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Book Review: Delivered from Distraction


When a client newly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)— formerly known as ADD—asked me to read Delivered from Distraction—Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, I thought I’d do it for my own edification. The book is a sequel to Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D.’s landmark book, Driven to Distraction, which I read when it first came out many years ago. 

The book has important things to say about state-of-the-art treatment for ADHD, and for the authors’ reckoning of what constitutes mental health. For example, you might have a bright child doing poorly in school or might have had a parent who was so disorganized that they regularly lost jobs or “forgot” to attend your school events. Maybe your marital or relationship frictions are due, in part, to the other person having ADHD. I have at least one client with a rocky marriage to a spouse whom she loves dearly and who has severe enough untreated ADHD that she’s thinking of divorcing him. 

ADHD is characterized by both a lack of attention as well as hyper attention, distractibility, overthinking, impulsivity, inability to sit still, creativity, originality, out-of-box thinking, high intelligence, poor follow through and frustration tolerance, great effort that gradually turns into no effort, lack of space or time management, and low self-esteem. These are major traits but by no means an exhaustive list of what characterizes ADHD. 

ADHD folks crave stimulation and here’s where food (or addictions) may come into the picture. When you’re bored and seeking kicks, food may be the perfect antidote. It’s far easier to grab a bite to eat than to find other activities to hold your interest or lift your spirits. Take a look at the ADHD criteria and see if the shoe fits. If so, seek help. Treatment works surprisingly well for most people.

Hallowell and Ratey are renowned psychiatrists (Hallowell is now retired) with ADHD. So much for the lazy, stupid myth about people who have it. And they have a terrific understanding of what’s needed to achieve mental health: “You build a life on your talents and strengths—what is right and good about you—not on your weaknesses, however skillfully they might be corrected.” (p. 178). “I [Hallowell] discovered that it isn’t money or fame or even good health that correlates most strongly with enduring joy in adulthood. Instead, what correlates statistically with joy most powerfully are internal qualities like optimism, the ability to reach out to others, a feeling of being at least somewhat in control of your life, and a can-do attitude coupled with a want-to-do it attitude.” (p. 182)