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Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder Paperback – Sep 13 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Original edition (Sept. 13 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307743152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307743152
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.1 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #25,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“A very readable, highly informative and helpful book.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Conversational in tone, encyclopedic in content, and, best of all, utterly convincing because of its grounding in clinical experience, Driven to Distraction should make Attention Deficit Disorder comprehensible even to the most distractible reader.”—Peter D. Kramer, M.D., author of Listening to Prozac 
“This is an important and much-needed book! Wise, practical, and reassuring.” —Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., author of Endangered Minds and Different Learners
“The first comprehensive book on the subject for the lay reader.” —The Boston Globe

About the Author

Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., is in private practice in adult and child psychiatry and has offices in both the Boston area and New York City. He lives with his wife, Sue, and children, Lucy, Jack, and Tucker. 
John J. Ratey, M.D. is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and is in private practice. He lives in the Boston area. 

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jubilee Jones on Feb. 25 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This should be considered a must-read for those that have ADHD. A strong overview of everything you should know once you've been diagnosed. The chapter on family dynamics was eerily accurate. Not a lot of the book focuses in depth coping mechanisms or where to go beyond diagnosis, but what an awesome place to start. I've already recommended it to others and just finished it today.

Compassionate, educational, and thorough examination of ADHD. I can't recommend it more highly!
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This book provided excellent insights in the condition of ADD. It is written for everyone and clearly provides value understanding of the extremely troubling experiences associated with this condition. As a clinical social worker, working with many adolescents and adults living with ADD, in combination with many other serious disorders, I have gained a much better understanding of each individual's experience and adaptive difficulties. i would rank this book as comparable in its value with Gabor Mate's book Scrambled minds although it provides a somewhat different perspective.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mac on Aug. 17 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exactly what I want and I received a fast service, A-1!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 206 reviews
72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
It's what I've been looking for! March 15 2012
By Stephanie - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have struggled with ADD for a very long time. I have known for awhile that I have it, but I had no idea how much of my life it affected. I found the stories of ADD at different ages very helpful, because I found myself in them for each stage of life and the struggles I encountered. Looking back, I realized that I am not defective, I'm just built differently. I have learned new ways to communicate with people, to approach problems, and even how to look back on my life. I found a lot of healing within these pages.

I had a lot of pain growing up and thought there was something very wrong with me. This led to many instances of depression, self-esteem issues, suicidal ideation, isolation, anger, and self recrimination. Why couldn't I just get it together? Why was I angry so often? (one story was particularly illuminating--in which the therapist asks the guy WHY he has so much anger and he says it's from many years of built-up frustration. It made so much sense.) Why couldn't I stay motivated in school or work? Why am I so scattered and disorganized?

I was born in 1980...ADHD research was still in its infancy, and so my symptoms weren't recognized. I remember one kid that was diagnosed as having it and everybody made fun of him and I was under the impression that it was an excuse. As I got into adulthood, I remember seeing a commercial for adult ADHD that put a name on what I was experiencing, but still tried to deny it was a problem. This has had wide-ranging effects on my life that I didn't even realize. Through this book, I have found that there is no shame in choosing to take medication or seeking out coaching or therapy. I have found a new appreciation for my creative ADHD brain and a way to approach awkward situations with humor so people can understand me better. I have also reached out to many people that I fear I may have alienated in my past or hurt with my impulsive behavior. I have rebuilt many bridges and mended friendships and even my family.

This is not a made-up disorder. It's not laziness and cannot just be overcome by sheer willpower. I've tried. I eventually run out of steam and it took so much effort to keep it going for so long that when I ran out of steam, my motivation and willpower to do just about anything went out the window. I'm so grateful to the authors of this book. I found so many answers that I have been looking for for so long. I didn't even realize this was the answer I was searching for, even though it was in front of my face for a very long time.

