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Understanding Adult ADHD

Published June 20, 2013 by Tabby

Hello all. This post is just a basic overview of adult ADHD. It is sparked by my recent unfriending of a person who went on a rant stating that there is no such thing as ADHD and that it’s ruining people. While I agree that it is overdiagnosed that does not mean it does not exist at all.

“Adult ADD / ADHD Signs, Symptoms, Effects, and Treatment”

Adult ADD / ADHD Symptoms

Life can be a balancing act for any adult, but if you find yourself constantly late, disorganized, forgetful, and overwhelmed by your responsibilities, you may have ADD/ADHD. Attention deficit disorder affects many adults, and its wide variety of frustrating symptoms can hinder everything from your relationships to your career. But help is available—and learning about ADD/ADHD is the first step. Once you understand the challenges, you can learn to compensate for areas of weakness and start taking advantage of your strengths.

Understanding ADD / ADHD in adults

Attention deficit disorder is not just a problem in children. If you were diagnosed with childhood ADD/ADHD, chances are, you’ve carried at least some of the symptoms into adulthood. But even if you were never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it as an adult.

ADD / ADHD: It’s not just for kids

ADD / ADHD: It’s not just for kidsAttention deficit disorder often goes unrecognized throughout childhood. This was especially common in the past, when very few people were aware of ADD/ADHD. Instead of recognizing your symptoms and identifying the real issue, your family, teachers, or other parents may have labeled you a dreamer, a goof-off, a slacker, a troublemaker, or just a bad student.

Alternately, you may have been able to compensate for the symptoms of ADD/ADHD when you were young, only to run into problems as your responsibilities increase. The more balls you’re trying to keep in the air—pursuing a career, raising a family, running a household—the greater the demand on your abilities to organize, focus, and remain calm. This can be challenging for anyone, but if you have ADD/ADHD, it can feel downright impossible.

The good news is that, no matter how it feels, the challenges of attention deficit disorder are beatable. With education, support, and a little creativity, you can learn to manage the symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD—even turning some of your weaknesses into strengths. It’s never too late to turn the difficulties of adult ADD/ADHD around and start succeeding on your own terms.

Myths and Facts about ADD / ADHD in Adults

MYTH: ADD/ADHD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADD/ADHD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.

FACT: ADD/ADHD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.

MYTH: Everybody has the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.

FACT: ADD/ADHD affects persons of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADD/ADHD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADD/ADHD diagnosis.

MYTH: Someone can’t have ADD/ADHD and also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric problems.

FACT: A person with ADD/ADHD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people. ADD/ADHD usually overlaps with other disorders.

MYTH: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.

FACT: Many adults struggle all their lives with unrecognized ADD/ADHD impairments. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other impairments that did not respond to usual treatment.

Source: Dr. Thomas E. Brown, Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults

Signs and symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD

In adults, attention deficit disorder often looks quite different than it does in children—and its symptoms are unique for each individual. The following categories highlight common symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD. Do your best to identify the areas where you experience difficulty. Once you pinpoint your most problematic symptoms, you can start to work on strategies for dealing with them.

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Trouble concentrating and staying focused

Adults with ADD/ADHD often have difficulty staying focused and attending to daily, mundane tasks. For example, you may be easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, quickly bounce from one activity to another, or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADD/ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity—but they can be every bit as troublesome. The symptoms of inattention and concentration difficulties include:

  • “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation.
  • extreme distractibility; wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track.
  • difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others.
  • struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple.
  • tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work.
  • poor listening skills; hard time remembering conversations and following directions.

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Hyperfocus

While you’re probably aware that people with ADD/ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that aren’t interesting to them, you may not know that there’s another side: a tendency to become absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. This paradoxical symptom is called hyperfocus.

Hyperfocus is actually a coping mechanism for distraction—a way of tuning out the chaos. It can be so strong that you become oblivious to everything going on around you. For example, you may be so engrossed in a book, a TV show, or your computer that you completely lose track of time and neglect the things you’re supposed to be doing. Hyperfocus can be an asset when channeled into productive activities, but it can also lead to work and relationship problems if left unchecked.

