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One Click Holiday Gifts for your ADHD Family/Friends

Posted on December 05, 2017



Hate Shopping at Malls? Me too! Buy all your holiday gifts online in 15 minutes or less!


If you’re like me, walking in the dark is tempting death, or at the very least, a broken limb. This super sharp looking night light does something very cool: it detects motion, switches on when you walk by it, then turns itself off after a minute of no movement.


Check it out HERE.

Looking for more gift ideas? Well, I have them- right HERE

Amazon Black Friday Specials!

Posted on November 23, 2017

Does ADD Trigger this Destructive Cycle in your Relationship?

Posted on November 15, 2017





If you are an adult with Attention Deficit Disorder, chances are, you are no stranger to criticism. Perhaps you have been hearing about your downfalls and deficits for most of your life – from parents, teachers, employers, your partner, and, possibly your biggest critic of all – yourself. Changing how you respond to criticism however, could bring unexpected changes for the better to your relationship. Dr John Gottman, one of the world’s leading relationship researchers refers to both criticism and the defensiveness that often follows it, as belonging to a cluster of behaviors he refers to as the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, so strong is the association between these communication patterns and divorce.

According to Dr Gottman, when one partner is critical of the other, they generally mean well. In the mind of the criticizer, they are merely trying to convey what seems to them to be a better, more logical way to their partner. However, criticism is different from simply airing a complaint. Instead, it comes across as a problem with the person rather than the behavior.

For the person on the receiving end of criticism, the natural response is to defend and may well go something like “you just don’t understand”, “I can’t do anything right for you” or “Nothing is ever good enough for you”. The danger of this cycle is, as negativity builds over time, each partner is likely to become less tolerant of the other and even more critical or defensive. Small issues soon become big issues.

If the criticism and defensiveness cycle is playing out in your relationship these simple changes could make your relationship a happier place.

Instead of criticizing your partner: Try approaching the problem behavior in a more gentle way, and take care to keep your request specific to a specific behavior or need that you have. Make an effort to understand your partner’s point of view on whatever it is that you would like them to be doing differently. Let them know why this is important to you, and express appreciation for other aspects of your partner’s behavior.

Instead of reacting defensively: Try to take responsibility where you can. Rather than continuing to defend, experiment with genuinely opening up to what your partner is saying and owning whatever small part of it you can.

Work on simply understanding each other’s position: See if you can work towards understanding what your partner is saying from their point of view before you react. Within most conflict, there is an underlying need or longing that is not being met. Working on being curious about and understanding these needs can amplify the positive feeling in your relationship.

My husband used to be very critical earlier in our relationship. I can see now that he simply couldn’t understand why I didn’t do things as efficiently or logically as he did and thought that pointing out what I was doing wrong and how I could do it better would help me be more effective. All this did was make me stressed, flustered and defensive and often lead to a fight. Once we stepped out of this cycle and examined what was happening between us, I was able to explain to my husband how his criticism made me feel and we were able to work together to find a way for him to bring things up with me in a way that felt safer.

Learn how to calm yourself down: The other tool that Dr Gottman’s research found to be extremely helpful in de-escalating conflict is to use self-soothing techniques when you notice your stress levels rising during conflict. Due to that history with shame and blame I talked about earlier, it is incredibly easy for people with ADD to become very emotionally activated in the face of criticism or conflict. In fact, once you start paying attention, you may notice your body starting to react before you are able to put words around how you feel. Start noticing any changes in your body such as increased heart rate, shallow breathing, sweaty palms or a rising feeling of distress, and immediately employ calming responses.  What you want to do is send your brain the message that you understand why it is feeling under threat, but that there is no reason for panic. See if you can slow your breathing down a little, take some deeper breaths and release any tension you notice you are holding in your body.

Research has also shown that there are many benefits to taking a break from the conversation or conflict when either or both partners are in a state of distress. If you do take a break, and return to the conversation later on, you will probably notice that it is a totally different conversation now that you are both feeling calmer.

By working to understand how you and your partner’s behaviors impact on each other and stepping out of the criticism/defensiveness cycle, you will be making your relationship a safer and more joyful space for both of you.


