We all have “Duur” moments.
We loose things, interrupt people, arrive late, and occasionally forget what we were talking about mid-sentence. This is the human experience. This is not ADHD.
People who have Serious-For-Real ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are an interesting blend of talent, intelligence, energy and chaos. They are often charming and kind, with minds that sparkle like sunshine on water. And… they are suffering significantly because of the way their brains work.
In fact, when people with ADHD show up for coaching, it's usually because they feel anxious or depressed. They feel like they are failing, they feel overwhelmed, they feel socially isolated, or they are having problems in their marriage. Having ADHD is a big deal.
Men and women with ADHD are often uniquely gifted, hardworking, independent thinkers with an abundance of energy. They have minds that – believe it or not – have a tendency to focus like laser beams. Because of these traits, people with ADHD actually have many natural advantages over their non-ADHD peers when they learn how to manage their minds effectively.
Contrary to stereotypes, people with ADHD tend to “hyper-focus” and latch on to a task or idea like a bulldog. When this tendency to obsess is directed towards something positive and productive, they have tremendous opportunities for success — provided they have access to vast blocks of uninterrupted time to work.
But they have trouble shifting their attention. This becomes a problem when they have to stop what they are doing to get somewhere else on time, listen to what their partner is saying, or attend to a variety of different tasks throughout the day.
In fact, people with ADHD who are required to shift their attention frequently tend to become “fragmented.” Without a clear point of focus their agile minds tend to fizz like roman candles in all directions simultaneously — making it genuinely difficult to function.
Fragmented ADHD minds feel chaotic. They feel like a wild game of musical chairs with a bunch of sugared up, unsupervised four year olds: When the music stops there's only one chair open — only room for one thought on which to consider or act – but twenty five eager thoughts are trying to cram their way into the lead all at once. It is confusing, and disorienting.
Without intentional strategies to manage impulsivity, these distracting thoughts often become mandates for action. Think = Do. This is why people with ADHD often seem “all over the place.” They start to do one thing, and forget what they were doing and do something else. Or when they talk, their ideas twist and turn away at odd angles until no one is sure what's being discussed any more.
The ADHD Experience
I came across this great video which shows the actual experience of someone with ADHD. (In this case, “Age Activated,” but I believe it demonstrates what anyone without coping strategies to manage ADHD actually goes through on a daily basis).
As you can see, unmanaged ADHD can be absolutely overwhelming. When ADHD minds are in a state of fragmentation, it is nearly impossible to get things done.
Treatment for ADHD
BUT here's the good news: ADHD is highly treatable. Numerous studies have shown a demonstrable difference in brain-image scans between people with ADHD and those without. However, with the right kinds of treatment, the differences in neurological functioning become less prominent.
For many, getting on the right kind of medication is very helpful. It changes brain chemistry enough to allow folks with ADHD to think in a straight line. However medication is only one part of the equation.
Coaching, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
In order to harness their minds and be able to focus their energy into productive outlets (while appropriately shifting attention) people with ADHD absolutely must develop solid strategies for managing their minds and their behavior. This often requires Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and / or Coaching. (Yes, coaching – NOT insight-oriented therapy).
If you see a shrink for ADHD and they want to spend a lot of time rehashing your past with you instead of offering concrete, day-to-day strategies for managing your mind… move on.
So I hope that this discussion helps you understand what it really means to have ADHD. It's kind of a big deal.
If what I've described feels like your experience, here's a book you might check out to continue learning more: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. (No, I'm not an affiliate – I just like this book).
And if you are thinking of your partner, your kid, your parent or your friend as you read this I hope that this discussion helps you have more empathy for them. They really can't manage this by “trying harder,” and their behavior is unrelated to how much they care about you. Criticism or threats are not helpful.
Trust me, many people with ADHD are often carrying a lot of shame and anxiety around their differences already, and this makes it even harder to function. Instead, pass on this article or get them the book I mentioned.
Awareness of ADHD – understanding what's happening, and why – is truly the first step in overcoming it. And once an ADHD mind has the tools it needs to stay on track and take advantage of all it's natural strengths: Get ready to be amazed at what it can accomplish.
– Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby