When I was a child, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Do you remember those crayon drawings that young children make when they can barely hold the crayon? You know those drawings where the circles, swoops, and lines run off the edge of the paper? You may think that Picasso’s drawing is in a museum, but it was made by a little chubby hand. These drawings are of me as a child.
Run, skip, up, down, flip, flop, scoot, kick, bounce. I was the words teachers wished did not exist in a calm, quiet classroom. I was a noisy, disorganized, and messy young girl. Over and over, I was repeatedly told that I was a disruptive child. My self-esteem dropped when I heard that I was not a good child.
My body may be tamer, but I still have a mind that races ahead and skips steps. The messes I make affect my most important relationships. I repeat myself to my partner one more time. He thinks I am not interested. He feels I do not care. He thinks I don’t listen. I’m trying. It’s hard. This is hard. I have ADHD as an adult.
What is ADHD?
At the doctor’s, I heard the term “ADHD.” My principal was tired of me attending school every day for behavioral problems. My parents were advised to take me to a doctor as soon as possible to receive help from the principal. The message was clear: “Fix her as soon as possible.” I was eight years old. I was 8 years old. My parents also did not know what ADHD was.
All I knew was that I was always in trouble. Nevertheless, now, I am also the problem. My body, my mind… I am all movement and energy in a world that rewards and demands stillness and quietness. I could not fit in and could not force myself to fit in.
According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders, Fifth Edition”(DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health diagnosis that includes a persistent pattern of inattention and hyperactivity, and impulsivity that causes problems with functioning and development. Inattention behaviors include being off task, not having persistence, needing help keeping focus, and needing to be more organized. Inattention does not mean you are defiant or do not understand the directions.
Hyperactivity is an excessive motor activity that is not socially acceptable. It can also be excessive fidgeting or talking. Hyperactivity in adults can look like excessive restlessness or the person is wearing out others with their activity.
Impulsivity is a term used to describe quick, spontaneous actions. These impulsive actions could cause harm. Impulsiveness can be motivated by a desire for immediate rewards and a lack of ability or willingness to delay enjoyment or satisfaction.
Impulsive behavior can include darting into the street, being intrusive with others, or interrupting them excessively. It can also be making important decisions without thinking about the long-term effects.
What is ADHD in adults?
Adults with ADHD are like people who have 10 tabs open in their brains at any given time. I begin a task and then switch. Stop a task before you start it. Working in a large office, with its constant buzzing, footsteps, and the closing and opening doors and drawers, is not for me.
I am easily distracted in an office environment and only get a little done. Even though I had noise-canceling headsets, the people around me were still distracting. It was a shame always to wear noise-canceling headsets, as it prevented me from socializing.
The open-plan office made me feel self-conscious. I felt like an oddball who could not do what everyone else could. It was frustrating for me. My employer found it impossible. My work was only sometimes done on time or correctly. I often felt like an absolute failure.
Because of the problems I faced in a traditional workplace that was unwilling to make adjustments for me, I decided to become self-employed and work from home. I have done so for the last few years. In my field, networking is a huge factor in career development. Remote networking can be a challenge.
Due to my ADHD, I have had to decline great job opportunities due to my limitations. I would not say I like feeling so restricted by ADHD. I do not want ADHD to control me. I hope to learn new ways to manage my ADHD, without sacrificing so much.
According to a book titled “The Complete Adult Psychotherapy treatment planner” by Arthur E. Jongsma Jr. L. Mark Peterson, and Timothy J. Bruce, ADHD in adults could look like this:
Childhood ADHD diagnosis, either official or based on symptoms like behavioral problems, anger outbursts, and lack of concentration.
Even when low-interest items are essential in a person’s daily life, they have difficulty focusing or paying attention.
The task can be easily distracted.
Fidgety and restless
Cannot stay still for a long time
Acting first and then thinking later is an easily observed pattern.
Rapid mood swings in a short period
Most areas of life are disorganized
Many projects are started, but few completed
It has a “boiling point” and a “short fuse.”
Low-stress tolerance or easily frustrated and upset
Low self-esteem that persists
More at risk for addictive behaviors
How common is ADHD?
According to the DSM-5, published in 2013, population studies suggest that ADHD exists in many cultures. About 5% of children and 2.5% of adults are affected. In the general population, ADHD is more prevalent in males. There is 1 female ADHD patient for every 2 boys in children. In adults, the ratio is 1.6 males to 1 female.