Madonna Hirning is a Psychologist and Couples Therapist in private practice in Australia. When one of her children was diagnosed with ADD and she realised that she experienced many of the same issues, Madonna was finally able to understand aspects of herself that she had struggled with her whole life. While difficult and confronting at time, she has found coming to understand both the challenges and the advantages that come with her ADD traits to be a hugely helpful and empowering process.   Madonna writes about self-awareness, empowerment, creating a happy life and other struggles common to the human condition in her blog at

How to Be a Better Listener: 15 Tips to help you Stay Connected

Posted on October 31, 2017



Distractions. Inattention. Boredom.


A woman with ADHD once told me that when she is in a conversation with someone and if the topic at hand isn’t of much interest to her, she – like many with ADHD – zones out. As she put it, “I see their mouth moving but don’t seem to hear the words. My inner world is much more interesting.”

We miss so much- teachers’ lectures, lovers’ murmurings, children’s innocent wonderings and questions, driving directions, movie plots…all due to our distractibility. How can we improve our listening skills so we’re connected with our loved ones, bosses, friends and others?

How to Be a Better Listener: 15 Tips to help you Stay Connected

1. Become aware of your tendency to mentally roam.

2. Stay in the here and now. Remind yourself that you can think about other things later.

3. Find ways to stay connected. For some, it’s watching the person’s mouth or eyes.

4. When your mind wanders, mentally repeat what the person is saying.

5. Become more interactive in the conversation. If you tend to be a passive listener, practice interjecting your thoughts and ideas.

6. People love to talk about themselves. Ask questions; you’ll be more likely to listen if you are more active in the conversation.

7. If you’re in a class, business meeting or other type of lecture, bring fidgets to help you stay focused. Or doodle on a piece of paper. Some find it easier to listen if they take copious notes.

8. Sit in the front of the room at meetings, classes and presentations. You’ll be less likely to get distracted by others around you.

9. Many with ADHD have a tendency to take over a conversation. Remind yourself to take a break and allow others to have a chance to talk.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask the person to repeat himself. If you let the conversation go too long when your mind is elsewhere, it will only get tougher to re-connect. No explanations are needed other than, “can you say that again?”

11. Pretend that you’ll be tested on the information/conversation you’re hearing.

12. Practice not interrupting (very hard when you have ADHD). Wear a rubber band on your wrist and pluck it when you get the urge to speak out of turn.

13. Repeat (some!) of the words the speaker is saying so that it “sticks.” For example, if a person is giving you directions, re-state them verbally.

14. Be aware of distractions and eliminate them if at all possible, i.e. turn off the TV or radio. Move to a different room that is quieter. Sit away from doors and windows.

15. Think of how you can learn from this person- what is their message? How will you better understand her? Think of the conversation as a learning experience.

Listening is an art form. Having ADHD and learning to listen is a skill that you can hone with practice and patience.

36 Tips for Families with ADHD

Posted on October 16, 2017



Statistics reveal that approximately 4% of adults in the U.S have ADHD. The majority of those affected are not getting diagnosed, nor are they receiving appropriate treatment. This is most likely due in part, to the fact that ADHD in adults was not widely recognized until the mid 1980s. Since then, researchers have found that adults with ADHD are at risk of having significant lifetime impairments, partly because they often suffer from other disorders, such as anxiety and depression in addition to their ADHD.

Keeping in mind that ADHD is highly genetic and that there is about a 50% chance of an adult with ADHD having one or more children with ADHD, it’s no wonder that families with multiple ADHD members tend to have high stress levels, marital conflicts and find parenting to be a daunting responsibility.

Consider the common symptoms seen in both adults and children with ADHD:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity/impulsivity
  • Distractibility
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problems with procrastination
  • Difficulty finishing tasks/projects
  • Emotional lability

When both child and adult share ADHD symptoms, it becomes extremely difficult and challenging for all family members involved. For example, how does a distracted parent keep an inattentive child on task? How does a disorganized parent teach a child organizational strategies? How does a parent with a short fuse tend to an overemotional child?

