What is ADHD?
Technically, ADHD is a biological and mental health disorder. That means it is not a problem due to poor motivation, low intelligence, or lack of effort.
It is a condition in which the brain interprets signals differently than that of the majority population. That means some things enter the conscious mind more easily (like distracting sounds or visuals) while others have difficulty getting through (like the concept of how much time it takes to complete a task).
However, ADHD is far more than a “disorder”... it’s a way of experiencing and seeing the world in a unique way.
People with ADHD are often able to think through problems in new ways and may be very creative. They are often able to see the big picture vision and enjoy life in the moment. They can also hyperfocus on tasks they enjoy, which can be a great skill when used for work or study.
Problems arise when people with ADHD are required to work in very structured settings, and particularly when they engage in tasks that require long amounts of sitting and focusing on details.
ADHD at Work
Many of our modern day settings at work and school do not allow for the flexibility needed for people with ADHD to succeed at their potential. Furthermore, many people with ADHD have difficulty sleeping and find early morning work hours torturous.
ADHD at Home
At home, an ADHD partner may have difficulty remembering what items are needed from the store or when to pick up a child from after school activities. They may often seem “checked out” during important conversations but appear loving at other times.
They can easily become overwhelmed by managing the household needs of cooking and cleaning. Financial struggles are also common due to lack of planning and impulsive spending.
Doesn’t everyone have these problems?
To some extent, yes. Everyone has difficulty concentrating when required to sit in an uninteresting class for six hours. And everyone occasionally forgets where they parked their car or chooses to watch TV instead of doing laundry.
However, for people with ADHD, these are just a small sample of the daily occurrences that make up their life.
Here and there, it’s not a big deal. But pile these on top of one another day in and day out, with the added pressure of supporting a family or potentially losing a job, and you’ve got a recipe for overwhelm.
I thought ADHD was only for kids
This is a very common misconception that is even still held by some professionals! But no, the DSM-5 (the psychology Bible that outlines criteria for mental health disorders) describes symptoms that relate to both children and adults. In fact, many people (especially women) are not diagnosed until adulthood.
Sometimes the external structure and expectations of school settings allow for bright students to pass classes without concern. This is most true for those who do not meet the “hyperactive” criteria.
However, once working and managing a household, that same person is now struggling with what others would consider “basic” tasks for an average adult:
- Planning and preparing meals
- Setting and keeping a budget
- Going to bed and waking up on time
- Remembering appointments
- Cleaning and organizing
If they performed well in school this can be especially difficult for family members to understand because these “basic” tasks do not require superior intelligence.
It is often during this time that the adult with ADHD will begin to seek out resources due to low self-esteem, depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, some people seek services from professionals who are not trained to recognize the disorder and they continue to live with a poor and inaccurate view of themselves.
Another common scenario is that the adult with ADHD begins to see similar patterns in a child and seeks help for their child, only to learn the child is diagnosed with ADHD. Upon learning that the disorder is highly genetic, light bulbs start to go on.
Obtaining a diagnosis of ADHD can be very relieving for people who have lived their whole life feeling that they were lazy or uncaring, yet somehow knowing this was not the case.
So how is it treated?
There are many strategies to help ADHD. Medication is the most common strategy and also shows the highest efficacy in treating symptoms. I recommend all clients with ADHD consult with a psychiatrist to discuss this as a possible strategy.
However, “pills don’t teach skills.”
ADHD impacts every area of a person’s life and relying solely on medication will not provide the best results possible. A combination of medication and counseling is recommended to ensure that skills that can be individualized and internalized over time to create a new way of living.
Does ADHD ever go away?
In short, no. ADHD is a way of living for life. But people may experience their symptoms as more or less problematic depending on life circumstances.
Increased stress and responsibilities will often increase difficulty dealing with symptoms. However, many struggles may ease over time due to practicing ADHD success strategies or changes in energy level.
Ultimately, living with ADHD can be a gift and an asset.
But it requires learning how to adjust your life to maximize the benefits and reduce the drawbacks.
Thankfully, my ADHD and my desire to work with people have become a perfect match. I get to use my creativity to help others problem-solve and live more fulfilling and less stressed lives.
If you’re interested in learning how to better manage your ADHD, click here for a free 20 minute consultation. No hard sell, just some practical suggestions.