My Turbo ADHD Brain

Now that ADHD Awareness Month is here, I’d like to take this time to share how I feel about ADHD. I’d also like encourage you to learn more about ADHD and share what you learn with others.

You see, I have ADHD myself and I treat hundreds of people who have it at my centers in Boston MetroWest and New York City every year. And with my buddy, John Ratey, I have written several books about it.

I have a love affair with ADHD.

Would you mind if I didn’t call ADHD ADHD in this piece? I really dislike the term. Please don’t tell the Thought Police that I have strayed from the DSM-IV. Just indulge this aging lover in his love and let him—me—call ADHD something else.

How about Turbo?

I choose Turbo because having this condition is like having a turbo-charged brain. I do not see Turbo as a disorder, but rather as a condition, or a trait. Of course, I know there are important reasons to consider it as a disorder. Mainly having to do with getting accommodations, research funding, and insurance reimbursement—but for my little love letter here, let me refer to my love as a trait, okay?)

The Turbo brain is so unpredictable. One minute it gets you into trouble, the next minute it gives you the smartest idea you’ve ever had. It speaks out of turn, when it should hush up, and when others wish it wouldn’t. Furthermore, the Turbo brain speaks when it wishes it wouldn’t.

Alas, the Turbo brain also forgets. Oh, does it ever forget. And it remembers just a minute or two too late. The Turbo brain often gets yelled at, or gets reprimanded, lectured, scorned. It gets remediated, medicated, or even detonated, so that it explodes! When it explodes, of course, there is a mess. And then there is a mess to clean up. Sometimes the owner of the Turbo brain lives life from mess to mess.

Of course, the Turbo brain knows enthusiasm like few other brains ever do, but it also knows disappointment too well, too. The Turbo brain tries—oh, boy, does it ever try—but then it shows up at the wrong place on the wrong day with hat in hand, ready for another reprimand.

So it’s no surprise that the Turbo brain cannot conform. It loves its own way too much. It loves to go where enchantment leads it, and once caught up in a mind-riff it can’t say no—because it forgets where it is and what the world is waiting for.

The reason I love the Turbo brain is the same reason I love anyone or anything that has to overcome great odds. The deck is stacked against the Turbo brain, especially in school. But I also love it because at times it can be so marvelous. It has to persist, and not believe all the nasty things that get said about it, if it is to do well over the long haul.

Can it do well? Oh, can it ever!

What do you need to do to give yourself the best chance of doing well if you have a Turbo brain?

You need, above all else, in as many positive ways as you can, to CONNECT.

  • Connect up with a mentor who sees your hidden skills and talents and can help draw them out of you.
  • Find someone, somewhere who gets such a kick out of you that they just can’t help but smile when you walk into the room, even if you have your pants on backwards and you’re an hour-and-a-half late.
  • Have a hobby that you get lost in, like building engines; or a sport you’re awesome at, like wrestling; or a horn you like to blow.
  • Get a pet who loves you and you love back, in spite of poops.
  • Discover a place where you can relax. Someplace where you connect to the vibes of whatever is true and good and fine in the life you live.
  • Connect to hope.
  • Spend time in Nature, at the sea or on a mountain or in the sky. Feel how much like Nature is your Turbo brain.
  • Connect to love and disconnect from all the nasties that nibble at you like gnats.
  • Give what’s best in you but you don’t know what it is a chance to grow. You do this by finding the right gardener.

The right gardener is out there. He or she is not always easy to find, as right gardeners don’t turn up as often as one would hope. But when you find the right gardener—the one who sees you’re not a weed but a most unusual plant—then your hard work will turn you into the great tree you were meant to be.

Having a Turbo brain can be hard. Having a brain—period—can be hard. But, I can tell you, as one who has a Turbo brain, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

After all, it has given me my world—my loves of many kinds—and even if it is not there when I need it, it takes me where, without it, I could never go.

It’s ADHD Awareness Month

The month of October is ADHD Awareness Month. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Driven to Distraction.

How far we’ve come since 1994 in our nation’s collective awareness of ADHD. But how far we have yet to go!

I think it’s deserved for us all to pat ourselves on the back a bit for joining together to educate the public about ADHD. But the timing is also propitious to sound the alert as to how much more there is to be done.

