The Butterfly Button
ADHD is ruining my life!

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I am a 22-year-old married man with one baby, and I have ADHD.


Over the last year, with the encouragement of my neurologist, I have tried many medications in different doses. some of the drugs worked, but they had terrible side effects that affected our domestic happiness as well as caused other problems. And some of the drugs had no effect at all.


Now I’m tired of these drugs. I can’t take them. And as I can’t study at the kollel, I left the kollel, I sit at home all day long and get bored.


My wife is devastated by the situation. She isn’t angry with me B.H. She appreciates me and appreciates my efforts to find the help I need to settle down and study. But of course, it bothers her that I sit at home like this and do nothing.


It bothers me too. I don’t want to be in this situation, I want to get out of it as soon as possible. I have no idea what else I can do after trying almost all the medications for my condition. 



My heart goes out to you, and I first would like to apologize for the delay in my response. 


As someone who deals with ADHD (and a father of three children with ADHD), I know how great the difficulty is, how difficult it is to explain to people, and how much it is not only a matter of concentration but something that creates constant challenges of self-management and procrastination. I know how much it can crush one’s self-image and sap their strength. 


With your permission, I will try to delve into the essence of attention deficit disorder, in order to think about possible solutions.


The name ‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’ was given decades ago, and today it is known to be a misnomer: we have no problem concentrating and paying attention. This disorder is about something completely different: having a well-functioning self-regulation mechanism.


The disorder affects all of a person’s regulatory mechanisms, but the symptoms change throughout life. We can suffer from distraction and inattention, hyperactivity, and disturbances in the internal biological rhythm which cause a certain distortion in the perception of time (and therefore leads to time management issues). ADHD also manifests as impulsivity and inability to delay gratification, (and so we have a ‘short fuse’.) It is also related to the ability to organize and plan, which are significantly impaired.


The bottom line is: the brain’s desktop has too many windows open at the same time. The brain is flooded with intuitions, ideas, horrors, and distractions. It is not organized, not consistent, and not very efficient either. People with ADHD find it difficult to balance what they “need” and what they “want”. The part of the current desire dominates, while the things that need to be done but are not especially appealing to us, along with the thoughts about the consequences for the future, are pushed aside.


One of the most prominent symptoms is the inability to pay attention if something isn’t interesting, that’s why it was called ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’. But the truth is that it is only a symptom and not the root of the problem (which is why the name of the disorder is so misleading). Because it’s just one symptom, inconsistent and unrepresentative,


This disorder has many more symptoms, much more prominent and painful. The most important result of ADHD is the way it impacts our executive functions, such as planning, organization, working memory, control and judgment, mental flexibility, and emotional regulation.


ADHD creates a lot of impulsiveness, and it creates emotional, social, and also educational conflicts. And so there is so much risk.


A lot of risks, and a lot of chances.


Our world is not built for that. People do not understand this disability, and so they mistakenly attribute the symptoms to indifference or laziness, indulgence or favoritism, egoism, hedonism, or irresponsibility. 


ADHD produces a negative self-image. The environment radiates their frustration with the person with ADHD from morning to evening, and this creates a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, with repeated emotional hurts, till the desire to continue making efforts all but vanishes. 


Such a situation opens the door to a lot of trouble: a paucity of successful experiences in the educational and social spheres leads to rebelliousness, despair, search for (bad) alternatives, and risk.


Is Ritalin the miracle drug to solve all these issues? 


Many doctors or scientists look at ADHD and see it as a chemical phenomenon that occurs in the brain and requires medication to regulate it.


One can understand why they think so, but this is a very narrow view.


Many teachers and administrators treat the drug as an entrance ticket to class. ‘Without Ritalin, the child will not be able to enter the classroom because his behavior interferes with the normal course of the lesson,’ they will say. One can understand their point of view, but again – it’s a pretty narrow one. 


Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt’l called children with ADHD: ‘Big souls in small vessels’. Dr. Gad Duar defined them as having a big horse and a small rider; strong impulses and weak restraining power. Sometimes it’s not just one horse, but rather a hundred horses. And sometimes other animals join in: a tiger, a lion, a fox, a peacock, or even a grasshopper. And sometimes the whole zoo comes along for the ride…


What ADHD medications do is weaken the horses, something which is only effective in the short term. Because the path to success later in life depends on these people’s ability to increase their self-restraint, be more aware of their virtues, and develop self-management skills. As long as the horse is too strong, learning is usually too difficult and their self-image gets destroyed by a chain of failures. So the goal of the drug treatment is to slow the horse down a bit, to allow the rider to take control of it, and to maximize the person’s abilities and unique style, at least during school years. 


The problem is that Ritalin is not a panacea that solves all problems. You’re in good company – for about 30% of children with ADHD, Ritalin will not be helpful at all or even exacerbate their problems. 


You might consider consulting a specialist neurologist or psychiatrist, in case they have other suggestions for you, but even if they don’t, you shouldn’t despair. 


Because even when Ritalin does help, it’s never enough on its own. Medication, as stated above, can only slow down the horse a bit so that the person is capable of learning and experiencing success. But this is only part of the necessary process of acquiring self-control and self-management skills. In your case, you will probably have to go through this process without the aid of any medication. 


How to begin? Some people have been helped by an OT specializing in the ‘CogFun’ method. Others go to a CBT therapist who helps them learn to ‘count to ten’, to wait, and to develop better self-control. 


Such therapies not only give you some technical tips: they train you for success and guide you to practically make changes in your brain. An experienced professional will help you to through this process while also assisting you in regaining your self-confidence. 


In short, there is no miracle cure out there, but awareness and correct understanding of the disorder can certainly make the symptoms more tolerable. Learn more about ADHD, find some books by experts to read, and at the same time try to find an experienced professional to help you. I would be happy to recommend someone in your area. 


Best of luck!



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