Thank you SO much for the detailed descriptions that explain how ADHD affects ALL areas of life. Thank you also for the case histories that I could relate to and feel like I wasn't alone. Excellent book and VERY highly recommended for sufferers of adult ADHD, or those that choose to be in relationship with someone that has it.
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Holy Sh.., I have ADHD Oct. 6 2012
By BA from CT - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book for anybody who wants to learn about ADHD. It was only after reading this book that I broke down and got myself tested. I was one of the many people that thought ADHD was an excuse for people with a lack of discipline and will power. I have never been more wrong in my entire life. I only wish I had known about it earlier. It could have saved my family and I a lot of heart ache and pain, not to mention money. It really is a tragedy to have gone through so many frustrating episodes in your life and find out that they probably could have been prevented or at least mitigated to some degree.

The best part of this book is the real life examples that the author describes. If you have ADHD, they will defenitely hit home. One in particular felt like it was taken straight from my life. ADHD is a tricky disorder because there's no definitive test for it. In fact, ADHD is really not a good name for it because the hyper activity wears off as you get older. I think it should be called something like Executive Function Disorder. That to me is a more accurate description. Executive Function is really what is lacking. The inability to follow through with goals, get organized, and multi-task. The name belittles the condition.

The one thing that is still a mystery to me is why it is so prevelent today. How is it possible that there is such an increase in people who have it? I hope one day there's an answer. While I think it's ridiculous when I hear people say they're grateful they have ADHD, I am grateful that the treatment and medication really does work for the vast majority of people. That's really the only good news.

I can also understand somebody's hesitency about taking medication. Who wants to take pills that alter your brain. I don't. All I can say is that habitual underachievement whether academically, socially, or monetarily isn't good for your brain either. Your a fool if you don't give it a chance. Exercise really does help and is almost as important as the medication. If you have ADHD and you're not exercising than you're just as foolish as somebody who won't give medication a try. Since ADHD is basically a lack of dopamine in your brain and exercise is guarenteed to increase dopamine in your brain you don't need to go to medical school to understand why it's a good idea. My aim is to take as little medication as possible. I think of exercise as a natural dopamine supplement. Less medication equels less potential for negative side effects. Exercise will also help with any kind of depression and self esteem issues you might have as a result of not accomplishing what you want out of life, thanks in part to the disorder. In closing, I think every responsible parent should educate themselves on this topic. I certainly wish mine had. You don't need to read a book on it to become aware of what to look for. If my parents had known about it, they would have avoided an incredible amount of anger and frustration. The book lays it all out there. It was important for me to read it.
90 of 103 people found the following review helpful
A solid "eh": not exactly what I expected. July 21 2012
By bouncy mouse - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've known about my ADHD for a very long time (since I was 7 - I'm now 23). I've had better and worse moments throughout my life, but my recent step into "REAL!" adulthood and living on my own has, at times, brought out the worst in my motivation, distractibility, and organization. These issues pushed me to look for books that would not only explain my situation (hopefully from a new perspective), but also give me concrete, useful, and detailed solutions/ideas to fix said issues. I saw this book when I was searching, but decided not to buy it and ordered two others instead. Two days later, while babysitting, I saw this exact book sitting on the shelf. I pulled it out once the kid went to sleep to see if I had missed out by not buying it. I didn't read the entire thing in the few hours I had, but I got through most of it pretty thoroughly, and skimmed the parts I didn't get to. So with that being said, take my review with a grain of salt: I did not read it cover to cover. I read enough, however, to feel that I could give a relatively decent and intelligent review.

My Reactions:
(-) From an aesthetic standpoint, this is not really an ADHD-friendly book. I was on my medication and I wasn't even able to read entire chapters without wanting to skip through crap. It's just page after page after page of text, which gets really boring really fast. Big things that bothered me: (A) There are no chapter summaries. (B) There are no chapter previews. With chapters as long and dense as his are, having at least one of these two things (previews/summaries), if not both, would have been REALLY helpful. (C) I didn't find the ways in which the sub-sections of chapters were organized all that helpful. I wasn't sure when (or if) to expect them in any chapter, and I was never sure what they would be about (more on this in my next point). There was also, at times, so much text between sections of the sub-sections that I didn't even remember what he was talking about to begin with. It doesn't have to look like a children's book, with colors and pictures and cartoon turtles holding signs listing the five main points, but honestly? ....I wouldn't say "no" to a turtle or two, as long as it succinctly summarized what it took the author seven pages to explain, because the information was generally good!

