Just How Difficult is it to have ADHD?

Just How Difficult is it to have ADHD?

There is no easy answer to this question, for many reasons.

ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADD) is on
a continuum, meaning it can be mild, moderate or severe. The less extreme the symptoms, the easier it is to compensate, making it less difficult to live with ADHD. The reverse also applies.

Millions of adults have the symptoms associated with ADHD, but not the diagnosis, possibly because their symptoms, although enough to qualify for a diagnosis, are on the milder end of the spectrum. Or they may have learned to cope, or just accepted the way they are, perhaps (unfairly) attributing some of neurobiological symptoms to moral failings (lazy, inconsiderate, careless, foolish, etc.).

ADHD is a diagnosis based on having checked off a sufficient number
of symptoms from a laundry list of age-related options. Each of those symptoms can vary in terms of how problematic they can be, and under what conditions (at home, school, work, leisure). That’s a lot of variability. There is even variation within the ADHD diagnosis, as you can be primarily impulsive/hyperactive, primarily inattentive or combination type.

For some, having ADHD is a strength. Their ADHD-related characteristics (or some of them) are essential to their personal and professional success. Consider the high percentage of ADDers in certain careers, such as entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, first-responders, comedians, sales, etc.  While the manifestations of ADHD may not be as helpful for all aspects of their jobs, nor in all areas of their lives, they would find life more difficult without it.

Unfortunately, for most people, ADHD also leads to certain struggles. The degree to which those struggles make life difficult will vary. If you struggle with time management but aren’t in a job or life situation where following the clock is critical, then that becomes less of a problem.
If you struggle with organization, but have assistants at work and help at home, that challenge is less problematic. If you need to be ‘on the go’ and are a student confined to sitting in a classroom, you might be considered hyperactive, from a negative perspective. But if you have a career where you aren’t confined to your office and you also enjoy an active leisure life, your drive to move shifts to a non-issue, and even an asset.

ADHD symptoms vary – one person could be physically hyperactive,
and another hypoactive. High energy, low energy. Some people do well
in a chaotic environment (many police, firefighters, EMT’s, ER docs, floor traders, teachers, etc. have ADHD) while others would be totally overwhelmed by the noise and activity. Many people with ADHD thrive
in the bustle of a big city, while others seek the peace of a countryside or seashore. So, finding an environment and career that suits you makes a difference in how you’ll view life, and how difficult it is, or isn’t, to have ADHD.

ADHD is inconsistent. Not just from person to person or from child to adult, but from day to day. Sometimes it can feel debilitating or dysfunctional; other times you are on a roll and exceptionally productive. Understanding, and accepting yourself (instead of letting your inner Judgmental Critic be in charge) makes those unproductive times less frustrating.

Other factors contribute. If you are surrounded by critical people, whether at work, socially or at home, you’ll obviously find life more challenging than if you have support and understanding. The more you
are juggling (work, school, home, partner, children, aging parents, etc.),
the harder it is – for anyone. The hormonal changes of aging or the stress
of illness will also exacerbate the ADHD symptoms.

Having ADHD can be really frustrating. It’s tough when you struggle with things that ‘should’ be simple (although you may excel when tackling more difficult challenges). It’s sad when you aren’t achieving your potential, even when you might be considered successful (but you know you could be doing much more). It can be extremely stressful when you know you need/want to do something but can’t activate (an executive function),
or you are doing something you need to stop, but can’t find the brakes.

Strategies are critical for managing your ADHD symptoms.

  • There is often a reduction in ADHD-related difficulties when you take time for self-care and stress-reducing activities (exercise, sufficient sleep, outdoor time, mindfulness, journaling, eating well, hobbies, creative, sports and social activities, pets, family fun time and time to nurture relationships, etc.)
     
  • Some people benefit from medication, but if you couldn’t play the piano before meds, you can’t play it after – you’re just more available to learning how, which can make a difference.
     
  • Some ADHD tendencies are best avoided (or require professional intervention). People with ADHD often have impulsivity control issues and addictive personalities, acting without thinking, whether it’s reckless driving, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, gambling, internet, etc. They also tend to get caught up in thinking without acting, making it difficult to get things done. Obsessive thinking and perfectionism often come into play, getting in the way of productivity.
     
  • When the ADHD brain feels overwhelmed, instead of tackling the issues, it is more likely to shift into the fight, flight or freeze mode – major avoidance. This is an automatic, brain-based reaction to fear, confusion or stress. So, it’s critical to find strategies that will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
     
  • Tools and strategies help to manage ADHD-related challenges.
    If you struggle to get places on time, meet deadlines, begin or finish tasks and projects, get and stay organized, manage schedules and lists, create and follow routines, prioritize, self-advocate, make decisions, communicate effectively, etc., it isn’t enough to want things to change. You need specific compensatory strategies that work with the way you think – not the way you wish you thought. The right tools make living with your ADHD a lot less difficult. (That’s what Coaching is about!)  

ADHD is only part of the mix – we have different personalities, interests, strengths, intellectual and emotional gifts, co-existing diagnoses, etc. Some people with ADHD will excel in school, while many others find it a total challenge. Some will be artistic or creative; others might be athletic or musical, all of the above or none of them. Some will thrive in the limelight; others will avoid it. It isn’t just the ADHD we need to manage; it’s finding a life that supports us on many levels. It’s easier to cope with the difficulties that come from ADHD when we are engaged in activities that play to our strengths.

