Summer is almost over and school is in session again. But, none of us really stops learning. When you’re dealing with ADHD, your need to know more AND to apply that knowledge in your family or work life never ends.
What are YOU doing to increase your understanding of ADHD? Is there room for improvement in your response to your children or how you react in daily life? You can continue to struggle or choose to learn more to help yourself and your children. Everyone deserves to thrive with ADHD and find success, but it takes work. Are you learning new skills to help you design your life to fit your needs?
We have a number of resources this month from ADHD Parent coaches. Yafa Luria Crane expands on a textbook understanding of ADHD and reveals what’s REALLY going on beneath the surface. Diane Dempster from Impact ADHD shares parenting strategies you may have thought of yet. Cindy Goldrich has organization tips for kids.
I wish that I would have read these years ago when I watched my nephews every summer. Instead, I judged their actions and my own lack of control over their behavior as moral and personal failings. In my ignorance, I even called them the “nephews from hell.” With understanding and practice, you don’t have to repeat that mistake with your own children.
Nor do you need to bear the burden of condemnation that I piled on myself for so long. I didn’t know why I struggled or what to do about my chronic disorganization, lack of follow through and emotional distress brought on by worry and frustration. The good news is that once you know what’s causing the problems and get some ideas on how to handle them, you can learn to “live well” with ADHD. Our guest blogger this month talks about the role of making good choices in managing ADHD symptoms. We CAN learn to change our mindset and environment to successfully navigate through our ADHD life at home and work.
Check out of videos this month as well. One’s just for fun, but I found a great collection for parents in need of answers as well.
Yes, having ADHD can be challenging but you CAN develop tools that help. We can choose to ignore our symptoms and roll with the punches or we can identify our problem areas and find ways to cope more effectively. Happy (aka Meagan) of Happy Hyper Shiny outlines a few ways she finds calm, keeps track of her thoughts and belongings and makes sure that things get done inADHD CHOICES: Things I CAN do!She says:
“I don’t have to subject my family to my crazy.”
“I am still a work in progress. We all are.”
“But my thought process has changed.”
“There is a lot more I CAN do than I give myself credit for.”
Are you learning new skills to help you design your life to work for your needs?
If you’re thinking of starting a side-gig or other project outside of a traditional workplace, check out these tips for Working from Home with ADHD by Sara Jane Keyser – It’s all about balance, organization, and planning, so these strategies are always good advice.
This summer I realized that I needed more structure to my days and started using a weekly planner with good results. Having a written schedule allows me to plan and execute projects more effectively. I have even keep on top of Important but Boring tasks by breaking them down into doable steps. Together, these small actions add up and have helped me get things done that I had put off for months and even years.
Emily Ley sells a good planner, but she also offers a collection of Printables that I like. (Basic, Simple to use and FREE) Another Printable, How to Eat an Elephant, can help you outline and plan large projects. It’s from Sidsel Dorph Jensen. Remember, with ADHD, it’s SO important to WRITE things down. Don’t depend on your memory. Keeping a to-do list or a done-list is a start, but there are many more tools to help you be more effective.
Have some fun with this ADHD song, music and lyrics by Josh Anderson. He writes, “I thought that I would put it up here for everyone to see. I hope that you like it! This is pretty much how my brain works every day!
For more great videos, from informative to inspiring, see our ADHD in Video section.
The number one thing that children object to is yelling. It’s perfectly understandable that a parent’s frustration with a child’s behavior spills over and out, but it’s scary and generally ineffective with children with ADHD at inspiring the behavior you’d like to see.
For most neurotypical people, ADHD is hard to understand. (1) It seems like we are forgetful or careless. Sometimes we come off as self-centered or even lazy. Believe me, I totally understand why other people perceive us this way.
But you are not lazy or unmotivated. And you are not self-centered. I have spent hours thinking about and talking to other women with ADHD. After a while, some patterns emerged.
Like anything else, ADHD is individual. We all experience varying degrees and types of symptoms. If you have ADHD over the course of your lifetime, which most of us do, the symptoms actually change with your age and your circumstances.
What all women with ADHD need to remember is that they are not alone.
WANT TO KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO HAVE ADHD?
Everyone has felt frustrated with themselves at some point. But for us, the frustration is aimed at ourselves. This is an insidious type of frustration that makes you doubt yourself at every turn.
We spend a lot of time with negative thoughts running on replay through our heads. Unfortunately, we also have trouble stopping these thoughts and managing them. Long term this causes all types of psychological symptoms ranging from anxiety to major depression.
Imagine being mad at yourself all the time. We are our own toughest critic.
Having ADHD means your thoughts go so fast that you barely have time to acknowledge them before you are on to the next thing.
