Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey M.D. - Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood

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The Full Life Cycle of ADD - Child/Adult/Couple/Family

Nov 21, 2001 (Updated Nov 21, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Realistic, Psychological Aspect, Covers entire life span

Cons:Only deals with psychological aspect; May be to generalized for some

The Bottom Line: A must-read to add to your knowledge of ADD. It's a psychological perspective that many books do not even mention! Presented very realistically by a qualified professional.

I have read this book twice and it is much more enlightening the second time. The first time I read in haste trying to grab any bit of information that I could. I tore through the pages trying to find the mystery that I faced and perhaps find a secret code that I could chant at my son to cure his concentration glitches before the end of the school semester so that he would pass. I put the book down disgusted that there wasn't any sure fixes and went to bed with heavy shoulders. I waited about a week a read it again. The second time I read it my son was at school so I was much calmer and could read the book whole book rather than a sentence at a time.

One thing that I noticed that was addressed that I haven't picked up in other books is what other symptoms result from having ADD in the first place...low self esteem, depression, fear, poor relationships, negative thinking, and so much more. I fear these may be issues that are now added to the already existing problems. So basically, after an individual finds their method of dealing with ADD, then they'll have all of the social aspects to deal with from pretty much everyone who they come into regular contact with. In reflection I have noticed some things in my own son's life that needed to be changed and since we were still in the early years we've been able to patch those fairly easily.

I feel that I have gained some insight about how I've been reacting to my son's behavior. It's funny how some things have to be spelled out before you see them. I tried to leave emotion and my thoughts aside and reprimanded him in a more "matter of fact" emotionless way and have actually seen some positive response. The book also encouraged ignoring for unfavorable behaviors and after trying it I can that it actually felt pretty good for me.

About the Author
I read the preface, A Personal Perspective with scrutiny because I'm not going to take advise from just anyone. I had a HMO, I know that just because a person has the title of MD, it doesn't mean anything except that they paid a lot for their education. The author explains what his life was like with ADD in the preface and I am convinced prior to reading, that this man has a grasp on the emotional aspects of ADD from his own personal experience and indeed has gained a lot of knowledge and experience as child and adult psychiatrist. I have the feeling that he truly loves his job.

After reading the book it is evident that Dr. Hallowell spent a lot of time writing this book and has hand picked the important information from his years of experience and has presented it in an unbiased way. Presentation in this book is very soft and understanding. There is nothing condescending or presumptuous and is easy to follow. ADD is never spoken of in this book as a "disorder", disease, or medical condition.

The author realized that he had ADD at the age of 31 while he was at a job-related lecture. He realized that several other family members also had ADD.

Dr. Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist and is a generalist therefore also analyzes children who do not have ADD which should give him an unbiased perspective.

Dr. John Ratey was a professor and friend to Hallowell. Dr. Ratey also had ADD and worked with adults with ADD. With ADD in his own family, he obviously has a great desire to see others benefit from his knowledge

What is Attention Deficit Disorder?

"I sang in My Chains Like The Sea"
The Child with ADD

"Sequence Ravelled Out of Sound"
Adult ADD

Living and Loving with ADD
ADD in couples

The Big Struggle
ADD and the family

Parts of the Elephant
Subtypes of ADD

How Do I Know if I Have It?
The Steps Toward Diagnosis

What Can You Do About It?
The Treatment of ADD

Local Habitation and a Name
The Biology of ADD


Where to Find Help


Defining Attention Deficit Disorder
Rather than a textbook explanation of ADD, this author presents examples of individuals who have ADD and the reader can compile their own definition. Because ADD can present itself in different manners this is a very logical approach to defining it.

The first 40 pages are case studies are presented in a very interesting technique. The case studies all take place in the therapist's office but the individuals backgrounds, personalities, and reactions are greatly different. I have heard over and over again that ADD is one of the most common over-diagnosed label in childhood. I think that because the symptoms of ADD are are found in virtually all children and perhaps many adults that diagnosis becomes very complicated to distinguish between reasons such as still immature, just a stage, just a boy, socially active, and so on that it often goes unmentioned or over-diagnosed. Furthermore a stipulation of the diagnosis is also the severity, duration, and the impact or amount of interference on the person's life.

Because this author is a psychiatrist, his direction and answers are more of thought rather than cut-and-dry answers that you may find from a physician. These cases are considered on an emotional, intellectual, and personality basis.

The first 40 pages cover case studies on different personalities and how ADD has effected their life.

- A man named Jim, an average guy, who has not come to terms with ADD and is having problems holding a job and can not figure out why.

- A lady named Carolyn who was a wealthy prominent woman who suspected that she had ADD and wanted it confirmed.

- Maria who is married and finished college that had questions about "what was wrong with her" as she explained her challenges in life.

- Penny, a 5th grade student, referred to the psychiatrist by the teacher. The mother explained the challenges that lead up to why they were there.

Some of these individuals responded to medicine, some had other underlying problems, and different types of ADD. These stories can give some in-site to the feelings of how individuals live and cope. You may also see yourself or someone else in these stories.

