The "ADHD" Label is Wrong

(Here's What I'd Call It)

Mar. 13th, 2017

I've heard many people say the term ‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder’ is a very poor label and description for the neurodevelopmental disorder. It doesn't accurately describe our experience of this brain type at all. Worse, it falsely leads some to believe inaccurate things about what it means to struggle with it and what is required to qualify for a diagnosis.

The first two words, “attention deficit”, imply there is a lack of attention. If this were factual, reductio ad absurdum, anyone with ADHD would have no trouble meditating, since our attention wouldn't wander, since there's so little of it. Hopefully the ridiculous nature of this argument will serve to illustrate my frustration with the misinformation globally held about ADHD.

This problem isn't only with ADHD, unfortunately. Almost any given label for mental illness has flaws. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) for example. When first identified, BPD was considered to be somewhere between a psychosis and a neurosis, on the borderline. Despite the fact that this was not at all helpful in describing the experience of those diagnosed, the name remained. Having only a layperson’s knowledge, I had no idea what the name meant and I definitely wouldn't have guessed that explanation.

So what do I want to call it, if not ADHD?

I've thought a lot about what does accurately describe the experience I have as well as those I've heard described. Executive function plays a crucial role in the challenges ADHD brains experience, so ‘Executive Dysfunction’ could be a better one.

On the other hand, many other mental illnesses include struggles with executive function, and it is not the only challenges ADHD individuals face. Sigh... Back to the drawing board.

There is one part of the ADHD label that I do, mostly, agree with: the classification of the subtypes. The ‘predominantly hyperactive subtype’ speaks for itself. But then there's the ‘predominantly inattentive subtype’ which once again runs into that mention of the lack of attention. Which is once again blatantly untrue.

Ask any inattentive ADHD brain about their attention and I feel confident they can tell you exactly where their attention was. Writing the next New York Times bestseller, designing an efficient, hydrogen-powered jet engine, or creating a model for better organization of goals for fantasy enthusiasts. The doctor or researcher who decided to use these words was probably too focused on the fact that the individual wasn't paying attention to what they, the doctor or researcher, thought they “should” be paying attention to. Who's inattentive now, hm?

Introducing: ‘Focus Regulatory Impairment’

So here is my proposition: Let’s call this unique brain type ‘Focus Regulatory Impairment’ with the ‘predominantly physically hyperactive subtype’, the ‘predominantly cognitively hyperactive subtype’, and the ‘combined subtype’ which is a combination of both. Because every person with ADHD I've ever met is hyperactive, it's just that sometimes it's in their thoughts rather than their body. And we do focus on things, it's just that it will naturally be the most exciting, novel, or urgent thing, and we have difficulty regulating where we put our attention/focus.

So there you have it. I don't have “ADHD”, I have FRI, predominantly cognitively hyperactive subtype, thank you very much.

Where is your focus, most of the time?

P.S. Special thanks to my husband for suggesting ‘impairment’ instead of ‘disorder’. He objects to this word when applied to ADHD because of the fact of it being a brain type. I completely agree.