Stigma still retards progress.

Factions still prevent the unified efforts that would bring greatest success. Children still suffer in schools unnecessarily, and millions of adults who have ADHD still don’t know they have it. New non-medication treatments are emerging, but we need more research to validate them and develop new ones.

Still, we have come a long way since that book came out. Back then, when I went on talk shows, the first question I was asked was, “How do you know ADHD is real? Isn’t it just a fancy excuse to get out of doing work?”

I am never asked that questions today. True, some uninformed people still wonder about it, but the science is so solid that no informed person has any doubt but that ADHD is real.

Now the great task is to educate this country–and the world–as to how best to identify ADHD and how best to deal with it.

With your help, we will do this work, and we will do it sooner than later. We must, because millions of lives will suffer without it, while millions will thrive once they get the right kind of help.

Read more about Changing the Shame and Stigma of Mental Illness.

VAST (SM) Variable Attention Stimulus Trait

To that end, John Ratey and I will publish a new book, the third in the Distraction series, in November of 2020. In this new book we unveil a new term for ADHD. Our new term is VAST (SM), which stands for Variable Attention Stimulus Trait. It’s time to move past the deficit-disorder model and see the condition as a trait composed of positives and negatives. ADHD conveys shame and stigma. VAST conveys a truer picture, that this condition can be a great asset in life if it is managed properly.

In addition, Nancy and Tim Armstrong are funding the making of a feature-length documentary about ADHD/VAST (SM) rooted in the strength-based approach I’ve been championing for many years. This film should also help to dismantle stigma promote the hope and positive outcomes we need to aim for and achieve.

It is a time to feel grateful, but also to rededicate out efforts. I intend to keep working hard on behalf of this cause. I hope you all do, as well.

If you think you or a loved one might have ADHD, learn about the Symptoms of ADHD and Getting a Diagnosis.

Learn about ADHD and Addiction here.

Learn about ADHD and Hope here.

Upcoming ADHD Awareness Events

Register for free and raise your ADHD awareness!

October 1st – October 31st – The ADHD Awareness Expo is a unique and innovative FREE online event! This is THE place to find the Help and Support YOU need to understand and treat ADHD. You will also have the opportunity make life changing connections with members of the ADHD Community. Dr. Hallowell and other Special Guests will be joining us by video to share tips and strategies. REGISTER FOR FREE NOW!

October 14th – October 30th –  Are you ready to transform your child’s behavioral challenges and get your life back?  Sign up for this complimentary event called: “The ADHD Toolbox: Transform Your Child’s Behavior, Secure Their Future, and Empower Their Independence!” I’ll be discussing  “What’s the best part of ADHD and what’s the worst.”   REGISTER FOR FREE NOW and learn from 30+ experts.
November 21st – Live ADDiTude Webinar with Doctors and ADHD experts Edward Hallowell and John Ratey. They’ll discuss Recognition Responsive Euphoria (RRE), the sister syndrome of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria which is characterized by soaring peaks of positivity and euphoria.

If you’re not available to attend on 11/21, you can sign up and ADDitude will send you the replay to watch at your convenience.  RESERVE YOUR FREE SPOT – REGISTER NOW!

Stimulants and ADHD

This YouTube video is about stimulants and ADHD, more specifically the general stigma that steers people away from trying them as part of treatment for ADHD.  Used properly under medical supervision, stimulant medications are safe and effective, but most people are terrified of them and do not want to even consider trying them. I address this issue in this video

This month, my Note from Ned is a Video from Ned.  That’s a first for us, but I think we will do it more often, as people like video often more than print.

I hope you like this piece and share it.  Please send us feedback about the video format and let us know what you think.  You can always email me directly at

When medication works, it works as safely and dramatically as eyeglasses. Medication helps about 80% of the time in the treatment of ADD. Make sure you work with a doctor who can explain the issues around medication to you clearly. Most people do not realize how safe and effective stimulant medications truly are, when they are used properly. Make sure you work with a doctor who has plenty of experience with these medications. The stimulants include medications like Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Vyvanse, Focalin, and others. As long as you take them under proper medical supervision, they can help you immensely.

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