In the course of 60 seconds, I think about this website, my son, my dog, the work in front of me and the noise coming from my neighbor’s garage. None of these thoughts actually reach fruition… they just flit through my brain before I get to completely process them. Usually, I cannot even remember what I was trying to think about.
You know how sometimes you will walk into a room and forget why you are there? It’s like that – but with everything.
Often, I cannot remember what I sat down to write about. Sometimes I forget that I already started writing about a certain topic. I end up with 3 different word documents all started on different days about the same subject. It is infuriating.
But I can only concentrate on being furious for a few seconds until my brain moves on to the next thing. At least I don’t hold grudges?
Every so often I have a meltdown. Usually, this is a result of total and complete mental exhaustion brought on by parenting, work…life. Apparently, I am not alone in this.
So many women with ADHD report feeling chronically mentally fatigued. Initially, I thought this might be due to the fast-paced activity that is happening in our brains. (See racing thoughts above.)
But then I started to think about how many of us seek comfort through food or other behaviors. Since ADHD involves brain chemicals, it makes sense that we might feel a bit fatigued since we lack the normal amount of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical most often associated with pleasure or rewards, but it is not the only neurotransmitter implicated in ADHD. (2)
The best remedy to control the how our brains use dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in our brains is to take our meds as prescribed. (2) Add exercise and eat a healthy, nutrient dense diet. Oh and get plenty of sleep and relaxation time. Coaching or therapy can also help you develop self-awareness and to develop other coping strategies. Organization and time management skills should be implemented gradually, addressing the areas that cause you the most difficulty first. It will take effort, but over time, you will feel more in control of your life.
Other than those options, I have no good advice. I am struggling with cognitive fatigue as I write this.
Along with a tendency to feel tired, many women with ADHD also report feeling a bit cranky.
Imagine spending all day feeling frustrated with yourself, unable to concentrate, racing thoughts and fatigue…and then you come home and your family says, “What’s for dinner?”
Yeah, that is a recipe for trouble. (Or at least a lot of slamming cupboard doors and swearing under your breath.)
Irritability tends to be a symptom of anxiety and/or depression for many of us. It’s tough to live like this and hold it together. I once referred to having ADHD as, “trying to hold about 100 corks under water all at the same time.”
In order to feel less irritable, you probably have to address the chemical issues in your brain. So think about getting diagnosed and medicated. ADHD meds may not be enough, so you will need to try some other coping mechanisms. Think mindfulness, journaling or maybe cognitive behavioral therapy. (Links go to Liz’s articles)
ADHD is frustrating and infuriating. A lifetime of criticism, from our self and others, really takes its toll. Some of us cannot even share our diagnosis with the people in our lives for fear of denial, disbelief, and stigma.
ADHD symptoms are individual so it is tough to describe all of them. The feelings mentioned here are ones that are commonly reported in my Private Coaching Group and my public Facebook Group. Hopefully, with enough awareness and community support, we can support as many women and mothers living with ADHD as possible.
Finally, always remember you are not alone!
Note from the author: I hope that this writing was enlightening for anyone trying to understand what it feels like to be a woman with ADHD. If I wanted to go on I could, but that would be overkill.
About the author: Elizabeth Lewis is a freelance writer, wife, mother, and self-appointed CEO of her home. Liz founded A Dose of Healthy Distraction, a website and a private Facebook group to provide a realistic yet positive face to living with ADHD. She also runs the ADHD Coaching Corner, a low-cost online support and coaching group.
Neurotypical – Definition from The Urban Dictionary – Neurotypical is a word used to describe a person who has a typical brain. This not only includes non-autistic people but also people without mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities or any other neurological illness or disorder such as ADHD, epilepsy or brain tumors. It is the opposite of neurodivergent. – Harvested 7/14/2017 urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Neurotypical
ADHD overwhelm is real. To survive, we think we must tackle the most visible of our symptoms, the disorganization, forgetfulness, and unfinished tasks first. But it helps to start at the beginning with basic self-care. Many of us neglect basic needs for supporting ourselves physically and mentally. We don’t even realize that they may be part of the problem and increase impairment from ADHD symptoms. Yet, a poor diet, disturbed sleep, a lack of exercise, and not taking time for breaks are common problems for children and adults with ADHD. We don’t make time to rejuvenate, to refresh our mind and bodies.
ADHD isn’t easy, but if you take it step by step, you CAN get a handle on it. Our natural inclination is to rush in and try “Fix” everything at once, but we have a lifetime of poor habits and emotional fallout to deal with first.
