The Controversy That Was Adult ADHD
“In the Wild West days before the Internet, I was part of a small group that traveled around the country, speaking at conferences, and sharing information about adult ADD. One city at a time, we offered hope and help for adults who were struggling with something that didn’t officially exist.”
Not so long ago, adult ADHD did not exist. ADD, as we called it then, was thought of as a childhood disorder that one would outgrow. Those of us who thought differently were professionally chastised.
Back in the 1990s, I co-wrote one of the first three books laying out the proposition that adults could and do have ADD. It was called Adult ADD: A Reader Friendly Guide to Identifying, Understanding, and Treating Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (#CommissionsEarned). Unfortunately, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, along with CHADD, the largest organization for parents with children with ADD, all disagreed with its premise.
In the Wild West days before the Internet, I was part of a small group that traveled around the country, speaking at conferences, and sharing information about adult ADD. One city at a time, we offered hope and help for adults who were struggling with something that didn’t officially exist.
These were not the tightest-run conferences! Once, in San Francisco, I went to check into the conference hotel and the clerk stated that I had no room reserved. It turned out that the event coordinators failed to reserve any rooms for speakers to sleep in. Only conference rooms were reserved. A fellow event speaker said that, surely, no one would have made THAT mistake. But this was an ADD conference and, indeed, a mistake of this magnitude had been made.
An Adult ADHD Revolution Ignites
Speakers often gathered after these conferences to share ideas and information, as we early radicals trudged on. One member of our group, Stephen Copps, M.D., wrote one of the first books on treating adults who had ADD with medication. He was threatened with possible loss of his medical license. He was a pediatrician, and therefore, not trained to work with adults. The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) came to his defense, citing him as a pioneer in this field. His license was not revoked.
Information on adult ADD was banned from CHADD conferences until 2001. I had just written What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don’t? and I was the first to be permitted to speak on the topic. I was assigned a tiny room with a kitchen and bathroom because planners doubted there would be much interest. The room was flooded with people standing in the tub, sitting on the toilet, filling the halls, and listening outside windows. It was a pivotal event that marked the beginning of adult ADHD as a topic at conferences.
The early partnership between ADDA and CHADD was wrought with challenges. CHADD was walking the scientific-approved line, while ADDA was blazing a path forward. At one conference, I had to meet secretly with then-president of CHADD, Evelyn Polk Green. She snuck into my room late at night, in her pajamas, and we tried to find ways to build bridges.
ADDitude magazine was one of the earliest supporters of innovative ideas and information. Ellen Kingsley, the founder, gave me the opportunity to write some of the first published articles on adult ADHD. Susan Caughman, her successor, continued on this path, as ADHD coaching became the next forbidden topic to be challenged.
Looking back, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.
Adult ADHD Is Real: Next Steps
- Free Download: How Common Is ADHD in Adults?
- Read: How Adults with ADHD Think
- Read: Why We Need U.S. Guidelines for Adults with ADHD
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF ADDITUDE
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