Have you ever been tested for ADHD? This is a question I have found myself asking some of my clients.
“Adult ADHD is far more complex to diagnose than childhood ADHD because there may be a number of underlying issues going on, and the symptoms of ADHD can be seen in a number of other diagnoses," (Psychiatrist Dr Judith Mohring).
What is ADHD in adults?
ADHD is a neurodivergent condition whereby the brains processes are different to what is considered ‘typical’. It is a genetic, medical condition and is treatable (though there is no cure). Some of the traits are also shared with conditions including ASD/Asperger’s.
So how do you know if you have ADHD? - Examples of traits
Signs can include personality traits and behaviours that people live with but don’t necessarily feel comfortable with.
Easily becoming hyper-focussed on a task - sometimes to the point of obsessive. Impulsive behaviour.
Feeling like you can’t function properly on a daily basis.
Finding social situations uncomfortable whilst other people seem more natural with them
Shameful feelings of inadequacy
Guilt at being disorganised and easily distracted so deadlines are missed
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour- addiction and ADHD high
Inability to concentrate. Can be inattentive or forgetful.
People with ADHD are more likely than others to experience eating disorders and substance misuse disorder.
It is known as a disorder of executive functions (cognitive processes) which can cause forgetfulness, difficulty getting motivated, hyper focusing (which causes difficulties switching tasks) and a tendency to interrupt others.
Therapeutic working with ADHD
When presenting problems may relate to ADHD, they inevitably impact our therapeutic offering. Our duty is to acknowledge this and to work with our clients appropriately.
Whilst difficulties with day to day functioning are common in most mental health conditions, with an ADHD sufferer, the nature of their condition makes a more targeted approach more effective.
To illustrate this point, client X is finding that social interactions are uncomfortable and they feel that they struggle to ‘fit in’. As a result they feel isolated and are experiencing anxiety.
In working with these issues it became apparent that there were behavioural traits including impulsiveness, affecting client X confidence and adversely impacting their day to day life. In exploring the possibility of ADHD, the therapist could explain this potential condition in a safe and non-judgemental setting, whilst maintaining therapeutic support.
The client underwent a formal ADD assessment (carried out by a psychiatrist) to confirm the diagnosis. X reported feeling relief that their situation was not imagined but very real and challenging for them. The therapist helped them to manage though coaching and counselling.
How does diagnosis help?
Learn to work around yourself - work with ways that help you to function
Helps you understand self and therefore explains who you are
Where appropriate you may be offered stimulant medication/supplements – helping with concentration and impulsivity.
How can therapy help?
Initial screening to identify possible issues
Guidance with process for formal assessment
Constant and unconditional support with symptoms (e.g. anxiety) and feelings (e.g. shame)
Coaching to make progress in day to day life.
Tools to cope more effectively
Help with planning and organising self
More self-compassion - especially when things don’t go to plan.
Increase confidence in self - rather than negative feelings.
By identifying, assessing, diagnosing and helping people, we can positively make an impact on their lives.