A relative of mine is getting tested for attention deficit disorder, which is no surprise since I have it and it's genetic. Part of testing means you send out a questionaire to people who know you to fill out so they can answer questions like "does this person get set off easily?" or "does this person have trouble sitting still?" Clearly if you knew the symptoms for ADD and you had good friends you could rig it and get a fake diagnosis, but for those of us who actually do have ADD it's a very interesting wake-up call, especially when someone who knows you well, but is unrelated to you and doesn't have ADD (like perhaps your spouse) fills out the form. My husband is such a creature. Unlike me, neither of his parents have ADD and it was never considered normal in his household to have three separate conversations going on at dinner when only three people are present. For this reason, I had him help me fill out the form to get a better perspective (well sure, this person does fidget a lot but that's normal right?).
ADD in our society is an interesting phenomenon. In primitive times, it was probably really helpful to have a few members of the tribe that had it (they estimate about 4% of adults have it), to keep things interesting and provide a sensitive and creative perspective (article). Why is it suddenly a problem now? I think it's because our society in the late '90's took a swing towards crazy. Education is becoming more necessary for sucess, but is less and less optimal for kids with ADD (and kids in general) to get through (increasing class sizes, longer classes, no PE, recess, or art classes for outlet, etc). We have to be focused more and more and more to make it work, both in school and in our career, thus it's becoming very hard for people with ADD to find ways to make it work. That's why it's important to remember why it stuck around in our society all this time - because it really does benefit the population, and in today's crazy world there are still ways that having ADD can be really helpful. And, if you think really hard, you may realize that a few of the people who have contributed some of the most spectacular ideas to our society may have had ADD.
Are you thinking Einstein, Mozart, and Walt Disney yet?