“61,500,000 adults suffer from mental illness in a given year”
Mental disorders are commonly disregarded in the medical and even general community. Sometimes they are misunderstood because there is a lack of knowledge about them. Other times they are even disrespected or devalued because some people do not take into consideration the severity of mental disabilities. ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) and Anxiety disorders often fall into this category of mental disorders that are not taken seriously. I have seen and experienced the maltreatment of both of these disorders and through this web page, I want to educate those not only about the disorders but how to help those who suffer from them.
Why did I specifically choose these two disorders?
One of my closest friends suffers from ADHD and Anxiety Disorder. Neurodevelopmental disabilities such as hers have always interested me because they are fairly common but I never completely understood them. This needed to change, so I completed a lot of research and finally began to gain a good understanding of her disorders. I also knew how much difficulty my friend endured on a daily basis because of her disorders. ADHD and Anxiety are disabilities that society has continually downplayed. They are dangerous conditions that may possibly be life-threatening, but unfortunately, some people don’t treat them as such.
What is Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder?
- A chronic medical condition that entails hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.
- The disorder that starts during childhood and most of the time lasts throughout adulthood.
Here is a short video from the Osmosis youtube channel to help you better understand what ADHD is.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
- It generalized mental illness that involves an overwhelming, dangerous amount of stress which ultimately keeps a person from living a “normal” life.
- A patient with an anxiety disorder feels high levels of persistent stress at all times. The anxiety can be unreasonable and have no trigger but still never go away.
This is another short video from Osmosis to help you gain more knowledge on Generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD).
How abundant are these disorders?
- 40 million adults in the U.S. (18.1% of the populations) suffer from Anxiety disorder.
- 6.4 million children in the U.S. (ages 4-17) have been diagnosed with ADHD.
When first stumbling upon these statistics, I was astonished by these numbers. Part of me could not believe they were true, so I decided to test them in my own community at my high school. I surveyed 94 high school students and these were the results I found:
27.7% of the teens at my school currently suffer from ADHD or Anxiety Disorder. 93.6% knows someone who is diagnosed with ADHD and Anxiety Disorder.
Being apart of the 93.6% of students who only knows someone with ADHD or GAD, I will never truly know how it feels to have one of these disorders. This poem by Justin L. allows me to get a glimpse inside what life is like with ADHD.
“Me” by Justin L.
To those who I will meet,
Or those I’ve already met
I must tell you something about me
That you have probably already guessed.
I have a disorder
That’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
And it’s not just common to me.
A lot of people have it
And it’s very hereditary,
Or, as other people say,
It runs in the family.
So, on to me.
My brain is different than
The brain “normal people” have.
It’s also different than the brain
That other ADHD people have.
I must explain about ADHD
Using examples specific to me.
My brain moves at Hyperspace
From Tatooine to Naboo and then to Alderaan
While you watch the Death Star I’m on Coruscant
And then I arrive back to find Alderaan is gone.
My brain works like this every day
And there is more that I didn’t say.
Let’s continue going this way.
If you watch Brain Games or MythBusters you’ll find
That men are better at spatial awareness
But for me that is not the case
Things that I organize end up horrendous.
And watch out, I may step on your feet
I don’t even notice that you’re there
But don’t think that I did that on purpose,
And don’t even say that I don’t care.
And my selective hearing makes me
Listen to half your conversation
Or sometimes I zone out
And of my conversations I hear none.
I’m really just processing information
Or I’m hyperfocused on another thing.
If I ask for you to repeat that,
Please bear with me. My brain is just flying.
I may drop my pencil
Or binder or stuff like that
I may do this a lot,
So please don’t think anything of me crawling like a cat.
I’m not trying to distract others
When I just can’t sit still
So don’t get mad when that pesky little “H”
Makes my brain go in a windmill.
But it’s not as bad as it seems.
ADHD helps me be more creative,
And helps me think outside the box
That’s helping me think better
And not waste time throwing rocks.
And remember the hyperfocus
That makes me zone out?
While I am doing homework
Other sounds don’t even count
You’ve probably heard the Hanukkah song
Where Adam Sandler names famous Jews
Well I’ll do that about ADHD
And those who have it, too.
