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The Best ADHD Books for Adults

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 1/19/2011

Two psychiatrists with adult ADHD team up to write two books about addressing and living with ADHD. A third book looks at ADHD from the perspective of hunters and farmers. These three books on adult ADHD offer hope to adults with ADHD, as well as their families.

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    Overview

    For adults with ADHD, finding help, answers and sanity as they work to keep themselves organized day after day, one viable solution may involve buying books. Buying books? The person with ADHD who takes prescription medication, visits a cognitive behavioral therapist or psychotherapist and who has learned to find and use various methods of staying on-task and organized can find even more solutions between the covers of several different books.

    These include: “Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception,” “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood;” and “Answers to Distraction.”

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    Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective by Thom Hartmann

    As the first of three books on adult ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective by Thom Hartmann takes a fresh (and admittedly different) point of view on adult ADHD. Hartmann views adults with ADHD as hunters, hard-wired to be on the move, taking risks and capturing big game to feed the tribe. He views those without ADHD as farmers, readying the fields close to home for planting seed, watering and taking care of, then harvesting the crops.

    In the second chapter, “Hunters in Our Schools and Offices: The Origin of ADD,” Hartmann traces the history of ADD, stating that this condition was thought to result from brain damage or a dysfunction in the brain. He also states fetal alcohol syndrome, genetically caused mental illness, mental retardation, early childhood trauma or abuse and oxygen deprivation caused by parental smoking were thought to be direct causes of ADD. From this early history, Hartmann points out that because ADD occurs in up to 20 percent of males and five percent of females, ADD may not be a genetic aberration or “quirk.” He then postulates that persons with ADD (both adults and children) are the “leftover hunters,” coming from ancient hunting societies. From this point of view, Hartmann states that ADD may be an evolutionary survival tool, much like sickle cell anemia helping make its victims less susceptible to malaria.

    Hartmann builds a profile of the adult with ADHD/hunter: Some characteristics include

    1-Constantly monitoring the environment. Adults with ADHD see and hear everything. According to Hartmann, this is a survival tool that has endured for thousands of years, helping hunters survive as they track their prey. Hartmann points out that hunters are hard-wired to notice everything, from a strange smell to a footprint in the dirt. Taking this trait and placing it in the context of ADHD, the adult with ADHD who becomes distracted is displaying this trait. Today’s society forces these adults to learn to tune out everything but what they are working on.

    2-Time is flexible; the hunter focuses totally on the hunt. The hunter doesn’t stop following his prey until he has caught up to it and killed it. He doesn’t dwell on what has already happened or what might happen –– he totally focuses on killing his prey.The adult with ADHD has the ability to hyperfocus on something he enjoys, such as playing a racing game. Both the hunter and the adult with ADHD aren’t able to focus on routine tasks, but this changes when they are doing something they enjoy.

    3-The hunter is flexible. Because his prey is unpredictable, the hunter is able to be flexible, changing direction in a spit-second’s notice. He makes decisions quickly, then acts on them. In the same way, the adult with ADHD is not well-organized or a good planner, but he is able to adapt quickly to changes.

    4-Hunters often lose all perception of passing time. As they track and pursue their prey, they are capable of going long distances, but only when they are right behind the animal. Similarly, the adult with ADHD does not estimate how long it will take to complete a task and they give up part way through. [1]

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    Useful Books on Adult ADHD: Coping with this DisorderJust as much as support groups and cognitive behavioral therapy, books on adult ADHD can help the adult with ADHD find ways of coping and adjusting to this condition.
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    Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective by Thom Hartmann (Continued)

    5-Hunters use pictures to describe their actions. They think visually, developing pictorial outlines and maps of where they have been or what they have done. Placing this into the context of the adult with ADHD, these persons are not good with abstractions.

    6-The hunter is bored by the everyday, mundane tasks, loving the hunt more. Looking at what hunters do, they would rather track and shoot the deer, moose, or bear. Dressing the animal is boring, and the hunter would rather leave this task to someone else.

    7-Hunters take risks. They are not afraid of facing danger. The adult with ADHD is the same.

    8-The hunter drives himself hard. Because the hunter’s life relies on split-second decisions and actions, he cannot tolerate someone who thinks or acts more slowly. Therefore, he becomes impatient, demanding that his partners speed up. The adult with ADHD is the same –– it’s important to make decisions, then act on them right away. They lack social skills.

    Finally, Hartmann names some famous hunters: Thomas Alva Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Richard Francis Burton (not the actor), Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Carlyle. Hartmann, who was diagnosed with ADD, has found a new way for adults with ADHD to view their condition so they can find ways to make a perceived negative into a positive. [1]

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    Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell

    Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, covers Attention Deficit Disorder, what this condition is and how it affects people who suffer from it. Focusing on adults, Driven to Distraction outlines the effects adults can feel.

