Adult ADHD has been making its way through the news and on social media. If you are one of the many people now wondering if you too have attention issues, here are some strategies to deal with the symptoms of ADHD and the comorbid conditions that often come with it.
What Adult ADHD Means for Your Job, Life, and Relationships
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often considered a childhood problem. Many people do experience ADHD in early childhood. But others were never diagnosed as a child or continue to struggle with symptoms long into adulthood, despite medication and therapy.
ADHD is a mental health disorder that can affect an adult’s ability to perform at work, be committed to relationships, and meet their own expectations. About 4.4% of adults experience ADHD symptoms. Many adult ADHD patients experience:
- Lack of concentration
- Problems prioritizing and finishing tasks
- Difficulty multitasking
- Time management issues
- Lack of focus
- Low frustration tolerance
- Mood swings
- Anger issues
- Stress coping difficulties
Comorbid Conditions: ADHD Often Doesn’t Travel Alone
Adult ADHD can be challenging to recognize and treat because it is often not the only psychiatric condition a person faces. One study found over half of adult ADHD patients had at least one comorbid condition. The most common comorbid mental health problems were:
- Major depression
- Substance use disorders
- Social phobias
- Eating disorders (especially in women)
- Alcohol use disorders (especially in men)
Unlike in children, where ADD and ADHD are often diagnosed first, many adults seek treatment because of comorbid conditions. When their anti-depressant medications or substance abuse strategies don’t correct their attention and focus issues, these adults may realize that ADHD has come along for the ride.
5 Tips for Coping with Adult ADHD
1. Shed Degrading Labels
Many ADHD patients suffered symptoms long before being diagnosed. As a result, they may have been called lazy, unmotivated, unintelligent, or other negative labels. Recognize that ADHD affects the way you interact with the world. Let go of the labels and create a plan to address the symptoms like any other disease. Improving the way you address yourself can boost your self-esteem and decrease the urge to succumb to comorbid substance use disorders.
2. Develop Structure and Habits
ADHD can make it easy to get distracted by whatever is around you, or in your own head. Give yourself clues and reminders of how to stay on task. Create lists, use a planner, and make notes for yourself so you can pick up where you left off more quickly. If you have a comorbid eating disorder, add meal planning and calorie guides to your planner to help you stay on course.
3. Minimize Distractions
Many people are used to living with clutter. Papers cover their desk, and flat surfaces gather tools, mail, books, and the remnants of last night’s craft project. If you suffer from ADHD, that clutter is an invitation for distraction. Develop a habit of putting things away in a specific (possibly labelled) place as soon as you are done with it. That way it won’t be there to distract you from your next task. Minimizing clutter is also an effective strategy to fight comorbid anxiety disorders.
4. Build In Time for Physical Activities
If you find yourself restless or antsy, make sure you have time to stretch your legs or take some physical action during your day. This could be as simple as taking a walk on your lunch break. It might involve bringing a stress ball to back-to-back meetings or pacing your office while brainstorming. Give yourself permission to move in appropriate times and places. This physical activity is also helpful when dealing with comorbid depression or anxiety disorders.
5. Work with a Therapist Experienced in Comorbid Conditions
Ultimately, you must recognize that ADHD is a mental health disorder, and not a personal failing. That means it is okay to get help. Especially when you have comorbid conditions, you need to work with someone with the training and experience to help you sort out what you are thinking and feeling and develop coping strategies specific to your constellation of symptoms. By working with a psychotherapist, you can put away the distractions and focus on improving your work, life, and relationships.
David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps children, teens and adults with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Contact David Stanislaw to get help for your child today.