Acedia is defined in the free online dictionary as “spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui.”
But in the medical section of the same dictionary it is defined as “Obsolete term for a mental syndrome, the chief features of which are listlessness, carelessness, apathy, and melancholia.”
The word “obsolete” is used in that definition because this is an affliction that is no longer given much credence as a syndrome.
However, with a history that goes back hundreds of years and documentation in many places, Acedia was once considered a real problem.
And here’s my problem …
Those chief features sound awfully familiar. Listlessness, carelessness, apathy, these are words that fit quite nicely into the definition of what I sometimes call “Type I ADHD,” the one that is officially called “ADHD; primarily inattentive.”
Those three things are generally the external perception of someone who is disengaged with their immediate surroundings and engaged invisibly with their inner world.
And the fourth part of that definition, melancholia, is exactly how people with ADHD feel about being unable to focus, falling behind, being rejected as socially inept when in fact it is the rest of the world that seems socially unable to hold their attention.
And I would further submit
Many of us with ADHD; primarily hyperactive-impulsive (or ADHD Type II) have spent some of our time closed down and impulsively behaving in a hyperactive way in our imaginations.
That leaves us looking like we are Type I’s when we are just struggling, to the best of our abilities, to conform to an unattainable standard.
So I can tell you, that even people with ADHD like myself, who are combined type (ADHD Type III), can relate to this ancient assessment or syndrome called Acedia. We relate with intensity.
Okay, here’s my problem …
The problem, as I see it, is that diagnosis from third party observation is nothing more than an attempt to define the symptoms as the disorder. Well, that’s not really the problem with Acedia or with ADHD, that’s a problem with clinical mental health assessment.
Okay, getting back to the similarity between Acedia and ADD or ADHD Type I, my question is this: Given the appearance of ADD in the mental health field in the last fifty years and the corresponding disappearance of Acedia because of its difficulty to define and perhaps its symptoms overlapping with other disorders, is it possible that we are looking at the same disorder?
So, maybe this is my problem …
Many of the fanatics that deny the existence of ADHD claim as their proof the fact that it didn’t exist fifty years ago. They assume that if it wasn’t defined then, it must have just appeared.
I have always argued that mental health practitioners have been learning constantly to define and redefine symptoms and classify them as disorders and syndromes. The disorders and syndromes were always there, we just didn’t recognize them.
But now, I’m beginning to wonder if we did, but due to smaller populations and therefore smaller numbers of people with ADHD, the studies weren’t as relevant.
My real problem is mostly that I feel like I’m the only one who has noticed this.
Tell me what you think.
Have we just found the missing link? Have we been suffering from variations of Acedia all along?