The ADDA Conference: Making Connections

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I just returned from the 13th ADDA Conference (http://www.add.org) called Adult ADHD: People, Purpose and Passion, and what a blast!

For adults with ADHD, this conference provides access to resource people (experts in numerous fields) and resources such as books, programs, and tools. Access to information through the numerous breakout sessions and motivation from the keynote speakers is unequalled anywhere, and it’s also a chance to see many different models for how to live with ADHD successfully.

At the same time, while the keynote speeches by Drs. Ned Hallowell, John Ratey and Sari Solden were definitely worth the investment and travel, they aren’t the most valuable treasures you get from attending such an event. As an adult with ADHD, you likely spend a lot of energy trying to meet “neuro-typicals” expectations. Trying not to ruffle feathers and dodging the proverbial bullet is stressful, exhausting and fraught with pitfalls.

Now imagine yourself with in a room 400 other ADHDers (hopefully more next year). They accept as you are, providing the opportunity to connect with others who deal with many of the same issues as you… most of them caused by trying to make the 90% of the population who don’t have ADHD happy! Even people who came to the conference alone left having forged connections with other ADHDers who accept and understand them. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of the ADDA conference experience: connecting with others who “get you.” Perfect strangers came together and shared their experiences as ADHDers without fear of ridicule or making a “faux pas.”

So often ADHDers avoid connecting with others fearing judgment (often with good reason). It’s simply too stressful to worry about doing something socially unacceptable. However, Dr. Hallowell (author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction among others) emphasized the importance of connecting with others who know you and love and accept you despite your “flaws.” It’s important for everyone, but absolutely for ADHDers to find someone in your life who can say:

“I know you and I love you anyway.”

If you haven’t found someone like that in your life, don’t give up! And I’ll see you next year at the ADDA conference!

Don’t Play the ADHD Blame Game

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ADHD blame game If you’re an adult with ADHD, you’ve lived through many negative situations, probably more than your fair share. A lifetime of failures, shame and struggles leaves scars in the form of low self-esteem and a tendency not to trust others or yourself. As a way to protect yourself, you may begin to play the ADHD Blame Game.

When disaster strikes at work, you blame your boss, the situation, the resources that weren’t quite good enough or when there’s no one or nothing else to blame, you play blame solitaire and blame yourself. You’re not alone, everyone does it… in the “big leagues”  they sue each other, always looking for someone to point the finger at.

The problem with the blame game is that it focuses on judgment, instead of learning. Mistakes are an essential part of learning and when you play the blame game, you deprive yourself of important learning experiences. You can`t learn because you`re busy looking for a scapegoat.

If instead you shifted your thinking away from blame, you’d find that maybe you’ve identified a need to acquire or improve current skills, or that maybe you should avoid certain situations in the future or at least ask for help from someone more skilled or experienced. Maybe you need a whole new approach! Heck! If nothing else, you now know what doesn’t work. Remember that and you won’t be doomed to repeat it.

Even if you were wronged, avoid playing the blame game just because it’s not productive. It keeps you thinking like a victim and only prevents you from moving forward.

So if you find yourself looking for someone to blame, stop! Now, ask yourself:

  1. What can I learn from this situation that I can use in the future?
  2. What have I learned about myself because of what happened?
  3. What do I need to do to move forward from here?

And then just do it!

How to Tell Someone They May Have ADHD

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adhd,adult adhd,overwhelm,procrastination

Recently I received an email from a woman who heard me speak at a business conference and who felt that her sister had all the symptoms of ADHD. Given the struggle her sister was dealing with at work, she felt that investigating the possibility of her sister’s ADHD might explain her sister’s difficulty and help her provide a solution. The problem was how do you tell someone you think they have ADHD in a way that she won’t feel attacked.

Here’s what I answered:

Telling someone they have ADHD, which may have very negative connotations, requires love and empathy. Your sister likely already knows that something is going on. She may suffer deeply, thinking that it’s her fault or that there’s something wrong with her. Her self-esteem is likely affected by her inability to manage it.

Remind her that you love her and that you want what’s best for her. Tell her without judgment about the “symptoms” you see her exhibiting and that it must be painful for her to struggle with these. Explain that you’ve heard something that could explain her difficulties. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) is a difference in brain wiring that requires a differing approach to doing things and that learning specific strategies can not only allow her to minimize or eliminate her struggle but also reap the upside of ADHD.

The important thing is to ensure that it be done with compassion and without judgment and that she know that she doesn’t have to struggle anymore. Most ADHDers are relieved upon hearing that it’s ADHD and that they are not lazy, crazy, or stupid. Once she gets a formal diagnosis, it’s imperative that she gets the help she needs to manage it. ADHD is an explanation but can become an excuse if you don’t do anything to improve your situation.

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

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?