Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey

Driven to Distraction by Dr. Edward Hallowell, a world-renowned expert on pediatric ADD and himself a person with ADD, and Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School Neuropsychiatrist, is a poignant, at times lyrical, message of hope for ADD-abled people and their neighbors, colleagues, friends and family.


This book is a comprehensive examination of ADD, a neurological condition which disrupts people’s abilities to organize information and actions, from diagnosis to treatment. Drs. Hallowell and Ratey provide tools for their readers to begin the diagnostic process and to understand treatment. They lament a medical system which often misdiagnoses patients. They include case studies of their patients, to help their readers understand the tremendous burdens society often places on people with ADD, especially if those people go undiagnosed. They offer sharp critiques of educational systems which fail children who don’t conform to very narrow, convenient norms of behavior and learning styles. They encourage ADD-abled people to take very active roles in their treatment and self-care, to become their own advocates as often and as faithfully as possible. Most importantly, Drs. Hallowell and Ratey refuse to accept the interpretation of ADD as a character defect, a moral flaw, or any other crippling abuse society often places on people with ADD. Instead, they emphasize the great potential of people with ADD. Thomas Alva Edison is believed to have been ADD-abled.


This book is a manual for advocacy for the success and happiness of people with ADD.


I will also urge everyone who has any interest in ADD/ADHD to read Driven’s companion edition, Delivered from Distraction, as well. Driven can be broadly described as “My reader thinks s/he has ADD, or thinks someone s/he knows has ADD, but isn’t sure. I’m a guide to ‘Now what’.” Delivered (follow the link for a more detailed review) is far closer to a compendium “You know you have ADD/ADHD, here are next steps.” Answers to Distraction is companion work to both Driven and Delivered. It’s for ADD-abled readers in particular, giving its information in short statements organized by browsable chapters.

The different perspectives of the three books are invaluable, and none of the three entirely duplicate each other. I will include this short, particularly startling statement which I only found in Answers (2010 edition, p. 267, last paragraph) as an example:

“Q: In your experience, what is the most dangerous substance of addiction for the ADD adolescent?
A: Without a doubt, it is marijuana. Rachel Gittleman-Klein, a pioneer in studying ADD’s course through the life cycle, warns against an ADD child using marijuana even once. Its effects are so compelling for the ADD brain that it seems to become immediately psychologically addictive. It creates a calmness with a heightened sense of adventure – all within the brain. One of the true delights for ADD people is to play with their thoughts and their ideas and build intense and intricate fantasies. Marijuana accentuates the zaniness and doubles the intensity, all within the backdrop of serenity.
We see so many adults in their late twenties who have been addicted to heavy daily does of marijuana for years, and have their great potential wasted in acrid smoke. The irony is that marijuana makes ADD symptoms worse. It makes you more distractible, worsens your memory, increases the tendency to procrastinate, and decreases motivation. It should be avoided at all costs, for it lurks as a temptation that can destroy a life.”

About Lauren Williams

Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer®

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