Have you been diagnosed with ADHD, and are you struggling to fit into modern society? Then you are not alone! Many people who ‘suffer’ from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are feeling this way. Is ADHD really a mental disorder, or simply a different brain structure that would be superior in different kind of societies?
Ancient European hunter & gather tribe illustrated.
According to the American Centers of Disease Control and Prevention the definition of ADHD is as follows:
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.
The main ‘symptoms’ of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are as follows:
- Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- Constantly fidgeting
- Being unable to concentrate on tasks (which are not interesting)
- Being unable to wait your turn
- Acting without thinking
- Having a short attention span and being easily distracted
- Making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
- Appearing forgetful or losing things
- Being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
- Appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
- Constantly changing activity or task
- Having difficulty organizing tasks
Some occurring related conditions in people with ADHD are as follows:
- Anxiety disorder – which causes excess worry and nervousness. Most of the time there are physical symptoms like: rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness.
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) – This is defined by negative and disruptive behavior, particularly towards authority figures, such as parents and teachers
- Depression - State of feeling sad and hopeless.
- Sleep problems – Finding it difficult to get to sleep at night, and having irregular sleeping patterns.
The more I learned about ADHD, the more I became skeptical of the condition. Why, you are asking? Because it doesn’t make sense from a evolutionary adaptation standpoint that 10% of the current world population has a form of ADHD. Did having ADHD had benefits in the past?
Growing up, I noticed from a young age that I had abilities which made me better at certain activities than other classmates. These abilities weren’t academic, since I was one of the slowest to progress in reading and writing! But sports and strategy related.
Each year I was in the top three of best sportsman in the class. Sure, I was athletic but I also had this immense drive to be the best paired with extreme concentration. I also was a great strategical thinker in competition. I thought back to the time when I was a kid, and I started doing research on why I had those abilities. Enter the ‘Hunter versus Farmer Hypothesis’.
The Hunter versus the farmer hypothesis proposes that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder represents a lack of adaptation of members of hunter-gatherer societies to their transforming into farming societies. There had been done clinical research to support that ADHD arose from evolutionary adaption.
Throughout history, humans have been hunter-gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years. This gradually changed when agriculture developed, and most societies became farmer oriented. Over many years most humans adapted farming cultures, but humans with ADHD retained some of the older hunter-gatherer characteristics like ‘Hyperfocus’.
From an evolutionary adaptation viewpoint, “Hyperfocus” was advantageous, conferring superb hunting skills and a prompt response to predators. However, when humans adapted the farming cultures they devised better innovations and organizational structures to boost their living. This resulted in the lowering need for ‘Hyperfocus’ and other ADHD characteristics.
A good hunter would require a very specific set of traits in order to survive and successfully complete the task at hand:
- Hyper-focus for short, intense periods of time.
- An ability to be “distractible” — scanning the horizon for wild animals, or for a potential threat.
- Sensitivity to the surrounding environment — listening for the slightest twig break, or sensing the most infinitely small movement.
- A necessity to be completely “in the moment.”
- Energy output consisting of times of high energy, followed by times of relaxation after the hunt.
- Your time horizon is minutes and seconds, not months or years.
Whereas the farmer requires a nearly opposite set of skills:
- An ability to do the same tasks day-in and day-out.
- A capacity to maintain focused and NOT get distracted. This translates into having successful crops — which your very survival depends upon.
- A steady, even energy output.
- A time horizon consisting of months and years. Rewards happen much slower, and there is a need for always coming back to “the big picture.”
For over hundred-thousands of years, hunters provided for the tribe by going on the hunt. Instead of a consistent day-to-day lifestyle, they were required to be both hyper-focused and hyper-sensitive in order to successfully bring food back to the tribe. They were also required to be highly creative in order to out-smart their game.
As Humans evolved, two basic cultures emerged; One influenced by an environment dominated by a hunter-gatherer culture. “The Hunter” Then later, by one influenced by a sedentary and localized culture. “The Farmer”
The ADHD Learner is the leftover hunter, whose ancestors evolved and matured in hunting societies.
Now, the answer to the million dollar question:
Is ADHD a Mental disorder?
ADHD is neither a deficit nor a disorder, but an inherited set of skills, abilities and personality traits which enable a Hunter to be highly successful!
As you’ve read in the beginning of the paragraph, humans with ADHD tend to have different traits then humans without it. Yet, if humans with ADHD were so successful for over hundred-thousands of years, why aren’t they now in modern society?
In our modern-day society, people with ‘Hunter’ skills, abilities and personally traits can suffer immensely if they try to make themselves fit into the system and its expectations.
