Coping With the Symptoms of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) affects many facets of our lives. People who are suffering from this condition tend to have interpersonal problems, work related difficulties, problems  maintaining a career, chaotic family life including, marital problems, substance abuse problems, mood swings, impulsive risk taking, frequently losing belongings, difficulty managing money, having low self esteem, being unemployed, interrupting people, having a quick temper, problems with organization, and lacking friends. It is very hard to live with these symptoms and also maintain a normal life style. There are individual differences in how people get affected by ADD. For example, one person may have big problem losing things and the other person may have problem of interrupting others or mood swings. Money management also seems to be a problem with Adult ADD persons as they engage in impulsive buying.

ADD affects the frontal lobes of the brain which are responsible for organizing information, making decisions, passing on information, and storing information. When there is impairment in these functions, the person might begin to forget things, lose things, interrupt others and have mood swings. People can outgrow ADD but about two thirds of children who had ADD, continue to suffer from it even when they become adult. For example, as a child, you might be always running around, but when you grow up, you still might have the fidgetiness and inability to relax. People with ADD cannot stand traffic jams, wait for their turns, and become easily frustrated when the lines are too long.

ADD is a genetically transmitted disorder. ADD is caused by deficit of a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Therefore, sometimes people with ADD are prescribed medications which are stimulant, to increase the level of dopamine in the brain. Medications like, Strattera, Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, Metadate, Focalin XR are some of the examples of the medication for ADD. Stimulants tend to improve attention, decrease hyperactivity, and reduce impulsivity by stimulating the frontal lobes of the brain. These medications have side effects like decreased appetite, stomachaches, and headaches. Problem with these medications is that people often get addicted to them and people, who abuse substance, tend to have a greater need to be on stimulants. They often abuse it and sell it on the street. So physicians have to exercise caution in prescribing these medications.

The question is what do people with ADD need to do to deal with their symptoms? Here are some guidelines to follow to cope with symptoms of ADD.

Get Organized 

First of all, it is important to reduce clutter and get organized so that you can pay more attention to important things in life as opposed to getting distracted by the clutter in your surroundings. It is believed that when you have clutter around you, it signifies disorganization of the brain. Clutter can make you feel overwhelmed and unproductive. Therefore it is important to pace yourself. Try not to tackle too much all at once. Think of reducing clutter in  your drawers, and closets  but it is advisable to do it one at a time and work in blocks of time. It is also important to organize your papers by making folders and making a habit of filing papers in the appropriate files which have a label of its content. Because you tend to forget things, it is crucial to file it immediately as opposed to procrastinate and then forget where your papers are. Go through your mail as soon as you get it. Throw out catalogs, junk mails, ads etc and separate the bills and place it in your bill holder.

Additionally, people with ADD need to have a purse or brief case with several compartments. Some have key ring attached to it. Make a habit of putting your things in the designated places to avoid fumbling when you actually need them. Buy a wallet which is bright in color so that you can easily locate it. Also, try to de clutter your closet and get rid of the clothing you have not worn for a long time.

Organize your clothing by type such as shirts, jackets/ blazers, pants, dresses and skirts. When you group items by type, you reduce the visual clutter. Organize your shoes using a cubby, rack, or over the door organizer. Store your winter clothing in Space bags.

People with ADD tend to lose things. In order to address this problem, make a place for everything. For example, if you need reading glasses for reading and doing computer work, make sure that you always put them in the designated place so that you can find it when you need it. Line of sight is also important to consider. When things are in your sight, you are more likely to find them. Eye level plays a big role in this. So always put frequently needed items at an eye level so they are visible when you need them. People with ADD tend to lose their keys. In order to address this, make sure you have a key rack where you hang your keys every time you enter home from the garage. Chances are you will not be able to remember where you kept your keys if you put them somewhere else. Keep your sun glasses in the car on the visor or attach it to a cord so that if you take them off, they are always with you. Keep a hold on your cell phone because people tend to lose them a lot. Make a designated compartment in your purse for your cell phone. Many purses and bags now come with a compartment for cell phone. Men can buy organizers with compartments and do the same thing.