The adult with ADHD faces the already formidable task of raising a challenging child while at the same time trying to cope with his own personal struggles. If the parents’ ADHD issues are not addressed, they will experience tremendous difficulties fulfilling their roles as effective parents. The unique needs of each individual family member must be met in order for the family to manage effectively.

The challenges ADHD families face is addressed in the article, “When Mom and Dad are Distracted, Too: Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD.” Below are specific strategies families can use to improve relationships, self esteem and family life in general.

Family Strategies for Living Successfully with ADHD:

  1. Elicit help from your spouse and work as a team.
  2. Educate yourself about the disorder by reading as much as you can about ADHD in adults and children.
  3. Knowing that ADHD is part of the family mix, begin to shift expectations of yourself and your child. Expect that there will be more chaos, disorganization and tension in your home.
  4. Get babysitting help even if you are at home.
  5. Take parenting classes to acquire specific parenting tools.
  6. Realize that suggestions from well meaning friends and relatives may work for their (non-ADHD) children, but not for yours.
  7. Make sure that both parent and child’s ADHD is optimally treated.
  8. Hire someone to do homework with your child. This will knock down the stress level immediately for the entire family.
  9. Give yourself time outs when you feel you’re about to lose control of your temper; teach your child the same tactics. Ask your spouse to take over when you feel overwhelmed.
  10. Simplify your life in all areas: learn to say NO, or get into the habit of responding to outside requests by saying, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” This tactic forces you to think carefully about the commitment before jumping in. Stop over-committing.
  11. Delegate chores to each family member – don’t take it all on yourself.
  12. Spend time with each child, where the focus is only on FUN.
  13. Learn to see the positive traits in all family members and remember to verbalize them often.
  14. Spend time away with your spouse, friends or alone to re-charge.
  15. Hire a Professional Organizer to get systems in place. Often times, children and adults with ADHD don’t have a natural understanding of organizational methods; a professional organizer can be extremely helpful in teaching such strategies.
  16. Consider hiring an ADD coach to help with prioritizing, time management, organizing your day, etc.
  17. Whenever possible, hire outside help with such chores such as house cleaning, lawn upkeep, etc.
  18. If budget is an issue in getting outside help, consider swapping chores with friends, relatives and neighbors. Ask relatives/friends to take over, then reciprocate with something you can do for them.
  19. Have quiet time for yourself after work. Consider spending 20 minutes at a coffee shop on your way home in order to re-charge, so that you have energy for your family.
  20. Have quiet zones set up in your home to help minimize distractions and sensory overload.
  21. Allow yourself to have “messy zones” at home so that there isn’t constant anxiety and frustration in trying to keep the entire house in order.
  22. Turn off the TV and phone during meals and turn on the answering machine.
  23. Have weekly family meetings to discuss problems and ways to solve them.
  24. Find humor in ADHD mishaps.
  25. See it coming and have a plan. For example, if your child has tantrums at the supermarket, leave him/her home with your spouse or sitter.
  26. Find creative ways for the family to do chores, i.e. singing/dancing; have contests to see who finishes first; offer weekly prizes, etc.
  27. Keep a large wipe-off board and color code using markers for each family member- for schedules, chores, homework, etc.
  28. Have a “home” for daily items that typically get lost, i.e. keys, backpacks, glasses, wallet.
  29. Have things ready ahead of time so there’s not a last minute frantic dash before heading out for the day: pack lunches the night before; put briefcase and backpacks next to the door where the family exits.
  30. Place a small white board on the fridge for family members to jot down needed items from the grocery store.
  31. Remind yourself and your family that ADHD is not a death sentence and that together, you will get through this through humor, creativity and thinking outside the box.
  32. Remember the basics: exercise, good diet and adequate sleep. Some find that meditating is helpful to maintain calm and focus.
  33. Simplify meals if cooking isn’t your forte’. Allow yourself to carry dinners in, and use shortcuts to make simple, fast meals. Many kids with ADHD are very picky eaters and it’s best not to fight the issue. Some parents find that having kids develop menu ideas and helping out in the kitchen motivates them to be more interested in their food choices. Supplement poor eaters’ diets with healthy snacks and vitamins.
  34. Use checklists and other organizing strategies such as a Palm pilot or paper planner. Make sure the system works for you, rather than investing in the latest gadgets just because they are popular.
  35. Pick your battles- let go of things that aren’t all that important. Ask yourself if it’s essential that your son’s socks match at soccer practice; is it worth getting into a fight over it?
  36. As parents, be consistent with house rules and show a united front. Follow routines; children with ADHD thrive on structure.

