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Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder Paperback – September 13, 2011
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“Conversational in tone, encyclopedic in content, and, best of all, utterly convincing because of its grounding in clinical experience, Driven to Distraction should make Attention Deficit Disorder comprehensible even to the most distractible reader.”—Peter D. Kramer, M.D., author of Listening to Prozac
“This is an important and much-needed book! Wise, practical, and reassuring.” —Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., author of Endangered Minds and Different Learners
“The first comprehensive book on the subject for the lay reader.” —The Boston Globe
About the Author
John J. Ratey, M.D. is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and is in private practice. He lives in the Boston area.
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Despite calling the disorder ADHD in the intro, he calls it ADD throughout the rest of the book. Despite saying that ADHD affects men and women in equal numbers in the intro, soon after in the book he says that it affects men three times more than women. The research he describes is largely from the early nineties or before, despite the explosion of new ADHD research findings in the past 22 years (although there is updated medication information).
This makes me angry because the author's grab for money in releasing an "updated" version of a book about a disorder that is hardly updated at all is unacceptable and negligent. Clinicians and patients will read this inaccurate/unupdated information and not deliver or receive the best treatment they could potentially have. Dr. Hallowell stresses in his book how dramatically the disorder can negatively affect one's life and how important treatment is — yet he presents vastly outdated information and pretends it's new, doing a great disservice to ADHD sufferers like myself who want to heal.
Besides the fact that an opinion like that is just arrogant... in the words of Dr. Hallowell, "Telling someone who has A.D.D. to try harder is like telling someone who is nearsighted to squint harder. It misses the biological point."
This book helped drive that point home for me.
Please understand though, I did not read this book simply as a person trying to understand Attention Deficit Disorder in order to help others, students for example, but I read this book as one who has struggled my entire life with A.D.D. Really... I have been diagnosed as an adult by a physician with this condition. For me, this book was personal.
Previously to reading this book, I have explored this topic from the Biblical Perspective point of view on more than one occasion. I have heard the arguments and the considered the treatments from the Biblical Counseling (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors) Training that I have received, but I had never really attempted to listen to the other side. Through this book, I have found that the other side has quite a bit to say, and what they are saying is not, "take this magical pill and you will be all better!"
Sure, medication is discussed in this book, but it is definitely not the centerpiece. The core of treatment is through learning strategies and getting a better foundational knowledge of the challenges that go along with this disorder. There is also a personal aspect that is encouraged. The treatment includes people and relationships, whether it be "coaches" or "groups" or just the people in your life, there is a human side to the treatment. Near the end of the book he goes into detail on several different structural strategies that have proven to be helpful to those with A.D.D., but even in these strategies, that personal aspect is emphasized.
Most of the book teaches through the use of case studies. The names have been changed, but the situations are real. This makes it possible for the author to deal with all of the different ways that A.D.D. manifests itself, whether in children just learning to deal with it or in adults that have spent a lifetime trying to cope. It discusses people with the Hyperactivity element (A.D.H.D.) and people (like me) without the hyperactivity element (A.D.D.).
What I found most intriguing in this book was the discussions dealing with all of the secondary issues that so often go hand-in-hand with A.D.D. Issues like depression, anger, abuse and self-medication that are a secondary consequence of the A.D.D. Many of these secondary issues are a result, not of the A.D.D. itself, but from years of believing that the reason you aren't a better person is because you aren't trying hard enough. Those of us with A.D.D. have believed that if we could just get an ounce of the will power that others have, we wouldn't be losing our keys or forgetting important dates. If we actually loved the people that we were talking to, we wouldn't be distracted by what is out the window. If we were just better people, we wouldn't take 10 years and 5 schools and 4 majors to graduate with one 4-year degree. Hearing this inner commentary on your life... for your whole life... can drastically alter your perception of yourself.
Whether you are dealing with A.D.D. yourself or with someone you know and love, and if you are looking for a book that does an excellent job in outlining the reality, diagnosis, and treatment of A.D.D. from a current educated, psychological viewpoint, then this is the book for you. If you are looking for a book that balances this perspective with an accurate Biblical understanding of this topic, then you will need to look elsewhere. I have yet to find a book that balances these two realities. I could always give you my perspective, as someone who is attempting to bring these two viewpoints together into a more accurate understanding of what is actually going on in one who has A.D.D., but I haven't written a book yet, and to be honest, I will probably never get around to it anyway. It was challenging enough just to write this book review!
Top international reviews
I was truly driven to distraction by all the anecdotal descriptions that might be intended to create a context for the reader's understanding of the patient concerned, but this level of unessential detail just left me feeling weary I am afraid. I was interested to learn that a friend who tried to read it had an even stronger reaction than mine and just could not read more than the initial couple of chapters.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and think it is absolutely worth reading. I especially recommend it for adults with ADD.
The positives first:
+ The many stories paint a vivid picture of the many variants of ADD and the people who have it.
+ There's lots of interesting information in the book, about getting diagnosed, about treating ADD by means of medication, psychotherapy, structuring, ... And they give a really in-depth look on the associated problems that appear in adults with ADD.
+ The authors have a balanced opinion on medication (not like R. Barkley, for example, who basically tells you to swallow pills and shut up)
* There are A LOT of stories/case histories.
* This is a really US-American book.
* The style of writing is sometimes cheesy and apple-polishing.
- It lacks structure. It is one huge continuing text. The headlines are the only structuring elements. Not an easy read for ADD people.
- The many stories could each be shortended significantly without losing information content or realism.
In my opinion, the book should be shortenend by at least 50 pages.
- Lots of important information is woven right into the stories.
- On page 336, the authors mention that "The Story of Fidgety Philip" was published in the british journal Lancet in 1904.
But they don't mention that it was originally written by german physician an psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann already in 1845.
I guess it would be a good book for someone with ADHD husband/wife to read so they can understand more
Compassionate, educational, and thorough examination of ADHD. I can't recommend it more highly!