Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ADHD: good, bad, or neutral?

The smashing success of 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has brought a new angle to the debate about the positives and negatives of mental illness.
Children with the disorder typically have trouble sitting still and paying attention. But they may also have boundless energy and a laserlike focus on favorite things — qualities that could be very helpful in, say, an Olympic athlete.

For that reason, some doctors are pushing for a new view that focuses on the potential strengths of the disorder. Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author whose books include “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood” (Touchstone, 1995), says the current “deficit-based medical model” of the disorder results in low-self esteem.

“It’s not an unmitigated blessing, but neither is it an unmitigated curse, which is usually the way it’s presented,” said Dr. Hallowell, who has the disorder himself. “I have been treating this condition for 25 years and I know that if you manage it right, this apparent deficit can become an asset. I think of it as a trait and not a disability.”

Michael's mother Debbie - who had almost as much TV-screen time as her son - took part in a discussion on coping with the disorder. Debbie is also featured on this page on Facebook.

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