(-) Maybe it's just me, but I needed more structure to the chapters. They read like stories, which is great, except that I was never really able to get a firm grasp on (and continue to remember) the point of each chapter while I was reading it. It felt like I was reading Huckleberry Finn (or whatever) for school; I'd finish an enjoyable chapter, but then suddenly have to figure out the overlying theme. Huck sailed down the river, yes, but WHY?! WHAT DOES IT MEAN?! It's been about 3 hours since I last looked at the book, and all I really remember content-wise are a bunch of unrelated case study stories. I know there were themes to each chapter, but I didn't feel like I GOT them, if that makes sense. (And for the record, because I know I would think it if I were reading this, I don't struggle with reading comprehension or anything like that.)

(+/-) Oh, and about the case studies... DANG there are a lot of them. The (+) about this: yes, it is comforting and reassuring to see myself in some of these examples and stories. I recognize my problems in someone else's story, and go "Oh thank God, I'm not alone!" They were also pretty entertaining. At first. Then they started to get old... The (-) about this: they got old. There are only so many times I can go "OH YAY, I'M NOT ALONE!!!". Eventually I start saying, "Okay... soooooo can you give me some LEGITIMATE ways to deal with the problems these people are having? How did they fix them??" Story after story doesn't give me solutions; it tells me that someone had problems, and then they were fixed! Hurrah! He talks about some solutions for this stuff at the end of the book, but.... we have ADHD... by the time we get to the end of the bok, we can't remember the case studies well enough to connect them with the proposed solutions. It would have been much more helpful if he added the solutions to each of the case study's problems at the end of each case study (or chapter) AND a big "summary solution" chapter at the end.

(-) I honestly don't think I've ever said this about an author because I don't think m/any do something like this on purpose, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I sorta felt like he was just showing me all the great examples of how he has successfully helped people with ADHD via case study stories. It was almost like guarded previews of where 15 therapy sessions with him might get you. The issue I have with this is that it's discouraging, to me. It was like, "Hey look - these people were successful after sessions in therapy with me and practicing good habits they learned in therapy, and this and that, and also the other, and...." It was deceptive, because at first I felt like I WAS getting something out of all his case study stories! But then, the more I thought about what I was reading, the more I felt like I WASN'T getting anything out of it. I was getting bits and pieces of things he had done with clients, and suggestions (keep a strict schedule, slowly incorporate new routines into your current one, etc.) but never the whole thing. Maybe that's just a personal problem though, haha.

(-) Didn't feel like the book actually gave me any good solutions for the symptoms ADHD. He suggests that you tell your boss about it to improve your work experience, but then doesn't tell you how. HOWWWW?! Seriously! It would be important to know HOW to tell the guy who SIGNS YOUR PAYCHECKS that you might be "screwing up" (per se) all the time... arriving late, turning things in late, forgetting meetings, etc. Yes, your boss needs to know. How do you tell him?!? The author suggests to be patient, be prepared to counter misconceptions, etc., and that's all fine and dandy, but it really doesn't tell me a damn thing that I don't already know. Also, "keep lists" and "stick to a schedule", etc. ....yeah, if those worked I wouldn't be here looking for a book to help me. Normal people do that without problems. ADHD people can't do that without problems. Tell me HOW do to that without having problems.