We MUST Eat, Sleep, Move, and Rest, but so often these don’t make it onto our daily to-do list. (If we even have such a list.) But ignoring these needs exacts a heavy toll on out physical and mental health. In The Best Advice Ever, Katherine McGaver addresses this topic. “If you have ADHD,” she writes, “you need to be in your best possible shape every day to manage this powerful, free-spirited brain.” “Because if you don’t manage an ADHD brain, it will manage you. For people who have ADHD, proper eating, exercise, and sleep are mandatory. They provide the energy, strength, clarity, and staying power that is needed hour by hour, day by day, every day, to stay in charge.”
At work, home and in school, we still struggle with getting things done. So often we focus on what we HAVEN’T done and don’t reward ourselves for those things that we HAVE accomplished. Rest, Self-Expression and Connection are perfect ways to be refreshed and get ready to tackle the day again. To help keep balance in your life, see this article, Self-care Activities you Actually Have Time For by Meagan of Page Flutter. She also created a Printable of Self-care and rewards to help you create balance in your life.
Of course what’s probably driving you crazy is your messy house or desk at work. You don’t have to ignore these but approach them gradually. Start with Simple Steps to Staying Organized, an article with a Free Printable from Andrea Dekker. By taking them one step at a time, each task takes just a minute or two. If you attend to them every day, big jobs become manageable.
I’m lucky to have two lovely articles on dealing with ADHD in the family. Keeping our relationships vital, loving, and supportive can make all the difference for yourself and other family members.
The first is On ADHD: Parent to Parent. It’s an overview of three articles that offer down-to-earth and practical approaches that honor your child’s individuality while acknowledging the very real challenges in your family life.
Duane and Linda Walker
We also have How I Fixed my ADHD Husband. Coach Linda Walker writes, “I think of us as a family with ADHD. We could only solve this problem working together, and so this was as much my journey as theirs.”
“I realized that I wasn’t the only one suffering in the family. I know Duane had it worse than me – he was living it 24/7. “
But IS ADHD REALLY 24/7? Dr. Charles Parker maintains that it is NOT. He claims that ADHD is situational. It only shows sometimes in certain contexts. As he says, “One of the hallmarks of ADHD is cognitive abundance, not a cognitive deficiency.” Too many thoughts mean too many choices and too many options to handle well. According to Dr. Parker, “ADHD symptoms flourish when there are too many variables, a lack of structure and an absence of focus.”
“Limiting the variables within a defined platform is the answer to getting things done.” Being interested in the process, involved with the outcome, or working to a deadline also helps. Watch Dr. Parker’s video ADHD Medication Rule 2- Reality Denied.
My symptoms disappear when I’m working on Pinterest or Facebook. Those social sites are tailor-made for my natural inclinations collecting and sharing information with the aim of encouraging people to get help for ADHD. Writing about ADHD is a different animal that requires strategic thinking to make it possible. When I’m struggling with a task like getting out this newsletter, I make it more manageable by breaking it down, defining its scope, and getting inspired or making it a challenge. I call it “putting a box around it.” I love to share the “treasures” I’ve found but I have way too much information! This time I limited myself to three outside sources, 2 articles from my website and a video or two. They had to be personal favorites, cover basic information, be encouraging and easy to understand. I set a July 1st deadline and committed to working on it every day for at least fifteen minutes. I also participated in a Body-doubling session with my coaching group to keep me on track for the final push. This gave me both a time-limit AND provided accountability.
Finally, I have something for the kids to watch – a 2-minute clip that brings research interviews with children to (animated) life. ADHD: What it’s Like to Have ADHD Find the film ADHD and Me, the research results, and more short clips on ADHD Voices. It’s about time we asked Kids how they experience ADHD in their lives.
Don’t forget, for solid information on ADHD and the many ways it impacts lives, check out Laurie Dupar’s FREE “Succeed with ADHD Telesummit, “ July 17th to the 24th – 20 one-half hour presentations with 24 hours to listen to replays. http://succeedwithadhdtelesummit.com/Sign up now.
By Joan Jager – Founder of ADD freeSources
ADHD Life – “Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net”
Procrastinating or just have no motivation today? Here’s a quick list of 20 strategies to get yourself moving, so you can catch a bit of momentum. As you gain momentum, often you’ll just keep going. You may or may not “find” motivation, but momentum is what’s needed. Not every task you work on “needs” motivation. That’s a feeling, right? What you need is movement.
The Practical Momentum Strategies
1. What’s the most interesting part of the project? Start there.
2. What part of the project will you be best at? Start there.
3. Play first. Get it out of your system. (Set a timer to stop the play though.)
4. Do the difficult first, with “play” as the reward.
5. Set a timer and stop at the end of 5-15 minutes, just enough to get you started.
6. Write or draw out your list of steps and take just the first small step. Just one.
7. Change your environment. Go to someone else’s office, a coffee shop, a library and use the change in environment to wake up your mind.
