How the Pandemic Is Helping Some Women Realize They Have ADHD

Amber Lewis has always known she has a problem keeping it together. Her wardrobe is usually empty, with her clothes strewn in piles on the floor and chairs in her apartment. She forgets to pay her bills on time. She gets so flustered following driving directions that she often misses the turns she needs to make. When the pandemic hit, Lewis, a 37-year-old high school ESL teacher in Richfield, Minnesota, suddenly had more time to think about how things had gotten out of control. After a clinical assessment in February 2021, she finally got her answer: She has ADHD.

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The latest in the treatment of women with ADHD

The Facts

According to the prestigious Mayo Clinic, it is estimated that 7.5% of school-aged children have AD/HD. The great majority of these children grow up to be adults with AD/HD, which means that there are between 4.5 to 5.5 million women in the USA alone with AD/HD. If one thinks of the core symptoms of AD/HD: distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity, is it no wonder that woman struggle with seemingly simple tasks such as picking out clothes, keeping their home in order, handling paperwork at their jobs, maintaining healthy relationships, etc? We often forget the many AD/HD symptoms that aren’t usually described in clinical journals and books, but which I’ve observed in countless women. Not all AD/HD presents the same. Some people are hyperactive; others are sluggish. Some love having a lot of commotion and stimuli in their lives; others need to retreat to a quiet space to re-charge.

Symptoms 

Consider the list of symptoms below that are not often described in the ADD literature but which I hear described over and over again from the ADD women I talk to. Is it any wonder that one’s daily activities can be so overwhelming?

  • Hypersensitive to noise, touch, smell
  • Low feeling of self-worth
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Hypersensitive to criticism
  • Poor sense of time- often runs late
  • Emotionally charged; easily upset
  • Starts projects but can’t seem to finish them
  • Takes on too much
  • Difficulty remembering names
  • Says things without thinking, often hurting others’ feelings
  • Appears self-absorbed
  • Poor math and;/or writing skills
  • Doesn’t seem to hear what others are saying
  • Addictive behaviors: shopping, eating
  • Problems with word retrieval
  • Poor handwriting
  • Has difficulty with boring, repetitive tasks
  • Ruminates
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Clumsy; poor coordination
  • Tires easily or conversely, can’t sit still
  • Has problems falling asleep and difficulty waking up the next morning

Effects of Living with AD/HD

For some women, just holding their own in a conversation can be a real challenge. Others avoid social gatherings because they miss social cues, making them feel out of step, thereby shutting down in order to save themselves possible embarrassment. Many feel unable to entertain at home because the piles of clothes, papers and assorted knickknacks keep them away from inviting people over. Relationships, work situations, parenting- all can become huge challenges for women living with undiagnosed and untreated AD/HD. The result of living for years with these difficulties often produces depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and other co-morbid difficulties.

Treatment of AD/HD in Women

Surprisingly, much of the treatment that is used for AD/HD in children is often the treatment of choice for adults as well. Studies have shown that a combination of counseling, psycho-education (learning more about AD/HD and how it impacts one’s life), ADD coaching, support groups and medication (if recommended by a physician), is the most successful treatment approach for women. The most common medications used are the stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine and Concerta are currently the most popular) and a newer non-stimulant medication, Strattera.

However, many women, because of their life-long struggle with AD/HD, may find themselves anxious, depressed or both. Approximately 50% of AD/HD adults do experience a co-morbidity which then needs to be medically addressed by adding perhaps an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication to their regime.

Special Considerations

Research is beginning to show that AD/HD women have special issues throughout their lifespan that cause extra difficulties in their living with this disorder. As hormonal changes shift, so do their AD/HD symptoms. On the one hand, some girls may find that their hyperactivity improves during puberty, yet they may experience an increase in mood instability before and during their menstrual cycles. Peri-menopause and menopause can create it’s own set of problems. Women often report an increase in AD/HD symptoms, particularly memory loss and difficulty with word retrieval. Some notice an increase in depressive symptoms. It’s important for women to work closely with their physicians during these times, so that changes in medications can be discussed. Often, hormonal treatment can alleviate these aggravated symptoms.

Check your AD/HD “temperature”

Whether you are a teenager, or a post-menopausal woman, it’s important to regularly check your “AD/HD temperature” and discuss any changes in your symptoms with your health care provider.

Editors and publishers are free to reprint this article as long as it’s reprinted in its entirety and the signature line remains intact. Please direct a courtesy copy to terry@addconsults.com

20 Common Symptoms of ADHD in Women

ADHD AND HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

Typically, by the time an adult with ADHD has come to me for help, it’s because he has hit rock bottom. His work performance is suffering and his job is in jeopardy.   His ADHD symptoms have gotten him into too much hot water, whether it’s from being chronically late for work, not finishing projects in time, or impulsively chewing out his boss or co-worker.