According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication data for 2001-2003, the prevalence of ADHD in U.S. adults aged 18-44 is 4.4%. The prevalence of adult ADHD was higher in males (5.4%) than females (3.2%).
Since I can remember, my sister has had ADHD. My sister has still struggled with focus. Growing up, my sister was always there for me when I felt stuck by my busyness.
I felt less lonely and more hopeful when I saw my sister moving around the world with such ease. My sister now understands that I sometimes change the topic too quickly, listen only half when watching movies or TV, and leave house projects half-finished. She understands because she is also a part of me.
According to David L. Wodrich’s book “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:What Every Parent Wants to Know,” there are several possible causes for ADHD. These include genetics (inborn characteristics), brain differences, food additives like sugar and other sweeteners, environmental toxins, and family and social factors. A textbook on abnormal psychology states that risk factors for ADHD are very premature births, low birth weight, and prenatal alcohol and tobacco exposure.
How to Treat ADHD Without Medication
My doctor only recommended that I start taking stimulant medications as soon as possible after learning about my ADHD diagnosis. My parents were afraid I would not be able to finish school.
I used stimulant medication throughout my childhood and teenage years. It is beautiful that they work well for some people. They didn’t make me feel “me.”
I remember being given meds during school hours. I tried to hide the pills because I did not think a pill could change me. I did not want to change to become a better version of myself or a more readily accepted person. I did not try to make myself more socially acceptable. I wanted the society to accept me for who I am.
I am researching how to treat ADHD naturally as an adult and mom of a child who I think will also have ADHD issues. I am not sure how to treat ADHD in adults without medication. If it exists, I would like to know more.
Several therapeutic interventions can be used to treat ADHD in adults without medication, according to “The Complete Adult Treatment Planner.” The following therapeutic interventions are possible without medication:
Learn more about ADHD and its treatment.
Inform the patient of the signs and symptoms associated with ADHD.
Distinguish between the symptoms of ADHD and other factors that can cause impulsivity (impulsiveness), poor planning, distraction, and even procrastination.
Plan and organize your work with these strategies.
Identify the problem, brainstorm options, weigh pros and cons, create a plan of action, and evaluate results.
Identify and challenge self-talk that causes maladaptive feelings and behaviors.
You can use cognitive therapy to help patients identify negative self-talk, such as “I have to do it perfectly” or “I cannot organize all of these things.”
Teach relaxation techniques like guided imagery, guided breathing, and meditation.
Relaxation techniques are designed to relieve tension and physical restlessness.
Attend an ADHD Support Group
Support groups can help you gain a better understanding of ADHD. They also boost your self-esteem and give you feedback from other people.
The long-term goals of ADHD treatment in adults are to reduce impulsive behavior, increase concentration and focus on low-interest activities, minimize behavioral interference from ADHD in everyday life, sustain attention and concentrate for more extended periods, and achieve a satisfactory balance, structure, intimacy, and level of intimacy in the personal life.
According to a textbook on abnormal psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy can help adults with ADHD reduce distractions and improve their organizational skills. Short-term treatment goals include decreasing hyperactivity or impulsivity. Long-term goals include improving social skills and academic performance or reversing decline.
Adult ADHD: Challenges and Consequences
I suffer from depression and anxiety. Although I did not know these words as a kid, I have had depression and anxiety since childhood. It is mainly because of the negative comments I would get at school.
My worst memory is when the teacher gave out rewards or prizes for the class’s performance. I was always the one to ruin it. I tried to fidget by sitting on my hands, but nothing worked. I was the apparent outcast. My classmates and teachers made me feel different.
It took me some time to accept that I was intelligent and capable because of my behavior issues in school. I believed that my bad grades were because I was terrible. My life began to change when I started college and was given learning accommodations.
According to DSM-5, ADHD can have the following consequences for adults:
Increased likelihood of unemployment
Conflict between individuals can increase
Drivers with ADHD are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents and violations.
Others may misinterpret your actions as being lazy, irresponsible, or uncooperative
ADHD Treatment at SUN Behavioral Columbus
Sun Behavioral Columbus provides mental health services to adults with ADHD. Sun Behavioral Columbus offers two essential adult services: a partial-hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP).
PHP includes five group sessions per day and five days a week. PHP groups are based on cognitive behavioral therapy. PHP provides coping skills and a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, which is based on scientific evidence and helps people understand and apply wellness techniques to prevent relapse.
IOP includes 3 group sessions a day, 5 days a week. IOP includes stress management, mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, yoga, and physical wellness. These treatments will help you, or your loved ones, gain new skills for better coping with ADHD