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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Gigler

Living an ADD Life to the Full!

While riding along in my van, a bluegrass song got me thinking about a presentation I’d heard at the recent CHADD International Conference in St. Louis. Called “Life to my Days,” the tune by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver talks about the importance of living life well today because we can’t number our tomorrows.

It underscored an excellent presentation by Russell Barkley, PhD, whose research indicates that ADHD can shorten a person’s life by years – even decades. The subject was, “Health Outcomes of ADHD: Is There an Effect on Life Expectancy?”

Barkley has long been a champion for the ADHD community. He has published 23 books, rating scales, clinical manuals with over 40 editions, as well as 270 scientific articles related to the treatment of ADHD and related disorders. He is clinical professor of psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.

The effect of ADHD on many life domains as well as every developmental phase of life has been well researched. ADHD can predispose us to lifestyle choices that have a significant impact on health. We also face an increased risk for accidental injuries throughout our lives.

Barkley’s most recent research study, to be published early in 2019, looks at life expectancy for individuals with ADHD. After examining the 14 predictors of longevity based on actuarial tables, Barkley concludes that ADHD significantly affects each of these areas, from getting enough sleep each night to controlling one’s desire to smoke, eat, or drink too much.

At its heart, ADHD is NOT a disorder of attention, Barkley says. Instead, ADHD is a disorder of behavioral inhibition. That is to say: Our ability to regulate ourselves tremendously affect our lives in many areas and can contribute to a shorter lifespan. He predicts that ADHD will be seen one day as a public health issue, which will pave the way for greater awareness and services.

While sobering, his findings are also validating. Have you ever tried to lose weight or exercise, for the 100th time in your life? Have you ever wondered why you are successful in some areas of life only to struggle in others? It doesn’t mean that we can’t improve in any area of our life. It just means that we might need to put a few more supports in place than the neuro-typical person.

Who knows how long any of us may live, but with the right help, we can enjoy a greater quality of life. We might not be able to “add more days to our life, but we might just be able to add more life to our days!”

Need support in life direction or in improving your quality of life? There is hope!

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