Perhaps a woman has fallen into a deep depression because she can’t keep up with her young children and her home and balancing it all while working part or full time. She can’t get dinner on the table every night. She loses her child’s school permission slip- yet again. The house is a mess. She’s simply too drained to do much of anything and she feels like a total failure.

Or maybe it’s the single man or woman whose self-esteem is so low because yet another potential relationship has failed. The hard work in sustaining a healthy relationship is just too much.

And there are more struggles:  Instead of having friends over, many adults with ADHD avoid social contacts because their house is just too cluttered. They become isolated, embarrassed and lonely.

Figuring out what to wear to a formal event- and often casual gatherings- is beyond comprehension, so invitations are politely declined. The hole is digging deeper…

A lack of self-esteem forces many to not even attempt to move up in their job for fear they’ll be found out that they are, in their own mind, “inept.”

Most of the time, these folks work just as hard at hiding their so called failures, thus waiting way too long to get the help they so desperately need. By then, they have indeed, hit rock bottom.

Many adults have internalized lots of negative thoughts and feelings about themselves that simply aren’t really true. They think their procrastination is due to laziness. That their impulsivity is a sign of immaturity. That their inattention is due to a low IQ.

All of these internalized feelings typically develop not only into low self-esteem, but also into depression, anxiety and even a tendency to self-medicate through alcohol, marijuana and other substances that either mask or tame their feelings.

Before long, such adults with ADHD not only feel like failures and become depressed; they have lost hope. It’s as if the wind has been knocked out of them for the final count and it’s all they can do to just tread water long enough to stay afloat.

In no way should friends and family dismiss these feelings as a sign of weakness, as character flaws, nor should the pain be minimized as a temporary situation that will get better “if they’d only toughen up and pull up their boot straps.”

This is why I get so angry when I read that ADHD is a made up disorder or something that children outgrow. ADHD is real and if left untreated, can cause incredible pain- not only to the person with ADHD, but to his spouse, family and friends. People with ADHD struggle every day with distractibility, inattention, and more. That’s not to say that we should just throw in the book and give up, though.

Thankfully, ADHD is highly treatable. In fact, it’s one of the most treatable of all mental health conditions.

The question becomes– how does one get help? How can one avoid slipping into the hole of despair? Sadly, what I hear over and over again is that it can be very hard to find the appropriate help. Few clinicians to this day understand how to effectively treat ADHD in adults. Many people don’t live in or near a large city where one has a better chance of finding an ADHD savvy clinician.

Help is available. You just need to know where to find it and also learn how to utilize the resources that are already within you. You can start by reaching out to me for a consultation, so I can help guide you towards finding the help you need.

In the meantime, never give up hope You have many gifts and talents and an inner strength that has gotten you through many obstacles in your past. The future is now wide open, if you’re willing to take on the challenge.

ADHD and Gift Giving

Do you remember the worst Christmas or Chanukah gift you ever got as a kid? I do. It was a giant, metal, realistic looking stove that had a real door that opened and little pots and pans, a spoon and a spatula. I must have been all of 7 years old or so, and when I pulled it out of the box, I nearly burst into tears. At that time in my life, all I was interested in were realistic dolls, Nancy Drew books and board games. I wanted nothing to do with cooking even back then. I suppose one’s personality doesn’t really change much with age, after all!

With the holiday season upon us, think back upon your own childhood and reflect on what presents you loved the most–and which you despised. My guess is that some of the ones you hated were those where the giver had hopes of transforming you into something you were not. The non-athletic would get the baseball bats. The tomboys, the Barbie dolls.

In many cases, ADHD kids have already had their fill of feeling they’ve let others–and themselves–down. School is often a struggle, as are social situations. Many have difficulty playing quietly. Others have problems regulating their emotions.

When picking out gifts for your youngsters, consider choosing things you know they will truly like–not things you *wish* they would enjoy. Emphasize their strengths–heck, they hear about their areas of weakness all through the school year!

If they love being on the computer, this is the time to spoil them with new software. Does your daughter love rock music? Give her a subscription to a teen magazine. Consider buying your athletic child a new basketball or tennis racket.

Still, you *can* purchase gifts that encourage them to improve in areas in very subtle ways. For example:

For your sports nut who hates to read, consider buying just one book–maybe one that highlights the life of his favorite sports hero. Make sure you choose one that is at his current reading level.

For your socially shy one, buy a packet of movie tickets and promise to take her a few times a month with her choice of friend. Suggest that she pick someone whom she’d like to get to know better. Add a “promise” note that you’ll also spoil them both with treats from the refreshment stand. Sometimes kids have trouble “figuring out” how to play together, so spending time at the movies would be a great way to break the ice.

Does your child hate sports because of poor coordination? Sign him up for karate or other similar self-defense class. Many ADHD kids really excel here because they are not expected to compete in the same way as in, say, football or basketball. The self-discipline is extremely helpful, too, in increasing concentration skills.

