ADHD there seems a lot of it about these days it seems. In recent times ADHD has received a lot more attention. Some would call it a trend; I would dispute that, but that may be another story.
So, you think you may have ADHD; what should you do?
To diagnose or not to diagnose that is the question!
If you suspect that you have ADHD, you may be unsure whether to pursue an ADHD diagnosis. What then, are the pros and cons of this decision?
Pursuing an ADHD diagnosis can be a long-winded affair, your first port of call would be your GP. Current NHS waiting lists can be several years long, you may therefore decide to go down the private route. Diagnosis can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, currently we are unable to recommend any private organisations, however there are many people out there offering this service.
It is worth noting when considering a diagnosis, you are likely to encounter an issue, you need to use a significant amount of executive function in order to navigate through the process, however this is the very thing you have a problem with!
Beware of one of the potential setbacks if you are pursuing the diagnosis via the NHS; it is likely you will be put on a waiting list, and from time to time will receive a letter asking if you are still interested in accessing support. These letters often require you to reply within two weeks, or you will be removed from the list, I know of several people who have been tripped up by this, significantly prolonging the whole process.
The advice I can offer is twofold, one, be prepared to ask for help and support from friends and family to make the phone calls, do the research etc. and secondly, use your perseverance, something that neurodiverse people often have in abundance, yes, it is complicated, and challenging, and you will hit setbacks, but be prepared to keep trying. Its worth it.
There are several advantages of an official ADHD diagnosis, firstly, there is medication. It is not for everyone, some people swear by it, others find it mildly helpful, a certain percentage of people find that medication does not work for them and still others find the side effects outweigh the benefits.
However, if you receive an official ADHD diagnosis then this opens up the possibility of trying ADHD medication which may or may not be helpful for you. It also lends weight to your case if you need reasonable adjustments within the workplace, you are applying for benefits or accessing support for college courses or training.
The other big thing about receiving a diagnosis can be validation. ADHD is such a nebulous and multifaceted condition, many of us, particularly those who are diagnosed in later adulthood have grown up with feelings of shame and confusion, and frustration, we will have internalized negative beliefs about ourselves. Constantly forgetting things, getting lost, being unable to concentrate, finish a task or do other ‘simple’ things everyone around you seems able to do can, not surprisingly play havoc with your self-esteem. Sometimes receiving an official diagnosis can reduce the feelings of shame that naturally accompany the challenges of living with the condition.
Another important benefit of a diagnosis is recognising what was really going on. For example, no amount of overcoming perfectionism or improving my self-esteem was going to provide the requisite amount of dopamine to allow me to focus on my essays as my friends did. Understanding the real reason for the issues you are encountering allows for the potential to relieve them.
For some, the likely hood that you have ADHD may be enough, and an official diagnosis is a personal choice.
It is worth knowing that if you receive an ADHD diagnosis via the NHS, then the only support available to you will be medication. All other potential coping strategies and support must be accessed via your own initiative!!
I would say that the key aspect of learning to live with and thriving with ADHD is education, lifestyle changes and behavioural techniques. They can of course be of benefit to everyone, not just those that qualify for an ADHD diagnosis but those of us that struggle with executive function
So, the bad news is that a diagnosis will not pave the way for specific therapy, support groups, training courses or other avenues of support, which are so helpful for dealing with ADHD. We can dream and hope that at some point I the future this will happen?! But for now the good news is that there is no point in waiting for your diagnosis. if you were struggling enough to want a diagnosis then while you are waiting for your appointment to come through, you may as well crack on and look for the support you need to help yourself.
So, where to look? What to do?
Well, the first thing I would suggest is research. This may strike fear into your heart research, books, reading, boring stuff!
If this is you, then please know there is ‘more than one way to skin a cat’, by this I mean you can be creative about accessing information and choose the path of least resistance I.e., the way that is easiest for you
If you actually like reading then great, read books, don’t like reading then maybe try audio books, or listen to podcasts, ted talks or social media platforms, support groups or on-line forums you will find plenty of support and information ‘out there’, try to access it in the format that is easiest and most engaging for you.
Here are some suggestions to get you started
- Edward M Hallowell MD and John Ratey MD have written the Distraction series an excellent place to start.
- Ned Hallowell has specialised in ADHD for many years, and is a prolific author
- You mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy by Kate Kelly
- Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: embrace your differences and transform your life. By Sari Solden
Some UK organisations and websites
- Home – ADHD Foundation: ADHD Foundation
- AADD-UK | The site for and by adults with ADHD (aadduk.org)
- ADDitude – ADD & ADHD Symptom Tests, Signs, Treatment, Support (additudemag.com)
ADDitude is a mine of useful information, check out their library of Podcasts on every possible subject related to ADHD you could imagine.
Type ADHD into YouTube, or any other social media platform and a whole host of options will appear.
Of course, this route will be far less medical and more anecdotal, relying on other people’s person opinions, and experiences of the condition.
Reading of other people’s experiences has many advantages, from learning about the latest research, discovering ways of coping with specific issues and challenges, and the most important, reducing shame and helping you to feel less alone. Researching and being in contact with others helps to get inside the bones of the condition and get to understand more of how it might affect you, it’s a complex condition that affects different people in different ways.
I believe that one of your greatest sources of support is the ADHD community, by that I mean people in real life with the condition, others on social media who experience it, and the many committed doctors, many of which also have the condition themselves such as Ned Hallowell.
