Declare attention deficit disorder a disability

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The World Mental Health Awareness Month, in October, aims to set the record straight on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) — formally, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

According to ADDitude Magazine, the neurodevelopmental condition affects the brains’ self-management system and characterised by impulsivity, hyperactivity and hyper focus.

Experts say ‘attention deficit’ is a misleading name and ‘attention deregulation’ may be the real description of ADHD.

ADDitude lists three subtypes or presentations of ADHD. Primarily hyperactive-impulsive type are people ‘who act as if they are driven by a motor’, are highly talkative, have little impulse control, are impatient and interrupt others.

The inattentive type are easily distracted and forgetful. They may be daydreamers and lose track of issues with regularity. The ‘combined’ type, who display a mixture of all those.


The symptoms start at childhood and can persist into adulthood. ADHD may contribute to low self-esteem, trouble with relationships and difficulty with school or work.

Being diagnosed with hyperactive ADHD was a relief to me. I realised that I was right all this time and that something was really not adding up on how I thought about myself and what people thought about me.

People living with ADHD tend to stand out in assignments that are urgent, new/novel and challenging and of personal interest. Most of them, however, struggle with anxiety and depression and some have comorbidities such as bipolar disorder and, in worst cases, end up becoming suicidal.

They are highly sensitive to things such as smell, touch, colour, sound and texture and may make it difficult to coexist with others. These symptoms escalate during menstruation and call for seclusion.

The cause of ADHD is unknown but the condition can be managed with medication, therapy, meditation and exercises, at more than Sh10,000 a month. Since it is difficult to diagnose, people go for ‘self-medication’, including alcoholism and substance abuse.

Children with ADHD may find it hard making friends, may be disorganised and most of the time labelled as “stupid” or “lazy”. Therefore, the first people that should identify these symptoms are the parents.

Institutions such as schools, religious places and workplaces should identify such unique symptoms and ensure that such individuals are treated with respect and not discriminated against. They can also create a conducive environment in which such individuals can thrive.

Celebrities who have changed their struggle into a super power include Richard Branson, Howie Mondel, Micheal Phelps and yours truly.

Society should ensure such individuals feel catered for, avoid stigmatising such people and embrace them and their capabilities.

The Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018 lists people “suffering from mental illness” as including those diagnosed as psychopathic with mental illness and suffering from mental impairment due to alcohol of substance abuse.

People living with ADHD should not be left to their devices. The condition should be treated as a disability and accorded all the legal rights and privileges — such as exempting them from taxes and generally creating a friendlier environment for them.

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