8. Listen to music (instrumental), TED talks, a book, or a class while you work. Yes, the choice is important, of what you listen to and what you choose to work on. It takes some thought.
9. Work on the tedious tasks while someone else comes to your office or home (e.g., bookkeeper, cleaning service, assistant). Use their presence to focus you on your own task. Or while your children do their homework.
10. Talk through your project with someone else first.
11. Read about how others have handled this project – the experts.
12. Hire it out.
13. Can you work in a team for support on at least one piece? Connections can give you momentum to keep going.
The Psychological, Emotional, and Self-Talk Strategies
1. Ask yourself: Why am I not starting? What am I afraid of?
2. Say something like: I know how to do this. I know I can start it, just dip my toe into the water and see what’s there.
3. Ask yourself: Have I already made some decision? Do I need to let this go?
4. Ask yourself: What is the best and worst that could happen? What are the benefits of starting now versus waiting?
5. Break up the work so you can set small, interim deadlines before the big, looming one.
6. Self-care: Sometimes it’s the rest of your life which is draining your mental energy. Focus on self-care first.
7. Have you ever had this happen before on a similar task? Think about what you did to get started.
A psychologist once told me that you can either start with the practical to get traction, or you can start with the psychological. Either way, both are key elements. So start at one end and work towards the middle and you’ll get what you need.
A series of short guest posts by Sarah Jane Keyser.
ADHD has strengths as well as weaknesses; like heads and tails, you can’t have one without the other.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not an illness (in spite of the name) and there is no “cure”. ADD is a way of life, a difference in the way you see and move in the world.
You can learn to manage the world and use your brain.
There are many ways to train your brain. Usually, a combination of medication, ADHD coaching strategies, and exercise is most effective. Each individual needs to discover what combination works best for him or her.
Here are some ways that you can change your life:
Life Styles for ADHD – You can do many things for yourself. A good program includes exercise, what to eat, how to breathe, how to get to sleep and how to enjoy.
Maintaining the ADHD Brain – If your car runs on two cylinders you take it to the garage. If your brain sputters take it to a doctor for a checkup.
ADHD Coaching Strategies – A coach is a partner who guides you to new ways of seeing yourself and the world. An ADD coach who knows how ADD feels and understands the ADHD brain can help you value your strengths and structure your life.
Celebrating ADHD – Learn to appreciate the passion and sparkle which are the gift of ADHD.
Published by Sarah Jane Keyser, Copyright 2006, all rights reserved. Learn more about ADHD at Coaching Key to ADHD
*** About Sarah Jane *** Sarah Jane Keyser worked for many years with computers as a programmer, analyst, and user trainer, but her struggle with inattentive ADD kept getting in the way of her plans and dreams. Her credentials include ADD Coach training at the ADD Coach Academy, the Newfield Network’s graduate coaching program “Mastery in Coaching” and “Coaching Kids and Teens” by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett MCC. Sarah Jane is an American living in Switzerland who coaches in French and English by telephone.
“Image courtesy of mrpuen–FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva
This proposed version of the World Health Organization ADHD Self-Report Screening Scale is a short questionnaire designed to help people easily assess the possibility that they might have ADHD. (Researchers have revised the scale to fit the new criteria for evaluating ADHD introduced by the DSM-5 and to reflect how ADHD presents differently in adults than in children.) FREE Printable
It’s important to keep in mind that this new questionnaire isn’t an absolute measure of whether someone has ADHD. But it can be a useful tool for assessing whether a further look is in order.
The official screener hasn’t been published yet. At this time, “scores” would be best guesses based on the following information.
The choice of answers range from never, to rarely, sometimes, often and very often. Never is always zero, but the higher frequency answers are assigned varying points.
How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people are saying to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
How often do you have difficulty unwinding or relaxing when you have time to yourself?
When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to before they can finish them themselves?
How often do you put things off until the last minute?
How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?
Points are given to each question according to the relative importance of the question is to diagnostic criteria. The highest score if Questions 1,2, and 3 are answered very often is 5 points. The 4th question’s top score is 2. The 5th’s highest is 4, while the final question is 3. That makes 24 points in total, with 14 points being the point at which additional evaluation is recommended.
We’ve created a FREE Printable of what we think the scale will look like based on the previous information.
The development of the new ADHD Screener from a 2017 APSARD conference promotional video – 13-minutes
Stage I: “The Journey Begins” (Discovery and Diagnosis)
Relief: “Finally, an explanation!”
