Lawyers and Adult ADD
by Jim Howard, former Director, Missouri Lawyers' Assistance Program
Until recently, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was diagnosed as a childhood syndrome exclusively. It was thought to disappear after adolescence. Now it is well established clinically that one-third to two-thirds of those with childhood ADD have it as adults.
Just what is ADD? Attention Deficit Disorder is a genetic, neurological syndrome. It is a neurotransmitter imbalance, if you will, in the brain. It is characterized by:
- Easy distractibility;
- Low tolerance for frustration or boredom;
- Predilection for situations of high intensity;
In non-technical terms, ADD is a deficiency in that part of the brain that allows us to selectively focus on what is relevant and important to us. Children with ADD are simply bombarded with stimuli and are unable to selectively focus. They get fidgety, move around and often disrupt. Unable to control their environment, they often act impulsively, usually with negative consequences. This has a significant and, unfortunately, long lasting impact on the child's self-esteem. Furthermore, this child is potentially set up to medicate these feelings of low self-esteem and worth later on as an adolescent and adult with alcohol, drugs, etc.
For a diagnosis of ADD (technically diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD), the onset of the symptoms must occur before age seven.
Suggested adult symptoms in the legal profession might include:
- Rapid thinking and speech;
- Rude with clients;
- Forgetting appointments or court dates;
- Difficulty staying focused;
- Inappropriately argumentative with partner, opposing attorney or judge;
- Mood instability in office;
- Multiple job changes;
- Difficulty prioritizing cases and tasks;
- Procrastination in filings and returning phone calls;
- Underachievement in practice;
- Difficulty organizing work;
- High risk behavior:
- Substance abuse;
- Bright, creative ideas, inadequate follow through;
- Anxiety over cases, outcomes and people.
Of course, we can all see ourselves in these symptoms. The key is severity and duration, not just the presence of a symptom.
Incidentally, while ADD is usually seen in a pathological domain, there actually are advantages to being ADD. Examples include:
- High energy;
These seem to be characteristics of an effective lawyer.
The good news is that ADD is treatable. For information or assistance with ADD or any other personal concern, call:
The Missouri Lawyers Assistance Program