Things to Remember

Raising a family is challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Add ADHD to the mix, and the stressors can take a toll on all members involved. It’s important to recognize the special challenges these families face. Allow yourself to take a step back, to change your expectations and forgive yourself when you feel that you’re not doing a “good enough” job juggling family and work responsibilities. Think about new strategies, starting with the ones above, to help improve daily family life. Remind yourself that having ADHD is not your fault, but on the other hand, it should not be an excuse for the problems your family may be facing.

Recognize that you are doing your best, but most likely you will need outside help and support- from working with mental health professionals, to securing household help in managing some of the chores when possible. Remember to delegate household responsibilities, keep your sense of humor and get the necessary treatment for all members challenged by ADHD.

Each family member lends a special uniqueness to the family, with talents, strengths and insights; pointing this out on a regular basis will help improve self-esteem and draw your family closer together. We tend to laser-focus on the negatives which only creates more family tension and resentment.

Your job as a parent with ADHD parenting children with ADHD is extremely challenging. Keep your sense of humor and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.

(Originally published 2008)

When Mom and Dad are Distracted, Too: Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD (Part 1) 

Posted on October 02, 2017

Distracted Mom

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or, in more scientific terms, we can say that since ADHD is highly genetic: there’s a pretty good chance that a parent with ADHD will have a child with ADHD. In fact, there is approximately a 50% chance of that occurring. So what happens when mom and/or dad has ADHD? How does the family manage with multiple ADHD members?

Family life is complex enough when ADHD isn’t part of the mix. But add the common ADHD symptoms of inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity/impulsivity, disorganization, hypersensitivities and more, and one often sees chaos and distressing scenarios that can often become unmanageable. Consider the following:

How does hyperactive Johnny get his homework done if dad shuts down after a full day of work, completely depleted of all energy, and thus unable to give his distracted son the structure and support he needs?

How does inattentive mom remember to buy all the needed groceries for her family, stay on task and be organized enough to get dinner on for the kids, who, if not fed early enough, will have total emotional meltdowns, causing the whole family distress?

There are many challenges that ADHD families face and it’s important to address them by first becoming aware that they exist and understanding how they impact family life. Too often, families are in such turmoil that it’s difficult to wade through the mess and come to some sort of conclusion that not only is it the ADHD to blame, but that there are steps and strategies parents can utilize to prevent family meltdowns.

How Parents’ ADHD Impacts Family Life

Looking at the following scenarios, one can see the multitude of problems ADHD families face:

  1. If a parent procrastinates and is overloaded with last minute work deadlines, how can he help his child with homework so that the assignment is handed in on time?


  1. If a parent is disorganized, how can he help teach his own child organizational skills?


  1. If a parent is hyperactive, how can he slow down enough to enjoy one on one time with his child?


  1. If a parent is a daydreamer, how can she give her child her undivided attention? The child may misinterpret the inattention as the parent not caring.


  1. If a parent is emotionally over-reactive, how can he be patient with his child who also may have a short fuse?


  1. If a parent is annoyed by stimuli (noise, touch, etc.), how can she cope with the normal bustling activities of home life?

In addition to these and many other challenges, parents often are overwhelmed with their own perceived failures as parents. Often, depression, anxiety, guilt and anger set in. Marriages become conflicted and partners lose sight of each other’s – and their own- emotional needs. And what becomes of the children’s needs? Sadly, parents who have children with AD/HD are three times as likely to separate or divorce as parents of non-AD/HD children. But there are ways parents can avoid this.

Where to Start

It’s important to first understand what ADHD is and how it manifests itself in daily life. Parents need to be armed with this information so that they can not only help themselves, but also be available to their children so that the needs of all members of the family are being met.

