Dr Thomas Brown of Yale University has a view of ADHD you may not have heard about that gives a fresh perspective to ADHD. Dr Brown turns ADHD on its head; defining it as a constellation of Executive Function impairments he’s calling ADD Syndrome.
Dr. Brown identifies 7 brain functions that found together cause significant problems with “attention.” He calls them Activation, Focus, Effort, Emotion, Memory and Action. These areas encompass all of the symptoms of ADHD you are undoubtedly already familiar with:
- Inability to regulate attention
- Difficulty completing tasks
- Poor time management and perception
- Lack of organization
- Difficulty following conversations
- Hyperactive behavior, such as excessive talking and restlessness
- Impulsive behavior, such as blurting and interrupting
- Short-term memory loss
We all have ADHD-like symptoms, we just don’t have them as severely, as long, in combination with other symptoms.
Each of us is born with the same set of Executive Functions. However, ability in each of these areas varies on an individual basis. For example, some people have amazing abilities to manage frustration but have poor working memory. All of us get distracted and have trouble focusing at times. Consider, everyone feels sad at times, but that does not mean a sad person should receive a diagnosis of depression.
In order to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, a person must experience a cluster of symptoms over time, and these symptoms must cause significant impairment. Dr. Brown’s point of view is that what we call ADHD and the symptoms of Executive Function disorder overlap. In addition, just as some people mature faster than others and develop different strengths, people with ADD Syndrome have a range of experiences with how the condition manifests over time. This appears to explain why some children outgrow it, while others do not.
Dr. Brown’s definition leaves the door open for us to be more creative at finding treatments that work to address these symptoms (such as ADHD coaching), and also gives you the freedom from labeling yourself as having ADHD in order to get help for your Executive Function challenges.
If you are feeling confused by the change in name, it’s no wonder. Scientists have been struggling for decades to get a clear definition of the cluster of symptoms we now call ADHD. Other names for ADHD through the ages have included: AD/HD, ADD, ADHD, Executive Dysfunction, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Regulatory Control Disorder, and Dysexecutive Syndrome.
Unfortunately naming a condition after a long list of symptoms associated with delayed or impaired Executive Functioning is a mouthful. So in the meantime, we might as well keep calling it ADHD, Executive Function impairment, or ADD Syndrome.
The good news? The next time someone says they are feeling like they have ADHD, you can say, “Yes, I understand. Imagine feeling that way all of the time, plus some! Then you can start to appreciate a little what my experience of living with ADHD is like.”
Does calling it Executive Function impairment change your view of ADHD? Please sound off in the comments, below!