Awareness of ADHD has increased enormously in recent years. This has led to many people wondering whether they may have this condition. The truth is that ADHD is a very broad spectrum of features, not all of which may be expressed in a particular individual. There is a great range of severity, from mild to very disabling.
If you think you may have ADHD, the best step is to try to learn as much as you can about it and how to manage the condition. Read all the information on the ADHD page of this website. There are also many books and videos. The website www.additudemag.com has many useful articles. Learning about your own neurobiological temperament will give you greatly increased resources and potential skills.
Developing both an understanding and compassion for yourself is important. These problems are not your fault - they are a reflection of your neurobiology. At the same time, you need to take responsibility for your brain, mind, and behaviour. Features you should take account of, and take steps to counter, are as follows:
- You may be dreamy, easily distracted, and not very grounded in reality - or your may be hyperactive - or a combination of the two
- Your emotional reactions may tend to be extreme and sometimes inappropriate. You may be perceived by others as emotionally volatile
- You may be either unrealistically optimistic - or unrealistically pessimistic - or alternate between the two
- When overwhelmed, you may be prone to rage and panic - and subsequent shame
- You may be impulsive - this can be a hazard to others and to yourself
- Your demands on others may be experienced by them as excessive. At the same time, you may be excessively sensitive to any signs of rejection by others - sometimes misinterpreting people's responses
- Your social judgement may at times be impaired
- Others may experience you as unreliable and very annoying if you do not follow through on your commitments
- Your judgement of time may be very impaired
- You are likely to neglect important tasks that are not immediately of interest
- At times you may be extremely egocentric, failing to take account of other people's needs
- Sometimes your plans, hopes, and goals may be a little grandiose and unrealistic
- You may be prone to addictions - to drugs, alcohol, stimulating and dangerous activities, and to the creation of drama in your interactions with others
- You need to explore and develop modes of activity, exercise, or meditation that calm your brain and mind
- You need to find ways of building on the positive benefits of ADHD (creativity, innovation, capacity for hyperfocus), whilst compensating for the deficits and problems
- You may have accumulated much shame as a result of your ADHD behaviours. You need to forgive yourself and release the shame. Acupoint tapping and other energy psychology modalities can help with this
Should you seek a formal diagnosis? Not necessarily. Private assessments are expensive. Private consultations with psychiatrists, or any medical consultants, can be very expensive. You should ask what you hope to gain from a formal assessment.
Do you need psychotherapy? ADHD in itself is not an indication for psychotherapy. It is best to get advice on managing and living with ADHD. There are many books that can help with this. One that I can recommend is Life with ADHD: Proven and Effective ADHD Coping Strategies for Real Life, by Peter Jaksa (Attention Publishing, Chicago, Illinois). If you feel you need additional assistance, you might consider finding an ADHD coach. Sometimes ADHD is interwoven with other psychological problems, including trauma, anxiety states, mood disorders, low self-esteem, and repeating patterns of relationship difficulties. In such cases psychotherapy may help.
If your ADHD is severe, disabling, and unmanageable, causing serious problems in work and relationships, you may want to explore the possibility of medication. For this you would need a formal diagnosis by a psychiatrist. If you are prescribed stimulant medication this would need to be monitored and reviewed regularly. Such drugs are powerful and potential hazardous. They can lead to a worsening of other psychiatric conditions.