You are probably wondering why that is? The answer is simple, the current system and its expectations are designed by FARMERS.
Expectations of Modern society in reference to the traits of ‘Hunters’ and ‘Farmers’
As you can see in the table above, I listed the most common traits of ‘Hunters’ and ‘Farmers’. All ‘Hunter’ traits I coded with a red dot (color of blood). All ‘Farmer’ traits I coded with a green dot (color of vegetables). Lastly, in the ‘Modern society’ row, I explained what the expectations are in reference to the traits of hunters and farmers. If the modern society expectations correlate with hunters, I put a red dot before and after the explanation of the trait, And green if its was for farmers.
What becomes clear is that ALL modern society’s traits are correlated with FARMERS and ZERO with HUNTERS. THIS IS THE REASON YOU ARE HAVING SO MUCH TROUBLE FUNCTIONING IN MODERN SOCIETY!
During my teen years, I’ve started having feelings that modern society is very artificial and that we are not living according to the natural human way of living. I won’t get into detail why this is, but I remember watching the news back in the day and hearing about a person who thought the same.
Back in the day Doctor Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, stated that humans are not made to sit still in the classroom just to concentrate on boring topics for extended periods of time. Let alone if you are a human with the ‘Hunter’ brain, which is impulsive, aggressive and easily distracted.
The Western education system does everything it can to meet the requirement that children need to go against their nature. In spite of all their natural impulses, children and young people are trained to focus on abstract and technical subjects for a long time. A very large part of them are not willing or able to obey this requirement, because they do not have the aptitude for it. Instead of looking for other ways to provide them with a place in society, these young people are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, a concentration disorder that is promptly referred to as abnormal and fed medication.
Trying to fit into modern society with a ‘Hunter brain’ is difficult and many humans are struggling with this fact. For those people, there are negative effects associated with trying to adjust to modern society. Namely:
- Social isolation
- Decreased scholastic and job performance
- Inability to form lasting bonds with others
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
- Family disruption and stress
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Impulsive behavior
After giving deep and thorough information about ADHD and the ‘Hunter brain’, its time to look at solutions on how to manage living with ADHD in modern society!
There is not just one strategy that works for the ADHD brain. Many smaller strategies need to be implemented, to make it possible to manager living in modern society with ADHD.
THIS IS ALLOT OF INFORMATION TO PROCESS, AND MANY OF THE READERS WITH ADHD MIGHT GET OVERWHELED WITH THE AMOUNT OF INFORMTION GIVEN. MY ADVICE IS TO REALLY TAKE YOUR TIME. START WITH ONE PROBLEM AREA TO SOLVE, THEN ONCE YOU’VE MASTERED IT, MOVE ON TO THE NEXT ONE. UNTILL YOU HAVE CONTROLL OVER YOUR LIFE AND BRAIN!
Having a daily planning is in my opinion the most important strategy to manage ADHD. People with ADHD either tend to get overwhelmed by thinking about tasks, are not motivated to perform them or underestimate the time it takes to complete the task. Having a daily planning will solve these disadvantages. Like I’ve written in my other article, the planning strategy works as follows:
Create a weekly or daily planning. Make sure this has been made the day/week prior. Use time blocks, where you solely do an activity for either thirty minutes or an hour. During these time blocks there is zero time for digital distraction!
Write the planning down in notebook. Make sure to give yourself more time then you think it takes to finish the assignment. Finish things one at a time. Its easy to get overwhelmed having the ADHD brain. Cut the activity in smaller chunks. For example, when I have to clean the living space. I don’t just write down ‘Clean living space’. I specify what to clean in what order.
Its easy to live in chaos when there are no structures or habits put into place. Next to planning, described in the paragraph above, daily structure and neat habits are also one of the most important strategies to manage ADHD. There are many structures and habits out there, but from my point of view these are the most important:
Room cleaning- Keeping your room clean is hard for people with ADHD, since organization is not our strong points and the activity itself doesn’t bring dopamine. However, having a clean room leads to a clean mind since you will be less stimulated by messiness.
First, write down in your notebook what objects (closets, kitchen, bed etc.) is in your specific room to clean and organize. Second, write a square next to each written object, so that you can fill in a check mark after you are done. This will motivate you into keep going with cleaning and organizing because it starts to be a competition against time! Next, plan a specific timeslot (1-1,5 hours) twice a weak, in which you will clean your room. This can be done at any time that you would like. Last, enforce the daily habit of cleaning after yourself. This can be as simple as throwing away old papers that you see laying around, or immediately cleaning the dirty plate after you have eaten. This might sound annoying to do, but it barely takes one minute per object and in the long run will help in keeping your room organized and in a clean state for longer.