Grammy winner Justin Timberlake has it
And Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps does too.
The percentage of kids with it is rising
So maybe someday it will be cool
it is not.
I wrote this poem about the bullying
That I get for having it
Today everybody has to fit in
By wearing the cool kids’ outfit.
That also works with behavior
And, I act differently than them
And so, because of that
I get condemned.
So, next time you see someone act different
Don’t shame them with hate
Don’t make them feel bad
Make them feel great
The same goes for me
Don’t try to berate
me and others like me
Just make us feel great.
Many people contain both ADHD or GAD but they are undiagnosed. It is always important to pay close attention to the behavior of those around and even in yourself. Here are a few symptoms to look out for:
Not staying calm or still
Cold, sweating, numb feeling in hands or feet
Shortness of breath
What causes ADHD?
- It is still unclear as to what exactly causes ADHD.
- One well-known theory that exists is that ADHD is genetically inherited.
- There is also the possibility that ADHD may be caused by environmental factors (social awareness, social competition, comfortability, etc.).
- Doctors have also thought that ADHD could be caused by issues with pregnancy (eg. premature births, low birth weight, difficult pregnancy, etc.)
- Toxins are also something that is said to have caused ADHD.
- In terms of brain activity, it is said that those with ADHD have abnormal or different nerve pathways (where neurotransmitters/brain chemicals carry signals through the brain).
What causes GAD?
- Researchers have yet to discover the exact cause of anxiety disorder(s).
- A few theories include:
- Change in the chemical pathway of the brain.
- Environmental stress
- Brain’s inability to control and suppress fear and other negative emotions.
What are treatments for these conditions?
|ADHD Treatments||Anxiety Disorder Treatments|
Cutting back on caffeinated foods and beverages (cola, coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, etc.)
Exercise + healthy diet
One day I sat down with my friend and asked her a question. I said, “Is there anything you would like to say to those who don’t understand the severity of your disorders and is there anything advice you would give to those who do have your disorders?”
To this, she replied that it is hard for people who don’t have her disorders to understand them, but she wants them to remember that people with ADHD and anxiety are real people with real emotions. Other people need to have patience with those who have disorders and be respectful because the person with the disorder(s) isn’t faking it. To those who also have ADHD and anxiety, she says to push through.
Her reply motivated me to take action and help her one-on-one with her struggles.
A few things I did to help her:
- Read for her during English class when we read aloud.
- She experiences with both difficulty in paying attention to what she is reading and she also experiences a lot of social anxiety. She said it helped immensely everytime I read for her because that would trigger a lot of anxiety for her before but when I read she did not have to deal with that.
- We went to a local coffee shop every week to talk about her experience with ADHD and GAD.
- She was able to vent and relieve herself of a lot of stress just by talking about her anxiety and struggles with her ADHD.
- I helped her plan her afterschool testing times.
- She mentioned one thing that really helped her and that was her ability to take assessments in extended time. She also said that at the same time it is inconvenient because she has to do more than the average person by planning times outside of class time to take the test. I thought I would relieve some of this busy work by meeting with her and helping her figure out when she should take her assessments.
I was able to go to a coffee shop with my friend and talk to her more about her anxiety. She explained to me how she feels when it heightens and she also in a way “vented” to me about all the stress that manifests into her anxiety sometimes.
After helping out my friend, I decided to branch out and ask around to see if I knew anyone else with ADHD or GAD. Surprisingly, I found six other students who also struggled with one or both disorders and I was able to help them in the same way I helped my friend. I sat with them and talked to them about what was stressing them out or heightening their symptoms and through these conversations, we were able to plan better ways to organize their tasks. I also went through various possible calming techniques with them which taught me a lot about how a person with mental disabilities should be treated and dealt with.
If you are ever in a situation where you have to interact and be with a person who had mental disorders just have patience and always be prepared to offer any help that the person may need.
Also, each year during the first week of October, there is Mental Health Awareness Week. Millions of Americans participate in this great event by educating the public on mental health conditions, raising awareness of mental health, and participating in fun activities with those who suffer from mental illness. The week is run by the NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) but anyone is free to participate. I urge you to get involved in this great event and help destroy the stigma around mental illness.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about ADHD and GAD!