“I used to have so many projects that I was doing, but lately I feel paralyzed. I can’t even get myself to do the things that bring me the most joy. I’m not even completing the tasks I need to get done to the best of my ability! If I mess up at work again, I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job.”
This is what living with ADHD can feel like.
Having ADHD is like a computer screen with 20 tabs open, and on any given day we need to get just ONE of those tabs (tasks) tackled. The interesting thing is that our brain takes us to ANY of the tabs EXCEPT the one we need to do. This increases our anxiety and causes stress because we know we need to finish that single task but we can’t seem to focus on it!!
What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)?
The DSM-5 defines ADHD as “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development”. You can be either inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or a combination of both. ADHD can affect executive-functioning skills such as focus and concentration, memory recall, decisions and impulses, organization and planning, social interactions, learning from past mistakes, self-medicating, and more.
Is ADD related to ADHD?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is the term that was used in prior versions of the DSM, which is the official manual of classifications mental health providers in the US refer to for cohesiveness. Before it was called ADD for people who had attention issues without having the added hyperactivity behaviors and it was called ADHD for those who did. Now it is called ADHD for everyone with the added clarifiers: “primarily inattentive”, “primarily hyperactive”, or “combination.”
Symptoms of ADHD with Inattention can include being easily distracted, trouble concentrating or staying organized, breaking promises or commitments, daydreaming, procrastination, and avoidance. Inattentiveness can be like checking out when you’re in the middle of something. Your mind is thinking about everything all at once, leaving you to make careless mistakes at work or school, and at home as well. And, these constant deviations can lead to significant anxiety and stress within daily routines, relationships, and really all areas of life.
Symptoms of ADHD with Hyperactivity/Impulsiveness can include excessive talking and fidgeting, trouble staying on task, and impulse control like speaking out of turn. This can be like blurting out things quickly and without filter and getting into people’s bubbles to express all the great ideas you have and not really wanting to wait your turn to share them, or you might forget! This is often misunderstood by the people around us as it can come across as rude or careless, but it’s just how the ADHD brain fires those messages.
Even folks reading this now who don’t have ADHD may recognize some of these symptoms in themselves – and that is because we all have these tendencies from time to time because we’re human and distraction is normal and sometimes, a necessary part of survival. It’s when these symptoms happen more often than not and begin to have consequences in work/school/relationships that we begin to look into a diagnosis of ADHD.
So, where does ADHD come from?
There are different theories about how ADHD develops and we don’t yet have a super solid answer. It is likely that ADHD is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Genetics can play in a role in your chances of getting ADHD in childhood or adulthood. And, having adverse childhood experiences also correlates to ADHD. ADHD is a brain development disorder and childhood trauma is also shown to affect brain formation. But, keep in mind the most important thing is that knowing what caused your ADHD is NOT a pre-requisite for treating it!
It’s also hard to tell ADHD apart from trauma because the symptoms are so commingled!
During our early developmental years, we experience certain milestones and moments that shape how we learn and how we perceive our ability to learn.
Common labels for people with ADHD are lazy, careless, unorganized, unmotivated, rude, ditzy, aloof, “head in the clouds” kind of person. These messages stay with us and are often hard-wired into our brains’ neuropathways. In our natural trauma response, humans often lose focus or disassociate as a protective measure. This is why it is so hard to differentiate ADHD from trauma – because they both manifest in these similar ways.
If you experience symptoms of ADHD in your childhood, you may be more impacted by the messages received as well as you may experience more traumas due to the difficulties around impulsiveness or high-risk behaviors. Many people with ADHD are noted to self-medicate in order to cope with the chaos.
For example, a person who is having problems with completing a work project and is being perceived as “lazy” may discover that there is actually a connection to a negative childhood message that is triggering a shame response. So, basically, the part that jumps away from the task at hand is trying to help you move from something that holds discomfort that you are subconsciously avoiding.
So, processing the roots of our early development, in addition to learning some ADHD-specific coping skills, is how we can comprehensively find relief and overcome these difficulties in daily life. Medications, both natural and psychiatric, may also be beneficial in combination with therapy. Each person will find what works best for them and a therapist can help you navigate the treatment options. If prescription medication is indicated, a primary care doctor or a psychiatrist can be coordinated with to ensure the most effective and well-rounded care is received.
Just know that ADHD is actually a superpower!
People with ADHD are typically brave, creative, quick-thinking, quick-acting, passionate, hopeful, and energetic. We just have to learn how to tune in to use it to our benefit. We can learn to calm it by grounding ourselves, defining where the charges stem from, and navigating it with a customized toolset.
Luckily, society is now more familiar with ADHD so there is less stigma and shame surrounding it. A therapist can help a child and family navigate the IEP or Section 504 plan process as well as help adult individuals advocate for workplace accommodations to support their work to the fullest. This allows everyone to be more understanding and accepting of any unique quirks. Schools and many employers are quite happy to make accommodations at your request – and therapy can help define what those needs will be!
In therapy, we’ll pinpoint skills for getting ahead of your ADHD.
We’ll explore options like tapping into your sensory system, incorporating intentional movement, making and using checklists, body doubling (aka accountability partners), and more! Weighted blankets and essential oils are good at helping ground and calm some people. Other people need a bouncy ball chair and a standing desk and the ability and flexibility to change positions and stations throughout the day. Focusing on daily habits like diet and exercise are also instrumental to managing ADHD symptoms. We will work to find the setups and solutions that work best for you and provide the structure and support needed in all areas of your life!
Some modalities we might explore during your sessions include Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), Inner Child Healing and Reparenting, Internal Family Systems (IFS), Progressive Approach, EMDR Therapy, & Mindfulness Therapy.
We’ll also delve into your passions and how to be in alignment with your values. This lets your superpowers roar in your favor!
If you are ready to explore your history, and manage your symptoms of ADHD, please reach out to us as there are many solutions and ways to celebrate your differences while maintaining and exceeding life’s expectations.
Get ready to regain control! Call today to schedule a complimentary conversation: (480) 485-8824.