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Adults Living with ADD/ADHD

September 29, 2017

 

ADD/ADHD is not something you grow out of. The adult brain is able to cope better because it is more developed. But many of the symptoms are still with you because of the structure of your brain.

 

The day the counselor told me I had ADD I blurted out, "How could this be? I'm so organized!" Yes, I was in big-time denial. It's ironic that I do have a very organized part of me. Where I get myself into trouble is with my impulsive/inattentive side, taking on too many responsibilities and projects. My lack of focus causes me to spend longer than necessary on completing my many projects. Some days are so stressful that I end up communicating poorly. Because I'm easily distracted, I will sometimes tell my husband in the middle of his story, "Can you just give me the bottom line?" Yikes!  What I should be telling him is, "I get lost in a million details. Could you please keep it brief?" 

 

Some people with ADD/ADHD have issues with forgetfulness. Some talk too much and too fast and as a result, have few friends. A deficit with language skills leads to poor communication.  With a high level of impulsivity, commitments are often made without consideration and money is spent without planning. Strong emotions can spill over leading to emotional or physical outbursts. These factors can put extreme stress on marriages and other relationships.  Without solid support from family, friends and counselors, marriages often fall into disrepair. 

 

With a brief review of our brain functions, a lot of wisdom can be gained. Our prefrontal cortex (behind our forehead) is the "boss" of our brain. It oversees: judgment, impulse control, time management, planning, organization and critical thinking. Think of it as the "gate-keeper" in charge of helping us plan and act appropriately - from our words to our actions. If the gate-keeper is stuck in the open position, you will see impulsive and inappropriate behavior.

 

When the cingulate system is impaired, we see: worrying, getting stuck on thoughts (obsession), getting stuck on behaviors (compulsions), being argumentative, uncooperative and addictive behaviors (alcohol, drugs and eating disorders). It can be more challenging to experience faith with a deficit in this area of the brain. I will talk about the faith challenge issue in a future blog.

 

The temporal lobes are important with: memory, learning, emotional stability, understanding and processing language, reading facial cues and socialization. There's more, but for now, this will give you an overview. When you combine language deficits with challenges in socialization you will have a person who struggles with relationships. Problems in this area of the brain include: aggression, dark thoughts, auditory processing, reading difficulties, emotional instability, abnormal sensory perceptions (visual & auditory distortions) and even seizures.

 

I strongly recommend obtaining a good working knowledge of the brain. After reading the two books pictured below, I changed the way I parented my sons. Once I understood how their behavior was linked to neurological challenges, I became more compassionate and parented with more grace. After gaining general knowledge on brain function, having some practical strategies are essential. Below are some ideas that I've used and found very helpful.

  • Communication - Make this a priority in your relationships. Realize that you may need to seek support to learn how to keep your relationships healthy. Establish rules: one person talks at a time. Before the other person responds, first repeat what was just said and ask if that was accurate. Do not change the subject before finishing the first one. When voicing a complaint, do not use words like: "always" and "never". Express your conflicted feelings with: "I feel upset because..." not "You make me so mad because..."

  • Commitments - Don't make a commitment without thinking and praying about it first. And don't commit to more than one or two projects at a time. It's all about slowing down. Start each day with a short list of only your most important items to do.

  • Distractions - When working, minimize the distractions by turning off all technological devices. Set your timer for your task. Don't stop until the timer goes off. Keep a pad of paper next to you for interrupting thoughts that need action later.

  • Emails - Again, set your timer. You can create folders if you want to read one later. If one is urgent and requiring action, you can flag it and return to it later if you can't do it immediately. Unsubscribe to all that are not helpful to you. Press that Delete button daily!

  • Departing Basket - Near your front door, create a space just for your items needed to go out the door: your keys, kids' backpacks, wallets, phone, etc. Make sure your alarm is set to give you plenty of time for getting out the door without rushing.

  • Mail - I usually stand right by the trash can as I open my mail. I immediately recycle all junk mail on the spot. I open bills and carry them back to the bill organizer in the office. I put my "to do" mail next to my computer. I have recently added friends' addresses and businesses I frequent into my phone. Then before departing to a destination, I can simply open their address map and know exactly where I'm going.

  • Keys - We've always had a spare set of car keys in case one of us locks the keys in the car. We also have wonderful neighbors that hold our house keys. When Sean was little, he had the bad habit of locking us out. I also learned to take my keys with me, even for watering the flowers! 

Having meaningful relationships and working productively are critical to our happiness and hopefulness in life. But with the challenges of distraction, impulsivity, negative emotions and socialization, it is often difficult to create long-lasting and satisfying relationships. Keeping a job can be challenging as well. But there is hope!  It's imperative that one seeks counseling and regularly attends support groups to become more self-aware and to learn coping skills. Living in balance with ADD/ADHD is possible! 

 

Here are two books I highly recommend on the subject of ADD/ADHD by Dr. Daniel G. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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