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Disorganization and forgetfulness

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Disorganization and forgetfulnessWhen you have adult ADD/ADHD, life often seems chaotic and out of control. Staying organized and on top of things can be extremely challenging—as is sorting out what information is relevant for the task at hand, prioritizing the things you need to do, keeping track of tasks and responsibilities, and managing your time. Common symptoms of disorganization and forgetfulness include:

  • poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
  • tendency to procrastinate
  • trouble starting and finishing projects
  • chronic lateness
  • frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
  • constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
  • underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Impulsivity

If you suffer from symptoms in this category, you may have trouble inhibiting your behaviors, comments, and responses. You might act before thinking, or react without considering consequences. You may find yourself interrupting others, blurting out comments, and rushing through tasks without reading instructions. If you have impulse problems, being patient is extremely difficult. For better or for worse, you may go headlong into situations and find yourself in potentially risky circumstances. You may struggle with controlling impulses if you:

  • frequently interrupt others or talk over them
  • have poor self-control
  • blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
  • have addictive tendencies
  • act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences
  • have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways (such as sitting still during a long meeting)

Common adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Emotional difficulties

Many adults with ADD/ADHD have a hard time managing their feelings, especially when it comes to emotions like anger or frustration. Common emotional symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD include:

  • sense of underachievement
  • doesn’t deal well with frustration
  • easily flustered and stressed out
  • irritability or mood swings
  • trouble staying motivated
  • hypersensitivity to criticism
  • short, often explosive, temper
  • low self-esteem and sense of insecurity

mon adult ADD / ADHD symptoms: Hyperactivity or restlessness

Hyperactivity in adults with ADD/ADHD can look the same as it does in kids. You may be highly energetic and perpetually “on the go” as if driven by a motor. For many people with ADD/ADHD, however, the symptoms of hyperactivity become more subtle and internal as they grow older. Common symptoms of hyperactivity in adults include:

  • feelings of inner restlessness, agitation
  • tendency to take risks
  • getting bored easily
  • racing thoughts
  • trouble sitting still; constant fidgeting
  • craving for excitement
  • talking excessively
  • doing a million things at once

You don’t have to be hyperactive to have ADD / ADHD

Adults with ADD/ADHD are much less likely to be hyperactive than their younger counterparts. Only a small slice of adults with ADD/ADHD, in fact, suffer from prominent symptoms of hyperactivity. Remember that names can be deceiving and you may very well have ADD/ADHD if you have one or more of the symptoms above—even if you lack hyperactivity.

Effects of adult ADD / ADHD

If you are just discovering you have adult ADD/ADHD, chances are you’ve suffered over the years for the unrecognized problem. People may have labeled you “lazy” or “stupid” because of your forgetfulness or difficulty completing tasks, and you may have begun to think of yourself in these negative terms as well.

Untreated ADD/ADHD has wide-reaching effects

ADD/ADHD that is undiagnosed and untreated can cause problems in virtually every area of your life.

  • Physical and mental health problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can contribute to a variety of health problems, including compulsive eating, substance abuse, anxiety, chronic stress and tension, and low self-esteem. You may also run into trouble due to neglecting important check-ups, skipping doctor appointments, ignoring medical instructions, and forgetting to take vital medications.
  • Work and financial difficulties. Adults with ADD/ADHD often experience career difficulties and feel a strong sense of underachievement. You may have trouble keeping a job, following corporate rules, meeting deadlines, and sticking to a 9-to-5 routine. Managing finances may also be a problem: you may struggle with unpaid bills, lost paperwork, late fees, or debt due to impulsive spending.
  • Relationship problems.Relationship problems. The symptoms of ADD/ADHD can put a strain on your work, love, and family relationships. You may be fed up with constant nagging from loved ones to tidy up, listen more closely, or get organized. Those close to you, on the other hand, may feel hurt and resentful over your perceived “irresponsibility” or “insensitivity.”