So ultimately, I don't think this is a bad book. Am I glad I didn't buy it? Yes. I feel like I didn't get enough structured and concrete examples/explanations of how to solve my ADHD problems, which is what I was expecting to get. It more felt like I was being comforted for not being alone with my problems, and that they are solvable through being organized by keeping a schedule in a planner! Maybe it's just a difference of what I needed vs. what this book gave me, or maybe I just missed all the good parts, or missed all the parts that actually included the things I disliked about the book. I am indeed looking for very specific advice about how to deal with the issues I'm having, and maybe this book just isn't that. For what it's worth, I did order (and am very excited to receive) Organizing Solutions for People With Attention Deficit Disorder: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized, which is much different than this book. But regardless of what I am/was looking for, I quite honestly didn't find this book all that helpful. It was an enjoyable read for the stories, and had some useful information, but I feel like it was lacking somewhat.

I do, however, appear to be in the minority, so maybe it's just me :)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Driven to Distraction: Understanding ADD and how to tackle it Oct. 1 2013
By Akhil Kumar - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I am a young adult living with ADD, having been recently diagnosed. Similar to a rabid self-diagnosing experience while scanning through symptoms lists on WebMD, I spent the majority of my time reading this book by finding many relatable traits between myself, the author, Edward Hallowell, (who also has ADD), and many of the author's patients described throughout the book. However; tied into these moments were also many small epiphanies, ideas for treatment/management, and a profound basis for hope.

Driven to Distraction is a wonderful window into the world of those suffering with ADD, from the perspective of a physician who also has ADD. Through numerous engaging examples of ADD patients, simple (yet complete) explanations, and steps for testing, diagnosis, and recovery/management, this book offers a more positive perspective on ADD and its prognosis (which, Hallowell might argue is essential to begin the ADD treatment process). In my opinion, the book was well organized, easy to read, yet descriptive enough to offer a full insight into the plight of those living with ADD. The most notable aspect of this book was that for someone with ADD (who dreads the thought of having to focus and read a long book in a short period of time); I was able to breeze through this book in one sitting. It was captivating and informative, and the frequent examples quickly hooked got me hooked on the patients' stories of recovery. This speaks volumes of the author's ability to get in tune with his targeted audience (people with ADD), which by his own definition is not an easy feat to accomplish.

Driven to Distraction follows a very simple organizational format by explaining the stories of various ADD patients, and how they've been struggling in their school, work, and professional lives. Their diagnosis process and psychotherapy interviews and then highlighted to show the path that many patients take to recovery. Their treatment is carefully detailed, as is their positive progress in life following the treatment. Chances are that any individual with ADD reading the book will be able to relate to one or more stories, which makes the book's message even more effective.
The book begins by describing the story of an adult male in his early 30s and struggling to maintain employment and personal relationships. The man's testing, diagnosis, and treatment process is described from Hallowell's perspective (the doctor of all patients in the book). This introductory case of adult ADD is then followed by a concrete definition of ADD - "ADD is a neurological syndrome whose classic defining triad of symptoms includes impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity or excess energy."

Hallowell then goes on to discuss specific patients and their stories across all ages and situations. He explains their stories and the impact their condition had on their families, co-workers, teachers, and spouses. And with each story, he describes in careful detail the steps each took on their path to their management of ADD. He also describes how ADD can manifest in different forms within different age groups. For example boys with ADD generally tend to display signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness, while girls with ADD generally are inattentive daydreamers in the classroom. Adolescents and adults with ADD tend to be restless, impulsive, and have difficulty on following through on their goals and ideas. And when individuals with ADD who are part of a family or an intimate relationship, the condition can lead to a sense of disconnect between loved ones. ADD spouses often come across as inattentive to their partners' needs, and this can then cause a negative cycle of misunderstanding.

The key point to take away from the multitude of stories and examples of ADD is that there is no one single defining set of characteristics that manifests in individuals with ADD. If an individual suspects that he/she might possess some of the ADD characteristics (easy distractibility, inability to stay focused), then it is advisable to seek help from an expert in order to obtain the correct diagnosis. And just as there is no single set of characteristics, there is no set treatment. It will most certainly vary from patient to patient, usually combining some combination of psychotherapy, coaching, education, and medication (antidepressants and stimulants). Hallowell then describes some of the neurobiological reasons behind ADD symptoms, which include poor regulation of neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) within the brain as well as poor brain glucose metabolism.


