ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder; that is to say, its symptoms, behaviours or traits are the result of a person’s brain not developing properly during the key stages of development before they were born or as a very young child. This differs from mental illness, which refers to patterns of behaviour where a person experiences a ‘state of mind’ that is different from their ‘normal self’. In the former, there is no “normal” to compare to making treatment more difficult.
Causes of neurodevelopmental disorders include:
- Trauma at birth
- Infectious Disease
- Immune disorders
- Nutritional factors
- Physical Trauma
It is quite possible that along with ADHD a person may experience symptoms of other neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. (33% of ADHD patients have combined diagnoses).
While it is common for Neurodevelopmental Disorders to occur with co morbid mental illness (ex. ADHD + bipolar), due to poor awareness it is also common for those neurodevelopmental disorders to be misdiagnosed as mental illness.
Neurodiversity is a term that refers to the natural differences between people and was coined in the late 1990’s by Australian sociologist Judy Singer. It can be compared to terms such as race, culture, class and gender and is useful to describe people with varying characteristics and behaviours of neurodevelopmental disorders alongside the “neurotypical” majority in a non-prejudiced way.
As an ADHD person, learning about other conditions can help you learn more about person’s Neurodivergence and move their focus from their disabilities towards their different abilities.
As a rule of thumb, up to 10% of the population are Neurodivergent. The other 90% are Neurotypical.