Experiences and Explanations of ADHD : An Ethnography of Adults Living with a Diagnosis book cover
1st Edition

Experiences and Explanations of ADHD
An Ethnography of Adults Living with a Diagnosis

ISBN 9781032090146
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
166 Pages

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Book Description

Experiences and Explanations of ADHD: An Ethnography of Adults Living with a Diagnosis presents research on the lived experiences of those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Drawing on in-depth interviews with adults diagnosed with ADHD, the book provides an examination of how the diagnosis is understood, used, and acted upon by the people receiving the diagnosis.

The book delves into the phenomenology of ADHD and uncovers the experiences of a highly debated diagnosis from a first-person perspective. It further considers these experiences within the context of our time and culture and contributes to a discussion of how to understand human diversity and deviance in contemporary society. Studying both societal conditions behind the emergence of ADHD, questions concerning everyday life with ADHD, and interpretations of the diagnosis, the book offers an analysis of the intertwinement of experiences of suffering and diagnostic categories.

This book will appeal to academics, researchers, and postgraduate students in the fields of cultural psychology and medical anthropology, as well as those with an interest in the sociology of diagnoses.

Table of Contents

Series editor's introduction



1. Introduction

   Aim of the book

   A diagnosis of our time

   An anthropological approach to ADHD

   Clarifying concepts: ADHD as experience and diagnostic category

   Structure of the book

2. An old disorder or a recent product of medicalization? 

   A story of ADHD as an ever-present disorder

      The incapacity of necessary attention

      Children suffer from immortality

      Minimal brain damage and anti-school behaviour

      A question of neurology: the rise of medical treatment

      The DSM era

   A one-sided story of ADHD

   A critical explanation of ADHD

      Medicalization of society

      Social, political, and cultural factors behind the emergence of ADHD

      Ritalin on the market

      Diagnosing adults with ADHD

   Concluding remarks

3. What is a diagnosis? 

   Diagnostic criteria and clinical guidelines

   What is diagnosis for?

   Creating mental illness

   Putting a name to it

   Living in a diagnostic culture

   A neurochemical era

      A shift in thinking about the human being

      The self in medical terms

   Conluding remarks

4. Experiences and implications of getting an ADHD diagnosis

   The explanatory force of a diagnosis and questions of responsibility

   Restructuring narratives and self-perceptions

   Evaluating yourself and considering new questions

   Restructuring practices and crafting skills

   Ambivalence towards the diagnosis

   Taking medication and experimenting with experiences

   A moral concern: becoming the person you want to be

   Concluding remarks

5. Explaining and making use of an ADHD diagnosis 

    Dynamics between explanations and experiences

   Identifying with ADHD

   Distancing from ADHD

   Explanations of ADHD and expectations of treatment

   Having or being ADHD?

   Concluding remarks

6. ADHD as a temporal phenomenon 

   Studying rhythms and experiences of time

   The rhythms of the body

   When the world is at a different pace

   Social synchronization: trying to keep up but lagging behind

   Developing time-work strategies

   Is society catching up on ADHD

   Concluding remarks

7. Conclusion

   Becoming someone with ADHD

   Explanatory models of ADHD

   ADHD as a relational phenomenon

   Avenues for future research

   Implications and recommendations for practice


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Mikka Nielsen is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Health Research in the Humanities, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.