We often hear joke references to ADHD in conversation. “Oh, it’s just my ADHD,” someone will say with a laugh, explaining why a task was unfinished or why they didn’t hear every detail of a lecture. In the context of school, many of us feel that an ADHD diagnosis is merely an excuse not to discipline children properly when they misbehave.
The reality is that ADHD is a neurobiological disorder which has a variety of possible symptoms depending on the individual. One of the many myths surrounding this disorder is that only children suffer from ADHD. Many adults also struggle with the symptoms, although they may have a different appearance from how they looked in childhood. The common symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. However, different individuals manifest these symptoms in different ways.
Paying attention to a task is a very complex process. Some ADHDers have trouble motivating enough to begin a task. Others have more trouble sustaining their attention, or shifting their focus from one task to another. Some adults with ADHD may be procrastinators; others may be workaholics who cannot easily shift from one activity to another. One strategy to help with this problem is to break down tasks into half-hour to one-hour segments to make them feel more manageable.
Hyperactivity is one symptom that tends to decrease or even disappear in adults. But the vestiges of this symptom may still remain in the form of excessively fast talking or an inability to sit still. Adults with ADHD may appear jittery or they may fidget a lot. While children might in some cases require appropriate medication to keep them from bouncing off the walls during the school day, adults usually find their milder hyperactivity to be manageable.
Impulsivity is a common symptom that can wreak havoc on relationships and professional life. Children and adults with ADHD find it extremely challenging to control their impulses. They blurt things out and sometimes break rules without thinking. Often they will rush through tasks just to finish them, making careless mistakes. As adults, they often get in debt through impulse buying.
It can really help an adult or child with ADHD to make a list of situations in which they are most likely to succumb to their impulses and prepare themselves ahead of time for these situations. In conversation, it helps to take a deep breath and wait for a few moments before responding.
It’s common for adults or parents to go through a grieving process when they learn that they or their children suffer from ADHD. However, it can help to reframe your understanding of the symptoms. Many of these can be an asset if they are properly understood and controlled. People with ADHD have high energy to take on tasks and attract friendships. When motivated, they have a unique ability to focus in on one task until it’s finished. And they are creative, with great potential to “think outside the box” and come up with exciting ideas.
Unfortunately, society has come to perceive ADHD as an “excuse” for bad behavior or for not getting things done. If you have an ADHD diagnosis, you can do a lot to dispel this perception by taking ownership of your mistakes, apologizing if necessary, and working to correct them.
Often an ADD coach can help come up with strategies to conquer any potentially damaging effects of the disorder. Sometimes medication can also be helpful.
Adults and children with ADHD have vast potential for success if they can learn to understand their symptoms and master them. Because of their unique challenges and gifts, those who live with this disorder have a lot to teach us about how to overcome the many obstacles in daily life.
- Barkley, Russell. “How to Shut Your Mouth – and Your Wallet.” AdditudeMag, http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/9134.html.
- Kelly, Kate, and Peggy Ramundo. You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? Scribner, 2006.
- Quily, Pete. “151 Positives of ADHD. The Advantages of Attention Deficit Disorder.” AddCoach4u, 2015, http://www.addcoach4u.com/positivesofadd.html.