Also, try to protect your credit cards by making photocopy of both sides of the cards. When using the credit card, keep your wallet open and ask for the card back after you have made the payment. People with ADD are sometimes in a hurry and they tend to forget to take the card back, close their wallet and leave. Take your jewelry off before going to bed, but make sure that you have a designated place for putting it back once you take it off. People with ADD also tend to forget where they put their important documents in the car. To remedy this, buy an organizer where you put your registration and insurance card. Sometimes, people with ADD cannot remember where they parked. It might be helpful to tie a bright color ribbon on your antenna to easily spot your car. Park your car in the same location each time you use the parking lot for shopping etc. Make sure you check the roof, hood, and trunk before you drive the car to see if you have left anything on the top.

Emotional Aspects of ADD

People with ADD tend to have emotional problems as they are very sensitive and react intensely when faced with criticism, put downs, and humiliations. You need to reduce the level of your anger by finding a relaxation time for yourself. When you get upset, try to calm yourself down before confronting the other person because chances are, you might say things that you will regret later on. Angry outbursts can ruin your relationships. You may feel that you vented and feel better. But your accusations and remarks could be very derogatory for the other person and you need to be aware of this when you throw your tantrums on others. It is important to pay attention to how your body feels. If you notice that your face is flushed, your hands are shaking, these are signals that your adrenalin level is high and you are upset. Try to intervene as soon as you realize. Interrupt your self- defeating thought patterns and get in touch with reality, as opposed to making errors like jumping to conclusion, labeling, mislabeling, magnification, and filtering out the positive. These are cognitive distortions of thinking and you need to identify them. Come up with effective counterstatements, and affirmations to calm down. Deep abdominal breathing also helps in getting you more oxygen so that you feel relaxed and calm.

Spirituality to Address ADD

Spiritual wellness is equally important. When you get involved in volunteer work and do service for charity organization, you tend to feel the connectedness of people of the world. People with ADD are very creative and this is one of their assets. Try to maximize and utilize this asset by offering your ideas and suggestions to the altruistic organization and become actively involved in charitable cause. This will give you a sense of accomplishment. Also, practice gratitude for others. When you are busy focusing on your forgetfulness, and irritations of the day, it is very easy to forget about things that are going well in your life. Pay attention to those things and journal your feelings of gratefulness. As soon as you begin to acknowledge good things, in your life, you will see a decrement in your feelings of sadness. Meditation and spending some time alone in a place, where you can escape and rest, also helps with the symptoms of ADD. You will notice that your mind will come up with more creative and fun ideas when you give yourself some quiet time, as opposed to spending time at a place where you are hyper stimulated by noise and distractions.

Work Related Aspects 

People with ADD need to find a job that is suitable to their temperament. They get easily bored by one job and they are always looking for something more suitable. People with ADD do best in the job setting that are fast paced, include variety of tasks each day, include support from an assistant and are intellectually stimulating. Because, people with ADD can do multitasking very well, try to take advantage of this and find a job where you can offer this service. Jobs also need to have clear expectations, frequent feedback, flexible schedule and include interaction with various people, and offer immediate reward for a job well done. Jobs such as firefighter, waiter/ waitress, teacher, emergency room physician, and trial attorney are well suited for people diagnosed with ADD.

Social Aspects of ADD

People with ADD also need to improve on their social skills. Because they are hypersensitive to criticism and rejection, they react intensely. As children, you may have been subjected to excessive punishment, teasing, and bullying. Due to these experiences, you may have not paid attention to other children and how they interact with in socially appropriate ways. You may not have been taking medication for ADD and this can impact adversely on your social skills. In order to develop social skills, you really need to have active listening skills, which are techniques that let people know that you are paying attention and understanding what they are saying. During communication with other person, try to sit directly facing the other person, keeping your arms and legs uncrossed. You also need to make eye contact with the other person. Nod your head when you are in agreement and periodically use phrases like, “I see”. “I understand” to let the other person know that you are following what is being said. Sometimes, your attention might drift but try to bring it back and then clarify by repeating back what was said. This is also called paraphrasing. When you are given instructions, and you have trouble remembering what was said, then the best thing is to repeat and clarify so that you don’t end up doing things wrong and then feeling bad about it.

