Do you have ADHD?
- Are restless and find it hard to relax?
- Do you struggle to manage your money and paperwork?
- Do you frequently miss appointments or turn up late?
- Are you always losing things?
- Do you find it hard to manage your anger or stress?
- Do your relationships suffer because of your difficulties?
- Is concentrating on reading or following instructions an uphill battle?
- Does it take you longer to complete tasks than other people?
- Are you exhausted by the stress and constant effort of working round your difficulties?
- Do you feel that you are not achieving your potential as a student or at work?
- Do you act impulsively and have a lot of accidents at home or when driving?
- Do you have a low frustration-tolerance?
- Are you highly self-critical: “Other people seem to mange their life. Why can’t I?”
- Is getting to sleep or sleeping well a constant problem?
If you’ve answered “Yes” to many of these questions…
Then you may have ADHD.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder which means that it begins as soon as the brain starts to develop before birth. It continues to develop as the child’s brain grows.
People with ADHD often say that they were labelled as a child. Adults told them “You never listen!” “You’re always daydreaming!” “You just need to pay attention!” “You just need to sit still!” “If only you’d think before you do things!” They may grow up believing a lot of negative things about themselves such as they were lazy, just didn’t try hard enough, were stupid, naughty or bad. But someone with ADHD is essentially none of these things. It’s just how their brain is wired.
The question “What is ADHD?” is often answered by describing 3 main difficulties:
- focussing and maintaining attention
- physical restlessness
For adults with ADHD, these difficulties have a severe and negative impact on many areas of their life such as work, friendships, relationships, leisure time, and self-esteem. Some people with ADHD may be very successful but are stressed and exhausted from constantly trying to manage their difficulties. Others feel that, despite huge efforts, they never achieve their potential academically or in their work. Other people are so overwhelmed by their problems that they drop out of school, struggle to stay in a job, get into debt and may become involved in criminal activity.
In answer to the question “What is ADHD?” people who have the condition would probably say that ADHD is serious and can create a lot of stress and suffering for the person and the people around them. It has a profound impact on a person’s life, family and happiness.
Most people with ADHD also have at least one other neurodevelopmental disorder or mental health problem such as:
- bi-polar disorder
- personality disorder
- substance misuse
- Asperger’s syndrome
- sleep disorder
The question “What is ADHD?” can also be answered with reference to:
The 3 types of ADHD
When we think of hyperactivity, we often picture a child who is bouncing off the walls. However, many adults with ADHD learn to manage their hyperactivity so that it is much less obvious. It might still be very stressful to sit still through a long work meeting, but the person has learnt to inhibit their need to move. Adults may have internalised their hyperactivity and feel as if they are “driven by a motor”. As a result, they may have difficulty relaxing and struggle with irritability. It may be hard to get to sleep and sleep may be very restless and broken. Impulsivity means that people may launch into doing things without thinking through the consequences of their behaviour. This can lead to bad decision making, risky behaviours and problems with finances.
A difficulty with attention means that people struggle to keep their focus on a task and become easily distracted and bored. It may be hard to complete tasks. It is typically also difficult to follow verbal or written instructions without losing focus. People may have a lot of accidents because they struggle to maintain their focus on what they are doing.
This means that an adult has a combination of difficulties which are both Hyperactive/Impulsive and Inattentive.
Difficulties with Emotion Regulation
Although it is not part of the formal diagnostic criteria, many adults with ADHD also experience a lot of intense feelings, such as anger or sadness, and find that their moods change very quickly. This makes it very hard for people to regulate and manage their emotions. It means that people with ADHD frequently have their threat system triggered. When the fight and flight system is triggered then the front part of the brain, which makes it possible to step back from a problem and think clearly, starts to shut down. So, in addition to the neuro-biological problems linked with attention, it is then even harder to focus on and complete tasks and engage in other activities.
MSc MA(Cantab) BLitt BSc C.Psychol AFBPsS
HCPC Registered Counselling Psychologist
- EMDR Europe Accredited Consultant/Supervisor
- BABCP Accredited CBT Psychotherapist
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- Gestalt Psychotherapist
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