Pomodoro timer - Pomodoro is a concentration technique that works really well for the short attention span of people with ADHD. In short, you do very focused work with no distractions for a small amount of time with frequent short breaks. This promotes sustained concentration and staves of mental fatigue. This can be used for any activity where you are having trouble concentrating. Pomodoro timers can be downloaded in the form of an APP on your smartphone, or listened from YouTube.
Alarms - Alarms work amazing for improving your time perception. Using physical alarm clocks, smartwatch alarms or smartphone alarms will aid in the process of waking-up, going to sleep etc.
Tracking list - To know where you exactly stand at different tasks, it is easy to just write it down. This way it’s less likely you will get overwhelmed or feel anxiety. Write down the activity, and what you have done and still need to do! This can for example be implemented for work/school projects.
Brain care - To safeguard you from getting overwhelmed and overstimulated, its very important to your brain. People with ADHD tend to have an ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality, which can be detrimental. I’ve personally experienced many times in my life where I kept on working on activities even though I was tired. What helps to get ‘grounded’ again after periods of stress or when you feel tensed is to do breathing meditation. It doesn’t matter what kind of breathing meditation you do, as long as it is for a minimum of five minutes a day. It helps you to get mentally calm and rational again. Once you are mentally calm its time to implement positive self talk, since your thoughts are in a HUGE WAY responsible in what kind of emotions you are feeling.
Technology can be an asset for people with ADHD, especially considering it’s a great way to create planners use alarms and keep track of projects. However, the benefits don’t even come close to the negative sides of technology!
I’ve gone into detail what the negative effects of excess technology usage are in my other article. But the main negative effects are the aiding in concentration issues, sleep problems and anxiety. It also gives a constant boost of unnatural dopamine, which the ADHD brain loves and gets hooked on instantly. Leaving you living into a limbo world of technology, wasting allot of time.
Especially Social Media and Internet Pornography are worst for the ADHD brain. Since both worsen ALL ADHD symptoms! I strongly recommend minimizing technology usage and STOP watching Pornography.
There are ‘Internet blockers’ that can be downloaded for either your smartphone or computer. I doing so, you can minimize excessive technology usage by disabling certain applications automatically after a certain amount of time. This extra layer of digital protection will make it easier to stick to the minimum technology usage.
Discipline is the ability to do what needs to be done, even if you don’t feel like doing it. Discipline is an important skill since its linked to success in live. I’ve written about discipline in my first article. In short, deep down you know that it’s best for you to do things you don’t like but might be better for you. You just have to do them!
Try to stick to your planning, daily habits and set in structures even if you don’t feel like doing them. It will take time to develop discipline, but is one of the most important skill to master when you have ADHD.
During the hunt, ‘Hunters’ where doing physical exercise for long periods of time, throughout several days of the week. Remember, YOU have a ‘Hunter brain’ as well. You should therefore emulate what old ‘Hunters’ did in the past. Physical exercise has a ton of benefits for people with ADHD, mainly:
- Calms and relaxes the mind
- Keeps the mind sharper
- Destroys fidgetiness and restlessness
- Improves sleep
- Improves mood
- Increases confidence
- Aids in longevity of the body
I recommend doing three kinds of physically exercise:
- Endurance training - running, cycling, swimming, walking etc.
- Muscle resistance training - weightlifting, calisthenics, bodybuilding etc.
- Martial arts - boxing, wrestling, judo, karate etc.
I’ve found out through practice that doing two or three kinds of physical exercise have the best carryover to the benefits listed above. You don’t have to spent so much time of your week doing sports like I do, find the best balance for your personal life!
Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food - Hippocrates
There is quite a strong correlation with the type of diet you are consuming and the negative ADHD symptoms you are feeling. There are definitely foods out there that should be avoided and foods that should be included into the diet. The complete list on what foods to avoid and include into you diet are shown below in the table:
Foods to avoid and include for the ‘Hunter’ brain
People with ADHD tend to be more creative on average, then people without ADHD. I’ve found that having a creative output is great way to express this ability.
There are several hobbies that can help in your creative output. Some examples:
- Learn to play an instrument
- Make music beats
- Blog posting
- Designing websites
The Wim Hof Method is a breathing and cold therapy exercise. I find that it has allot of benefits for people with ADHD. The benefits are as follows:
- Natural anti-inflammatory
- Better sleep
- Improves mental health
- Relieves stress
- Increases willpower
- Deals with depression
- Boost concentration
- Improves body-and mind connection
I’ve also used the breathing technique when I felt overwhelmed with a task or with my feelings. It works wonders, and I highly recommend it!