It’s ADHD Awareness Month, and all of the “Distraction” podcast episodes for October relate to the topic of ADHD. In our latest mini-episode #29, Dr. Hallowell offers “Seven Ways to Manage Adult ADHD.” In this latest blog, he provides some advice to people who think they may have ADHD.
Once you get a feel for ADHD, you might start to think almost everybody has it. Because its symptoms abound in modern life, it is easy to imagine you have ADHD when you do not. Therefore, it is essential that you not diagnose yourself.
So if you think you might have ADHD, make sure you consult with a well-trained specialist to get a diagnosis. The doctors who have the most training in ADHD are child psychiatrists. If you are an adult, be aware that all child psychiatrists also are trained in adult psychiatry. Ask the person you see if he or she has extensive experience in working with patients in your age group. It is imperative that you consult with a professional who has extensive experience. If you can’t find such a person, start by calling the department of psychiatry at the medical school nearest to you.
The diagnosis rests upon a careful history taken from the identified patient as well as at least one other person, such as parent, spouse, sibling, or close friend, as well as, if possible, teacher comments.
You should develop a comfortably connected relationship with the person diagnosing and treating you so that you can turn to him or her with trust whenever the need arises.
The history may be supplemented by neuropsychological testing. This is paper-and-pencil testing that includes puzzles and games. It’s actually often fun to take these tests. They are not diagnostic of ADHD, but they add valuable information.
Treatment begins with education. The patient and concerned others need to learn what ADHD is, and what it is not. A diagnosis of the mind, like ADHD, must be fully understood if it is to be mastered and made good use of. At its best, ADHD can become an asset rather than a liability in a person’s life. But for this to happen, the person has to develop a deep appreciation for how ADHD works within him or her. To understand ADHD, a person could begin with one of my books, like Delivered From Distraction, or with some other book on the topic. Just be sure you read a book by a highly qualified expert who writes clearly and well.
Treatment proceeds with a restructuring of one’s life. Usually, disorganization is a leading problem in the life of the person who has ADHD. Often an organizational coach can help enormously in developing new habits of organization and time management.
Treatment should also include physical exercise, at least four times per week. Dr. John Ratey’s work and his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, notes that physical exercise is one of the best treatments we have for ADHD.
Proper nutrition plays an important role in the treatment of ADHD in all ages. The key simply is to eat well, avoid junk food and sugar, eat whole foods, and don’t self-medicate with carbs, as many people with ADHD are tempted to do.