Why Not Both?
I read something over on Medium the other day about the connections between childhood trauma and ADHD. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as there seems to be a wave people online diagnosing themselves with adult ADHD. I, of course, thinking, “A lot of that sounds like me!” had to go do research, too.
I took some online quizzes and read ADHD 2.0 by a couple of the guys whose work on the matter is most well-known. The conclusion I come to is…I don’t know. In the last four or five years, I’ve also known a few people diagnosed with autism in adulthood. And that led me to say, “A lot of that sounds like me.” And…I don’t know.
There can be a lot of overlap in the effects of codependency and trauma with symptoms of various neurodivergences. Is procrastination an effect of having an ADHD brain (which is biochemically a little different than a non-ADHD brain) or is it caused by perfectionism and fear of disapproval? Is feeling misunderstood and alone a result of being on the autism spectrum and not knowing how the “rules” work, or do you not know how the “rules” work because you had inadequate social modeling and were gaslit in childhood by people around you pretending everything was fine when it clearly was not, or being conditioned by the unspoken “don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust” of being in an alcoholic home?
This all connects with my “codependence as a theory of everything” post from April. Does it matter if we view our neuro-atypical stuff through the lens of childhood trauma and dysfunction, or through the lens of syndromes and “disorders”? It might. In the aforementioned article, the author cited a doctor who said that children from traumatic environments with ADHD symptoms don’t respond that well to the typical ADHD treatments.
So, it does seem to matter—at least in that case and to that doctor—what the cause of the symptoms is.
But here’s a story from my life. Many years ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and “medium major depression” (that part always made me laugh) and was given meds accordingly. And I just never felt that it helped that much. When I started doing deep-dive codependence recovery work like reparenting/self-parenting, establishing internal and external boundaries, and building my own identity apart from others, the mood disorders kind of went away or at least lessened by a good…85%? And yet to say “just do recovery work” to someone with a very real chemical imbalance in the brain would be cruel and harmful advice.
It does matter to get the root, and it’s all about more than just treating symptoms. Most of the time I think I’ve found the right cause and the recovery paradigm and other therapy stuff has worked best for me. Once in awhile, though, I do wonder if there could be something else going on also that would be worth looking into because—as we like to say around our house—“Why not both?”
It’s the kind of puzzle that feels like it could have multiple right answers even in one individual, let alone across a set of people with their own experiences and chemical makeup. At the same time, getting at the root below the root can’t hurt. (I mean, it hurts, but it doesn’t make me sicker.)
Oh, here’s the post I read, if it’s of interest: https://medium.com/mental-health-and-addictions-community/how-childhood-trauma-may-be-a-root-cause-for-adhd-7207b878e9cc