It seems to me that ADD can be managed but not cured. Even if the person is on medication, they will not be "cured" when they stop taking it. The book is explained in the natural progression of a person's life. Childhood, marriage, and family. Unfortunately one persons struggle with ADD effect and can be a struggle for everyone else's life and this book explains how relationships in a household often suffer in every phase of life.

Chapter 6 moves into the subtypes of ADD illustrating how looking at just one symptom of ADD will leave out others that do have it. "The formal diagnostic nomenclature recognizes only two subtypes of ADD: ADD with hyperactivity and ADD without hyperactivity."

The following list is quoted from the book:

1. ADD without hyperactivity
2. ADD with anxiety
3. ADD with depression
4. ADD with other learning disorders
5. ADD with agitation or mania
6. ADD with substance abuse
7. ADD in the creative person
8. ADD with high-risk behavior or "high-stim"
9. ADD with dissociate states
10. ADD with borderline personality features
11. ADD with conduct disorder or oppositional disorder (in children) or antisocial personality features (in adults)
12. ADD with obsessive-compulsive disorder
13. Pseudo-ADD

The author then explains each of these in detail and you can read them all to see where the person falls or jump right to the one you may suspect. Symptoms are listed and short case-study examples are included as well as the authors thoughts. These subtypes are explained briefly in 3 or 4 pages.

The chapter How Do I know if I Have It? The Steps toward diagnosis asks the same question that I've been wondering all along.....where does "normal" leave off and ADD begin? Of course I didn't get a definitive answer. The author stresses that ADD can only be diagnosed by studying the past history by an experienced health care professional. This chapter describes the diagnostic criteria in detail and includes quite a few lists that the person will need to answer. If you're planning on seeing an ADD professional, preparing these answers will greatly help (and will also help you know if your professional knows what he's talking about.)

The next chapter What Can You Do About It? explains treatment. There is a list to guide a parent or teacher when explaining the diagnosis to a child. There are a few tips on structuring your life by schedules, charts, filing systems, notepads, lists, reminders, etc. There's an 11 page description of psychotherapy and coaching, and a 9 page description of medication. There are lists of management tips which are super tips and to the point. It is stressed that the person with ADD really needs a coach or someone to monitor their progress or keep them on track. There is also a list of common problems in the treatment which are briefly addressed.

The final chapter A Local Habitation and a Name describes the biological aspects and the history and diagnosis of ADD over the years. I find it interesting that the author chose to put this chapter at the end when most authors would put it right there in the first few chapters. It works well in the back too.

My Thoughts
I didn't realize how ADD will effect the REST of my sons life before I read this book. Yes, I'm very aware of how it effects him now but in the back of my mind thought it would suddenly go away after he "grew up" whatever magical age that is. The book makes it very clear that the effects of ADD doesn't just go away and what destructive roles it will play in future relationships and how you can understand or prepare for them as a person who has ADD or as a person who lives with someone who has ADD. Reading this book has given me the added ambition to help him manage situations NOW rather than allowing him to struggle through life with these distractions.

I found that the How do I know I have it and What you can do about it chapters to be the most helpful in comparison with other books. In my own experience with my son, nothing gets through to him better than lists and the author put almost everything in a list. The list or bullet format is easy to go back over when your finished reading to kind of check off what steps you have already completed and are quite frankly things you really don't need drawn out details for.

I've read other ADD books which imply that diagnosis is cut and dry and explain treatment as if you can just choose one and if it doesn't work move on to the next. I think this author is quite clear in describing ADD as an issue that will need to be managed as such for life. He is very clear that treatment is continuous work and can not be solved with a single method.

Who Would Like This Book?
As Dr. Hallowell indicates in this book, education on ADD is very important. This book gives a psychological look at ADD and will further your personal research on the matter. This book takes a psychological look at ADD (rather than medical or biological issues). The case studies help the reader take a look at others who have ADD and the author really lets you use that information to make your own conclusion. You can use it to diagnose, understand yourself, understand someone else, comfort, and so forth. 75% of this book talks about diagnosing ADD and by the time I received this book I was skeptical that I would not find any beneficial new information that had not been covered in other books but I was pleased to find that there was plenty of fresh information to find in this book.

This book is nicely suited for anyone who has ADD or anyone who lives or works with someone with ADD. (I have noticed that some books present themselves for one or the other and very few effectively address both at the same time.)

This book is divided up in sections nicely so you don't have to read the whole book at one time to get a good understanding of what the author is explaining. It is also set up where the most "attention span" will be used in the beginning.....there are lengthy stories full of details and descriptions of a person which you will need to stay with and then the writing technique changes when you get to ADD and the Family and becomes a little more compacted and How do I know if I have it? and after becomes bullets and lists. If you find book reading monotonous, this certainly breaks it up nicely.

This book is written in a very compassionate and reassuring nature. I don't think that the reader will be offended by anything that is mentioned in this book. The doctor does not attack or prove any theories are bad as some books do.

Where to Buy This Book

This is a national bestseller so it should be easy to find. The book retails for $13.00. If falls under Psychology/Self Help -or- ADD

Any local bookstore should have a copy.

Dr. Hallowell's website -

Barnes & Noble (new) - http://shop.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?salesurl=&isbn=0684801280

Amazon (new or used) -

Half (used) -

Ebay (used)

Recommend this product? Yes

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