Attention deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Adhd)
Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a bit of a mystery.
Seems like a lot of people have it but a lot of people don’t really know what it is. Maybe you’ve been told already by a professional that you have ADHD, or you’ve been suspicious that you might have ADHD.
You might be in middle school, high school, college, or graduate school. You might already be out in the working world. Regardless of where you are in your career, the topic of ADHD is confusing.
At the same time, it’s incredibly important and is not just a school-based disorder!
ADHD falls under a category of various neurological phenomenon that we call neurodivergence. It means that your brain is measurably different from your typical human. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) fall under the category too!
With ADHD, you can actually put someone in a brain scanner and see their frontal lobes under activate and their occipital lobe over activate. The occipital lobe is where we process all of our visual information. An overactive occipital lobe explains all the daydreaming that happens in ADHD! Pretty cool, right?
So, to be very blunt, ADHD is very real. It’s so real that we can actually measure it now.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is very poorly named because it’s not really a deficit in attention, it’s a deficit in attention regulation. The primary impairments in ADHD are in what we call executive functions. Executive functions are the like a conductor for an orchestra. Without the conductor, you may have incredibly gifted and talented individual musicians that are going to struggle to play together.
The primary executive functions impacted in ADHD are as follows:
Emotion Regulation—this is the ability to feel what we feel and be able to cope or manage those feelings appropriately instead of maybe lashing out or acting prematurely on our emotions.
Inhibition—this is how we control our thoughts and actions. Typically, this lack of inhibition is where a lot of people with ADHD get impulsivity either in what they do or what they say. So think of these last two together. If I struggle with emotion regulation and inhibition and I suddenly feel very angry at someone, I might have a hard time not saying something mean to them that I don’t really mean if I just gave it a little time. Sound familiar?
Working Memory—I describe working memory as the workbench of your memory where your brain constructs all your memories. In ADHD, people’s working memory is one of the most measurably impaired things. So, think about a standard size workbench and then shrink it to the size of a coffee table. You could still build things on this workbench, but your tools and things you need to construct your project might fall off all the time, requiring extra time or effort to construct your project. Your working memory takes your five senses and uses them to make memories. So if your working memory/memory workbench is the size of a coffee table, it can be hard to construct memories or learn things. P.S. this doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem when whatever we’re learning is super interesting and can thus result in hyper focus and you will likely never forget the thing you hyper focused on.
Initiation—this is the ability to start something like a project or task. This is why a lot of people with ADHD can procrastinate a lot!
Planning and Prioritization—this is connected to our working memory. When this is impacted in ADHD, it can oftentimes feel like everything is important which can be incredibly overwhelming. When you’re stuck in that overwhelmed space, it’s pretty hard to step back and take a correct inventory of what’s going on and what needs to be taken care of first.
Shift/Flexibility—this is the ability to adjust to circumstances as they occur. For some people with ADHD as well as ASD, they can get stuck in rigid thinking patterns that prevent them from “going with the flow” sometimes.
Organization—need I say more? People with ADHD can find organization incredibly difficult. This is also partly because of working memory. For instance, if you have ADHD, don’t use drawers you can’t see through to store things. Since our memory is already impaired in many ways, it can tax your mind to try to remember where everything is when you can’t see it in plain sight.
Self-monitoring—this is where we can assess ourselves about things such as our impact on ourselves, others, and situations. This can be incredibly difficult. For people with ADHD that tend to be chatter boxes, they oftentimes don’t realize they’re chatting too much until they get feedback from someone else about it.
ADHD doesn’t look the same in everyone either. Some people can be more hyperactive than others while other people can be more inattentive. There are three main types of ADHD to address this: primarily inattentive type, primarily hyperactive type, and combined inattentive and hyperactive type. ADHD also appears differently in women a lot of the time who tend to present more with the primarily inattentive type, although hyperactivity can manifest as anxiety a lot of the time as well.
It’s worth mentioning that ADHD can significantly impact people’s mental health as well as their ability to perform various tasks. Common co-occurring challenges that people with ADHD can have are depression, anxiety, difficulty with substances, learning difficulties, and OCD.
Diagnosis for ADHD isn’t always easy and it’s not always clear as there is no one single test to diagnose ADHD. However, once we get you properly diagnosed and we understand what we’re working with, treatment can be incredibly enriching and validating!
Most importantly, ADHD does not mean that you’re stupid. What it does mean is that your brain operates differently from other people that are neurotypical. You likely also have many positive qualities from ADHD such as heightened creativity, spontaneity, the ability to be a fun loving goofball, a dare devil or thrill seeker, or many other wonderful traits that lots of people with ADHD often have!
What I Do and How I Help
I work with people struggling with ADHD by getting them properly diagnosed, teaching them skills for ways they are struggling, providing counseling for the secondary difficulties with mental health, and overall providing counseling for when life goes sideways as someone that understands ADHD and genuinely will not judge you for the ways it will likely manifest from time to time.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed for a long time, a brief time, are wondering if you have ADHD, or are someone that is supporting someone with ADHD and would like some educational/coaching sessions, we can work together towards the goals that you have.
I can already recommend some very impactful books that may likely help you significantly such as ADHD 2.0 by Hallowell, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Russell Barkley, and A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD by Solden and Frank.
Give me a call or a text at 720.260.4643 to talk with more about how I can help you!