Goodbye ADHD, Hello Fast Minds

ADHD –¬† A Misleading Label

Given what we know today, does the name Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder still make sense? Many researchers, clinicians and individuals diagnosed with the condition have questioned the validity of the label.

The “attention deficit” aspect is really more about attention regulation than a lack of attention.

“Hyperactivity” does not apply to a large proportion of individuals with ADHD. In fact, the inattentive form of the condition is usually the rule for girls and women.

And lastly there is the word “Disorder” which has a pejorative tone – something broken that needs to be fixed. “Difference” seems more appropriate. Due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the brain is wired differently. But those with ADHD are passionate, creative, innovative – not broken.

The inadequacy of the label doesn’t discount the usefulness of the therapies that can help someone with an ADHD diagnosis cope in a neurotypical world however.

An Inside Perspective

Kimberly Quinn Ph.D., a psychology professor at Champlain College, writing in Psychology Today argues that a better way to think about individuals with ADHD (or as she prefers to call them, members of the Fast Mind Club) is through the lens of 4 core elements.

  • They are more motivated by intrinsic reward rather than external rewards.
  • Their nervous system can direct intense focus and energy to something of interest.
  • Their intense emotionality is often misdiagnosed as a mood disorder.
  • They live in a state of internal hyperarousal

As she says in her article,

“Above all, it is important to convey that we are different and not deficient.

Our executive functioning systems are wired differently, which means that how we manage our abilities to concentrate, engage, plan, organize, control impulses, and express emotions will also look different. And, we have a surplus of attention, not a deficit. Trust me on that one.”

Fast Minds Not Deficient Minds

Perhaps the limitations of the ADHD label come from the fact that it was crafted over the years from a list of symptoms that looked deficient from a neurotypical perspective.

The clinical world is slow to change, so it is unlikely the term “ADHD” will disappear anytime soon. But for ow, we can imagine something better.

A term like “fast minds” might make us better understand the experience of these individuals and focus more on their creative¬† contributions rather than dwell on the behaviors that annoy or worry us.

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  1. Camille Harris

    Edward (Ned) Hallowell agrees completely with this point of view. He says that ADHD is neither a “deficit” nor a “disorder,” and that it often has little to do with “hyperactivity” – but does have a lot to do with “attention.” He calls it “VAST: Variable Attention Stimulus Trait.” The issue, Hallowell says, is not a deficit of attention. It’s an abundance of attention. And the challenge to those with VAST is controlling it!