There are many challenges someone must face in living with ADHD. Accepting the diagnosis itself is a good start and may be an initial stumbling block for many. Some adults have trouble facing the fact that they have ADHD and view the disorder as something terribly undesirable. Others are relieved to have a label and an explanation for the various unpleasant behaviors and symptoms they experience. Sometimes, spouses or close family members have difficulty accepting the ADHD diagnosis. They may wish to avoid it, though most eventually realize that this behavior does not resolve any of the problems. Others might feel relieved to have an explanation for their family member's difficult behavior.
It is extremely important to remember that having ADHD does not eliminate an individual's personal responsibility for their behavior. Each individual must face his or her own limitations or make an effort to change them. Having a diagnosis to describe a cluster of symptoms can help, but the label itself does nothing to resolve the problems. Getting better requires active and continuous effort.
Specific steps that a person can take to help manage their life in light of the new diagnosis include:
- Learning techniques to control impulsive behavior
- Minimizing distractions when trying to focus
- Finding constructive outlets (e.g., scheduling regular physical exercise) for nervous energy and feelings of restlessness
- Maintaining a sense of humor to avoid becoming discouraged or increasingly depressed
- Avoiding, reducing, or eliminating alcohol or drug use altogether. This can create a mental state that is more conducive to learning and change.
- Making a commitment to adhere to treatment recommendations (both medication and psychotherapy), finish tasks and improve organization
- Enlisting a friend or family member to help finish tasks, remember important details and commitments. This person can also provide feedback which can help the individual manage the new demands and changes in his or her life.
- Asking for help, when needed
- Appreciating the support given by family and friends
The Consequences of Untreated or Unrecognized ADHD
ADHD can have a serious and long-lasting impact on a person's life. As a disorder for which there is no absolute cure, ADHD symptoms will never go away completely for most people. Learning to manage these symptoms effectively can provide an important key to feeling good about life.
Untreated ADHD can run rampant through a person's life causing negative consequences in all life arenas. As discussed previously, adults with untreated ADHD are more likely to develop a substance use disorder as they use legal and illegal drugs to control their symptoms. In a similar vein, untreated ADHD can lead to impulsive behaviors that may cause adults to run afoul of the law.
The best course of action for any adult with ADHD is to see a qualified professional to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Follow treatment recommendations closely and work towards making important life changes and behavioral improvements.