For many adults, discovering they have ADD, usually by reading an article, a book or seeing something on television, is a very emotional moment. People at this point in time are usually very excited. They want to talk. They want to tell their story. They want to be understood now that they are starting to understand themselves. Most want to immediately seek a professional diagnosis so they can move forward with treatment.
Stage II: “Wandering in the Wilderness” (Increasing Awareness)
This stage is marked by a variety of feelings and questions.
Denial: “How do I know this is a valid disorder?”
Flickering Optimism: “Maybe there is hope.”
Fear, anxiety, and more anxiety: “What if I follow through with treatment, but nothing changes? All that effort and for what?” Another failure?” “Is medication safe? If I use it, will I have to take it for the rest of my life?”
Grief, Anger, and Resentment: “Why wasn’t this diagnosed and treated sooner?”
Stage III: “Up and Over the Mountain Top” (Restructuring)
At this stage, the ADDult no longer puts his energy into “What might have been ….” She moves forward with her life, focusing on what works and minimizing the impact of what does not. Some ADDults go to bed in Stage II and wake up in Stage III. It is hard to predict when or why the transition occurs, but it does, and it feels good! In Stage III, ADDults feel less shame about their disorder. They feel more empowered and more comfortable with telling others about their condition. Stage III involves:
Accepting: “I’m ready to let go of the past. I want to get on with my life.”
Delegating; Using Strategies and Accommodations: “Could some else more easily do this task?” “What strategies can I use, what accommodations can I request to accomplish my goals?”
Stage IV: “Enjoying the Peaceful Valley”(Self-Acceptance)
Along your journey you have enjoyed the occasional oasis…the moments when you recognize and praise yourself for new behaviors, small accomplishments, and completed tasks. You note where you started and how far you have come. The journey has been difficult, (and often you wanted to quit or turn back), but you realized you were making progress toward your destination. By noting the oases along the way, you confirm for yourself that you are traveling in the right direction, on the right road and keep you nourished for continued travel.
Eventually, you reach a point in your journey when you are traveling light. You no longer carry baggage from your past. You are a seasoned traveler, good at figuring out how to pass through this rough landscape. You are confident in your abilities and strong in your knowledge of having survived. You know your journey will get easier–that you will even start to enjoy it. You continue to journey, but now you travel without needing guides and fellow travelers. You journey down the open road of life, sometimes skipping, sometimes trudging, sometimes limping, but now there is usually a song in your heart, a twinkle in your eye, and a smile on your face. It is good to notice another oasis just ahead. Your journey of life has become the adventure you have always looked for.
Everyone on an ADD JOURNEY needs guides and fellow travelers to show the way and provide support when we weaken and falter. Our guides and fellow travelers provide the six essentials of multi-modal ADD treatment.
Just as the wise backpacker carries the ten essentials (1) when out trekking, the journeying ADDult needs to have the ADD treatment essentials at hand. Whether or not all treatments get used during the journey depends on the traveler. Some need to employ all treatments; others, only a few. Below is a chart showing which Guide or Fellow Traveler is most suitable for each stage of the journey
Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counselor or Primary Care Physician
Education and Support
Education and Support Groups Self-education Self-Help Groups Friends and Family
I and II,
I and II,
II and III
Medication (and/or Alternative Treatments)
Psychiatrist, Primary Care Physician (and/or Alternative Health Care Providers)
II, III, and IV
Counseling (and Therapy Groups)
Counselor, Psychologist or
II and III
Professional Coach or Coaching Partner
WHO ARE YOUR GUIDES FOR STAGES I AND II?
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in helping people with mental health problems. Their training includes medical school and usually a three-year postgraduate residency. One advantage of their training is that it enables them to understand, use, and prescribe medications. With respect to ADHD, this is a definite advantage, since ADD treatment usually includes medication. In addition to psychiatrists, other medical doctors along with physician assistants and some nurse practitioners have prescriptive authority. However, none of them do psychological testing.
Sometimes psychological testing is recommended–not to make the ADD diagnosis–but to gain other information on the person’s functioning. Only psychologists do this kind of testing. So, at times, an adult seeking an ADD diagnosis may see several different professionals. Some adults see several experts for another reason. They cannot find a knowledgeable helper. Sadly, many mental health professionals are not knowledgeable about adult ADD. They may look at it as either a “made up” or an over-diagnosed problem. Since mental health professionals are not used to working with adult ADD patients, it is likely that they may believe another problem is dominant.
Professionals in any field tend to “see” only what they know. If they don’t know or understand something, they can’t see or treat it. For example, the psychologist may see your problem mainly as depression or anxiety (especially if you are a woman), not recognizing the ADD as the underlying concern. How you feel about your life because of your untreated ADD may cause you to be depressed or anxious. ADD may be your primary problem, but other problems may need treatment as well.
