Tammuz 5760 – ADHD and Bechirah

15 Tammuz 5760

Dear Chana,

When considering “diseases” such as alcoholism or ADHD… how does bechira fit into the picture? I am on medication for ADHD and although it helps me to think before I act and to sit still, do I really need it? Society uses these labels to excuse behavior which should be inexcusable… but it IS true that some people have a harder time with some things than others do, but is it just a cop-out?

[Name withheld upon request]
Ateres (IY”H) 5761


The first thing that I want to say to you is that ADHD is not a disease. It is something that you must face and deal with, but you can learn to compensate for it, handle it and be a very normal and high functioning person. We need to be careful about the labels that we ‘brand’ ourselves with, for that affects our vision of ourselves and our outlook and attitude.

This issue does affect your Bechirah. As a matter of fact – by taking the medication you are helping your Bechirah and yourself tremendously. We need to backtrack about a basic if not misunderstood premise of Nisyonos. A person doesn’t have to put themselves in a nisayon. We don’t have to make our lives more difficult. Hashem will make sure that we have the exact amount of what we need for our personal growth. Battling a given nisayon doesn’t necessarily mean to do it head on. From the Torah’s point of view avoiding a nisayon can also be beneficial. Fighting this nisayon of yours – is by taking the medicine. If, by taking it, you can think more clearly and focus, then you can work at an even higher level of being the best eved Hashem that you can be. Again, the concept is that you don’t need to make it harder on yourself. Taking the medication frees you up to help you be who you really can be.

Is it a cop out? Well, I think you can understand the answer from what I’ve just written. If a person really has trouble controlling certain areas of behavior, and one little pill can help in a significant way to better the whole situation and make it easier for a person to do what he needs to do, then it is a great thing for him to take it and not a cop out at all.

A book that I would recommend is “Driven To Distraction” by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey. It may help you to understand the situation in a better light

I hope this helps you to see things more clearly and feel good about what you can do to help yourself.