Defining Adult Attention Deficit Disorder


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When my prospects, who are adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), call me they usually know about one or two symptoms that affect them. They think that ADHD is about being inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive. While I learned a lot from my ADHD coach training, the lights went on when I read the following definition:

“ADHD is a genetic, neurological difficulty of engagement with life activities on demand in which an individual’s performance, mood, and energy level are solely determined by that individual’s momentary sense of interest, challenge, novelty, and sometimes, urgency.”

Understanding this can help relieve a lot of the blame and shame. ADHD is a genetic neurological difficulty, which means it can’t be “cured” and is not a moral failing.

The difficulty of engagement with life activities on demand explains why at times you can’t concentrate while at other times you’re able to pay such attention that you can’t “disengage yourself”. You may not be able to concentrate on paperwork but when it comes to doing something that you have a lot of interest in, you’re able to “hyperfocus”, that is focus on this interest in such a way that you do at the exclusion of everything else.

Finally, the last section: your “performance, mood, and energy level are solely determined by [your]momentary sense of interest, challenge, novelty, and sometimes, urgency” gives you clues as to how you can manage your ADHD. When a task is boring, you can create interest or challenge or novelty to make it more likely for you to accomplish it. For example, you could improve your chances of completing a boring task by listening to music or changing where you complete it.

Unfortunately most ADHD adults use urgency by waiting until the last minute to complete these tasks. This may have worked in individual programs when you were 16 or 17 but when you work with teams (most work environments work with teams) and as you get older, using urgency is not a healthy way to work.

Tell me what have you done to make a boring task more interesting? With your amazing create out-of-the box thinking, I’m sure the suggestions can be very interesting

Adult ADHD: Beyond ADHD Medication and Diagnosis

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When adults suspect that adult ADHD has been holding them back some will get diagnosed if they can find the resources, financial and clinical, to do so. Many ask me what the diagnosis can accomplish. There are many other problems that resemble ADHD symptoms and require a different way to manage them. I caution those who call me to make sure that they seek help from someone who is trained in assessing ADHD. Once it’s official some will feel relief and realize that they’re not crazy or “bad”. Eventually a certain number decide to turn to ADHD medications with the hope that this will cure them. While medications do make a difference by improving your ability to pay attention, and thus reducing the barriers to learning, it doesn’t solve your adult ADHD problem.

I believe that all adults with ADHD can achieve their full potential by empowering themselves with effective self-management and supportive systems and habits. Do achieve this you need to learn life skills that allow you to identify and develop your strengths and overcome your weaknesses well enough to function. For the next few posts I will be providing you with the steps to help you better manage your adult ADHD.

Fewer Than 10% of ADHD Adults Diagnosed and Treated

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 Dr. Annick Vincent, psychiatrist and ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder) expert in adults, presented on the portrait of ADHD from childhood to adult life during the LDAQ’s conference. I attended her 2 conferences on April 4th, one was for health professional and the other to the public.

An interesting statistic she mentioned was that 3 to 4% of adults have ADHD (some experts think the figure is closer to 10%). What was the most surprising what the fewer than 10% of adults with ADHD are diagnosed and treated! Imagine! 90% of ADHD adults are not diagnosted nor treated.

ADHD adults suffer many problems at work, in their interpersonal relationships, in their home lives, and their finances. They’re more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, cigarette and drug addictions, car accidents, bankrupcies, etc. Without knowing why they have so many problems, they tend to think that it’s their fault and that despite strong efforts, donc seem to be able to overcome them. Treatment with medications help 70% of ADHD adults; however, these adults alos need to learn about ADHD and create, often with the help of an ADHD Coach, strategies that will allow them to improve their life. At times, psychotherapy is necessary. Dr. Vincent also mentioned that it is one of the easiest disorders to treat.

What do you think? Why are so few adults with ADHD treated? What could be done to improve on this?

No Doubt About It! ADHD is Real!

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I attended the LDAQ conference last week that took place in Montreal and also participated as a speaker on ADHD for this event. There were few sessions on adult ADHD as the conference was more geared to teachers and school personnel.

One thing that I really enjoyed was that there was no dispute about whether ADHD exists. By contrast, you can’t surf the Web or open a newspaper without someone disputing ADHD or sensationalizing and calling into question what they call “doping” of kids with ADHD. One thing that was highlighted was that to date no other treatment alone has as much positive impact on ADHD than medications for improving ADHDer’s lives.