In evaluating a mental health professional’s knowledge about ADD in adults, many of the following questions could be asked. Most of these questions could also be asked of ADD counselors and ADD coaches.
Do you accept my insurance? Do you diagnose ADD/ADHD?
How long have you been diagnosing this disorder in adults?
How many ADD/ADHD adults have you diagnosed in the past five years. What percent of your practice has a primary diagnosis of ADD/ ADHD?
How familiar are you with the day to day tribulations of having ADD? (You’re trying to learn if they or someone they are close to has this condition. How intimate is their understanding of ADD on a daily basis?)
What is your treatment philosophy? (Will the clinician work with you and be open to suggestions or will he/she call all the shots. Is their treatment of ADD the same for everyone or is it individually tailored?)
In a subtle way, learn what they do to keep current in their knowledge about adult ADD and its treatment protocols.
How do you make a diagnosis? How many visits will it take and how much will it cost?
How long will I have to wait for an appointment?
Ask psychologists how they handle the medication part of treatment.
Ask physicians (and other medical personnel with prescriptive authority) what medicines they use to treat ADD/ADHD.
YOUR GUIDES FOR STAGES II AND III – Therapists and Coaches
Counselors/Therapists: Often, after being diagnosed with ADD, it is a good idea to find a therapist with you whom you can work. Many times adults with ADD have become so mired in negative feelings about themselves that the first thing they need to do is to face these feelings directly and learn how to let them go. Besides dealing with the ADD symptoms themselves, there may be depression, anxiety, or other problems that need to be addressed.
A good therapist can help you develop practical ways to deal with your daily life based on your own problems and circumstances. You will develop insights into how your ADD symptoms have interacted throughout your life, which is likely to help you understand why your life has taken a certain direction. It is our belief that a good therapist will educate you thoroughly about ADD.
Individual therapy is the most likely choice because most people prefer the privacy of a one-to-one relationship with a mental health professional. In individual therapy you and your therapist talk about your particular problems and develop ways in which you can deal with them more effectively. You will probably see your therapist once each week, although the schedule may later change. Visits usually last about forty-five to fifty minutes. After the initial screening is completed, you and the therapist will spend your visits talking about specific challenges, developing coping strategies, sharing new insights, and whatever concerns are on your mind.
The therapy will vary according to the therapist’s orientation. For example, one therapist may help you listen to your negative thoughts and get you to actively challenge them. This method is central to cognitive therapy. Another therapist may help you develop strategies for actively confronting and, hopefully, overcoming the ADD symptoms that make your life less than optimal. Often you will gain insight as therapy proceeds. You may have misunderstood your ADD and thought that you were just “lazy, crazy, and stupid.” You may have many misconceptions that you built up over the years that you can now interpret in the light of your new understanding of ADD.
This does not in any way release you from doing the necessary work to get your life in order. Yes, you will develop insights. But you will also need to work at developing skills you have never had before.
A good therapist will teach the ADD adult to acknowledge the importance of small steps in making progress. Often people don’t continue along the road of self-improvement because they don’t acknowledge their small steps of Progress. The person with ADD often expects a difficult problem to be solved rapidly. “I want it yesterday.” If it can’t be solved soon, the person gets frustrated and gives up. The adult with ADD who learns the value of taking small but positive steps toward a goal learns a very valuable lesson. The good therapist keeps the client on track and helps the client maintain a positive perspective.
Coaches can be therapists, although coaching is not therapy. Coaches can also be another ADD adult, a friend or someone in your family. ADD coaching focuses on practical issues confronting the ADD adult, such as organization, managing time and setting and reaching goals. Coaching could help ADD adults to develop routines and daily habits which will simplify and make their lives more manageable. Some coaches are very forceful and offer lots of suggestions while others prefer coaches who mostly listen and then offer ideas.
A coaching relationship could last any length of time, but a typical relationship lasts at least six months. Sometimes coaching is done in person, one hour a week. It can be done over the phone, 10-15 minutes a day, or even done through e-mail. Hiring a trained person to be your coach is called professional coaching while getting someone else to work with you is called peer or partner coaching.
A coach works with you to improve your results and your successes. A coach will:
help you set better goals and then reach those goals
ask you to do more than you would have done on your own
get you to focus your efforts better to produce results more quickly
provide you with the tools, support, and structure to accomplish more
How does coaching differfrom consulting? …therapy? ….sports coaching? …Having a best friend?
Coaching is a form of consulting as coaches provide advice and expertise in achieving personal change and excellence. However, unlike the consultant who offers advice and leaves, a coach stays to help implement the recommended changes, making sure they really happen and ensuring that the client reaches his goals in a lasting way.
