I felt a Cleaving in my Mind--
As if my Brain had split--
I tried to match it--Seam by Seam--
But could not make them fit.
The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before--
But Sequence ravelled out of Sound--
Like Balls--upon a Floor.
- Emily Dickinson (1864)
Attention deficit disorder (ADD for short) is a neurological condition which occurs in both children and adults. It's a syndrome identified by a chronic inability to concentrate or focus on one particular thing at a time, impulsiveness, forgetfulness, and easy distractability. Many people can be described with these words at one time or another, but the word "disorder" is used when this behavior is chronic and characteristic of an individual, so much so that it impairs their ability to interact with other people. It's similar to ADHD, but without the hyperactivity, and can be anywhere from a mild impedence to a severe inability to get things done.
Children with ADD are often described as "lazy" or "defiant" or "restless". They lack the ability or desire to focus on their lessons in school, the instructions of their parents, or the conversations of their friends. As these children grow into adults without diagnosis or treatment, they remain this way, and certain other attitudes become prominent: a sense of underachievement, chronic procrastination, many projects going at once, unstable moods, impatience with "proper" procedures, difficulty starting projects, and a tendency towards addictive behavior. Secondary symptoms of low self-esteem, anxiety or depression are not uncommon in adults who have lived with the effects of ADD throughout their life.
Interestingly, ADD is usually coupled with high intelligence and/or creativity, along with a tendency to hyperfocus on certain tasks. (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was probably ADD, and if you watch the movie "Amadeus" you can see effects of it everywhere -- hyperfocusing, impulsivity, impatience, disorganization.) As a result, a child with ADD may do very well in school until their natural intelligence fails, then plummet when he needs to pay attention to the teacher's lessons; an adult may
perform phenomenally in jobs where she has a particular gift, but be crippled when it comes to interacting with her superiors because of her impatience, procrastination or forgetfulness.
Mature individuals with ADD often develop coping mechanisms so that they can interact with others at work and home. Structure, such as to-do lists and filing systems, is vital because it's the only way they can make sure important things are done or found after they've been forgotten. A familiar routine becomes necessary to make sure basic duties are accomplished. Background music while they're working may be a necessary "distraction" so that they can focus on the task at hand. Alcohol or cocaine may be used to medicate the ADD because it actually works, even if the sufferer doesn't understand why.
For most people with ADD, a successful diagnosis is the best part of the treatment. Besides identifying ADD as the cause instead of hyperthyroidism or other conditions, it gives them a framework in which to understand their own behavior and difficulties. Medication with Ritalin or a similar stimulant is often helpful but sometimes ineffective. These drugs, like the abused cocaine, increase the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system and improve the individual's focus. Psychological counseling is always necessary; it helps both the individual and those around him to understand what the disorder causes and lifestyle changes may need to be made. In addition, ADD may cause or be accompanied by secondary disorders like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, or others, which need to be treated separately.
Information taken from the book "Driven to Distraction"
by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
and from the noder's own experiences