorder as a personal choice. If there was a way to will ADHD out of a child, a therapist would have found it. Science has shown us that medications work. Stop fighting the diagnosis. Embrace your child for who they are – and help them be the best person they can be. Help them feel confident in their skin by being mindful of how you talk to them about their behavior. Try not to tell your child they are challenging, impossible, or naughty.
Parents should not resist medicating their child with ADHD. No child should be forced to endure what I did as a kid. With proper therapy and medications, a child with ADHD can lead a productive and healthy life.
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