The wide-reaching effects of ADD/ADHD can lead to embarrassment, frustration, hopelessness, disappointment, and loss of confidence. You may feel like you’ll never be able to get your life under control. That’s why a diagnosis of adult ADD/ADHD can be an enormous source of relief and hope. It helps you understand what you’re up against for the first time and realize that you’re not to blame. The difficulties you’ve had are symptoms of attention deficit disorder—not the result of personal weakness or a character flaw.

Adult ADD/ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back

When you have ADD/ADHD, it’s easy to end up thinking that there’s something wrong with you. But it’s okay to be different. ADD/ADHD isn’t an indicator of intelligence or capability. Certain things may be more difficult for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find your niche and achieve success. The key is to find out what your strengths are and capitalize on them.

It can be helpful to think about attention deficit disorder as a collection of traits that are both positive and negative—just like any other set of qualities you might possess. Along with the impulsivity and disorganization of ADD/ADHD, for example, often come incredible creativity, passion, energy, out-of-the-box thinking, and a constant flow of original ideas. Figure out what you’re good at and set up your environment to support those strengths.

Self-help for adult ADD / ADHD

Armed with an understanding of ADD/ADHD’s challenges and the help of structured strategies, you can make real changes in your life. Many adults with attention deficit disorder have found meaningful ways to manage their symptoms, take advantage of their gifts, and lead productive and satisfying lives. You don’t necessarily need outside intervention—at least not right away. There is a lot you can do to help yourself and get your symptoms under control.

  • Exercise and eat right. Exercise vigorously and regularly—it helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way and soothes and calms the body. Eat a wide variety of healthy foods and limit sugary foods in order to even out mood swings.
  • Get plenty of sleep. When you’re tired, it’s even more difficult to focus, manage stress, stay productive, and keep on top of your responsibilities. Support yourself by getting between 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Practice better time management. Set deadlines for everything, even for seemingly small tasks. Use timers and alarms to stay on track. Take breaks at regular intervals. Avoid piles of paperwork or procrastination by dealing with each item as it comes in. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and write down every assignment, message, or important thought.
  • Work on your relationships. Schedule activities with friends and keep your engagements. Be vigilant in conversation: listen when others are speaking and try not to speak too quickly yourself. Cultivate relationships with people who are sympathetic and understanding of your struggles with ADD/ADHD.
  • Create a supportive work environment. Make frequent use of lists, color-coding, reminders, notes-to-self, rituals, and files. If possible, choose work that motivates and interests you. Notice how and when you work best and apply these conditions to your working environment as best you can. It can help to team up with less creative, more organized people—a partnership that can be mutually beneficial.

When to seek outside help for adult ADD / ADHD

If the symptoms of ADD/ADHD are still getting in the way of your life, despite self-help efforts to manage them, it may be time to seek outside support. Adults with ADD/ADHD can benefit from a number of treatments, including behavioral coaching, individual therapy, self-help groups, vocational counseling, educational assistance, and medication.

Treatment for adults with attention deficit disorder, like treatment for kids, should involve a team of professionals, along with the person’s family members and spouse.

Professionals trained in ADD/ADHD can help you:

  • control impulsive behaviors
  • manage your time and money
  • get and stay organized
  • boost productivity at home and work
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The Guidance That Will Never Come

Published June 13, 2013 by Tabby

Claudia Elaine Kisor, my memaw

I’m not normally a person who dwells on what could have been but the past few years there has been one thing that keeps popping up as I’ve done through several extremely difficult times.

I miss my Memaw. Yes, everyone misses lost relatives but lately I’ve been feeling so cheated. I not only lost someone I was very close to but a person that I feel I needed as I grew up and especially the last few years.

Claudia Elaine Kisor was born in 1946 and passed away on April 19, 1995, from breast cancer. She died just before the Alfred P. Murrah bombing. When we heard/felt the blast from some miles away I did not think of a terrorist attack. I thought it was my world falling apart.

I was eight years old. I was there in the room when she passed. I was told a few days before that she wasn’t going to make it to prepare myself. But there was no preparation possible.