In most therapies, patients or clients work on “issues,” reflect on their past experiences and try to understand the psychodynamic causes of their behaviors. Coaching focuses only on the here and now, looking at the problems in the present needing solutions. In this way, it is like solution-focuses therapy. Coaches work with their clients to gain something, such as new skills, not to lose something, such as unhealthy thought patterns. The focus is on achieving personal and professional goals that give clients the lives they want.
Professional coaching includes several principles from sports coaching, like teamwork, going for the goal, and being your best. Unlike sports coaching, professional coaching is non-competitive. You develop your own way to achieve your goals. There is not one best way to do it. It is not focused on outdoing someone else. It is focused on strengthening the client’s skills, such as a trainer might do.
Having a best friend is always wonderful, but you might not trust your best friend to advise you on the most important aspects of your life and/or business. A best friend might not be able or willing to provide the consistency in monitoring and feedback that coaching demands. The relationship with your coach has some elements of a good friendship in that a close relationship evolves. The coach knows when to be tender or tough with you, is willing to tell you the truth, and keeps your best interests foremost in the relationship.
“A coach is your partner in achieving professional goals, your champion during a turnaround, your trainer in communication and life skills, your sounding board when making choices, your motivator when strong actions are called for, your unconditional support when you take a hit, your mentor in personal development, your co-designer when developing an extraordinary project, your beacon during stormy times, your wake-up call if you don’t hear your own, and most importantly: Your coach is your partner in living the life you know you’re ready for, personally and professionally.” —Thomas Leonard, President of Coach University
People hire coaches because they want more to their life; they want to grow as individuals, and they want to make achieving their goals easier. When using a coach, people take themselves and their goals more seriously. They immediately start taking more effective and focused actions. They stop focusing on thoughts and behaviors that drag them down. They create a forward momentum to their lives and they set better goals for themselves than they would have without a coach.
COACH SELECTION RECOMMENDATIONS
Rapport is very important. Your relationship with your coach is important to your professional and personal growth. The effective coaching relationship is an effective model for all your other relationships: inspiring, supporting, challenging and productive. Choose someone you will be able to relate to very well.
Experience in your field is less important, although knowledge of A.D.D. is important. Coaching technology works for a wide variety of people, professions, and situations. A coach with experience in your personal or professional situation may understand you more quickly. However, much of your work with a coach will involve encouraging you to use and develop your personal skills and your expanding network. Therefore, the specific business experience of your coach is not as important as you might think. Coaching technology works independently of the business or professional environment.
Location is normally not important. While some coaches do offer on-site coaching, it is normally not necessary nor efficient. You will get the same or better results with telephone coaching at a fraction of your investment with on-site coaching.
Interview more than one coach before you decide. Most coaches are happy to speak with you for several minutes in order to get to know you and your situation. You can use this time as an opportunity to gather information and an impression about the coach’s style. Compare two or three coaches and select the one who seems most helpful to you. Trust yourself to know what you need.
Ask the prospective coach good questions. Great coaches are willing to answer your questions directly and forthrightly. Consider asking questions about their depth of experience, qualifications, skills, and practice. For example:
“How many clients have you coached, and how many are presently active clients?”
“What is your specialty and how long have you been practicing in that specialty?”
“What is your knowledge of Attention Deficit Disorder? (expand this to be lots of questions–modify those suggested earlier for evaluating a mental health professional’s knowledge of ADD)”
“How many clients have you had with A.D.D.?” What percentage of your clientele has this diagnosis?”
“What qualifies you to coach people in my situation and how many people with my concerns have you coached?”
“How do you typically work with a client?”
“What are the names and numbers of some of your clients so that I may ask about your coaching?”
The inspiration for this article and some of the information on the journey, its stages, (stage IV is my addition), guides and fellow travelers came from a self-published booklet, “Coaching Partners,” by Lisa F. Poast
Material on therapy and therapists was adapted from Do You Have Attention Deficit Disorder? by Lawrence Thomas, Ph.D. It is published by Dell Books
Information on coaching was obtained from the International Coaching Federation.
Cynthia Hammer, MSW, ACSW, an adult with ADHD and the parent of three sons, two with ADHD. At age 49, she learned that she had ADHD and realized she knew very little about the disorder. Cynthia founded ADD Resources in 1994 and went on to become a nationally recognized advocate for the understanding of ADHD among both those who have it and those who treated it. Cynthia is now retired and lives in Tacoma with her husband.
About 4.4 percent of American adults — 10 million people — have ADHD. And roughly 8 million children have been diagnosed with the disease, making it one the most commonly occurring mental health disorders in the United States.
The rate of co-occurring substance use disorders is high among those with ADHD. Individuals with this diagnosis are 2.5 times more likely to develop a substance use disorder. A study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that 15 to 25 percent of adults who have a substance use disorder also have ADHD.
