Adult Attention Deficit Disorder
“I Have Adult ADD” By Dr. Ed Hallowell
Maybe your brain seems like it’s here one minute and gone the next. Maybe you can’ follow directions that include more than one or two steps. Maybe you lose track of time, or maybe you chronically procrastinate. Maybe you think you’re depressed and try to make yourself feel better with alcohol. Or maybe you need many cups of coffee to stay on track all day.
Maybe you’re an impulsive overspender. Maybe you liven up everyone you meet, but deep down inside you feel lonely and sad. Maybe you have lots of creative ideas, but you just don’t know how to organize them and put them into action.
Well, just maybe you have attention deficit disorder (ADD). Many people have ADD without knowing it because most people still think it^s a condition found only in children, particularly boys. So whenever they find themselves wandering from one task to another, they never think it might be ADD.
I Have ADD
I know about ADD. I have it myself, and as a child and adult psychiatrist, I have been diagnosing and treating it for the past 20 years. I thought I’d take this chance to fill you in on some things that could change your life for the better – dramatically and soon.
First of all, having ADD does not mean that you can’t pay attention. Just the opposite. People with ADD can often be extremely focused and pay attention better than anyone else at certain times.
Second, having ADD does not necessarily mean that you are hyperactive, or that you were as a child. In fact, many children and adults who have ADD are the opposite of hyperactive; they are quiet and serene.
Third, having ADD does not mean that you are “slow” or got bad grades in school, or can’t excel in various arenas. Many people with ADD are extraordinarily talented, successful, and quick.
A Fast-Tracking Mind
So what does it mean to have ADD? The core symptom of the condition is a frequent, involuntary wandering of attention. You’re reading a book, and the next thing you know, you’re thinking about what one of your son’s teachers said to you that morning. And even though you are still scanning the words in the book, you no longer comprehend them because your attention is now totally focused on the teacher’s words. You do not have a deficit of attention–you are paying very close attention to the teacher’s words–but your attention has wandered from the task at hand. Everyone does this some of the time. What differentiates the person who has ADD from the person who does not is how often the person does it and how much it gets in their way.
Are You Different?
Other than a wandering attention, what other tendencies might be a tip-off that you have undiagnosed ADD? Maybe you^re extremely well focused doing the most stimulating tasks at work, but in the boring parts of work and at home, you are near the brink of disaster all the time due to disorganization and lack of focus. Sometimes the high-intensity part of the job “treats” your ADD and allows you to focus. Or maybe you are highly creative and have always wished you could take up painting or write a novel, but you hold back, believing you lack discipline, or feeling that you lack motivation, words you used to hear in school. In addition, maybe your doctor has told you that you might be suffering from mild depression. Guess what? The underlying problem still might be ADD. Often people with ADD are highly creative, but they don^t develop their gifts because the symptoms of ADD get in the way. And that makes them feel a bit depressed.
Run with It!
Maybe you’ve always thought you were different. You’ve done your best for as long as you can remember to stifle your different side and appear as normal as you possibly can. You^ve spent decades trying to hide your true self from the rest of the world because you feared that you would be found out as crazy, weird, inept, or just bad. Well, you, too, might have ADD. ADD people typically think differently from other people and experience life in a unique way.
If this is true for you, the only way to flourish and grow is to come out of hiding. We’re all a little strange, we humans. Often the best of us, the most creative and interesting and fun, are the strangest of all. Rather than hide, go see a good specialist who can help you understand in what ways you are different and show you how to take advantage of your strengths and talents. Then, instead of hiding, you can use your true self to fly high in your life, exulting in who you are and being free. Like me.
Edward M. “Ned” Hallowell, MD, is a child and adult psychiatrist and the founder of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Concord, MA. He is also the author of Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood.