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ADHD, Executive Function Disorders, and Problems Concentrating

Do Adults Get ADD/ADHD?

Years ago, it was believed that kids with hyperactivity and focus problems “grew out of it”. What’s more likely is that as they grew, they made life choices such that their ADHD posed less of a daily challenge. Perhaps they chose a profession in which protracted concentration, staying in their seat or being detail oriented and organization weren’t critical, so they no longer struggled the way they once did. Now we know that ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) often persist into adulthood.

How Do I Know if I Have ADHD?

Sometimes my clients feel heartsick about a poor performance review at work, yet truly don’t know how to do better. Perhaps they keep making careless errors, or missing deadlines. Or maybe the fact that they repeatedly forget or miss meetings is giving their team the impression that they don’t care. Frequently my clients come in feeling inundated by the tasks flying at them all day and can’t figure out how to prioritize what to do first and how to not forget the rest. They may describe the feeling of this as being “pelted with tennis balls from all sides”. Sometimes clients come in feeling anxious but not identifying that there are specific challenges with executive functioning that are making things feel overwhelming.

Have you felt that despite your best efforts, you simply can’t do what equally intelligent colleagues and peers can do? Do you feel that you have to work way harder or longer to get things done? Have you found that despite your best efforts that your limitations may jeopardize the career you worked so hard to attain? All of these may be signs you have ADHD.

If I Have ADHD, Wouldn’t I Have Been Diagnosed as a Child?

Many of my clients already know they have ADHD because they were diagnosed as kids. But for some people, the diagnosis comes as a surprise. Perhaps they were smart kids and did well enough in school that no one noticed. Or maybe their families, not wanting them labelled or medicated discouraged ADHD testing when they were young. Many kids with ADHD engaged in competitive sports when they were young, and its possible that with hours of physical exercise daily they were able to feel calm and focused enough to do well. But who, as an adult, has that many hours to exercise in the interest of getting out all the extra energy?

So in short, yes. It’s possible that you have ADHD but were not diagnosed as a child.

How Do I Find Out if I Have ADHD?

If we suspect you may have ADHD, I can administer ADHD testing and we can evaluate the results together. A combination of careful history taking and thorough testing will clarify not only if the diagnosis exists, but also the specific types of deficits that plague you most. You may have deficits you didn’t know you had because they don’t cause distress in your life. But it’s still a huge relief to get treatment and find you can master things you previously hadn’t been able to.

If I Have ADHD, Can I Get Medications?

Not everyone who has ADHD needs or wants medications, nor are they always safe or appropriate. There are some Psychiatric diagnoses that ADHD medications can make worse, such as tic disorders, Tourette’s, mania, hypomania, insomnia and anxiety. Yet others may find that it’s challenging to use ADHD medications safely. For example, a co-occurring diagnosis of an eating disorder or substance abuse may make it much harder for a person to use ADHD medications in a safe and responsible way. Additionally, there are some medical issues that must be screened for to ensure that ADHD medications can be prescribed safely. This is why it’s important to have a thorough screening and evaluation by a Psychiatrist before being prescribed medications for ADHD.

The medications used for ADHD are highly regulated medications which in some people have the potential for abuse or addiction. But when prescribed by a professional and used responsibly there is much we can do to mitigate these risks including education about proper use and handling, the use of drug holidays, and using easily learned behavioral techniques for time management, organization and task completion to maximize improvement and thereby minimize the amount of medication needed.

Are All Medications for ADHD Habit-Forming?

Absolutely not. There are several medications that help with ADHD that are not habit forming, are not controlled substances and do not have abuse potential. In session, we will decide if they are right for you. If you have a history of addiction or abusing or misusing ADHD prescriptions and are afraid you won’t use them safely, or if you have a medical problem that makes the use of stimulants inadvisable, we will certainly explore all other options available.

Many of my clients took stimulants for ADHD in the past and felt they didn’t agree with them or they didn’t like the way they felt on them. If that’s the case, consider scheduling a consultation to explore the alternatives.

Executive Function Training

Even when medications are prescribed for ADHD, that is only part of the answer. Many of us with ADHD never developed the organizational skills or work habits that other kids did as school got demanding. Either no one taught them, or they tried but just couldn’t remember to implement them. I am trained in a plethora of techniques that help people with ADHD to be more productive, more motivated, and more thorough, and in treatment I can teach you these skills. To some extent, these skills may help even without medications for ADD, but the combination is unstoppable.

Once medicated I can teach you how to divide your workflow into appropriately portioned “bites”, which aspects of the work to tackle first, how to prioritize your task list, how to motivate yourself when you are feeling bored or are procrastinating, how to resist the temptation of distractions like your phone etc. Many of my clients, after a lifetime of watching others do what they could not, find it extremely satisfying to develop mastery using executive function training techniques.

Repairing the Damage Done by Undiagnosed ADHD

Many of my patients have spent a lifetime thinking of themselves as lazy, unmotivated or simply not smart enough. They wonder why they lose interest. They feel like they lack drive or intellectual curiosity. They have been told again and again that “they would remember appointments if it was important to you”. They have frustrated family and friends by not being able to pay attention in a conversation. They believe they are unlikable or unintelligent. Alternatively, some people, deciding that they are not as smart as their peers, develop a whole persona around being lively and funny to compensate.

ADHD is a legitimate diagnosis and a legitimate disability that can take a real toll. But I believe people with ADHD deserve the chance to experience what it’s like to function on par with their peers, and with proper diagnosis and treatment it is often possible to see what life is like without these challenges. Which is an amazing thing, especially if it results in the development of a new self image and restored self esteem.

If you think you may have ADD or ADHD, or are having trouble with memory and concentration, please schedule an appointment for an evaluation.

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