For co-occurring ADHD and substance abuse disorders, the best treatment programs combine medical treatment for ADHD, drug detox and therapy that address both disorders. Additionally, proper ADHD treatment during childhood can prevent further development of the disorder that may lead to a substance use disorder during adulthood.
The risk for substance abuse is often higher for people with ADHD. Compared to the general population, people with ADHD are:
Three times more likely to develop a nicotine use disorder
Two times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder
Two times more likely to develop a cocaine use disorder
5 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder
Research shows that those with ADHD may have lower levels of dopamine — the brain chemical responsible for reward-seeking behavior — and turn to substance abuse or other dopamine-releasing behaviors as a result.
Despite the increased risks, those with co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders are not doomed to struggle with addiction their entire lives. Many rehab centers offer specialized programs for co-occurring disorders that focus on treating the separate disorders concurrently, giving patients a realistic chance of reaching recovery and living a healthy life.
Treatment for Co-Occurring ADHD and Substance Use Disorder
Treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders is most effective when the disorders are treated simultaneously. Addressing them at the same time is preferred to treating them one at a time, which was the generally held practice in the past.
Medication is the most common form of treatment for ADHD, and with proper use, it can greatly benefit those with co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders. Stimulant and nonstimulant medications can be effective in treating individuals with ADHD with or without a co-occurring substance use disorder. The most common types of medications used to treat ADHD are stimulants.
A study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital examining the results of six long-term studies found that stimulant treatment for ADHD during youth leads to reduced risk of developing a substance use disorder during adolescence and adulthood.
The two most common stimulants used to treat ADHD are methylphenidate and analogs of amphetamine.
Amphetamine medications activate the reward pathway and trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, bringing balance to dopamine levels among those with ADHD. This can help alleviate drug cravings.
According to researchers at Columbia University, clinical trials of Ritalin (methylphenidate) have also been effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD and substance use disorder when combined with relapse prevention therapy. The drug has a relatively low risk of abuse under proper medical supervision.
Methylphenidate has been used for decades to treat ADHD and has shown to be effective for children and adults. Uncontrolled trials of methylphenidate have shown to have a positive impact in reducing symptoms of ADHD and cocaine use disorders, according to researchers at Columbia University.
Some nonstimulant medications can be used to treat ADHD and may present an alternative to stimulants. While stimulants have a higher abuse potential, nonstimulants are often seen as a less effective treatment option.
Atomoxetine is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor that can be used to treat ADHD. It affects those with ADHD similarly to stimulants, but in a more gradual manner. With no known abuse potential, atomoxetine is an attractive alternative to stimulant medications.
Tricyclic antidepressants have also been used to treat ADHD. However, they are generally less effective than stimulants in treating ADHD.
Problems with Medication Treatment
Research from Massachusetts General Hospital shows medications that are effective in treating adult ADHD may be effective for adults with ADHD and co-occurring substance use disorders, but the medical benefits of the medications are hindered if an individual is actively abusing substances.
Patients may require higher doses in order for a medication to be effective.
The presence of other substances in a patient’s system may make the therapeutic effects of a medication less effective.
Individuals actively engaging in substance abuse are more difficult to treat with medication, with or without a co-occurring disorder.
Alcohol and ADHD Medications
ADHD medications are associated with high risks when used concurrently with alcohol. Adderall is a medication of particular concern because it is commonly abused by college students who participate in binge drinking culture at parties, bars and nightclubs.
Individuals who abuse Adderall and alcohol together find that the depressant alcohol effects are lessened by the stimulant properties of Adderall, allowing them to drink more for longer periods of time.
Abuse of Adderall or other ADHD medications while drinking may cause people to consume hazardous amounts of alcohol. ADHD medications that block the depressant effects of alcohol may cause individuals to ignore signals from their bodies that they have had enough to drink, which can lead to dangerous health concerns such as alcohol poisoning.
It is crucial for people to consult their doctor about alcohol use while taking any type of ADHD medication.
About the Author: Trey Dyer is a writer for DrugRehab.com. Trey is passionate about breaking the stigma associated with drug addiction in the United States. When Trey is not writing, he can be found fly fishing, playing soccer or cooking BBQ.
Adler, L. et al. (2005, March). Long-term, open-label study of the safety and efficacy of atomoxetine in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: an interim analysis. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15766294
Somoza, E. (2004). An open-label pilot study of methylphenidate in the treatment of cocaine dependent patients with adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15077842
Wilens, T. et al. (2003, January). Does stimulant therapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder beget later substance abuse? A meta-analytic review of the literature. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12509574
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