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January 15, 2016
by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

New Face of ADD: Culturally Derived Condition and Its Biggest Culprit

January 15, 2016 14:21 by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

As the New Year kicks off to its full swing, there are much talks about making meaningful resolutions and finding ways to actualize them without fail.

Though unique and different every year, one common theme that always seems to be re-emerging around this time is how to increase productivity and become more successful.

Productivity is often considered as the number one factor linked to success. Most successful people are naturally regarded as most productive and hence, most efficient.

With the advancement in technology and science, it should only be easier and simpler to achieve this goal but in reality, it seems even more unreachable than ever before.

ADD or Modern Life Syndrome

The reality of our modern life is incessantly adding extra layers of stress and pressure to multi-task in a fast-paced manner. This prolonged exposure to constant distractions can invariably engender symptoms that are characteristic of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

According to Ed Hallowell, former professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Driven to Distraction, there has been an upsurge in the number of people complaining of feeling overwhelmed by daily life and not being able to effectively focus on any one task at hand (Barker, 2014).

Hallowell further claims that this chronic sense of feeling rushed, overstretched and disorganized may warrant the diagnosis of ADD but it could simply be the very symbol of our modern life style. Barraged by unlimited sources of distractions accessible ad nauseam, more people are now susceptible to suffering some form of ADD or its derivatives thereof (ibid.).   

Arguably, our modern way of living has generated some negative byproducts whose effects are increasingly more concerning than not.

Biggest Culprit

It turns out that the biggest culprit of this new phenomenon is none other than email. Though conveniently revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with each other, email has also posed a host of new challenges to our sense of well-being.

It has been posited that the majority of people today are heavily relying on email to the extent that it is drastically taking a toll on our physiological and emotional health.

In 2012 McKinsey Global Institute report, it was indicated that the average people spend about 28 percent of their time at work going through their inboxes. While 58 percent of smartphone users check their emails almost every hour, 54 percent have been found to be checking their phones before going to bed at night (Barker, 2014).

It has also been shown that checking email excessively can actually raise the level of stress and make us more prone to reactivity, which in turn reduces productivity. When not reined in properly, email can be just as addictive as alcohol or tobacco, potentially shrinking our brain while dropping our IQ by 10 points (ibid.).

Recently, a new study conducted by the University of California, Irvine in collaboration with United States Army researchers, provided additional evidence to that effect. The study looked at 13 workers in a typical office setting and tested people’s stress levels by monitoring their heart rates. The findings showed that the level of stress for people who do not look at email on a regular basis at work was much lower with higher productivity than those who do (Bilton, 2012).


There is no doubt that technology has brought many new wonders and possibilities to our world of humanity. When not gauged with proper limits, however, we could unknowingly fall prey to its hidden perils and become enslaved to all of its marvelous creations along the way.

To make the most of our New Year’s resolutions, what is more pressing may be our priorities that need to be re-aligned first and foremost in order to maximize the benefits of today’s technology.

ADD or not, perhaps real success in the New Year is measured by how well we are able to establish a better balance in our daily lives without being misguided by unfounded pressures of our modern life.  


Barker, E. July 4, 2014. 6 Things the Most Productive People Do Every Day. Retrieved from

Bilton N. May 4, 2012. Taking E-Mail Vacations Can Reduce Stress, Study Says. Retrieved from

About the Author

Dr. Agnes Oh Dr. Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

Dr. Agnes Oh is dually licensed as a clinical psychologist and a marriage and family therapist in the state of California, fully committed to helping each individual to maximize his/her intrinsic potential to heal, grow, and thrive.

Dr. Agnes Oh has a clinical practice in Glendale, CA

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