Self Help For Adult ADHD

So, you are an adult and you suspect that you many have Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AADHD). First, understand that ADHD is an umbrella term that covers many sub categories. Therefore, it is possible that you have Adult Attention Deficit but without Hyperactivity. Nevertheless, the DSM IV calls it ADHD.

It is always a mistake to do a self diagnosis. One reason is that ADHD is difficult to diagnose and requires that it be done by a professional mental health provider. The diagnostic difficulty is due to the fact that can resembles other behavioral disorders. For example, it can be difficult to distinguish ADHD from Bipolar Disorder unless a professional is doing the evaluation. To receive the correct treatment it is important to have the correct diagnosis.

Once a person knows that they have AADHD there are many options available for getting help. One of these is using the many self help books available to develop a treatment plan. Of course, if this is not successful then it is always possible to get a referral to a professional therapist who specializes in treating this disorder.

Basically, the successful treatment for AADHD, whether its self help or through a mental health professional, requires certain alterations in lifestyle and daily habits. These life style changes can result in significant improvement in the ability to: 1. Pay attention, 2. Control impulsive behaviors and, 3. Manage professional and personal life. What this means is that it is important to develop regular and healthy habits.

Here are some suggestions that an adult with this disorder can try on their own:

1. Learn as much as possible about Adult ADHD.
The old saying that "knowledge is power," holds true here.  The more a person knows, the better they will be at assisting their own recovery.

2. Practice some basic organizational skills.
Getting organized is one of the most challenging aspects and symptoms of people with ADHD. I have seen and worked with the most brilliant individuals in many prestigious professional fields who cannot get their desks and work or family lives organized. They can never find important documents that are needed and have desks and files that are completely chaotic.

Getting organized can feel challenging and daunting. However, by starting small, developing some type of simple system of organization and making small changes, it is possible to get this accomplished.

Some simple steps to get started:

3. Use one organizer for all appointments and commitments. It's easy to lose pieces of papers with notes on them. It is also easy to forget appointments and "to do" things by relying on memory. In fact, keeping a short daily "to-do" is what makes sense. 

Bring the list up to date each day, either that evening or first thing in the morning. Begin  with a short listless, and provide extra time extra to get things done.

Please understand that it takes time to develop good habits. At first, it may feel frustrating but with time, practice and persistence, new habits will fall into place.

4. While stress is problematic for everyone, it is particularly disorganizing for people with ADHD. Therefore, try to keep stress to a minimum. Stress leads to more disorganization, forgetfulness and irritability. Decreasing stress increases  productivity and reduces ADHD symptoms.

How to reduce stress?

*Balance work and leisure time.
*Learn meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
*Get plenty of exercise every day.
*Sleep is enormously important.
*Eat a good and healthy diet.

5. Social skills are always important, both at work, home and in social situations.
ADHD symptoms often interfere with forming and keeping good relationships. For example, people with ADHD are easily distracted can tune out the person who is speaking to them, without even realizing it, right in the middle of a conversation. Another example is impulsively interrupting and jumping to an unrelated subject.
The ADHD person feels under pressure of wanting to keep up with the rapid flow of ideas in his or her mind. Part of this inner pressure is to immediately speak.
 
Here are a few social skills to practice:

*Active listening. If someone else is talking, practice focusing exclusively on what the other person is saying instead of what you want to say. A good technique to utilize when talking with others is to briefly summarize what the person said before making your statement.

*Pause before speaking. Instead of blurting things out, a common error of people with ADHD, practice stopping before making a comment. Sometimes that pause provides enough time to realize that the comment was either inappropriate or needed to be re worded.

*Looking social cues. Practice listening to the ebb and flow of conversation. There are natural pauses and voice intonations that signal the end of a thought. In other words, there are cues that someone is finished with a conversation. These might include such things as fidgeting, looking at a watch or turning towards the door. Understand these social cues can help make all of more effective communicators.

6. Social Support. It is important to have people to turn to for help and encouragement. A good support network helps everyone get through both good times and bad.

There are Adult ADHD support groups and there therapists who are helpful in practicing social skills.

7. Making healthy choices is important for everyone. For example, having trouble getting to sleep and keeping regular hours are more important than trying to get things done. Impulsiveness leads to unhealthy eating and living choices. Regular sleep, healthy eating, and exercising habits are enormously important.

Here is a partial list of healthy choices:

*Exercising. If there is not enough time for the gym or track, then, some simple ideas for 10-minute activities include climbing the stairs, instead of using the elevator, parking a few blocks from the office and walking to work, and doing ten minutes of jumping jacks during while watching television at night.

8. There are medications for treating Adult ADHD. Among these medications are stimulants, such as Ritalin. Sometimes anti depressants are used because depression frequently accompanies this disorder.

However, it is important to remember that all medications have side effects that can feel unpleasant.  Additionally, stimulant medications do have a potential for abuse and should be approached carefully. If medication is being considered then it's especially important to have an accurate diagnosis from a qualified professional. That professional, in my opinion, should be a psychiatrist who specializes in childhood and adult ADHD.

Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Comments
  • Mary Ann

    Thank you so much for this very useful and enlightening article. I've emailed it to my son who is working on his Phd at McGill and is finding it difficult coping with the challenges of his academic and social world, given that he has ADD.

  • Gina Pera

    Thank you for the solid summary, Dr. Schwartz. It's always refreshing to see accurate information about Adult ADHD on the Internet. :-)

    I agree with your cautions about medications for ADHD. Unfortunately, some prescribing physicians do not appreciate ADHD for the complex condition that it is, and they somewhat cavalierly approach medication choice and dosing.

    But I would hate for adults with ADHD to be unduly afraid of these medications. When approached with knowledge and care, medications for treating ADHD can create profound changes.

    Gina Pera, author

    Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

    Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love has Attention Deficit Disorder

    http://www.ADHDRollerCoaster.org

  • Anonymous-1

    they should stop calling it attention deficit disorder and start calling it attention deficit advantage

  • Garret Moore

    I have never been diagnosed, but are seeing the signs clearly in 50 years of self observation. Being below poverty line, not wanting drugs, highly intelligent but subjective as anyone, what solutions or options?

  • Anonymous-2

    I realize how difficult it is to put your thoughts on paper, while trying to watch grammar, punctuation, etc., but the numerous grammatical and other typographical mistakes in this article, make it difficult for one to note the great points being made by Dr. Schwartz. Normally, I would continue reading and never think about commenting about these errors, but with so many mistakes made, I felt that the obvious work put into research, and later writing this article, and the help it offers to adults with ADHD, is overlooked, due to the number of mistakes contained therein.

    As I stated earlier, I am NOT an expert in English, as I am sure you have noticed mistakes in my comment, but if I were to place a paper I had written, or had prepared a paper written by someone else, for publication, I would check, check, and check again, every aspect of that paper, for mistakes. I am not trying to be critical, only making you aware of the mistakes in this paper, so that you can have someone read articles before they are published on your site.

    Thank you for the great information you offer those of us who suffer from ADHD. Because ADHD was something I developed as the result of a stroke, at the age of 47, it seems to be much, much harder for me to understand and deal with emotionally. Prior to my stroke, I was considered a huge example of someone with Type A personality, with all the