Forgotten computer passwords, belated birthday cards, mismatched shoes – they can make you wonder if your brain has turned to mush. Or maybe you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)!
Today’s frenzied world is a breeding ground for ADHD-like behavior, but for 95% of us those tendencies evaporate when life settles down. For the other 5% - more than 11 million adults worldwide - life never settles down. Frenzied is normal. And it drives them (and the people around them) crazy.
How can you distinguish between living in an ADHD world and having an ADHD brain? There is no blood test or brain scan that definitively diagnoses ADHD, but there are tell tale behavioral signals.
Folks with ADHD love to start new projects but have trouble finishing them. They struggle to keep up with schoolwork or housework and sometimes have trouble holding a job for more than a few years (or months). They procrastinate even on projects that interest them because they can’t concentrate enough to get started. If they do get started, they often have trouble stopping, working feverishly into the wee hours of the morning. ADHD adults are often perfectionists.
Many adults with ADHD are financially strapped; they don’t pay attention to details so they overdraw their bank accounts. Or they drop out of school or college, which impacts their ability to find a job that pays well. Or they rack up staggering credit card bills by spending money impulsively (think internet shopping or TV shopping channels). Filing for bankruptcy is not uncommon among ADHD adults.
Not surprisingly, people with ADHD brains tend to believe they are failures. Though they have good intentions and are tenacious about trying to succeed, their efforts often fall short of expectations. Their self-esteem suffers; some adults with ADHD also suffer from depression, anxiety or even bi-polar disorder.
ADHD is a neurobiological condition that has a strong genetic component. ADHD is more heritable than blonde hair and blue eyes. Many parents discover their own ADHD when their children are diagnosed. The percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD is estimated at 8-10% of the population. Although ADHD does not disappear (no one grows out of ADHD) about half are able to use such effective coping strategies that they no longer qualify for the diagnosis in adulthood.
Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnosis ADHD, but there are some readily available screening tools. One of the best is distributed by the World Health Organization www.add.org/pdf/who_screening.pdf The advantage of a professional diagnosis is that proper treatment can improve symptoms and thus quality of life.
Remember that a diagnosis of ADHD does not mean you have brain damage or that you are “deficient” in any way. It merely affirms that you are the proud possessor of an ADHD brain. With support and acknowledgment, adults with ADHD can lead successful happy lives.
Linda Roggli, PCC, is a professional certified coach for ADHD adults. She is the author of the award-winning book about midlife ADHD "Confessions of an ADDiva." She live and works in the Piedmont of North Carolina, USA.