Adults with ADHD are a special case. They may have been diagnosed as a child with ADHD, or they may be discovering their condition for the first time as an adult, sometimes when they bring their own child to a doctor for an evaluation. Much of what was discussed before about medication is still applicable to adults, and some of the techniques noted for children in school might help adults in their careers. Likewise, some of the tips for handling ADHD children might be helpful for loved ones with ADHD partners.
How ADHD Adults can be successful
Therapy with a professional knowledgeable about ADHD can offer tremendous help for the adult ADHD client, as well as for their partner. Some ways that therapy can help are discussed below:
- therapy can help improve communication and problem solving in the adult couple. Adults with ADHD can create all sorts of problems in their relationships as a result of their attention, impulsivity, and disorganization problems.
- therapy can ease the emotional distress caused by the disorder. The diagnosis itself can stir feelings of anger, denial, and being “sick” or “damaged” in some way. Likewise, past messages of “You’re just lazy and stupid” or “You simply aren’t really motivated” still can undercut a child or adult’s confidence and ability to deal with doubts.
- therapy can teach specific skills to aid in coping, from communication, organization, and self-talk, to general problem-solving. Money management, prompt arrival to family functions, remembering important dates… can all be signs of ADHD that have a significant impact on the relationship. A spouse who “reminds you” may appear to be nagging, resent your anger over it, and cease bringing up some things at all, leading to more problems over the long run.
Here are several tips for adults with ADHD:
- Get a medical consultation and treatment, which should include ruling out other medical problems, such as a thyroid condition, and trying medication if needed. Medication can still be effective for adults whether or not they took it as a child.
- Maintain your health. ADHD adults often eat whatever is available, drive themselves and loose sleep, and fail to remember and follow medical advice. Eat well, exercise, maintain good sleep habits, and write down what your doctor says and follow it exactly. Ask for help from a partner if needed, or develop rituals to help you organize and remember.
- Educate yourself about ADHD and learn about your “style” of coping. “Idea people” need “detail people” working with them. Find an organizational style that works for you, use it, and have others help you stick with it. Color coding, Palm Pilots, 7 Habits… are all based on sticking to the system once you learn it.
- Educate friends, coworkers, and partners on how to work with you. For example, “Please never leave a note or file for me on the desk, as I won’t see it. Put it in the InBox and because I check there first thing every morning, I’ll be sure to get it.”
- Evaluate your driving abilities objectively. Some people with ADHD find attending to all the information available while driving is overwhelming, and have a history of accidents, fender benders, and near-accidents. Take a course on driving, keep the cell phone put up while driving, minimize distractions in the car by turning off the stereo, never drive when sleepy, drive during low traffic times, or take public transportation when possible.
- Take a good look at your vocational goals. Adults with ADHD may have problems in “detail” kinds of jobs that requires long hours doing the same thing. However, a more active job that allows you to change activities throughout the day may be better for you. Also look at the kind of supervision you need from a boss or mentor. Do you need someone to watch the details and remind you? Can you structure your own hours and work from home effectively? Can you take on management of a big project and several people to prove you should be promoted?
- Get a mentor or coach to help you define problems and find ways around them. Office consultants, therapists, vocational counselors, more experienced managers, friends, and a good support staff can remind you of things, take over some tasks for you, and help you find the best “fit” for your pattern of strengths and weaknesses and be very helpful.
- Use technology effectively. Sudderth and Kandel discuss low tech (pen and paper, a watch, a day planner, a balanced checkbook), mid-level tech (beepers, cellphones, fax machines, voicemail), and high tech (Palm Pilots, voice recorders, internet calendars, financial software) options and how to use them.
- Be patient with yourself. You may have spent years feeling “stupid,” and may resort to this when things go wrong and give up too easily. Stick with things, keep a positive orientation and outlook, and remind yourself of your strengths every so often. Use friends, partners, and mentors as well as support groups, therapy, etc… to help you with this.
ADHD in Daily Life…
Sudderth and Kandel also discuss several pages of tips for the ADHD adult to help in getting along with partners and others. They also offer tips for the partner in dealing with an ADHD spouse who won’t admit it. They include a list of ADHD support and information sources, and some web pages and discussion groups for ADHD people.