You don't always need a diagnosis to take action (Managing ADHD)
Updated: Jul 25
I was recently asked to release a short video clip on managing ADHD - as what I say will require more than 1 minute, I wanted to back it up with a longer article.
A good friend of mine was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. It gave her an understanding of her instincts and emotions - many of which she had tried to manage in the past; it enabled her to reframe her critical voice not as "You're flaky/distracted/unreliable" into "You're different and you think differently"; it gave her the option of a prescription to manage some of the more frustrating symptoms.
But, apart from the validation (which mustn't be under-estimated) that she was fundamentally awesome - and just wired slightly differently which affected how she did things, did she really need it for anything else?
In my friend's case, no.
Perhaps for you it will be otherwise. Certainly for some clients of mine, they have leaned on their diagnosis and given up some of their personal power and potential to somatic intervention... I am not against tablets because I completely understand that you may first need to manage the physical before finding capacity to deal with anything else, HOWEVER, I am a firm advocate that WE have the power to make even greater impact in managing and thriving through whatever life has given us.
A quick word about neurodiversity
ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia - just three of the diagnoses which fall within the category of being neurodiverse.
What this means is - the brain is hardwired differently. Different does not mean "better" nor "worse" - it simply means different. It may mean that someone whose brain is set up in a specific way may be drawn towards some behaviours, or some professions, or expresses themselves uniquely - but in the first instance, if that can be celebrated and channelled (in a workplace for example) - they are likely to excel for themselves and for you; and in the second, any problematic impulses can be managed - much like with anyone - it may just take a little more effort.
I like to illustrate this by giving the example of seeing neurodiversity as the difference between a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Each is often utilised for a slightly different purpose, each is powerful, each is effective, and each can have apps and programmes installed...such apps and programmes may be the same across the board OR they may need a tweak in their coding for them to work on each platform. However, as much as you may want it to, a desktop is not going to fit in your pocket; and perhaps there is simply not enough power on a smartphone to be able to stream video games...and so on.
As such you may choose to have all of them, or you may decide which is best for which task, but either way - each can be upgraded and enhanced, each is of value, and each is simply different.
I have a diagnosis, so now what?
First of all, don't be afraid to embrace the diagnosis for what it is - an explanation which you may have wished for, for some time.
Explore what options the diagnosis opens up to you - you might have access to forums, specific support, respite, funding - or other interventions which can help make life a little more straightforward.
It is your choice as to whether you tell anyone, eg. a workplace. Workplaces have a legal duty to make reasonable exceptions if they know.
However, there are also a number of things you can do yourself
(I will focus on ADHD in this article, but there are also practical tools for helping with other facets of neurodiversity.)
- Recognise if you have been overcompensating (and give yourself a break). Compensation can cover up either real or imagined deficiencies and feelings of personal or physical inferiority - for example, have you been overly "controlling" on times or instructions, just so you know you can plan your own day? Have you found yourself always apologising in advance or putting yourself down, just in case you let someone down (and then taking the blame yourself when perhaps it was shared!) All these can affect your self perception - and self esteem!!
- Follow a routine. It is important to set a time and a place for everything which can help you understand and meet your expectations.
- Use clocks and timers. Consider placing clocks throughout the house, with a big one in your bedroom. Allow enough time for what you need to do, eg getting ready in the morning and consider using a timer for work or transitional times, such between finishing up dinner and getting ready for bed.
- Simplify your timetable where possible. It is good to avoid too much 'idle' time, but you may feel more distracted and “wound up” if there are too many things you need to do. Physically writing a to-do list can help.
- Create a quiet place just for you. Make sure you have a quiet, private space of your own. This might be a bedroom, or another space in your house with calming visuals and fresh air.
- Do your best to be neat and organised. This will make it easier for you to find things, and you will likely form habitual rituals for leaving things when you have finished with them - making it easier to keep track of yourself.
Other practical interventions:
FOR BETTER SLEEP:
Decrease television time and perhaps increase activity levels during the day - eg. with exercise.
Consider eliminating or reducing caffeine
Build in "wind down" time before bed (including coming off social media or your smartphone).
Consider using relaxation music/sounds or lavender as a relaxing scent
FOR BETTER NUTRITION:
Remember to eat by keeping to a routine
Limit fatty and sugary foods
Consider taking vitamin supplements as needed
FOR OVERALL WELLBEING:
Take breaks in the day - you might wish to build these into your routine.
Get out into nature Research shows that people with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD benefit from spending time outdoors with many reporting a greater sense of calm and overall positivity having been out in nature regularly. Explore green spaces in your local areas.
Tell people what will help you manage! It's your diagnosis and you can manage it as you wish. Sometimes it can help to tell those close to you which routines and actions work best for you, and they can also help by doing the same.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the practical "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; or her Radio Show "The Wellbeing Lounge", and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt