If you are an adult living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you know the difficulties you have maintaining concentration and controlling restlessness and impulsivity. You may also experience periods when you concentrate so intensely on one activity that you lose track of time and neglect other things. No matter the severity of your symptoms or how long you have dealt with them, you may not be aware of all the different types of adult ADHD support available. These supports include professional assistance with therapy, support groups, behavioral coaching, and personal strategies to promote coping with the condition.
Professional Supports for ADHD in Adults
Different forms of psychotherapy can help adults manage the emotional issues and daily challenges of living with the disorder. Talk therapy, for example, can assist you with issues resulting from histories of underachievement, failure, academic problems, unsteady employment, and relationship difficulties. Discussing feelings from childhood involving low self-esteem, embarrassment and shame in a one-on-one setting can help you move forward and deal with resentment and criticism you may continue to experience. Talk therapy provides individuals with an outlet for the problems and negative feelings they may be experiencing. Having an understanding ear and receiving objective advice can also give you a new perspective on what you are going through.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered one of the most successful supports for adults with ADHD. CBT works to identify and challenge the negative beliefs and behaviors that cause difficulties in your life, such as poor time management, ineffective planning skills, and disorganization. Therapy assists individuals in changing a pessimistic outlook possibly caused by years of difficulties and unmet expectations into optimistic and realistic views. CBT also provides training in specific skills, such as reinforcing and shaping positive behavior.
A support group can offer invaluable opportunities to meet other adults who share similar struggles. There are groups organized through national advocacy organizations, as well as online groups. Members benefit from mutual support as they share the same thoughts and feelings others have and are experiencing. Informal education informs attendees/online participants with plenty of tips and suggestions.
Marriage therapy can help couples when one partner, or both, feel the relationship is suffering due to the deficiencies associated with ADHD. Counseling can educate the non-ADHD partner about the disorder, and help them to build empathy and realistic expectations of the other’s behavior. Couples learn to communicate better by repeating what each partner says and by being open and honest about what they are feeling. With better communication, partners can learn to really hear and understand each other's points of view. This new understanding can resolve conflicts over financial problems, forgotten commitments, household responsibilities, and impulsive decisions, in addition to preventing new conflicts from forming. Family therapy can help when children are involved and partners use different parenting techniques. Since a child with a parent with ADHD is more likely to have the disorder, family therapy can assist parents in maintaining the parent/child hierarchy and ensure that both parents remain on the same level as each other.
Behavioral coaches and professional organizers are not a replacement for therapy, but serve as additional supports to adults with ADHD. Coaches do not help adults with ADHD work through emotional issues as therapists do. Rather, they assist individuals on finding practical solutions to everyday problems. Behavioral coaches either meet you in your home or talk to you by phone to teach strategies for:
- setting priorities
- organizing your home and workplace
- maintaining motivation
- managing time and money
- dealing with procrastination
Finally, a professional organizer can improve daily life by:
- creating a schedule and teaching you how to stay on it
- lowering your stress created by clutter
- getting you organized and helping you maintain a system for paperwork and other belongings
- streamlining your workflow
Personal Supports for ADHD in Adults
Self-help strategies used every day can do much to ease the management of ADHD symptoms and challenges. Helping yourself can make you feel in control of what you are doing, take advantage of your abilities and gifts, and live a productive and satisfying life. These personal strategies include:
- Getting regular sleep. Chronic fatigue can exacerbate the disorder’s symptoms, making concentrating, managing responsibilities, and reducing stress more difficult. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, and try to get 8 hours per night.
- Eating a balanced diet. Incorporate lots of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods into your diet for proper nutrition. Limit sugar to avoid mood swings.
- Exercise regularly. Vigorous workouts are a great outlet for excess energy and promote soothing calmness throughout the body.
- Managing time better. Set and keep deadlines, even for small tasks. Take advantage of today’s technology with personal digital assistants to stay organized and on track. Handle paperwork at a set time each day to avoid procrastination. And remember to schedule breaks.
- Making time for relationships. Keep social commitments with friends and develop new relationships with those who understand your struggles with ADHD. Practice effective listening skills while in conversation.
- Maintaining a supportive work environment. Use lists, reminders, rituals, and color-coded files to maintain organization. Make note of the conditions you work most effectively in and apply these in your working environment to the best of your ability.
With a combination of professional and personal adult ADHD support, you can function more easily and effectively as an individual, an employee, a partner, and a parent.
- Smith, Melinda & Block, Jocelyn. “Adult / ADHD: Signs, Symptoms, Effects, and Treatment”, www.helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_adult_symptoms.htm
- Tuckman, Ari. Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD: A Practical Easy-to-Use Guide for Clinicians. Raincoast, 2007.