There are so many aspects of life that are impacted by ADHD, from relationships to finances, from career to self-care. You can find ways to compensate, and even excel, but it takes effort and self-awareness. The answer to, “How difficult is it to live with ADHD?” largely depends on whether you’ve been able to create a personally ADHD-friendly life!

This is an edited and expanded version of my requested response
to a question posted on Quora.

The Amazing Power of Perspective

The Amazing Power of Perspective

Change the internal filter you use to view a situation and the results can be staggering!

Words are powerful – whether you say them out loud or just think them. They reflect how we perceive a situation, a person or ourselves. They can reinforce the positive, but all too often they give power to the negative. When we change our perception – what we think we see – our dialog changes. These new thoughts, and the accompanying words, can move us forward, instead of keeping us trapped.

When my son was about 9, he was in a crowded restaurant, sitting at a table with several adults. Running about the restaurant and disturbing the patrons was a very young girl. One of the adults described her as hyperactive, and the others agreed. But not my son, who said, She’s not hyperactive, she’s just actively exploring the world. Whoa…

Here’s a little girl who could grow up thinking of herself as having a problem, as being different in a negative way. Or she could grow up believing herself to be a curious explorer, destined to discover new things and truly observe the world around her. Think of her parents, who could either see her as a challenge or see her potential and help her to positively channel her energy.

In coaching we call this process of looking at things from a different perspective ‘reframing’. When you change the frame, the picture looks different.

Take the trait of impulsivity, which is often considered negative (and can sometimes lead to dire situations). However, without it there would be little creativity, which is often the flip side of spontaneity. Impulsivity can be a strength, leading to new ideas, and to taking risks on new businesses and new experiences. How dull life would be without it! Instead of perceiving impulsivity as negative, try looking at it from its potential, and help to positively channel that creativity and willingness to take risks.

When Thomas A Edison was young, he was sent home from school with a note. His mother told him it said, “Your son is a genius.” This school is too small for him and doesn’t have teachers who are good enough to train him. Please teach him yourself. Many years later he found the actual note, which said, “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” He wrote in his diary, “Thomas A Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the century.”

I don’t know whether that story is true, although I do know he was expelled from school (and that he also blew up part of his home doing experiments, and most likely had ADHD). His mother chose to interpret the school note from a different perspective, and look at the difference that made! She chose words that changed her son’s self-perception. What would his future have been if he thought his teachers considered him ‘deficient’?

So the next time you are tempted to criticize someone – OR YOURSELF! – try to reframe what you are thinking from a positive, supportive perspective. Words can change the future! 🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! – Share your ideas blow.

Looking for help to reframe your perspective? Contact me to discuss coaching by scheduling a no-cost or obligation phone consult  or check out my online group at OvercomeOverwhelm.com.

Please feel free to share this article, with the following attribution: Written by Susan Lasky, Productivity, ADD/ADHD, Career & Organization Coach. Susan Lasky Productivity Solutions, www.SusanLasky.com.  Used with permission.

Following your Passion – In Life, Work, Love

Following your Passion – In Life, Work, Love

I’ve always believed in the concept of following your passion – in life, in work, in love…

Easier said than done.  It helps to know what you feel passionate about, and I find that, although I enjoy and appreciate so many things, I am not always totally clear about what really ‘turns me on.’  Sometimes passion exists only in a brief moment, or it takes a hiatus, or slips into the back seat while economic necessity or logistics drive my life.

(I am aware of those who believe you can always live from passion, and also those who believe you can do anything with passion and commitment, but while both views have merit, they are, for me, sometimes philosophical exercises, instead of my daily reality.)

When I am living my passion there is a sense of aliveness, of deeper purpose at a higher, more meaningful level.  I may not even realize I’ve been ‘out‘ of passion until some experience reminds me what it feels like to be ‘in’ it.

The feeling is incredible.  I see the difference in my work.  Sometimes I’ll be helping a client, and I know I’m doing what needs to be done, but I don’t feel that sense of communion with my higher purpose.  It is just a job.

Then there are times when there is magic in a session. My words flow effortlessly and communicate the right information at the right time, in a way that the client is able to really ‘get’ what we discuss. We both feel energized, and I know I have truly touched their life, helping them to see things from a different perspective; opening up the realm of possibility – for both of us.

I ask myself why I don’t always have that sense of fulfillment, and part of the answer is that I am not always doing the type of work that is my passion. So I must do what I coach clients to do – discover what they (I) really want, by creating awareness as to what it is that generates those feelings of excitement, aliveness, meaning and purpose. Once identified, the next step is to create an action plan that will maximize the opportunities for passion in their (my) life.

The goal is to look at what is working for you, and what isn’t, then to decide what you can do to open your life to the magic that happens when living with passion.  (Note:  Passion doesn’t have to be exhausting, it can be the quiet passion of spending time doing what you value; what brings you joy.)

I’ve done this exercise many times (although not always with awareness and intent), and I will repeat it throughout my life.  Kind of a reality check as to where I am on the path of self-fulfillment.  Sometimes the action plan is huge – change a job, get married, raise a child, divorce, move, go back to school. Sometimes it is simpler – set aside time each week for doing something you love or take a dream destination vacation.

I want to live my life with passion and joy, and I choose to do whatever I can to make that happen.