Date: March 15, 2021

There's no neat boundary around an ADHD diagnosis

When I grew up in the UK in the '70s and '80s, mental health and mental disorders may as well have not existed. They were never talked about, never mentioned in conversation and the closest you got to seeing them on TV was when someone went bonkers and got taken away in an ambulance by men in white coats. So finding out in my '50s that (firstly) I was autistic and (secondly) had raging ADHD, meant I had to do a whole lot of catching up.

Broadening Scientific Studies

When I got my diagnosis for ADHD from a clinical psychiatrist, he prefaced his comments by saying that labels were not helpful. I didn't fully understand what he meant by that until, like most of us who got diagnosed later in life, I read every single article, watched every single video and read every single book on ADHD. Yes I'm exaggerating but I think we all take a deep dive into the subject, particularly if it's new to us. And based on everything I've learnt since I found out I'd had ADHD my entire life, it's clear that there is no single ADHD diagnosis.

Current scientific thinking on the subject of neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD is that they share some common central defect in the frontal region of the brain. There is particular interest in, and scientific work around, the links between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD. This line of investigation was no doubt sparked by the realisation that there was considerable overlap in many of the core symptoms of ASD and ADHD.

But beyond this, it's also worth pointing out that ADHD affects everyone in different ways and the precise blend that makes up your ADHD recipe may be quite different to someone else's. It was because of these differences that the official literature defining ADHD initially said there were three types - inattentive, hyperactive and combined.

More ADHD than ADHD

The three main types of ADHD didn't really cover all of my symptoms and I found them far too generalised. So it didn't surprise me to discover that some professionals have proposed a much more granular definition of ADHD. For instance, Dr. Daniel Amen has put forwards seven types of ADHD. His list includes the well known inattentive and hyperactive types but broadens it out to include five new types - Overfocused, Temporal Lobe, Limbic, Ring of Fire and Anxious ADD.

Having read Dr Amen's work I found myself nodding my head in agreement with his definitions and, when I did a checklist found I sat in all but one of his sub-types - the only one I didn't identify with was Anxious ADD. If you read Dr Amen's list you might notice that some of his sub-types, such as Overfocused, sound quite a bit like other disorders - such as ODD.

In a 2015 paper titled, "Molecular underpinnings of prefrontal cortex development in rodents provide insights into the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders", researchers showed that "Neurodevelopmental disorders such as intellectual disability (ID), autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (AD(H)D) and schizophrenia share particular cytoarchitectonical, connectional and functional features suggesting a similar neurodevelopmental origin."

So if you've just been diagnosed with ADHD, perhaps you should do a mental checklist of your own. You will probably find you have several co-morbid conditions to go along with your core ADHD diagnosis. Check out the full list here.

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