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A Personal History of ADHD

The first book of its kind, this compelling and moving memoir about what it’s like to be a child with ADHD also explains the history of the diagnosis and how we have come to medicate more than four million children today.

Among the first generation of boys prescribed medication for hyperactivity in the 1980s, Timothy Denevi took Ritalin at the age of six, and during the first week, it triggered a psychotic reaction. Doctors recommended behavior therapy, then antidepressants. Nothing worked. As Timothy’s parents and doctors sought to treat his behavior, he was subjected to a liquid diet, a sleep-deprived EEG, and bizarre behavioral assessments before finding help in therapy combined with medication. In Hyper, Timothy describes how he makes his way through school, knowing he is a problem for those who love him, longing to be able to be good and fit in, hanging out with boys who have similar symptoms but meet different ends, and finally realizing he has to come to grips with his disorder before his life spins out of control.

Skillfully and seamlessly using his own experience as a springboard, Denevi also reveals the origins of ADHD, from the late nineteenth century when hyperactivity was attributed to defective moral conscience, demons, or head trauma, through the twentieth century when food additives, bad parenting, and even government conspiracies were blamed, to the most recent genetic research. He traces drug treatment from Benzedrine in 1937 through the common usage of the stupefying chlorpromazine and brand new Ritalin in the 1950s to the use of antidepressants in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Riveting, thought-provoking, and deeply intelligent, this is a remarkable book both for its sensitive portrait of a child’s experience as well as for its ability to illuminate a remarkably complex and controversial mental condition. Rick Lavoie, author of It’s SoMuch Work to Be Your Friend, says Hyper is “a significant and singular contribution to our field.”
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476702575 | 
  • September 2014
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How We Came to Medicate More than Four Million Children with ADHD

Author Timothy Denevi introduces his new book, HYPER: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF ADHD, a compelling memoir of growing up with ADHD interwoven with the history of the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

Read an Excerpt

Hyper 1 The Evil Logic of Clenched Hands
It’s late afternoon, suddenly evening. The shadows in dense fingers along the wall. As if in a dream the color begins to drain from the wallpaper. The door is gauzy, the carpet insubstantial. Puzzle pieces litter the floor like flat, monstrous teeth. Or maybe not. In truth the details are a blur; for minutes I’ve been standing near the door, sobbing, screaming, the world reduced to darkness and light beneath the thing I feel.

Northern California, 1984:... see more

About the Author

Timothy Denevi
Photograph by Amy Deputy

Timothy Denevi

Timothy Denevi received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa. He’s been awarded fellowships by The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. His writing has appeared in various magazines and journals, including Gulf Coast Arts & Letters, Hobart, Instant City, and Hawaii Review. He lives near Washington, DC and is the Nonfiction Visiting Writer in the MFA program at George Mason University.




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