This can be done by:

  • Reading about ADHD in adults and in children.
  • Attending conferences, workshops and meetings, such as CHADD and ADDA.
  • Getting support from family and friends and attending support groups.
  • Getting appropriate treatment for both child and parent.
  • Letting go of the concept of the “ideal” family and embracing the idiosyncrasies of yours; ADHD and all.
  • Learning to forgive yourself and acknowledging you are doing the best you possibly can.

There are many online resources as well:

In addition, it’s imperative that parents get professional help for all family members with ADHD. Counseling, therapy and medication are common treatment modalities. Studies show that the most successful treatment for ADHD is a combination of these, plus, in the case of children, behavioral treatment. Adults often find ADD coaching to be extremely helpful. In addition, your child may be eligible for special help at school. Discuss your concerns with the school social worker or psychologist.

All in all, maintain your sense of humor. Communicate clearly with your spouse and children. Realize that though your family may have specific ADHD related challenges, each member contributes something special to the mix. Acknowledge each person’s unique strengths and gifts and come together as a family, offering encouragement and support.

Are you a parent with ADHD? Can you share some strategies that work for you? Please post in the Comment section, below.


Originally published On Jan 14th 2008



Pro Tips For Making Things Easier on Yourself as a Mom With ADHD

Posted on September 09, 2017



Check out this article from I contributed a number of comments/tips for this piece, which you can read HERE



ADHD and Adults: 8 Effective Shortcuts for Home and Work

Posted on September 09, 2017


ADHD and Adults: 8 Effective Shortcuts for Home and Work


Check out this article from I contributed a number of comments/tips for this piece, which you can read HERE




ADHD in the Elderly

Posted on August 05, 2017


When I was interviewing Betty for  my article,The Many Faces of ADHD – ADHD at 85: Betty’s Profile”, I did some research on ADHD and the elderly and was shocked when I found virtually nothing on the topic; just a few short informal articles.

As our population ages, so will those currently being treated for ADHD- our children, teens, and adults. What will happen once they reach their later years? And what about the folks right now, who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s, who continue to live with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD?

Surely, there must be many hundreds of thousands of seniors who have ADHD Like Betty, one would think they lived and continue to live with symptoms that cause tremendous problems that impact their daily lives. Now, with more living and working longer than ever before, these folks must be suffering in silence, ashamed of their struggles and living, like Betty, thinking they are less than capable. We know that there is a high incidence of depression in this population; could many also be challenged with an underlying ADHD as well? Hopefully, scientists, researchers and clinicians will begin to look more closely at this population and begin to identify and treat them.

There are special considerations one must take into account when evaluating and treating older adults. As one ages, cognitive functioning often declines. Clinicians will need better assessment tools to understand which symptoms would be attributed to ADHD vs other conditions seen in the geriatric population. For example, is the patient showing signs of memory loss and/or impairment of executive functioning? What is causing these problems? How long has it been a problem? How does one differentiate between ADHD and other cognitive problems often seen in aging?

In addition, as people age, they often have one or more medical problems that need to be treated with medications. Could those meds be causing side effects that mimic ADHD? And would those conditions and treatments make an underlying ADHD worse? Untreated thyroid disease, for example, can look very much like ADHD.

If an elderly person is lucky enough to be appropriately diagnosed with ADHD, how successful will treatment be? Typically, patients with a cardiac condition are not candidates for stimulant treatment and we know from research that stimulant medications appear to be the most helpful for treating ADHD. If stimulants are not appropriate, how do we treat them, medically? Sadly, the few older individuals with ADHD whom I’ve spoken with are not at all interested in taking ADHD medication. Perhaps they are set in their ways. Or maybe they worry about adding more medication to their regime.

Further, many continue to feel the stigma of “seeing a therapist” and refuse to consider counseling.

What You Can Do

If you’re an adult with ADHD or have a child with ADHD, remember that this is a condition that is highly genetic. Look at the elders in your family and see if there is ADHD in your family tree. If they might be open to talking about the possibility of having ADHD, start off with some casual discussions on how it’s impacted your or your child’s life and see if he/she “bites.” Explain how treatment has changed lives dramatically. Go slow, though.