    Hallowell and Ratey were both diagnosed with ADD, which gives them the ability to write in such a way that readers with ADD/ADHD can relate to them. In Chapter 3 "Sequence Ravelled Out of Sound", the authors begin with a quote from a poem by Emily Dicinson: “I felt a Cleaving in my Mind –– As if my Brain had split . . .” While Dickinson was never diagnosed with ADD, her poem perfectly describes the condition’s effect on adults, who, as they evaluate their lives and projects, find themselves struggling to express all the thoughts they have.

    This book approaches adult ADHD in a more clinical fashion, outlining suggested diagnostic criteria for adult ADD/ADHD:

    1-Sense of underachievement, regardless of how much the person has actually accomplished;

    2-Difficulty with organization;

    3-Chronic procrastination;

    4-Many projects started, few completed;

    5-Speaking without thinking;

    6-Need for high stimulation (need for speed);

    7-Dislike of boredom;

    8-Easily distractible, lack of focus

    9-Creative, intuitive, highly intelligent;

    10-Doesn’t like going “up the chain’

    11-Low level of tolerance for frustration, becomes impatient easily;

    12-Impulsive (in actions and words);

    13-Worries too much; this alternates with disregard for danger;

    14-Sense of insecurity;

    15-Strong mood swings;

    16-Restlessness;

    17-Addictive behaviors (drugs, overwork, gambling, eating, shopping)

    18-Low self-esteem;

    19-Poor self-observation;

    20-Family history of ADD or mood disorders

    21-Childhood history of ADD/ADHD [2]

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    Reading Books on Adult ADHDAdults with ADHD are able to figure understand their condition. Adding a few books on adult ADHD to the family library can help add more strategies for the person with ADHD to use.
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    "Driven to Distraction," Continued

    Hallowell and Ratey include brief histories of adults with ADHD, describing how this condition affected them though their lives. Some of the profiles included self statements: “dizzy dame”, "I dreaded the cumulative file”, “I can’t sit in it (office) for more than a few minutes before I get this really creepy feeling”, “I like the way I am”, “I have my piles (papers and books)", and the assessment of an adult with ADHD by a co-worker: “He’s brilliant, but he’s so unpredictable . . . It’s annoying, to say the least. On the other hand he’s great to have around because he’s so full of ideas and energy.”

    Driven to Distraction delves into the effects of ADHD on couples –– every symptom causes an impact on the intimate relationships. One woman characterized her husband as “behaving like an irresponsible little boy.” She went on to say that her husband didn’t know she existed because he was so wrapped up in himself.

    In Chapter 8, Hallowell and Ratey provide 50 tips for the management of adult ADD/ADHD, broken up into subgroups.

    Because Drs. Hallowell and Ratey both suffer from ADD/ADHD, they are able to discuss this disorder from personal experience as well as from clinical knowledge. They connect with readers (adults with ADHD, children with ADD/ADHD and parents) in such a way that readers are able to trust what the book says. [2]

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    Answers to Distraction by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey

    In the last of the books on adult ADHD, Answers to Distraction, Hallowell and Ratey cover ADD/ADHD in adults, the work environment, ADD/ADHD in women, non-medication treatment of adult ADD/ADHD, ADD/ADHD in couples, ADD/ADHD and addiction, ADD/ADHD and the family, creativity and anger.

    Chapter 4 covers the reactions of adults as they finally learn the name for their condition and behaviors. On the one hand, they are relieved; on the other, they still feel shame, wondering if ADD/ADHD offers anything positive.

    What kinds of work should an adult with ADHD pursue? Hallowell and Ratey advise that these adults find a line of work they enjoy. Work as an accountant will kill the liveliness, spirit and creativity they engender; instead, some fields might include medicine, the law, being an entrepreneur, physical education teacher, cab driver, computer software and programming, pilot, journalism, politics, teacher or professor, entertainer, or chef.

    Chapter 6 covers ADD/ADHD in women. This condition affects women in the same way, but they react differently. They suffer more from depression, guilt and shame, probably because they feel more responsible for the interactions in their relationships.

    Answers to Distraction addresses adult ADD/ADHD, recognizing that, legally, adults are able to decide for themselves whether they want to use medication or not. This chapter covers several tips for managing symptoms without medication, such as hiring professionals to help with areas where the adult may not do well: finances or organizational skills.

    Finally, this book focuses on ADD/ADHD in couples –– Hallowell and Ratey discuss what kind of person the adult with ADD/ADHD should marry and techniques and strategies for living with an ADHD mate.

    Answers to Distraction is the follow up book to Driven to Distraction, with both offering an in-depth, clinical discussion of ADD/ADHD and providing real-life solutions for coping. [3]

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    References

    [1] Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception; Thom Hartmann; 1993

    [2] Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood; Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D.; 1994

    [3] Answers to Distraction; Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D.; 1996