The Evolution of ADHD Child

ADHD – the most common neurodevelopmental condition diagnosed – is also the most popular and I think overrated ‘learning disability’ in the known world (or shall what I say in the Western world, particularly in North America). Yes, because thanks to increased awareness from both medicine and the media, the diagnosis and intervention have increased. But the problem still lies here. Many neurotypical individuals still think of ADHD people as immature and childlike, especially from regions where ADHD is still unknown (like in my native country the Philippines, where although ADHD is now known by the medical community here and also public SPED schools exist, most Filipinos don’t still know that).

What’s wrong with ADHD?

Today, in the modern world of classrooms and offices, one must be still and concentrate to one task a time and not wander in space. This seems not favorable for most ADHDers for they are impulsive and cannot concentrate on ‘boring’ paperworks and tend to daydream. Seems they are really wrong and intervention is needed like suspension and termination or maybe medication. And that’s what most people will do to control ADHD symptoms. But alas, although concentration increased by altering ADHDers’ brains with the help of medication, the traits are still there. The hyperfocus is still present, so does the wandering eye. This gets the ADHDer’s teachers and employers annoyed, and poof…termination from school or work.

The social world seems unfriendly to ADHD too. Thanks to short attention span and impulsivity, a person with ADHD may seem not listening to his friends and may accidentally blurt out inappropriate comments that can offend other people. Friends and romantic partners think of the ADHDer as naughty, troublesome, and doesn’t seem to care at all that they eventually slip away and leave the ADHDer alone and isolated. Depression occurs as a result of constant rejection.

Image courtesy of cathiadhd.com

That’s how fast the ADHD brain shifts from one topic to another.

(C) Hank Ketcham/Marcus Hamilton/Ron Ferdinand/King Features Syndicate. All rights reserved.

Dennis the Menace – with suspected symptoms of ADHD – a burden to teachers?

Unfortunately, neurotypicals have really pathologized ADHD to the point that they have become slaves of stimulants just to eradicate these symptoms. What the majority doesn’t know is that ADHD traits like impulsivity and creativity helped humans survived during prehistoric times.

Huh? Really?


During the caveman days, people don’t work at offices and grt paod to buy food. They hunt moving animals in the wild. To effectively hunt, hunters need extra focus (hyperfocus) to easily locate and successfully hunt meat.

Another thing is hyperactivity let prehistoric people explore new territories and their impulsivity helped them find food and survive against invading animals, other tribes, or calamities.

As Weill Cornell Medical College professor Richard Friedman stated in the New York Times[1], “Consider that humans evolved over millions of years as nomadic hunter-gatherers. It was not until we invented agriculture, about 10,000 years ago, that we settled down and started living more sedentary — and boring — lives. As hunters, we had to adapt to an ever-changing environment where the dangers were as unpredictable as our next meal. In such a context, having a rapidly shifting but intense attention span and a taste for novelty would have proved highly advantageous in locating and securing rewards — like a mate and a nice chunk of mastodon. In short, having the profile of what we now call A.D.H.D. would have made you a Paleolithic success story.”


“So, I have meats, while you only harvest cherries.”[1]

To prove this hypothesis, Northwestern University conducted a study on a nomadic tribe in Kenya called the Ariaal[2] (it’s not the font Arial). This tribe is divided into 2 groups where the first group are hunters and the second group are farmers. It is noted that this tribe has the gene DRD4 7R, which is responsible for ADHD-like symptoms (hyperactivity and impulsivity), which is better suited for nomadic life in the wild than sedentary life in the farm. Based on the observations, the hunter group of the Ariaal with DRD4 gene are healthier than the farmer group with the same gene. Why is that so? Maybe the hunter group enjoy their roasted meats, while the farmers are bored to death picking up grains…

This means ADHD might be an evolutionary advamtage in the wild before agriculture was invented. Without ADHD, we people would have been extinct today.

Unfortunately, the medical community, media, and pharmaceutical companies demonized ADHD and made it a disability. The diagnosis of ADHD has steadily increased. Well, tjis sounds good, but the quick solution is control the symptoms with medicine without finding their unique strengths. Instead, they are forced to fit in the ‘boring’ steady world of classrooms and offices.

I didn’t say let’s move out of the city and settle in forests. What I wish is to let ADHDers not just be pathologized for their symptoms, but rather be appreciated also for their positive characteristics.

What can be good in ADHD?

Like in my prevoius post about ADHD, people with ADHD are generally creative and can solve various problems quickly and with novel solutions. Also, they are more able to multitask and get things done right away. Also, ADHDers have a very good sense of humor that even bosses and teachers laugh at their jokes. And finally, a lot of successful people have ADHD (see my previous post about ADHD), especially from sciences and show business.

So, ADHD is not a disease. It is an evolutionary advantage in humans. It is also a variation in humanity, just like having different skin colors and having left-handed people to ensure human survival.

1. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/opinion/sunday/a-natural-fix-for-adhd.html?_r=0&referrer=
2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2848548/Did-ADHD-evolutionary-advantage-Traits-linked-disorder-helped-nomads-survive-hunting.html

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