Dr. Annick Vincent, a Quebec city psychiatrist who has devoted a large part of her practice to ADHD in adults likens the use of medications to wearing a pair of glasses when you’re nearsighted. While it won’t show you how to read, it will improve your chances of being able to learn to. She also mentioned that along with medications, learning new strategies through coaching for managing your life goes a long way to improving a person’s life.

Managing Communication at Work with ADHD

Here’s what one ADHD adult wrote about managing her communication skills at work: 

I have a hard time communicating at work.  Most people don’t understand me.  I process information differently than most people do, I get bored with repetition.  I have trouble communicating even though I know what I want to say but when I begin speaking I get tongue tied and nothing comes out right.  I think it’s because I am so concerned about loosing focus and getting off subject…something I do all the time. How do you manage your ADHD at work?

My answer:

Many of my clients have this type of issue. The ADHD brain continues to process what is being said and so misinterpretations happen. You’ve actually mentioned one of the best ways to avoid that:

1) summarizing what you’ve heard. You might say: “so the decision is…, do I understand this correctly?” and you may want to check if it’s ok to discuss outside of the meeting.

2) don’t be shy to ask questions. A lot of my ADHD clients are afraid to ask any questions because they think it’s not normal to do that or that they’ll embarrass themselves or look stupid. Reality check! we all need to ask questions sometimes.

3) ask them to summarize what they understood of what you said: “I just want to make sure that I communicated effectively to you what I was trying to say. Could you recap what I just said, please”. Communication breakdowns don’t just happen to ADHDers, in fact, with the crazy busy life we lead today, many people find communication difficult. So it doesn’t sound “abnormal” to ask to summarize.

Finally, if you don’t put yourself under stress to capture absolutely everything that is being said, you’ll be able to better relax when you speak to people and a relaxed brain is able to absorb information much better than when it’s under stress.

Tell me what you think? Are there other issues you have that you’d like addressed in this blog?

Managing Your Mood When You Have ADHD

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One of my clients told me about an interesting video game she found out about that helps manage your moods every day. While it is not specifically for ADHD, ADHD adults can definitely benefit from it. Many of my clients have difficulty with managing their mood. They can get down on themselves and have to deal with so much more crap than most people.

It was developed by a social psychologist and tested at McGill University on telemarketers to see if it improved their outlook on life and their sales by improving what they paid attention to. And it did, not only that, but just by playing the video game 5 mintes a day, it also improved their self-esteem and their sales.

Basically the video game shows you different types of faces, you have to click on the ones who smile. Eventually, you get to the point where they are the only ones you see, that is, you filter out the grumpy or threatening faces and pay more attention to smiling faces.

Here are the conclusion:  “…whereas people with lower self-esteem tended to show a pronounced attentional bias toward threat, this tendency was essentially removed if they first played the find-the-smile game. This suggests that attentional habits can indeed be trained by practicing the ability to orient toward positive and away from negative social feedback.”

They offer free trials and you can purchase with unlimited use at $19.95 Canadian.

I tried it and found that I was smiling more at the end of the session, but then again, I tend to be a pretty happy person. Managing your mood whether you’re an ADHD adult or not, is a choice. I can tell you that deciding to stay positive and happy leads to success.

I’d love for those of you who try it out to let me know how it went. Click here to try it

Don’t worry, be happy.


ADHD Adults Shouldn’t Be Entrepreneurs?

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Opening the brand new premier issue of Success Magazine and reading up on Richard Branson, the poster child for ADHD entrepreneurs, I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with a client of mine. She’s an entrepreneur with ADHD whose psychologist told her that becoming an entrepreneur is one of the worse careers you get into if you’re an adult with ADHD because it lacks structure.

I was flabbergasted to be honest! I work with many incredibly successful entrepreneurs with ADHD. In fact, I feel that many ADHDers are perfectly suited for entrepreneurship. After all, they tend to be “Big Picture” thinkers who are great visionaries, very important qualities in leadership. Details tend to bore the large majority of ADHDers. They’re also adventurous risk seekers, and who crave high stimulation.

The biggest complaint my ADHD entrepreneurial clients mention is a difficulty with focusing on one idea at a time because they just have so many brilliant ideas. Their creativity allows them to be excellent problem solvers, often finding “out-of-the-box” solutions to seemingly impossible problems. They are easily distracted by their environment and are more likely than “neurotypicals” (adults without ADHD) to spot opportunities. They have unlimited amounts of energy and focus when working on projects they’re interested in.

Lack of structure can cause ADHD entrepreneurs to fail but it is far from insurmountable. It’s actually where I often come in for my clients. They’ve often been in business a while and now that it’s getting big they need help to create structures. They often struggle with projects because of it.