Consider bringing your older relative to a CHADD meeting or an ADHD conference. If they like to read, purchase a book on ADHD. Driven to Distraction, by Drs. Edward Hallowell and John Ratey is a great choice. It is also available on tape.

If you’re a senior and are wondering whether your symptoms might be attributed to possible ADHD, seek out a specialist who works with adults and consider having an evaluation. Contact your primary care physician to first have a complete medical workup to rule out any medical conditions that can mimic ADHD. If you’re cleared of any, ask for a referral to psychiatrist, neurologist or other health or mental health professional that has a lot of experience evaluating adults with ADHD. If your doctor draws a blank, call your closest teaching hospital and ask for the department of psychiatry or psychology and ask for names.

You can also contact CHADD and ask the chapter coordinator in your area for names. You can also call them at  800-233-4050 to find the chapter closest to you.

In addition, you can find online directories of ADHD specialists:

Make sure you ask many questions, including how many adults with ADHD they evaluate and if they have experience working with the older population.

It’s never too late improve your life!

Originally published On: Apr 10th 2008

The Many Faces of ADHD: Betty, a Grandmother

Posted on August 05, 2017


She was a dancer, a dancing instructor, an art teacher and active her whole life in various community charities. Her warm smile, good sense of humor, sensitivity and a deep interest in others, made her popular amongst her peer group, from her elementary school days to the present time.

But what Betty won’t share with her friends, is the fact that she has ADHD. Betty still grapples with the devastating effects living with undiagnosed ADHD has had on her life. All 85 years. When I heard about Betty, I wanted to hear her story. There is little written about ADHD and how it affects people later in life. In fact, I was unable to find any research at all on the topic, so I wanted to learn more.

I interviewed this fascinating woman from Chicago, who shared with me some of her deepest emotions and memories of growing up with ADHD and how she still manages living with it.

Betty’s childhood was difficult. The youngest of six, her parents, immigrants from Austria, struggled to make ends meet. Sleeping two and sometimes three to a bed, Betty was lucky if there was a slice of bread in the kitchen to get her though a meal, let alone an entire day. A child of the Depression, life was hard for most in her neighborhood. Just getting through the day was a feat. But Betty had more challenges. She struggled in school. In fact, her earliest memory takes place in her Kindergarten room; a memory so etched in her mind, that she recalled it with ease. She remembered being stunned and excited at seeing an entire room full of toys and feeling nearly overwhelmed by it; for as a youngster, she had virtually no toys at home.

“I saw some delicious toys in the corner of the room, grabbed a handful and put them in the middle of the floor, then went back for more. It was like being in a candy store With my arms filled with more toys, I looked for my original pile, but couldn’t find where I’d put them just moments before.” This was Betty’s first experience of feeling different from the other children. “How could I misplace a pile of toys in the Kindergarten room? I was so lost…”

When Betty started first grade, her classmates began to learn to read. While the others were picking up sight words and sounding them out, Betty stared at the letters, not understanding how to string them together to form words. Her older siblings patiently worked with her until she had that “aha!” moment, when it came together for her. But by then, her feeling of being different from the other children began to gel and define what kind of student she would become.

Once she learned to read, she still struggled in school because, as Betty continued to explain, she lived in a deep, magical imaginary world that occupied and stimulated her creative brain. Says Betty: “my greatest pleasure was looking out the school window and picturing myself like the Lone Ranger, high on that beautiful white horse. In my mind, the children would be in awe, seeing me ride up to the school as they peered out of the second floor window.” Betty spent countless hours daydreaming, while the other students were attending to the teacher’s lessons. Of course, she got further and further behind in school because she simply could not pay attention. Her inner life was much more interesting.

As she progressed through elementary school, her grades continued to be average at best. No one understood in those days how to help a struggling student. They were seen as lazy or simply not very bright. And sadly, Betty internalized those perceptions and grew to believe them- that there was something wrong with her; that she was slow to learn.

At the age of 11, her older sister saw that Betty had a gift for dance, and found enough money to enroll her in a dance class. Their mother would save pennies in a jar so that she could continue her lessons, for, in a very short time, Betty excelled in dance and became a favorite in her teacher’s eyes.

