Understanding and Handling Your ADD
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a serious problem (hence it’s classification as a disorder). It is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to manage behavior (particularly impulsiveness), focus or pay attention, resulting in problems in work, health, finances, and human relationships. The condition becomes more complicated due to its “hidden” nature. Friends, neighbors, family members, colleagues, and bosses don’t see the challenges and as such, may find it difficult to accept the problem as neurobiological rather than an individual’s choice. ADD patients also suffer from feelings of inadequacy, not living up to their potential as well as others’ expectations of them.
Effects of ADD
ADD symptoms vary not just from patient to patient but can manifest differently based on the specific situation (social, work, school, or home). The symptoms could also be inconsistent from day to day; one day, you feel as if you accomplished a tremendous amount of work while on others, you feel exceptionally unproductive. ADD patients can spend hours doing a homework assignment or writing a book report, and then forget to submit it.
On some occasions, they relegate tasks they feel are confusing, boring or challenging to the background (even if the tasks are considered critical to work, personal finances such as doing taxes, or school) and focus exclusively on projects that seem trivial or unnecessary. As such, ADD patients often fail or drop out of school, constantly get fired or have financial and legal problems that could have been easily avoided.
However, with the right treatment, environment, and lifestyle, symptoms of ADD can be mitigated, and patients can live relatively normal lives. A lot of talented actors, writers, business owners, athletes, artists, and inventors had ADD but went on to become renowned in their various professions. They led exceptional lives and contributed immensely to the growth of society.
Diagnosing Adult ADD
The first step in handling ADD begins with an accurate diagnosis of the condition; however, this is not as simple as it sounds. An ADD diagnosis requires a medical professional (who has extensive experience with adult ADD) to perform a detailed evaluation. This evaluation is done using interviews, rating scales, questionnaires, and intellectual screenings, in addition to measuring distractibility and level of sustained attention. The professional then decides if the symptoms correspond with those outlined in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the official diagnostic manual used in the U.S.
Once you’ve been accurately diagnosed with the disorder, the next step is finding a way to handle it. In the past, experts thought that ADD/ADHD affected only children and that they grew out of it as they grew older; however, this is not the case. This was because adults with ADD learned to cope with the condition as they grew older, developing strategies that helped them fit in with social expectations. Fortunately, we now know that ADD lasts throughout a person’s lifetime, from formative years to old age.
Methods Used in Managing ADD
The most common way of managing ADD is through the use of medication. These are divided into two: stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulants help to increase attention while reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity; however, if you experience too many side-effects or have a history of addictions, your doctor may prescribe non-stimulants. In special cases, a combination of both kinds of medications may be used.
Counseling is another approach to treating ADD. It has been observed that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is effective in treating cases of adult ADD. This type of therapy assists patients to learn new ways of behaving and interacting with the world. In particular, CBT helps to address symptoms of ADD such as shame, feelings of low self-esteem and loss of self-confidence.
Other ways of treating ADD include practicing stress reduction techniques, including physical exercise as part of your daily routine and making lifestyle shifts (such as focusing on personal strengths). You could also be eligible for workplace accommodation.
The good news is that ADD is a manageable condition and with the right professional help, you can live a remarkably productive life. If you would like to meet with a qualified physician to discuss your ADD, please schedule an appointment by clicking here or calling our San Francisco clinic at (415) 966-0848.