If you’re an ambitious adult with ADHD and you decide to start a business you’re passionate about and find people who can help you to manage your areas of weakness, you’ve got a better chance to succeed and be unstoppable despite the odds.

Richard Branson (Virgin Industries), David Neeleman (Jet Blue Airlines), and Paul Orfalea (Kinkos) are living proof that when you work on your strengths, channel your energy in passionate endeavors, you can be wildly successful ADHD Entrepreneurs.

What are thoughts on this?

“I’m sorry Sweetheart, you don’t have ADHD”

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My ADHD husband, Duane, and I have been working on various ADHD-related business projects together. I won’t go into all the details but I will tell you that we’re both really excited about the direction my ADHD coaching business is taking. We’re so excited in fact that we’re constantly talking about it, working on it, and living it.

Last night, around 9 pm my energy started to drop while Duane’s was still going strong. I told him I wished I had the amount of energy he has around this project. He replied: “I’m sorry Sweetheart, you don’t have ADHD, like me”.

And so I was reminded about some of the upside to ADHD. Adults with ADHD have an almost limitless amount of energy when they’re doing something that interests them. This is not to trivialize adult ADHD and its negative effects on ADHDer’s lives… the financial problems, the workplace issues, the chronic procrastination and disorganisation, the poor memory and the marital problems. I could go on… been there, done that, not doing it again, though!

However, when an ADHD adult decides, as Duane did, to take matters into his own hands, invest in him or herself, gets the help he needs (medication, ADHD coaching, use of technology), and creates systems that support their lives, the sky’s the limit.

What will you do to take matters into your own hands?

ADHD Adult, You Are Not Alone

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According to research quoted in Dr. Russell Barkley’s new book on adult ADHD, there are 8.1 percent of adults with ADHD in the U.S. Given the similarities in our ancestries, it’s also safe to believe that these figures may be similar north of the 49th parallell.

Oddly enough there are still some people who question whether it exists. They question its existence because there are no “objective tests” to identify ADHD. While it’s true that there are no blood tests or x-rays used to diagnose ADHD, when groups of adults with ADHD are compared to groups of adults without ADHD, SPECT tomography (by the way that is an objective test) shows a REAL difference between the brains of ADHDers and non-ADHD adults. Unfortunately the same test cannot be used to diagnose it in one adult because the differences in an adult cannot be compared since no human brain is exactly the same.

So health professionals who diagnose adults with ADHD by taking inventory of their symptoms and use a series of questionnaires, as well as, family, academic, social and work histories, and cognitive and attentional tests.

This work up is a lot more than what is used to diagnose another ailment that no one seems to dispute: the “common cold”, which if you remember is diagnosed using signs and symptoms described by the patient. There is no blood work or X-ray used to diagnose the “common cold” when you go to the doctor.

So just because there is no objective test doesn’t mean adult ADHD isn’t real. There is real pain and real suffering and ADHD adults suffer even more by not being able to get the help they need because they can’t “come out” of the dark.

You’re an ADHD Adult: Learn to Dance in the Rain

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“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain” (author unknown)

I heard this quote on a show about autism and realized how powerful it was. So many people facing adversity have unrealized dreams (writing a book, starting a business, getting healthy, etc…. what’s your dream?) They’re waiting for things to be perfect before they start on THE big project.

As an ADHD adult, you know things will never be perfect. Heck, if you’re human, things will never be perfect. You’ll wait your little heart out if you’re looking for perfection. It’s not going to happen, and in the meantime, you’re missing an opportunity because you’re putting the cart before the horse.

That “big project” you’re planning (after the storm has passed of course) may be just the motivator you need to improve your life. That big project or exciting goal will often give you enough energy to resolve the very issues that are holding you back.

Are you waiting until you get organized, learn to manage your time, improve your finances or overcome your tendency to procrastinate? You’ll wait a long time. But if you go ahead and start, if you get excited about what you’re doing, you’ll have the fuel you need to resolve those issues and more.

Don’t wait. Dig out your umbrella, put on your rain coat and set out on your adventure. You may be surprised to find that while it is stormy where you are, the storm will pass, and it’ll pass faster if you’re moving forward.

Once you start your project, you’ll be far more motivated to get your “s**t together” and learn to better manage your money, your time, your relationships, yourself… The road won’t always be smooth, and you may stumble from time to time, but when you set your sights on an exciting objective, you’ll have the energy to get back up and get over, or through, any obstacle.

Are you waiting for the storm to pass? Come dancing!