I’m going to start my first post off on my soapbox regarding a pet peeve of mine: mental illnesses or conditions like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) being used as adjectives to describe behaviors, personalities, or people. You know, things traditionally identified as nouns. This post is not the first someone has written about this – and it won’t be the last. It merits repeating.
ADHD Used as an Adjective Stigmatizes ADHD Sufferers
“Oh, I am so ADD” may as well be fingernails on a chalkboard for me. It usually follows an individual doing something careless or forgetful. This individual usually has no diagnosis of ADHD or ADD themselves. I find such comments degrading and ignorant because everyone has moments of carelessness, forgetfulness, and inattentiveness. There’s nothing ADD or ADHD about these lapses. It’s called being human.
Employing ADD and ADHD as adjectives also implies that there is something wrong with those who have a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD because the tone and the intent connected with the use go along with something that is out of order or not normal for the person saying it. If we were to consider ADHD as a disease, then inattention and impulsiveness are ADHD symptoms — of a disease.
People don’t go around saying, “Oh that was so diabetic of me.” That’s not to compare ADHD to diabetes either – they’re apples and oranges. It’s to illustrate my point.
ADHD Does Not Work as an Adjective
This common practice is irksome because it shows that as far as the diagnoses of ADD/ADHD have come (they’re now so ubiquitous that they’re adjectives), there’s still so far to go in terms of defining them because people only know the stereotypes. No one ever sits and zones out looking at a television or book unaware of the outside world for extended periods of time and then goes, “Oh that was so ADD of me” because it doesn’t fit with their stereotype. Nevertheless, hyperfocus is a symptom many people diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have. Many think it is a side effect of medication but it isn’t. I am capable of hyperfocusing on anything that I find particularly fascinating without medication.
My primary point here is that utilizing mental illnesses or disorders as adjectives to describe a behavior is limiting and degrading. It takes the people out of the picture and recasts them as clowns and encourages the public at large to not take the diagnosis seriously.
Let’s Discuss This
What are your thoughts? Are you as peeved by the use of ADD/ADHD as adjectives as I am? Why or why not?