When you think of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you probably imagine a fidgety school-age boy goofing around and bouncing off the classroom walls. While the condition is most commonly diagnosed in children, adults can suffer from ADHD too. And managing adult ADHD can be challenging.
Adults may experience symptoms that are more subtle and hard to pinpoint than with a child. You may be disorganized, chronically late, easily distracted, or prone to procrastination. Or you may experience low self-esteem, anxiety, or other mood disorders. Some adults may not even realize they may have ADHD because they assume these behavior patterns are just a consequence of getting older or their go-go-go lifestyles. Nevertheless, ADHD can be quite disruptive in your personal and professional life.
If you're an adult with ADHD, you're not alone. According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, roughly 10 million adults have ADHD. Here's what you need to know about managing adult ADHD.
ADD or ADHD?
You've probably heard both terms used interchangeably, but doctors now diagnose the condition simply as ADHD. According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are three types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined.
Those who are classified as primarily inattentive have trouble focusing and may seem careless, forgetful, or easily distracted, whereas those who are primarily hyperactive-impulsive may appear to have a nonstop stream of energy and/or have difficulty with self-control. Those who exhibit symptoms of both types may be diagnosed with combined-type ADHD. What ADHD looks like differs from person to person, and it can range from mild to moderate to severe symptoms.
Essentially, ADHD is a neurological condition where your brain doesn't make enough dopamine and norepinephrine, two types of neurotransmitters that help your brain communicate and function. If you think you may have the signs or symptoms of ADHD, see a doctor or clinician who specializes in ADHD. They can conduct a clinical evaluation to help determine your diagnosis.
Dealing With Adult ADHD Symptoms
Managing adult ADHD isn't impossible. There are strategies that can help you feel more in control.
- Consider pharmaceutical aid. Medication can be a helpful part of your treatment plan. Talk to your doctor about your options, as well as the potential side effects like insomnia, headaches, or changes in appetite. It may take some time for medication to work, so be patient. However, this strategy may not work for everyone.
- Create systems that work for you. For example, if you work in an open office and are easily distracted, try noise-canceling headphones to help you focus. Or, if you tend to forget important appointments or deadlines, set daily reminders for yourself. Set an alarm on your phone or calendar, make a to-do list, or use a paper planner. A coach or ADHD counselor can work with you to develop practical strategies to help you manage your day-to-day life at work and at home.
- Get some sleep! Most of us feel scatterbrained and foggy when we don't get enough sleep. If you have ADHD, a good night's rest may help you manage your symptoms and feel more focused.
- Find your tribe. Talk to your partner and family members, and help them understand your symptoms. They can be a huge source of support as you navigate the challenges of living with ADHD, and they can help smooth the bumps that may arise in your personal life. Connect with support groups in your community or read blogs written by those who may be experiencing similar challenges. This may help you feel less alone and give you an outlet to express your feelings and frustrations.
- Get moving. While there are many benefits to regular exercise, it can also help to ease ADHD symptoms. In particular, activities like yoga or martial arts that involve your brain may help to improve your focus.
- Change the way you eat. Adopt a healthy diet that includes vegetables and lean protein. This can help you keep your blood sugar in check, avoiding spikes in energy that may make your feel more distracted or sleepy. And don't forget about good-for-you fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts, flaxseeds, and dark leafy greens. These fats contribute to healthy brain development.
While you may not be able to eliminate all your symptoms, there are concrete ways to help with managing adult ADHD, especially when you're armed with information about the condition. Talk to a specialist to learn more about the condition and to get help with the first steps toward living with adult ADHD.