She was my best friend. Since my parents were young when they had me (21 and 18) they worked liked crazy to make things work so I spent the majority of my time either at Memaw’s or at my grandma’s. I was the most attached to them than anyone. My mom used to say she was jealous of how close we were—I never wanted to go home but stay with Memaw.

I remember spending most days waking up early with her, riding in the car to drop my aunt and uncle off for high school and then spending a few hours at the Arrow Café. She knew the owner, who always stood me on a table and announced my birthday. She would visit with people, as she always seemed to know absolutely everyone, and would give me a small notepad with colored paper and a pen with all colors of ink to draw with while she had her coffee. She took me everywhere with her, I was like her shadow. And I loved it.

We were inseparable

Then she was gone. I remember the cancer coming back but at eight years old I didn’t really understand it. I went to every single chemo appointment and watched the nurses draw blood, fascinated. I never realized how bad she felt. I never thought anything of her losing her hair. Now that I’ve seen other people go through chemo as I’ve gotten older, I can’t imagine how she remained active with me despite the suffering she must have endured.

I remember her funeral. The day of her passing and the memorial will forever be burned into my mind. I cried and never stopped. I remember hundreds of carnations and a lot of purple-her favorite color. I didn’t realize how many people were at her service because my parents, aunt, and uncles kept me shielded from the others. Mom later told me there were a lot of people there, which makes sense considering she seemed to know everyone. I still can’t listen to Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” without uncontrollably sobbing.

Eventually the grief subsided. But fourteen later it reared its ugly head again. I was sitting in the LA airport on my way back from Japan and the absolute worst time of my life. I was blindsided by divorce from the person I had given up everything for. I sat in that airport, not wishing to talk to anyone but realizing I’d have to let some people know what had happened.

I sent emails and text messages, vague and short. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for months. Sitting in that airport it hit me, I only wanted to talk to one person—my Memaw. And I couldn’t.

I needed her. She would know what to say. She’d be pissed at first and probably want to go kill him herself. Then she’d help me pick myself up and dust myself off. I had other relatives/friends that were more than happy to do so, but I wanted her. I wanted her perception and her comfort.

I had never felt so cheated in my life. I needed her guidance at that moment but what about the other times in my life? I never had her to run and talk to during my preteens and teen years as I grew and my views of the world changed. I never got to talk to her as a young adult, trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life.

She would have been sixty-seven this July 30th. She should still be here, laughing at my bad luck, listening to my stories as I experience more life, helping me get past my doubts. Instead I imagine what I think she would have said. I think I do a pretty good job but it’s not the same.

Cancer is a bitch.

Memaw and a tiny me

Mental Illness and Greatness

Published June 12, 2013 by Tabby

lincoln

Lately as I’ve been struggling more with ADHD, depression, OCD tendencies, and corresponding medication, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of people have mental illness. Contrary to societal stereotypes, we are not all people rocking in the corner muttering to ourselves and unemployable. Some have struggles that interfere with their lives more than others.

I had some sort of an epiphany this week. I had always felt quietly bad about myself about starting medication when I reached the point that I had difficulties functioning without it. Then last week, out of the blue (as is always the case with my revelations), I realized that some of my most favorite and most educated, intelligent, hardworking people I know have some form of mental illness. I read an article that argued those with ADHD usually have a slightly higher IQ than the average population. I am curious as to why that is. Sure, I used aspects of my ADHD and anxiety to finish a master’s degree in eight months but I always thought it was an obstacle-that everything in my life is harder for me than everybody else because of the mental illness I live with. But after these realizations I started thinking, what if these “issues” are part of what makes me successful? Where would I be if I didn’t have ADHD that forces/enables me to seriously multitask? What about the anxiety that keeps me from procrastinating? The fact that I have to be super organized to function? Even though I still have days that I am frustrated when I can’t focus or have to take medication, maybe this is part of what makes me “me.”

I saw this article on another blog and it furthers my revelation. A study believes that 49 percent of former US presidents had a mental illness. I wonder if with greatness comes mental illness, or, the one I prefer, that despite issues one can still reach great heights. The study is listed below.

