ADHD Sucks! – but you can do something about it

Dr. Brett HowardADHD

ADHD sucks! Sometimes I wish I had cancer or a broken leg!

They never truly mean it. The occasional client that says something like this is absolutely not trying to diminish the experience of those suffering from other conditions, nor are they trying to imply that living with ADHD is more difficult or challenging than battling cancer or recovering from a broken bone. To me, what they are trying to explain is that they are frustrated and angry in knowing that they are 100% responsible for each and every outcome of their life, despite those outcomes being very much influenced by their ADHD.

Executive Function Impairment

ADHD is a disorder of executive functions (EF). And when you have EFs that are disordered, things like memory, focus, emotion regulation, attention and organization don’t work as effectively and efficiently as most others without ADHD.

People can’t tell that you have an EF disorder when you walk in the door. It might not even occur to them that you may or may not have ADHD. What they can see is that you are late to the meeting (again), that you don’t have the book that you borrowed with you (that they reminded you to bring twice before), and that you seem to be the most frustrated and angry one in the room when your flight is canceled. The people around you can see all these things and may label you as forgetful, lazy, unmotivated, disorganized, emotional, or someone who “can’t handle stress well.” And what sucks is that you know you can’t say, “sorry, its just my ADHD.”

ADHD is not an excuse.

When things go wrong in the lives of those with ADHD, blaming ADHD (or any mental health condition) seldom provides much long-term relief and certainly doesn’t suggest a solution. I encourage my clients to divert their anger and frustration toward redoubling their efforts to implement the tangible, actionable, and far more impactful methods of behavioral habits and techniques aimed at supporting executive functioning.

Behavioral Interventions

Behavioral interventions that target executive functions and other issues related to ADHD are always 100% relevant, safe and a healthy way to respond to the frustrating outcomes of EF failures.

alarms & reminders – if you are still late to meetings and appointments, spend more time finding an alarm & reminder system that works for you. If assignments are still being turned in late or you are still waiting until the last minute, then set multiple reminders that cue your completion (or part) of a particular assignment.

daily planner & journal – if you have difficulty remembering things, make sure you have your planner/journal with you at all times so you can write stuff down. Make sure you are spending 10 mins each morning and then several times throughout the day looking at your daily planner to stay oriented to the day and responsibilities in front of you. Create your daily planner with a “mission mindset” and think ahead of time about contingency plans and what equipment and tools are necessary for your appointments, tasks and assignments.

meditation & journal – flying off the handle? getting too upset/irritable at things? Make sure you are spending time each day in mindfulness exercises, meditating and journaling to process your emotions. The emotional brake-pads are pretty sluggish in many people with ADHD, so time must be spent on developing these skills to diminish the effects of emotion dis-regulation.

so much more – the list of behavioral interventions goes on and on and depend on the ways ADHD impacts your life. Not into journaling…then join an improv group or take a class. Not into mindfulness exercises and chewing a raisin a 1000 times…then start up a photography hobby and start becoming mindful of the world around you so you can find that perfect photo!

Yep, ADHD sucks! But the pain is not from the condition itself but from the results of a condition left under- or poorly treated. You have every right to be frustrated and angry that ADHD has given you more than your fair share of difficulties and challenges when it comes to managing the day-to-day of relationships, work, school and stress. But try to use that frustrated energy to double-down on your efforts toward better management of your ADHD…especially those behavioral interventions that address those ADHD symptoms that are most specific to your life.