Discovering You Have Adult ADHD
Every adult’s road to diagnosis is slightly different. For those that do not get a diagnosis in childhood, the journey can be a painful one, marked with inappropriate coping mechanisms and a feeling that something has never been right, but have no idea what is wrong.
Many adults receive their first clue that they might have ADHD through the lens of watching their child struggle with symptoms that are all too familiar. It is not uncommon for an adult to seek professional help after having a child diagnosed.
When my daughter was a toddler, she was a hyperactive ball of energy. But what toddlers aren’t? It wasn’t anything that I saw as excessive. While she walked and talked early, as she grew she had trouble with things like learning to tie her shoes.
As a few more years passed, I noticed more and more similarities between her behaviors and the constant chaos that had been in my own head for as long as I could remember. When she was tested for ADHD, I studied the subject to learn all I could, and as I filled out all her paperwork, I couldn’t help but apply all those same questions to myself. It was my "a-hah!" moment.
When I sought a diagnosis in my thirties, it was like a weight had been lifted. All the “problems” and “quirks” I’d always exhibited and felt; all the feelings of doing everything wrong, were suddenly given a name. I was grateful.
My diagnosis was relatively easy, but that isn’t always the case. Other mental and mood disorders share the symptoms of ADHD, and depression and anxiety are also commonly associated with the disorder. It is important to find a doctor that does not rush a diagnosis.
When Adult ADHD Goes Untreated
If ADHD goes undiagnosed in childhood, academic, social, and emotional problems can follow a person from childhood into adulthood. Untreated, ADHD can impact job performance, marital and family relationships, mental health, and even automobile safety.
Low self-esteem and lack of motivation cause many to live below their potential.
It is also challenging for a person with ADHD to visualize the future and have the ability to put the necessary pieces together to get there. We often are underemployed and have a hard time if faced with losing our jobs because we can’t see clearly how to manage the future.
We come to a full stop when something happens, rather than merely slowing down. Once forward momentum is halted, everything screeches to a halt, and we can become stagnant from fear and indecision. Depression can often set in.
We thrive with structure, but if that structure disappears, we can have a hard time building it for ourselves.
When I lost the job I had held for many years I was completely lost. With my future uncertain and myself and my child to take care of, instead of rising out of the situation and moving forward, it felt like I was stuck in quicksand. The more I tried, the more it sucked me in.
I made a list of things I needed to do around the house while I was looking for work. Each day would pass with very little getting done, and me having no idea where the hours had gone. I had no idea how to build the momentum I needed or how to find my way into the workforce.
There were extenuating circumstances as far as my daughter’s health that made a difference at that time too, but what happened was I ended up in a deep depression and couldn’t figure out where to begin to make things right.
This inability to build a structure from nothing or to set long term goals is the reason why therapy or an ADHD coach can be so important.
Treatment for ADHD in Adults
If a person thinks they might have ADHD, it is important to seek help from a medical professional who is familiar with the disorder. No definitive test can prove ADHD is present, but diagnosis can be made from carefully reviewing all symptoms and medical history, as well as ruling out other mental or mood disorders.
Treatment options are similar for both children and adults with ADHD. A combination of medication, psychotherapy, and treatment for any co-existing mental or mood disorders is recommended.
Medication is only one step to treatment, however, learning to change habits and undo years of negative thinking and feelings is critical.
Counseling is an important key to treatment, and it is best to choose a psychologist or master level therapist well versed in ADHD. Before choosing any doctor or therapist, find out how many ADHD patients they see. Get to know what kind of training they have in ADHD and if they are up to date in the latest treatments and therapies.
There can be controversy over the treatment of ADHD, especially around the use of medications. Ultimately, each adult has to do what is right for them. We must take the information we learn and decide what is best for ourselves.
I do not take ADHD medication, but my daughter does. I would absolutely use medication in the future, if necessary. Sometimes I struggle with symptoms and it is hard to deal with the daily demands of life, but I work to learn and apply the strategies that make things as easy as they can be.
ADHD in Adults: Curse or Gift?
We’ve all heard it said that ADHD is not a curse, but a gift. I can see it both ways sometimes. The struggle with daily activities is a real one, but at the same time, I’m blessed with curiosity and love of trying new things, as well as creativity.
My love for trying new things can be seen as a blessing and a curse. I try new things, but I also get tired of them quickly and move on. I can hyper-focus on writing my novel, but I can just as easily hyper-focus on playing solitaire.
Sometimes I feel my biggest superpower is not a thirst for knowledge or boundless energy, but just making it through the day.
While I don’t enjoy last minute changes of plans or not being in control, I also tend to not worry about the little things. Life is messy, and I don’t mind if the kids make a few more.
I am impulsive, my daughter can easily get me distracted from work and talk me into doing something fun, I procrastinate even when I say I am going to change my ways, and my list of shortcoming would be too many to actually list.
Yet once I embraced who I was, understood how my mind worked and why I was different, I became okay with the person I see in the mirror. It isn’t always easy. Some days are a struggle and those days I hate having ADHD, but then I try to bring myself back to the “superpower” mentality and remember that there is much to me that would not exist without the ADHD, and for that, I’m pretty grateful.
With proper treatment and perhaps a good sense of humor, ADHD in adults is definitely manageable.