Hoffman, Haley. “Study Posits Presidents Had Mental Illness.” The Chronicle. February 21, 2006. http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2006/02/22/study-posits-presidents-had-mental-illness (accessed June 12, 2013).

“No one would ever expect the general who led the Union army to victory in the Civil War to have a debilitating fear of blood. But Ulysses S. Grant was among the 49 percent of former U.S. presidents afflicted by mental illness, according to an article published recently by psychiatrists at the Duke University Medical Center.

Jonathan Davidson, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program, has a particular interest in history, especially U.S. presidents. After culling data from presidential biographies, Davidson was joined by Kathryn Connor, associate professor of psychiatry, and Marvin Swartz, professor and head of the social and community division of psychiatry, to analyze the information. Together, they diagnosed the commander-in-chiefs from 1776 to 1974.

According to the study, published in January in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, of the 37 presidents researched, 18 were found to suffer a mental illness of some form. Depression was the most prevalent disorder among presidents, occurring at a rate of 24 percent. The researchers wrote that the 49-percent rate mirrored national mental illness statistics, but the rate of depression was high for a male population.

“A fairly high number of people have mental disease at some level, so it would be surprising if presidents didn’t,” said John Aldrich, professor of political science. “Certain things, like depression, are associated with artistic accomplishment.”

Other diagnoses included anxiety, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder and social phobia. Howard Taft apparently suffered from sleep apnea.

At least 10 presidents were affected by episodes while in office, and the study found evidence that symptoms interfered with their performance in almost all cases.

To make their diagnoses, the researchers used the criteria of the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual all psychiatrists use to treat patients. They examined the data to identify symptoms, determine if they were persistent and caused dysfunction and then establish their own levels of confidence that mental illness existed.

Such remote diagnosis through secondary research, however, can be problematic. “Using biographical materials may be an imperfect way to gauge mental illness,” Aldrich said. Swartz explained that detailed analysis of primary sources, while ideal, was outside of the scope of the study but that the published article elaborated on its own relevance and weaknesses. “You have to rely on what historians reported based on their research,” he said. Still, Swartz estimated that their sources erred on the side of undercounting illness among presidents.

The troubles of certain presidents are already very well known. Abraham Lincoln famously suffered from symptoms of depression, though he triumphed politically more than Franklin Pierce, whose more modest legacy the study attributed greatly to his illness.

Having witnessed the violent death of his son in a railway accident just before he assumed office, Pierce suffered from symptoms indicating depression or post-traumatic stress during his term. The study noted that his associates accused Pierce of being a different person than the one who had energetically campaigned for office.

While personal tragedy and the weight of the presidency may have incited the problems of some presidents, others were apparently afflicted long before they moved into the White House.

According to the article, contemporaries of Grant, James Madison, Rutherford Hayes and Woodrow Wilson who watched them as young men would have thought that these men would do very little with their lives based on their seeming mental problems or deficiencies.

Whether they were suffering from an illness before they entered the White House or not, presidents’ afflictions raise questions about their ability to do the executive job.

“The extensiveness of Richard Nixon’s alcohol abuse was pretty remarkable and alarming, given the authority he had,” Swartz said.

Though Calvin Coolidge’s hypochondria may not have had the most profound effect on affairs of state, Coolidge, Grant and Thomas Jefferson were diagnosed with social phobia by Davidson and his associates.

“Social phobia is kind of remarkable in a president. It meant he was shy and avoided social circumstances, and yet he was president,” Swartz said.

The study noted among its implications that no national calamities seem to have been a result of presidential mental illness.

It also considered the possibility that knowledge of these afflictions might lessen the stigma of psychological treatment. But there remains a question about the public’s right, and need, to know the psychological state of the president, in an age of increased psychological vigilance.

“It’s obviously about as stressful and physically demanding a job as there is for mature adults, so it has to at least exacerbate any [already existing] problems,” Aldrich said. “You know, the president is not a person, he’s an institution…. There are a lot of checks and redundancies to make sure he doesn’t do anything foolish.”

What do you think?

We are not alone 😉

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