ADD, ADHD, AD/HD – What is It?
I specialize in organizing people who are chronically disorganized, especially those with AD/HD. I love working with this population – they’re typically fun, willing to learn, intelligent and appreciative of the help I give them. AD/HD is often misunderstood and even dismissed as not being real, so I’m taking this opportunity to provide a bit of information about it. The initials AD/HD stand for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but the official abbreviation of AD/HD is used whether or not someone has the hyperactivity component. AD/HD is a neurobiological disorder characterized by impulsivity, inattentiveness, and in some cases, hyperactivity.
At one time it was thought that children outgrew AD/HD, but we now know that many symptoms carry on into adulthood. In fact, many of my clients weren’t diagnosed with AD/HD until they were adults and their kids were diagnosed – it has the strong genetic link. There is no simple test to determine if someone had AD/HD – diagnosis should be done by a professional who specializes in this area and should include a personal history from the patient, collaborative information from friends and family, as well as psychological tests. Other conditions can either look like AD/HD or accompany it (the official term is having a co-morbid condition). These conditions include, but aren’t limited to, depression, Bipolar Disorder, learning disorders, and anxiety disorders.
Many of my clients who were diagnosed with AD/HD as adults have struggled with some form of substance abuse in their past, whether it be drugs, alcohol, or food. In their cases, and I’m sure many others, this may have been their attempt to stimulate the under-stimulated prefrontal cortex of their brain (a key characteristic of AD/HD) and self-medicate a condition they didn’t know they had. Many of my clients have had success in breaking their addictive tendencies through 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous. They often go though a grieving process when they receive their diagnosis as they grieve the easier life they may have had if they’d only received a diagnosis earlier in their life. Besides encouraging them to get help from a therapist when it is appropriate, I support my clients by helping them set up organizational systems that work with their style of thinking.
People with AD/HD typically have trouble with time awareness and categorizing – two key components of being organized. That explains why so many people in this population have trouble getting and staying organized. It’s not because they are stupid or lazy – in fact, they are some of the hardest working people I know. I’ll talk more in my next blog posting about some techniques people with AD/HD can use to get and stay organized. Please let me know what area of your life you find most challenging to get or keep organized. In the meantime, I hope you’ve learned some things that will help you understand a friend, family member or co-worker with AD/HD (or even yourself) and that you may have a greater compassion for their challenges.
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