Wondering if you might have ADHD? Take this online inventory to assess your symptoms.
Having ADHD does not mean you’re stupid. ADHD and IQ are separate entities. A person can have ADHD and also be a high-achiever. A high IQ can compensate for some ADHD symptoms, but can also make it harder to recognize, resulting in misdiagnosis; a later age of diagnosis; and other unique challenges. If this might apply to you, read more here or here. You might also want to learn about the concept of “twice-exceptional“ as it applies to people who are both gifted and have a neurodivergent pattern such as ADHD, Autism, or other forms of Neurodivergence.
Familiarize yourself with the concept of executive functioning: the brain skill set that is lagging in ADHD, often leading to shame. Check out Brendan Mahan’s concept of the “wall of awful” that ADHDers must overcome.
Learn about emotion dysregulation and rejection-sensitive dysphoria, both of which can make ADHD look like Bipolar or Borderline Personality Disorder. Learn how untreated ADHD can lead to anxiety and depression, which may be the conditions that initially bring people to therapy.
Another way of conceptualizing ways in which you might be getting stuck at various points in a problem-solving process is the Gestalt cycle of awareness, also referred to as the cycle of change, cycle of experience, or cycle of needs. This video explains it succinctly.
Exercise helps ADHD symptoms. So do a healthy diet and good quality sleep. These are all very important for physical and mental health, and I recommend them for everyone. But if you’ve been unsuccessful in implementing these strategies consistently, or if they’re not quite doing enough for you, don’t beat yourself up. When it comes to making healthy lifestyle choices, untreated ADHD can make it hard to stick to your plans, despite the best of intentions. Sometimes giving your brain the dopamine and norepinephrine, boost it needs is the key that unlocks your success so that you can take these other positive steps more consistently. So don’t let fear, shame or stigma stop you from talking to a doctor about medication.
Medication can be prescribed by your primary care physician, a psychiatrist, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), or a naturopath who specializes in mental health, such as Dr. Lana Ferris. If you are a current patient of mine, you can complete a Release of Information authorizing me to send your diagnosis to a physician of your choice.
When monitored by a doctor – which it always is, since stimulants are controlled substances – stimulant medication has proven a safe and effective ADHD treatment for children, and older adults, although stimulant medications may be contraindicated for those with cardiovascular problems.
Worried that medication is addictive or has negative long-term consequences? You may be surprised to learn that the opposite is true: un-treated ADHD can lead to substance abuse, which may be to self-medicate the mood dysregulation that comes with ADHD; due to poor impulse control; or due to ADHDers being more likely to hang with “the wrong crowd” because they have been rejected by neurotypical peers. Treating ADHD can help prevent the development of substance abuse problems by improving the ability to consider long-term consequences and boosting energy in impulse-inhibiting parts of the brain. ADHDers who receive the support they need to function optimally receive less criticism from others and enjoy the natural rewards of achieving their goals. In the long run, this helps them develop healthier self-esteem and social relationships than they might otherwise, thus reducing vulnerability to anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, poverty, school failure, job loss, and self-medication through substance abuse. Of course, non-stimulant medications are options as well. And the best treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
ADHDers often do the things that are interesting, easy, novel, or urgent, rather than the things that truly need to get done, where they are more likely to hit the “wall of awful.“ You will need to learn skills to help you to stop procrastinating and start prioritizing. There are many tools that can help, such as the Eisenhower decision matrix, as well as those found in the following paragraphs.
I highly recommend these helpful, informative videos made by Jessica McCabe on her YouTube channel How to ADHD. She addresses topics such as stigma and shame, sleep, exercise, rejection sensitivity, motivation, ADHD in girls, and much more.
Learn how to capitalize on state-dependent learning and establish a studying ritual.
Read about how habit stacking can help you build new habits right alongside old ones.
Many ADHDers agree that the Bullet Journal method is the best planning system for ADHD. Learn to Bullet Journal by reading The Bullet Journal Method, by Ryder Carroll or watch one of the internet’s many video tutorials, such as this one. Images of creative BuJo designs, such as these ones on Pinterest or these on Instagram can be sources of inspiration, but don’t let fancy designs dissuade you; this method was designed to be simple and doesn’t need any frills, unless adding them is fun for you.
For a more radical approach to simplifying your life, consider whether the KonMari method by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo might be right for you.
Certain music can help you feel more calm, focused, and productive when you are trying to work, Try this Spotify playlist, Deep Focus.
Too restless to focus while reading? Get an Audible subscription so you can listen to books while you clean the house or go for a run.