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Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood


Book Review: Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood, by
Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey

Filled with “A-Ha! moments” for those already diagnosed with ADD and those who never even considered that possibility, this book is a superb resource for everyone. Whether you have ADD yourself, live or work with someone who has ADD, or know someone who never lives up to their potential, Drs. Hallowell and Ratey will help you understand what's going on.

The Book

Although it discusses some very complex issues, everything is presented clearly and understandably, with little of the “jargon” found in other books on mental health. Explanations are easy to understand, without being oversimplified to the point of insulting the reader's intelligence; and the case studies included cover a wide range of experiences.

Written by two experts on ADHD and its varied presentations, “Driven to Distraction” offers help and hope for those who have spent their lives wondering what is “wrong” with them, and why they can't seem to get anywhere no matter how hard they try. Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey haven't just studied and treated ADHD, they've spent their lives LIVING with it. They both have ADD themselves, and understand the difficulties from both perspectives; as ADDers and as professionals who work with those with ADD. They reassure us that we're not crazy or stupid, and explain that ADD is a physical disorder that affects the way the brain works, not a psychological problem or a lack of character.


I think what I like the best about the book is that it's much more balanced in its approach than most books about mental health. It focuses as much on the positive aspects of having ADD as on the difficulties associated with it. (“Although ADD can generate a host of problems, there are also advantages to having it, advantages that this book will stress, such as high energy, intuitiveness, creativity, and enthusiasm, and they are completely overlooked by the 'disorder' model.”) After spending most of their lives being told that they “aren't trying hard enough,” that they could “do better,” and feeling stupid and worthless; those with ADD NEED to hear what Driven to Distraction tells them. (And so do the people around them.)

The section on diagnosis explains the differences (and similarities) between childhood ADD and adult ADD; as well as the different sub-types of ADD and the conditions that can accompany it or that it can be mistaken for. It offers tips on how to tell whether the problem is ADD, something else, or a combination of ADD with another condition; and how to find someone who can provide an accurate diagnosis.

Section on Treatment

Although there are tips and hints for managing throughout the book, the treatment section pulls them all together for easy reference, and adds information on medications as well. Drs Hallowell and Ratey are clear on the fact that although medication can be helpful, there is much more to treating ADD than taking a pill:

“Medication is not the whole treatment for ADD. It is a useful and powerful adjunct, but it should never be regarded as the complete treatment.”

This section includes several helpful lists, including:

  • Ten Tips for Parents and Teachers on Explaining ADD to Children
  • Ten Tips on Structuring and Organizing the Life of the Child with ADD
  • Fifty Tips on the Management of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (broken down into sections on insight and education, performance management, mood management, and interpersonal life.) and
  • Fifty Tips on the Classroom Management of ADD.

The treatment section also includes some of the common problem areas in the treatment of ADD, with suggestions on how to deal with them, based on the authors' experience. This is followed by a more in-depth explanation of the biology of ADD, which provides some excellent insight about why the patient with ADD is the way they are. Finally, there is an appendix, with listings of helpful resources and more reading material.

All in all, a very useful book that provides an excellent overview of ADD, its benefits, pitfalls and treatments. Highly recommended for anyone affected by ADD; whether as patient, parent, partner, family member, friend, or coworker.

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