Like mentioned above, this book covers the whole array of people with ADD, and many ADD patients are bound to find a story or two which are very similar to their own experiences. For me this was the story of Will, a curious and relatively intelligent student who was generally good at standardized testing but found it difficult to consistently succeed in the classroom. He often found himself underachieving and struggling with the management of everyday school tasks. While this sounds like many students going through a rigorous high school and college curriculum, Will's situation is highlighted by his internal thought process and struggles. Hallowell also makes it a point to describe Will's situation from outside points of view, including his parents and teachers (all the way from kindergarten to 12th grade). As someone living with ADD, I was able to relate to Will's internal mental struggle when he was dealing with the negative aspects of living with ADD during school. For many people with ADD, it is easy to get trapped in one's own mind, and it is a very dark and haunting place. Will's reason for eventually not continuing his ADD medication was also very relatable. Understanding Will's whole story encouraged me to continue my ADD medication, because it certainly presented a very tragic story. Most importantly, I feel like this story (and others) helped many people with ADD understand that they are not alone in this struggle, and that help is available.

"The secondary symptoms, and the ones that are the most difficult to treat, are the symptoms that develop in the wake of the primary syndrome not being recognized: low self-esteem, depression, boredom and frustration with school."

Unbiased View of the Patient's Struggles

Hallowell does a wonderful job in painting the whole picture for each case in the book, from start to finish. He includes the good, bad, and ugly. Not every story ends happily - many of the patients continued to struggle with their condition after treatment. This is a testament to Hallowell's desire to make ADD patients understand that the management of ADD is a lifelong journey. Rather than attempting to advertise himself or his practice, he was committed to arming all ADD patients by educating them about the reality of the struggle living with ADD. It's very easy for patients to lose focus again, which can cause further secondary symptoms such as depression and anxiety. By informing the public of these potential pitfalls, I believe this accurate picture of the disorder gives individuals the best chance to thrive despite the diagnosis of ADD.

"While we all need external structure in our lives - some degree of predictability, routine, organization - those with ADD need it much more than most people. They need external structure so much because they so lack internal structure. They carry with them a frightening sense that their world might cave in."

Detailed Action Plans

For each type and situation of ADD (adult, child, school, workplace, family, etc), Hallowell gives long lists of tips on the management of ADD. In my opinion, these lists offer a very readable and quickly accessible task list for those while ADD to follow (again, many ADD individuals love making lists and creating a structure which they can easily follow). Some tips include education of the disorder, coaching, getting rid of negativity, establishing of an external structure, anticipate missing deadlines, allow for additional buffer time for task completion, and having a good sense of humor. Again, these lists show Hallowell's ability to connect with his target audience and effect positive changes in their lives.

Driven to distraction is an easy and informative read that will undoubtedly help you to better understand the plight of those living with ADD. It backs its claims with real stories and biological facts, and most importantly, gives ADD patients hope and a clear path to their management of the disorder by relating directly to the readers. This book is an absolute must if you or anyone you know might have ADD. When reading the book, be sure to pay extra attention to situations which might arise in your own life, as it could really have a profound positive impact. Driven to Distraction might just be the missing key to helping millions live a better and more fulfilling life.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I was recently diagnosed May 9 2013
By Gregory Hamblin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has made my behavior much more explicable to me, my wife, and other relatives. If you have ADHD, or know someone who does, you'll recognize many case histories described here, but not others; ADHD takes a number of forms, and there is no single description of its effects.

The most valuable aspect of this book is that I realize that I'm not crazy, I'm not a bad person, and I'm not alone. Scratch that: the most valuable aspect of this book is that _my wife_ realizes that I'm not crazy, I'm not a bad person, and I'm not alone.