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When Radio Goes Wrong – Clarification, Please!

I never used to think of myself as a gambler. I’m rethinking that.

ADHD radio can be a 3-ring circus and you get crushed by an elephantYesterday, I appeared on a live, phone-in talk show and hung up feeling like I’d just left a three-ring circus having been stepped on by an elephant: breathless and bruised.

It wasn’t the host’s fault. I’d been interviewed by her before, and I admire and respect her. I was angry with myself for not voicing my concerns, but I was winded and disoriented.

Clearly, I am a gambler

I guess if you’re gonna do live radio, you takes your chances. Ok, so I got cut off during a commercial break; the technical stuff I can live with. What I’m struggling with is a few comments from a caller.

As Psych Central did a stellar job of promoting the show (thanks, guys!) I felt I had to address what went down yesterday, in case you caught the show, and to prepare others for the podcast to come.

Reality radio?

When Kat called in, she told us she was driving to church while eating breakfast and putting on her make up.

Classic ADHD. This couldn’t be better if it had been staged (apparently, it wasn’t.)

I’d understood that Kat was supposed to be the other woman-with-ADD guest on the show, so it was even more ADHD-ey of her to say that she’d been looking for a talk show to listen to on her way (late) to church, and was totally surprised to find us! She’d thought the show had been rescheduled.

All of a sudden, it wasn’t so funny

After a bit of chit-chat, I asked her when she’d been diagnosed. “I don’t think I’ve ever been officially diagnosed,” she said. “I mean, no one has ever said, you have ADD, here’s your prescription.” Huh? Am I on the right show?

She continued by saying that, although she’s never been officially diagnosed, she “did a little medication for a little while,” but didn’t like the way it made her feel. At this point, my head began to spin like Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist. It spun faster when she said she takes a half an Adderall (an ADHD stimulant medication) if she feels she needs to, but she still doesn’t like how it makes her feel. (Uh, maybe that’s because you don’t have ADD! I thought. I kept my mouth shut.)

More questions than answers

In true ADHD multi-task fashion, I continued with calm demeanor on the outside, while these questions, accompanied by loud alarm bells, screamed for attention:

– don’t you need to be diagnosed to get a prescription for an ADHD medication?
– why are you talking about having ADHD if you haven’t been diagnosed?
– is it SAFE to take “half” an Adderall? Cut or crush Ritalin (or its derivatives) and you’ll trip out, not treat your ADHD

And, most pressing:

– what is everyone listening to this LIVE radio show RIGHT NOW thinking, and how are they going to make any sense of what you’re saying when I can’t even do that?

I’m the answer girl…usually

I go on radio shows to answer questions about ADHD. Sometimes I raise them, too, but they’re not the kind of questions listed above (they’re more like, why can’t I get a date with Justin Timberlake? Doesn’t he have ADHD too?…)

Let me explain…please!

For those of you who listened in (and thank you for that) it’s essential that I clear up some of the dilemmas these comments raised.

First and foremost: GET A PROPER DIAGNOSIS from a qualified practitioner, especially before taking ADHD medication! I’m sorry to be shouting, but I can’t emphasize this enough.

You wouldn’t diagnose your own cancer; nor should you diagnose your own ADHD. Your neighbor, your dog, your boyfriend are also not qualified to diagnose you.

ADHD is in the DSM IV (the diagnostic manual for mental health conditions)

…it’s in there for a reason. It’s an identified mental health condition, not some cutesy way of explaining your flightiness. It’s serious. It’s wreaked havoc in the lives of many, especially those of us who are diagnosed late in life. It’s no joke, and most of the time, it’s no fun.

Diagnosis first; meds second

Medications must be prescribed by a qualified health practitioner. Never, EVER, mess with your meds! Take as prescribed and follow-up with your doc if you’re not feeling ok with them. This ain’t baby aspirin, people.

If you DO have ADHD, and you’ve found the right med, you’ll notice a moderate to huge improvement in your symptoms – that’s one of the ways you can tell if your diagnosis was right in the first place (although about 10% of people don’t benefit from meds; for the rest of us, the benefits can be dramatic, and the side-effects, minimal to nil.)

Copy cat conditions

Lots of stuff can mimic the symptoms of ADHD: menopause, depression, bi-polar, just to name a few. If you’re treating for ADHD and it’s NOT ADHD – you’ll be using the wrong treatment and leaving whatever medical or mental health issue you’re dealing with untreated.

So, it’s also important to rule out other conditions before taking a medication for ADHD. It’s true that many ADHDers have a coexisting condition like depression, anxiety, etc., but unless the actual ADHD is teased out and treated, you’re not going to achieve optimal health.

Little Johnny has…uh…ah, never mind

Getting accurate information about ADHD is incredibly important – for adults as well as kids. Another caller on yesterday’s show mentioned that teachers are reluctant to use the label, but as I’ve written before, if we don’t diagnose and identify the problem – how can we treat it properly? This reluctance cheats kids with ADHD, robbing them of the opportunity to live up to their full potential.

It’s unsettling to think that the radio program might have left people confused and misinformed.

I hope I’ve clarified some of that. If not, please feel free to leave a comment.

And the next time I take a gamble, I hope lady luck is on my side. And she’d better not have ADHD, ‘cause she’ll show up too late!

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When Radio Goes Wrong – Clarification, Please!

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2011). When Radio Goes Wrong – Clarification, Please!. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 26 Sep 2011
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