What is ADHD? My unconventional hypothesis

Recently, a nutritional therapist and fellow coach made these observations, which I found very interesting, and triggered me to write this:

  1. Some ADHD clients really benefit from nutrition therapy, and some do not.

  2. Some are in the camp that says ADHD is a disorder that can (or can not) be healed, and some others say it is a natural state, not a disorder, and it doesn't need to be healed.

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, psychiatrist or a medical professional. These are just my mental models based on insights gathered from personal experience, experience working with clients, and existing scientific literature.

I will take a stab at explaining the above observations. Regarding the two camps, disorder and natural state, think both are right. There's multiple components to what people call ADHD. I would separate out the neurotic component and the gift.

The neurotic component

The neurotic component, I'm further separating into two elements:

  • The stress element

  • The psychological element

The stress element is comprised of anxiety, restlessness, inability to focus or stay on topic, impulsiveness, bad sleep, hyperactivity, inability to long term plan, brain fog, bad memorisation of important facts and appointments, being chaotic, tendency to lose things and be messy.

I call this the stress element, because these symptoms are the result of the body being in a stressed, fight-or-flight state constantly. Think about it: all these symptoms are what happens to you in situations where you feel like your life is in danger. It's a stressed state of the body and mind that has become chronic. Many people with ADHD do not even realise how stressed their system is, because they rarely, if ever, experience peace and calm.

Perhaps unexpectedly, I count being dreamy, distracted in thoughts and daydreams as also part of the stress element. This is a subtle form of dissociation.

Dissociation means, simply said, drifting away to a safe place in order to not feel what is going on.

Heavy dissociation looks like completely drifting away or blacking out, and not even knowing what is happening with your body. This is often developed as a reaction to heavy trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse. Every time a situation comes up that reminds the sufferer of this, either consciously or unconsciously, the drifting away happens again. It's a defense mechanism against having to go through that again.

What's lesser known is that dissociation can take subtle forms, as a result to subtler trauma. A long-term, emotional discomfort, such as being bullied in school, or parents going through divorce, or even a parent who is inattentive and has unpredictable mood swings due to having ADHD themselves, is often not seen as trauma, but it is. And it can cause dissociation, it's just not as obvious.

Distraction, daydreaming and being in one's head is a defense against feeling the pain of what is currently going on.

Which then remains in the adult as a programmed reflex, even after the emotionally painful situation subsides.

Then there's the psychological element: shame, guilt, low self esteem, lack of belief in oneself, self doubt, lack of self worth.

The neurotic component as described above can often be healed to a variable extent, and is caused by three things:

  • Early childhood trauma and adolescent trauma. I'm including pre-birth emotional stress of the mother in this, as well as birth trauma, as this heavily influences development. Under the right guidance this type of trauma can be released.

  • Internalized shame of being different, the trauma itself of being punished for thinking differently and functioning differently. This often develops when someone goes to school and is forced to learn in ways that don't suit them, or is not socially accepted because of the different way they think and perceive.

  • Environmental stress and toxins. Think heavy metals in food and water, plastics, food additives, chemicals used in farming, but also alcohol and medication consumed by the carrying mother. The earlier this happened the harder it is to heal. For example, you can teach yourself to eat a healthy diet and make great improvements, but if your mother was an alcoholic or used a lot of paracetamol when you were still in the womb, that has a bigger influence on brain development that is hard to bounce back from.

The gift

What people refer to as the “Gift of ADHD”, exists in two abilities:

  • Sensitivity

  • Divergent thinking

These manifest as being highly creative, inventive, intuitive, having great problem solving and brainstorming ability, and the perceptual sensitivity makes someone great at observing and understanding themselves and other people.

If sensitivity correlates with divergent thinking ability / creativity, which I am hypothesizing it does, because creativity can be described as sensitivity turned towards the inner world (sensitivity towards new ideas, thoughts, possibilities), we can close the loop on that too, and simply describe both of these as sensitivity.

So then ADHD becomes a function of sensitivity and environmental stress.

Sensitivity including: external sensitivity (to stress, people's energies and toxins) and internal sensitivity (to ideas, perceptions, creativity & divergent thinking), and can also be split in physical and psychological sensitivity.

Environmental stress including physical stress like toxic exposure, and emotional stress like trauma. Both of which can happen pre-birth, during birth or post-birth.


I think that the question of to what extent, and how, it can be healed, entirely depends on how it was created. ADHD is a group of symptoms that are developed as reactions to environmental stress, be it emotional or chemical. This explains why some people get better results with cleanses and nutrition improvements, and others do better with trauma healing and therapies or coaching that incorporate that.

And some really do best on a combination.

Published by Erik Jongbloed on Mar 10, 2022
Revised on Aug 25, 2022
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