Communication Skills to Address ADD

People with ADD also need to read nonverbal communication during a conversation. You might be so busy talking about your thoughts that you fail to get the cues from the other person that they have listened to you and now they need to go. People are often looking at their watch, remove eye contact from you when they are no longer interested in continuing the conversation with you. These are signals that you need to be perceptive about. So be aware of both, verbal and non verbal both types of communication.

Also, try to make good first impressions by presenting yourself in decent clothing which are wrinkle free. People with ADD might forget to iron their clothes and go in wrinkled clothes. Buy wrinkle free clothing and this might alleviate the problem of showing up in a social situation in an unkempt manner.

People with ADD sometimes have too much material to talk about it and they begin to interrupt others. Be aware of this pattern and stop and apologize when you interrupt others. They also fail to realize when their turn is up and the other person’s turn begins. Medications often help to retain the idea for longer so you do not rush to speak instantly to avoid the fear of forgetting your ideas.

People with ADD also need to master the art of small talk, which means starting conversation about innocuous topics versus jumping to the thought of what you want from the other person. Small talk helps in easing the tension and help in building social relationship. Some examples are complimenting people about their attire, making a comment about the activity that you performed and the other person performed too. Do not take it personally if the other person does not respond positively to your small talks. They may be shy or they may have walked away for another reason. Try it with other people in the situation.

People with ADD are sometimes too busy talking about their activities that they fail to realize when the other person is done. Try to be aware when the other person tells you that they need a drink or have to use the bathroom. At this point, you simply close the conversation by saying, “It was a pleasure talking to you”. In social situations, try to remember the names of people you were introduced to. It is difficult to remember names due to your ADD. Avoid the embarrassment and if you can’t remember the name, just say, “I am sorry I have difficulty remembering names”,” Would you mind telling your name again?” Being honest can ease the tension.

 Enhancing Relationships 

People with ADD may experience failed marriages, loss of friendships, and other social setbacks. In order to enrich your relationships, it is important to be aware of the fact that your forgetfulness, interrupting and abruptness might be interpreted by others as being rude and uncaring. However, it is happening due to the symptoms of ADD. These behaviors are not considered socially appropriate. You need to educate others about ADD. Also try to notice when you are personalizing. Because you are sensitive to rejection, you may read too much in a given situation. Learn social reciprocity so that you can return favors given to you by others. Also, do not let people take advantage of you by manipulation and coercion. This will ultimately end up making you feel that you are being exploited and cause mood swings, anger, and irritation. Also, learn how to compromise. When you are too rigid about other people’s expectations, you will stick to your old patterns of behaviors and thus ruining your relationships. Do not take too much on your plate when you can’t handle it. It is better to delegate household chores to avoid the feeling of “burnout”. Control your anger and use effective anger management techniques to avoid blow ups and tantrums. Take a time out and be open and honest in communication with your spouse and children. People with ADD sometimes tend to admit that they are wrong. This can put you in a power struggle and this is a “no win” situation.

In summary, these are some techniques that can help a person with ADD to become effective, enhance relationship, and function adequately. However, if you feel that you have tried on your own and you still suffer from symptoms of ADD, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Techniques can help you learn time management, relaxation, Anger control and challenging your mistaken beliefs. Writer has written on blogs on these techniques in reference with other blog posts like Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Automatic Self Talk, Rational Emotive Therapy and some other. Please refer to these blog posts available on this website more details.
Hypnosis can also help the person deal with symptoms of ADD. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.

Reference:  10 Simple Solutions To Adult ADD by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, Ph. D

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