ADD Isn't Just For Kids
by Dr. Tina Rochford
Family Matters, Vernon Morning Star

In a previous article I described the common experiences of children with ADD. At least 50% of children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) continue to have the disorder as adolescents. Recent studies have confirmed that at least 30% of these children continue to have ADD as adults. Some adults first learn of their ADD when their child is diagnosed. Suddenly they say, "That's me. I have the same problems!"

It is critical to remember that people with ADD are not lazy or stupid or crazy! ADD is a neurological disorder, that is, those with ADD have "brains which are wired differently."

How does an adult determine if ADD may be at the root of some of their life difficulties? The following article will touch of some of the signs and symptoms of adult ADD and some tips for managing the syndrome. Kelly and Ramundo, in their book, "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy," note some criteria (many of which are similar for children) to consider if you think you may have ADD:

  1. Difficulty focusing and a tendency to drift away in the middle of a page or conversation, often with an ability to overfocus at times.

  2. Impulsivity, such as speaking before thinking, in overspending, changing jobs or deciding to fly to Reno the next morning.

  3. Restlessness-not the kind of hyperactivity one might expect in a child, but a more subtle drumming of fingers, pacing, shifting positions, etc.

  4. Low frustration tolerance, impatience- lineups, traffic jams are torture for people with ADD.

  5. Feeling overwhelmed by the organizational demands of everyday life- losing mail, missing appointments, etc.

  6. Search for high stimulation activities (bungee jumping, extreme skiing, fast cars) and intolerance for boredom.

  7. Tendency towards addictive behaviour-these can include overindulging in alcohol, drugs, shopping, eating, working, etc.

  8. Chronic procrastination or, conversely, many projects going simultaneously, but few are completed.

  9. Sense of endless worry and insecurity-when attention isn't focused on a task, it is converted into worry.

  10. Mood swings-much of this is due to frustration or failure, while some is due to the physiology of the disorder.

  11. Inaccurate self-observation and poor self-esteem-these problems are probably the unhappy result of years of frustration, failure and "just not getting it right."

  12. Family/childhood history of ADD. There is some suggestion that ADD may be genetically transmitted, so it is not uncommon to find a family history. It is also worth taking a childhood history. While ADD may not have been formally diagnosed, the symptoms may have been there.

In reading this list, many of us will be tempted to conclude that we have ADD, because we lose our car keys or sometimes say the "wrong thing" socially. Firstly, relax-if you or someone you care about exhibits many of the above symptoms, the first step is a thorough assessment by a trained professional who has particular expertise in the area of adult ADD. There are newly developed psychological tests to help determine the presence of ADD. Finally, here are some tips to help those with ADD on the road to management of the disorder:

  1. Consider joining a support group

  2. Consider the use of medication in controlling some of the symptoms (under the direction and supervision of a physician).

  3. Use external structure-lists, reminders, daily rituals, and the like. Also consider pattern planning, which means doing the same thing at the same time on the same day, each week. For example, pick up your groceries on Monday morning, do your banking at Tuesday noon, correspondence at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, etc.

  4. When it comes to paperwork, O.H.I.O. (only handle it once). One of the less formal diagnostic indicators of ADD is the presence of piles, rather than files.

  5. Make deadlines and do what you're good at, instead of spending all your time trying to become good at what you're not good at. For example if organization isn't your strength, but you're great at sales or hands-on work, perhaps that administrative job is a poor fit for you.

  6. Understand your mood changes and how to handle these.

  7. Learn how to advocate for yourself. Adults with ADD are so used to being criticized, they tend to become unnecessarily defensive. Try to become relaxed enough about the whole syndrome to joke about it, so others will understand and forgive you.
Adult ADD sufferers often are highly intelligent, creative and intuitive. This is important to mention as capturing this "something special" is one of the goals of treatment.

Lastly, even as you squarely face the reality of your ADD, never lose sight of your many unique gifts and talents.

Dr. Rochford and her husband, Dr. Gordon Davidson, conduct a child and family counselling practice in Vernon.

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