For the child who has fine motor issues, think about art supplies or art kits. Most kids love making projects or playing with clay. Just make sure you emphasize the pleasure in the process of making art, not in the final project.

If your child has sensory issues she may tend to shun away from physical contact, loud noises, and even find it painful to be in places where there are too many people. Certain food textures can be irritating, let alone those tags on the back of her clothes. Occupational therapists have long used beanbags to help children with these sorts of problems. In particular, they seem to be helpful in calming the hyperactive, irritable child because of the compression it lends to them. You may find that your child even enjoys quiet activities, such as reading and (gasp!) doing homework while resting on one.

Younger children with sensory problems tend to enjoy all kinds of sand play. Purchasing some large bins and filling them with sand, then hiding small items like marbles, miniature plastic animals, etc., can be a great way to help kids overcome their tactile defensiveness. They’ll have so much fun, they won’t even know it’s good for them!

Another idea for your hyperactive child (if you’re up for it) is a family pet. A child who is hyperactive may find that owning a kitten will actually calm her down by nurturing it. Show her how to handle the kitten carefully, and give her as many responsibilities for its care as possible. Most children will try hard to be gentle with a small animal, and can learn to modulate their own activity level in order to keep the kitten calm.

With a little bit of forethought, you’ll be able to come up with gifts that not only match your child’s interests, but also help to improve his fine and gross motor skills, academic abilities, social skills, and more. So, go fire up that Play Station (yes, it *can* be helpful for eye/hand coordination!) and use playtime on it as a reward for good behavior.

All in all, match the right present with the personality of your child–not the child you hoped he would be–and make this his best holiday ever!

ADD Parents with ADD Kids – Terry Matlen answers your questions

Terry Matlen Answers Your Questions:

Question: I am about to throw in the towel. The stress is completely overwhelming me and I don’t know where to turn first. I have an eight-year-old son with ADHD and I have ADD myself. To top it off, I am also a single mom, struggling to stay afloat financially. My son is driving me nuts at home. He is out of control, belligerent and doesn’t listen to me. He is failing most of his tests at school. If I don’t “sit on him” to get his homework completed, it doesn’t get done. We work 3 hours a night to get his assignments in, and by the end of the evening, I’m so wiped out, I can’t see straight. What can I do?!? — A Frustrated ADD Mom

Answer: Just reading your note exhausted me. I can only imagine how you are coping. One of the hardest things to deal with when there is ADD in the family, is the combination of an ADD parent and an ADD child. On the one hand, the ADD parent can empathize and understand the difficulties of her child. But more frequently, I hear complaints of how difficult it is to raise an ADD child when the parent is so disorganized and overwhelmed with her own ADD issues.

First, it is imperative that both your son and yourself receive appropriate treatment for the ADD. Your son needs to be working with a therapist who truly understands ADD in children. He may need support and to learn strategies on how to manage himself in school, at home and socially. The therapist may suggest he be evaluated for medications, so I would encourage you to follow through on that recommendation as well.

As for school, if it is documented that he does have ADHD, then he is entitled to receive special help, either under a 504 plan or an IEP, depending on the severity of his problems. Under a 504, he can be given

accommodations at school, such as longer time to complete tests, having someone help him take notes, preferential seating to decrease distractions, etc.If he is under an IEP, he could get direct special education services. You may want to discuss your concerns with the school psychologist or social worker.

I would also address the homework problems. He may be able to have his homework load decreased–discuss this with his teacher or during the 504 process. In the meantime, you both may be happier if you can remove yourself from the evening struggles. Consider hiring a high school or college student to help your son with his homework. Both of you will be a lot less stressed by having someone outside of the family step in to help.

Being a parent with ADD creates it’s own problems, as you probably know. I would suggest that you consider getting treatment as well–counseling, medication (if indicated), and even an ADD coach. Once you have a better handle on your own problems, you will be a much calmer, and more effective parent.

Consider joining CHADD–a non-profit organization that offers support groups throughout the USA. You can call the national office to find the chapter closest to you: 800-233-4050 or visit their Web site.

ADDA is another wonderful resource. They cater more to the needs of young adults and adults and put out a wonderful newsletter. Check their Web site or call for a membership brochure at www.ADD.org

Honey, I burned the…..again: Profile of the inattentive ADD Woman

Betsy never got into trouble in school, back in the 1960s. She was a model student, actually. Sweet, quiet and well-behaved. Her grades in Citizenship were consistently “A”s. Her teachers adored her. But they couldn’t figure out why such a bright, capable young lady would forget to turn in her homework every day. Or why, during class discussions, she would find it more interesting to watch the leaves on the trees fall silently to the ground when Fall approached.

