Several years ago I was asked by a friend to describe what I call “The Fog”. This particular symptom of people with ADHD is also described by others a “mental fog” or the “brain fog”. I prefer to call it simply “The Fog”. This may be because of my love of everything horror and sci-fi. It just sounds more mysterious to say “The Fog”. Anywho…
The Fog has been described by many as being mentally stuck in the mud, or having cotton in your brain. Other’s describe it as physically being awake while mentally still being asleep. While others go even a step further and say it is like your brain is not really your own and it is almost impossible to control. Almost.
I find these descriptions odd because none of those really sound like a “fog”, do they? Yet, everyone seems to use the adjective of “fog” to describe it. The funniest part of using this word is that it isn’t supposed to be an adjective at all! It’s a noun. Yet, here we are using it as an adjective to describe the noun of brain. Oops, did I just let my nerd out?
So, what is “The Fog”? It is when the ADHD brain becomes overstimulated and decides to be uncooperative. It is a place of no or little emotion. It is a place where everything moves mind numbing slow, yet so fast that it is impossible to comprehend. It is a place where nothing seems real and everything is muted, and so darned loud. It is frightening place to be. Comprehension of surroundings is almost impossible.
Sometimes The Fog only lasts for an hour or two and I can get myself out. Sometimes it can last days, and rarely for weeks. You will find that people with ADHD will oftentimes not go to loud overpopulated places like sporting events or loud parties. This is because that much stimulus will put us in The Fog and it is so scary that it isn’t worth setting ourselves up for it. This can greatly reduce socializing, especially in early adulthood.
After explaining this to my friend she commented that I pretty much gave the same description as her sibling gave her who tried to describe her life being on the autism spectrum. This got me thinking, at this time, are the two connected. I was assured by the DSMV-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition) that autism and ADHD are two completely separate disorders and the two shall never combine. However, it always nagged at me considering the similarities.
And then in 2013, the DSMV-5 came out and things changed. It appears that studies were done and they decided that the two shall combine in some cases. However, how much they combine seems to be under debate. The CDC reports that 14% of people with ADHD are also on the spectrum. CHADD reports that more than half of people with autism also have ADHD symptoms.
Because the DSMV-IV was positive that the two conditions shall never combine, very few studies have actually been done. It is just now that these studies are beginning to happen, so I foresee many changes in how autism and ADHD will be seen in the future. Recent studies have shown that the two do have the same genetic risks so a change in thinking may be very soon in the future.
So, what does this mean for parents of children with ADHD? Right now the school systems have ADHD listed as “Other Health Impairment” instead of ADHD. This is because the system of how ADHD is viewed in schools hasn’t changed since 1975. The schools refuse to look at ADHD as a true neurodevelopmental disorder. If the APA (American Psychiatric Association) decides that ADHD is indeed on the spectrum, then the ADHD child will receive the much-needed help in the schools system. However, this will further pigeonhole the child with the stigma of “special needs”.
It is a catch-22. But, at least that will put us in with very good company.