What is it about?

Psychological theory impacts how disorders are understood and defined. We review current psychological concepts of ADHD, demonstrating a common deficit-based perspective drawn from cognitive-behavioural theory. We argue this perspective does not account for variations between individuals or the importance of the context, and automatically defines neuro processing differences as abnormal. Self-determination theory (SDT) provides an alternative approach to self-development, presented as the foundation for a positive perspective on ADHD and key to developing new models and treatment approaches.

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Why is it important?

Deficit-based models identify ADHD neurobiology and resulting behaviour as abnormal leading to stigma and a negative sense of self. SDT recognises variables that research shows are strong in ADHD, like interest and autonomy, as main features supporting internal motivation and self-determination. Viewing ADHD neuro processing through an SDT lens shows ADHD as a natural difference within neurodiversity providing a new understanding and insights for treatment.


I hope this article creates curiosity about the lived experience of ADHD. I have ADHD myself, and felt that the lack of positive perspectives about what it means to be neurobiologically different creates barriers to how you can feel about yourself and your potential. It may also influence others to interpret that information negatively. Challenging the way ADHD has been defined creates an opportunity to reinterpret the research and consider new possibilities in ways to understand and work with the lived experience of ADHD.

Rebecca Champ
University of Huddersfield

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Seeking connection, autonomy, and emotional feedback: A self-determination theory of self-regulation in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder., Psychological Review, December 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/rev0000398.
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