Smart But Stuck
Drawing on the latest research findings, the book describes strategies and treatments for getting 'unstuck' to move on to a more rewarding and productive life.
Smart But Stuck
All information processing is emotional . . . emotion is the energy level that drives, organizes, amplifies and attenuates cognitive activity.
- Kenneth Dodge, neuroscientist
Although the scientific understanding of ADHD has changed dramatically over the past decade, most people affected by this disorder - and many who diagnose and treat them - have not yet had the opportunity to gain a clear, up-to-date understanding of this complex condition. As you'll read in the chapters that follow, ADHD is not a simple problem of misbehavior, lack of willpower, or inability to focus attention. In this collection of true stories about extremely bright teenagers and adults, you'll find multiple examples of the ways that ADHD can cause even very intelligent individuals to experience chronic frustration and failure, which gets them "stuck" in their schooling or work and many other aspects of daily life. Fortunately, in most cases it's possible for a person with ADHD to get unstuck, and in these pages you'll find numerous examples showing how effective treatment has helped those suffering from ADHD to get back on track.
NOTE: Throughout this book, the term ADHD is used to refer to the disorder currently understood as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and/or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Clinical and neuroscience research has revealed that ADHD is essentially a complex set of dynamically interacting impairments of the brain's management system, otherwise known as its "executive functions." These functions involve a number of critical operations of the brain, including the abilities to
Get organized and get started on tasks
Focus on tasks and shift focus from one task to another when needed
Regulate sleep and alertness, sustain effort, and process information efficiently
Manage frustration and modulate emotions
Utilize working memory and access recall
Monitor and self-regulate action
Everyone has trouble with these functions from time to time, but people with ADHD have much more difficulty with them than do their same-age peers. (I offer more detailed descriptions of these various executive functions in Chapter 1.)
the missing link: emotions
Despite progress made in ADHD research, one element has been lacking in most current descriptions of the disorder: the critical role played by emotions in every one of the executive functions. This book describes that missing piece. In 1996, neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux published The Emotional Brain , a book highlighting evidence of the central importance of emotion in the brain's cognitive functioning. He emphasized that emotions - mostly unconscious emotions - are powerful and critically important motivators of human thought and actions. 1 This understanding of the essential role of emotion in all aspects of human behavior has not yet been integrated into current thinking about ADHD.
We must recognize the critical role of emotions, both positive and negative, in initiating and prioritizing tasks, sustaining or shifting interest and effort, holding thoughts in active memory, and choosing to engage in or avoid a task or situation.
To fully understand the role of emotions in ADHD, we must not only recognize that those with the disorder often have a hard time managing how they express their emotions but also acknowledge the critical role that emotions, both positive and negative, play in the executive functions: initiating and prioritizing tasks, sustaining or shifting interest and effort, holding thoughts in active memory, choosing to engage in or avoid a task or situation. As was observed by neuroscientist Kenneth Dodge, "All information processing is emotional . . . emotion is the energy level that drives, organizes, amplifies and