Locally, be sure to check out the work of Professor Amanda Kirby who has been working in the field of neurodiversity for decades.
ADHD does not show up the same for everyone, some people may struggle with time keeping, others organisation, some people find emotional dysregulation a huge problem, not so much for others. It is important to become aware of why and how ADHD affects you. As then you can begin to take action to improve things for yourself.
It can take some detective work even once you acknowledge what your area of difficulty is, we still need to get curious about identifying how exactly this affects you, in order to start to make some progress in overcoming it. For example let’s take time management; if timekeeping is an issue for you, this may be for several different reasons e.g. maybe you struggle to get to bed on time and therefore you’re sleeping is dysregulated and you cannot get up in the morning, perhaps you have a tendency to overestimate how many things you can get done in a period of time, or you have a tendency to lose things and are often late because you’re trying to locate your car keys or glasses.
Once you’ve worked out what might be going on, you can take steps to support yourself, if you loose track of time set reminders on your phone, if you always loose your car keys put a bowl in the kitchen and train yourself to put your car keys in it very time you come home.
Behavioural changes can be hard work at first, but after a while become easier. They are no magic wand but over time many slight changes can make a big difference.
Knowing exactly how these issues affect you, and then identifying ways in which you can tackle them is the key to helping unravel the problems ADHD can cause.
I know it’s my job so I would recommend getting a coach but having someone to help you through the process such as an ADHD coach can be very helpful.
If you can’t afford it or don’t like the idea of talking to a stranger consider asking a friend or family member to help you. Choose a person that you feel will be the most helpful, rather than choosing the person because you are close to them. Someone patient, who will listen rather than tell you what to do, and sees your strengths rather than your weaknesses can be really helpful. Buy the coffee and make a regular date to talk things through and create solutions. A key point is taking the time to sit down and ask yourself how it is affecting you. Where are the problems and what you can do about it. Even if you don’t do this with someone else, try to do it for yourself, take yourself off to a café on a weekend morning just spent an hour writing down the things that bother you and make plans about what can help. Be patient and be prepared to be flexible. The first idea might not work, but if you keep trying things will improve.
Another important thing to consider is if ADHD has brought any ‘friends’.
Studies suggest that co-morbidities (i.e. other neurological differences such a dyslexia or autism or mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or OCD occurring at the same time) as ADHD is very common
It’s important to recognise if there are any other issues, so you can get the right support and use the right strategies for you. Things like depression and anxiety may well have developed because of living with undiagnosed ADHD and so in dealing with the ADHD you can expect to help those too, but not always, you may need to get help to deal with unhelpful thinking styles for example. ADHD with dyslexia may present very differently from one of autism and ADHD or indeed ADHD as a standalone condition.
Some other general ideas
Cut yourself some slack.
One of the real challenges is having a million one ideas and being able to see potential possibilities, setting high standards, having big aspirations, but not being able to remember where you left the milk. This is a recipe for frustration, so try to make it easy on yourself, you can always do more in the future when you have time or headspace, but for now try to get into the habit of doing things the easy way and letting go of the way things could or should be done.
For example, if you are struggling to cook and eat well then get yourself some vitamins from the health food shop and allow yourself to eat beans on toast several times a week. if you’re struggling to keep the place tidy, aim for good enough rather than perfection and if you can afford it consider getting yourself a cleaner or at least someone that can help with the organisation.
Being compassionate with yourself, possibly after many years of frustration you are in the habit of giving yourself a hard time, try not to, it rarely helps.
While we are at it, move away from people who give you a hard time, it can be common for people with ADHD to become the butt of jokes within the family or friendship group because they are ‘quirky’ or always late and forgetting things. Your neurological differences do not make you ‘less than’ don’t put up with people who make you feel like they do. ‘Find your tribe’; people who see and celebrate your strengths. As previously mentioned, other ADHD’ers can be a great source of support, and are a lot of fun.
While we are talking about strengths ..Focus on yours.
One of the advantages of ADHD is that it makes it very difficult to do things that you find uninteresting. Sometimes of course we must; that mortgage won’t pay itself and the dishes will always need washing but where possible DO THINGS YOU ENJOY. Search for the things you love, notice them, do more of them, and minimise and reduce, delegate, and cut out the things you find difficult. Except that you won’t one day magically wake up with a brain can focus on the stuff you find difficult, so arrange your life differently to accommodate it rather than hoping you can change the unchangeable.
specifically B vitamins and Omegas three and six are proven to be very helpful for your brain, and your ADHD brain wonderful though it is, challenging enough to live with, you may as well do all you can to help yourself. On this subject it goes without saying to try to minimise the use of alcohol or other drugs, drink lots of water. Exercise has proven to be as effective as antidepressants from mild to moderate depression, there is much evidence to show that exercise is very helpful for an ADHD brain and can minimise symptoms as well as giving much needed time out. Don’t feel we need to do hours in the gym Make sure its something you enjoy, maybe put your favourite disco tunes on and dance round the kitchen, it all counts
Remember it’s not all bad! Despite the D on the end standing for disorder it’s not all negative, there are many positive traits that come with ADHD, creativity, perseverance, good sense of humour and ability to think outside the box and find life engaging. Although we cannot make ADHD go away, we can of course learn to live with it, and thrive.
If you want to know more about ADHD coaching then please get in touch.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or text 07813212531
Whatever you do, the very best of luck