By the time she was in high school, Betty began teaching at one of the most prestigious dance schools in the city of Chicago. Still, her grades plummeted in high school, for now, her fantasy of riding a grand white horse evolved into dreams of becoming a professional dancer. While others were learning algebra and literature, Betty daydreamed about dancing on stage while memorizing the dance routine steps in her head. The dance teachers were amazed that Betty could fly through her new routines so quickly, so easily. While the others had to practice and practice, Betty had already nailed the dances by picturing each move in her head.

By the skin of her teeth, Betty graduated high school. Though she left her classmates and teachers behind, what she took with her was the belief that she was not smart and not capable. Of course, in those days, ADHD wasn’t understood. But it found an early victim and it took hold of her for the next 75 years.

Betty continued to live with a secret that would affect her entire life. Her friends and family never knew that this vivacious, creative and bright woman was struggling with the deepest of self-doubt and lack of confidence.

After high school, Betty continued to follow her dreams and became a professional dancer. While at the local dance studio, she was the star student and later the esteemed teacher. But she wanted more; she wanted to break into show business. Just as she was about to leave for California to make that dream a reality, she met the man who would become her husband and thus, she chose instead to stay in Chicago, marry and eventually have two children.

In the 1950s and 60s, few women worked, but Betty needed a creative outlet for her artistic passions and continued to dance at charity fundraisers and later, returned to teach, eventually opening her own dance studio. As she got older, other interests drew her away from dancing and she became fascinated with the visual arts. Self taught for the most part, with a short stint at The Art Institute of Chicago, Betty began giving drawing lessons out of her home and became well known in the community, with many students signing up for her popular classes.

Yet even with all of these successes, Betty continued to doubt herself. She struggled with staying organized. Papers would get lost or misplaced. She’d be late for appointments and social events, which caused her terrible embarrassment. Worse, she would struggle to remember people’s names, even those she’d known for years. ADHD had full control over Betty, but she had no clue what it was. In her mind, it was a shameful deficiency; a flaw she needed to hide.

Years later, an amazing thing happened. At the age of 75, a friend’s daughter, whose own two children have ADHD, began talking about their struggles. Betty’s spine chilled as she listened to what sounded like her own life story unfold. Then it slowly dawned on her- could she, too have this thing called ADHD? Could her life long problem of “tuning out”, not getting projects done, constantly being late, her poor sense of direction be attributed to ADHD?

She discussed the possibility with a mental health professional who did diagnose her with ADHD. Betty was relieved. But not before disbelieving the possibility. For 75 years, she believed she was simply not bright. How would she switch that perception into believing that what she’d been struggling with her whole life was actually a neurobiological condition she had at birth and most likely, inherited from her parents?

I asked Betty what happened to her when she learned of her ADHD. She said, “I was embarrassed. But I was also relieved.” Few close to her know her secret, as she still cannot shake the stigma of having ADHD, thinking no one would believe, anyway, that this striking, capable and talented woman could possibly have struggled so hard all her life. She spent a lifetime hiding it and it was nearly impossible to accept it fully; she was still haunted with the comments people made when she was growing up: “Betty can’t do it; she’s too spacey”., etc.

Betty chose not to pursue medical treatment for her ADHD. Feeling that she has been able to compensate well enough all these years, taking meds didn’t feel “right” for her. But armed with the knowledge of what ADHD is and how it affected and continues to affect her, she has let go of a lot of that negative self image and continues to work on shifting her self-concept to a more positive one.

An important lesson can be learned from reading about Betty’s story. First, knowing the devastation and damage that undiagnosed, untreated ADHD can have on an individual, regardless of their age, might help motivate them to look into an evaluation. Study after study shows that getting the appropriate treatment early in life will improve the quality of one’s life. A lifetime of self-doubt, low self-esteem and worse, can easily be avoided if appropriate treatment is given. Had Betty received this (though at the time, it obviously wasn’t even available), her life might have been much different.

We’re fortunate that ADHD is better understood now than ever before. Perhaps Betty’s story will implore others to seek an evaluation and get treatment, avoiding a lifetime of shame, secrecy and self doubt.

* I have changed the name of the person interviewed to protect her privacy. Image credit: Chicago Tribune