Part 4: The Emotional Connection
MYTH: A Wide-Ranging Disorder
ADHD is just one of many kinds of psychiatric disorders.
THE FACTS: ADHD differs from many other disorders in that it cross-cuts other disorders. The executive function impairments that constitute ADHD underlie many other disorders as well. Many learning and psychiatric disorders could be compared to problems with a specific computer software package that, when not working well, interferes just with writing text or doing bookkeeping. In this new model, ADHD might be compared instead to a problem in the operating system of the computer that is likely to interfere with the effective operation of a variety of different programs.
MYTH: Emotional Connection
Emotions are not involved in executive functions associated with ADHD.
THE FACTS: Although earlier research on ADHD gave little attention to the role of emotion in this disorder, more recent research has highlighted its importance. Some research has focused solely on the problems in regulating expression of their emotions without sufficient inhibition or modulation. However, research has also demonstrated that a chronic deficit in emotions that comprise motivation is an important aspect of impairments for most individuals with ADHD. Studies have shown that this is related to measurable differences in the operation of the reward system within the brains of those with ADHD. Those with ADHD tend to have abnormalities in the anticipatory dopamine cell firing in the reward system; this makes it difficult for them to arouse and sustain motivation for activities that do not provide immediate and continuing reinforcement.
Copyright 2013, from A New Understandng of ADHD in Children and Adults by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D. Reproduced with permission of Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, a division of Informa plc.
This article appears in the Fall issue of ADDitude.
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