By Karen Weintraub
When you think about ADHD, what do you imagine? If you’re like most people, it’s probably a stereotypical image of a young boy bouncing off the walls, buzzing with pent-up, unfocused energy.
But many people with ADHD aren’t hyperactive at all, and by the time they reach adulthood, most hyperactive people have calmed down — at least on the outside. This helps explain why Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which used to be considered a childhood condition, is now being diagnosed in adults as well.
There are some who dismiss the condition as massively over-diagnosed, perhaps as a ploy by drug companies to boost business. And maybe there’s some truth to that on the margins. Not everyone who’s got ideas racing through their head should be medicated. (Just ask most of the faculty at MIT.)
But there are large numbers of people — studies suggest it’s as many as 4 percent of adults – who are profoundly affected by the symptoms of ADHD. Many can’t hold a job or stick with a relationship. They’re chronically late or forgetful. They jump into jobs and purchases and relationships without thinking them through, only to regret their impulsive actions later. They get stuck in self-destructive patterns, fall prey to addiction and depression. And they can’t figure out why they struggle so much more than everyone else.
For this population, a diagnosis can be a huge relief, explaining why they’ve always felt out of step with the world.
Here are a few other things you might not have known about ADHD, drawn from a new book I co-write, Fast Minds, How to Thrive if You Have ADHD (Or Think You Might) published by Berkley Books:
Medication Can’t Fix ADHD
Treating ADHD in adults with medication can be helpful – and it’s often the first suggestion a diagnosing doctor will make. But it’s not enough. Adults with ADHD often need help getting and staying organized, even with their own priorities in life. They may need help at critical moments, making a constructive choice, rather than a destructive one. And they need emotional support to counteract all the negative messages they’ve received all their lives when their actions didn’t meet other people’s expectations.
Not Everyone Who’s High Energy Has ADHD
Our images of ADHD come from celebrities who talk about having it, like singer Adam Levine or actor and game show host Howie Mandel. But many people with the condition struggle to get up off the couch. They were the quiet ones in class who always seemed like they were in their own world. As adults, they may be unsure of what to do, or want to do so many things that they paralyze themselves. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have some of the traits of ADHD without being impaired by the condition. Some of the same organizational and self-control strategies may help.
People With ADHD Don’t Have Trouble Paying Attention Continue reading