Adult ADHD And The Holidays

The holiday season can be very difficult for those with ADHD whether they are children or adults. These difficulties spill over into and affect personal and family relationships. The reasons for the difficulties are not hard to understand but there are things people can do to minimize any potential for upset.

The nature of ADHD is that over stimulation is extremely distracting and frustrating. Streets are crowded with people, stores are filled with shoppers, music, bells, toys, all types of bright and shiny products, and roads are filled with cars and traffic jams. All of this becomes sources of torment, Hyperactivity and irritability.

Young children with ADHD are easily overwhelmed by all the tumult in stores of all types during the holiday season. It is easy for them to begin demanding that parents buy everything they want and to be immune to any type of reasoning or logic used by parents. The best way to prevent this problem is to avoid bringing them into this type of environment if at all avoidable.

For adults, the problems accompanying shopping during the season that stretches from pre Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Holiday time can be equally unsettling.

To husbands with ADHD I urge you to allow your wives to do all the food and gift shopping with alone or with their girl friends and family members. For women with ADHD it is important to ask your husband or friends to shop for you.

There are endless numbers of examples of adults with ADHD becoming filled with impatience and anger either while shopping or accompanying their spouse while shopping. The result is that the ADHD spouse begins to complain, bicker, whine and smolder. Whether its being in the stores or waiting in the car, it becomes over whelming and the source for conflict and alienation.

However, if you are in a situation where you must go out and shop, then, make a list of shopping priorities and the stores where the items can be easily and quickly purchased. The less left to chance the easier the process will be.

If you or your child take prescription medication for the symptoms of this disorder, the holidays are not a time to take a vacation from the medicine. I state this because many people who are home from work or school use the leisure time to not have to be bothered with these stimulant and uncomfortable medicines. There may be nothing medically wrong with this but the timing in terms of the amount and intensity of stimulation to have to cope with means it is probably better to continue treatment at this time.

In addition, if you or your child is in psychotherapy for ADHD, the holidays are a good time to maintain appointments rather than take time off. You need to maintain all the strategies you have learned in order to move through this season with a minimum of difficulties.

Remember, it is not simply or only the Hyperactivity and attention deficit that must be addressed with this disorder but the irritability and quickness to anger that must be attended to as well. One of the best ways to prevent irritability and anger with ADHD is to minimize sources of frustration.

Also remember to exercise. Regular exercise is just as good as medication in managing ADHD in children and adults.

To the spouses or parents of those with ADHD I counsel patience, patience, patience. Take a deep breath and try to understand.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Comments
  • G-daddy

    I am excellent at avoiding crowded shopping during the Holliday Season. When I HAVE to buy something I have the "Seek, Find, Conquer / Victory" method. Keeps me Bearable!

  • Caroline

    Dr. Schwartz, In 1995 my son started school and they immediately diagnosed him with ADHD and prescribed ritalin. This only made him more prone to acting out in an aggressive manner. My daughter soon followed with the exact same diagnosis and prescription. Throughout their school years they both were medicated with different types of stimulants. Has research indicated what the long term results of these stimulants are for children who are put on them from early childhood through adolescence?

  • Anonymous-1

    Hi Caroline,

    As far as I know, there were no longer term effects from Ritalin as long as it was used properly.

    As to why it did not work with your children, I have some theories:

    1. ADHD was the incorrect diagnosis and, therefore, the wrong medicine, or

    2. The ritalin worked for the four hours while they were on it but quickly wore off after the four hours, or

    3. There was no child psychotherapy along with the medications. Medicine alone does not do the job because children and adults with ADHD have to learn how to handle this disorder. Sometimes, the right therapy training is better than medication.

    Dr. Schwartz