What they didn’t know was that Betsy suffered from attention deficit disorder, or, ADHD. Back in those days, ADHD was called minimal brain dysfunction. And Betsy didn’t seem to fit that picture!

Years later, when Betsy finished college (though it took her an extra 2 years to do it), she landed a job as a law clerk in a busy law firm. She had given up the hopes of becoming an attorney herself, for keeping up with her studies in college was too difficult. She would find her mind wandering during lectures, especially in the larger ones, where she shared the room with a hundred other young students. How much more interesting it was to think about other things!

She thought she was dumb. Stupid, even. Why was it so hard to even write a silly paper? The thought of reading the required books, even, was too much, let alone organizing her thoughts onto a piece of paper.

But she persevered…and graduated. Barely.

At 24, she married a young man from the law firm where she worked and they settled down. Continuing to work to help support themselves, she found herself getting into trouble with her bosses, who complained that she was too disorganized. Piles of papers decorated her desk. Projects were late getting in. She felt like a failure.

When she became pregnant with their first child, she was secretly thrilled at the idea of staying home to take care of the baby, and escaping from the stress of her job. And since her husband’s income allowed her to make that choice, she left her position just before her baby was born.

Finally! Something she could be “good” at! How she loved this child. But with the lack of sleep, and constant demands of a colicky baby, Betsy began to slip into a depression. Why, she couldn’t even handle being a mother!

Betsy decided she was going to try harder. Though their small home was often in shambles- with toys strewn everywhere, beds unmade, and dirty laundry piled high, she decided that she would change and become the woman she really wanted to be: organized!

One night she decided she would bake a special cake for their one year anniversary. After following the directions carefully, she tossed the batter in the oven and sat down to read a magazine. Before she knew it, she became distracted and found herself working on her scrapbook project while her baby napped. So engrossed was she in her efforts to organize the baby pictures, she forgot that the cake was in the oven, till the smell of burned batter swirled through the room. In horror, she ran to the oven and removed the charred remnants of her special dessert.

Betsy was devastated…again. The dreaded words filled her head: “Lazy. Dumb. Incapable”.

What Betsy didn’t know at the time, was that she was suffering from attention deficit disorder. The hallmark symptoms of ADHD are inattention, distractibility, and in many, impulsivity. Though Betsy didn’t appear to be hyperactive by any means, she certainly did have the other symptoms. She had recently seen a tv show that talked about ADD, but she thought it ridiculous. Only children had ADD! And boys, at that!

But when disaster struck in the kitchen, she began to think about all the problems she’d been facing her whole life: dreaminess in class, disorganized at home, and feelings of total incompetence.

With the encouragement of her husband, she decided to look into the possibility of her having ADD. After finding a skilled clinician who specialized in the disorder, she went through a rigorous evaluation. Bingo. The psychologist, after talking with her for a long time about her childhood, reviewing her report cards, and giving her a battery of tests, explained that her suspicions were correct. She had attention deficit disorder, inattentive type.

He advised her of the treatment options available, and she entered counseling with a therapist who understood ADD in adults. She consulted with a psychiatrist who recommended medication, explaining that ADD was a neurobiological disorder. Her brain chemicals needed the help of a medication to help her to focus, stay on task, and slow her racing brain down.

The psychologist also suggested she attend support groups and enlist the aid of an ADD coach.

Betsy still has ADD. But she has it under control now. She still has trouble keeping up with a busy household, but thanks to the treatment she’s now getting, she no longer sees herself as incapable. Instead, she learned to modify her life in order to achieve success. She changed her expectations of herself, too. Instead of cooking lavish dinners every night that created such anxiety and dread, she learned it was ok to carry out…and to GO out. She enlisted the help of a babysitter so that she could have time to herself. She felt revitalized and refreshed.

And she saw the doors open to a much brighter future. Finally.

You think too much

How many times have you heard this one:

“You’re thinking too much.”

Personally, I hate when I’m told that. Is it true that some people think more than others? Of course not. But some of us ruminate, worry, over-analyze or simply are more sensitive than others. I see this a lot with people with ADHD and frankly, I can be described as being that type of thinker as well. I’d much rather call this an ability to think intuitively and deeply. We seem to be able to feel, think and see all the different angles of things. And sometimes yes, to the point of distress.

But to tell someone that they think “too much” is to me, a form of criticism. And we know that many people with ADHD are super sensitive already to criticism, partly because we’ve had way too much of that our whole lives, and partly because, we’re….wired differently, making us super aware in certain ways while super unaware in other ways. But most of us seem to carry the gene of being able to sniff out criticism in seemingly innocent remarks and body language.

ADHD Myths

By Becky Booth, Wilma Fellman, LPC, Judy Greenbaum, Ph.D., Terry Matlen, ACSW, Geraldine Markel, Ph.D., Howard Morris, Arthur L. Robin, Ph.D., Angela Tzelepis, Ph.D.

The following myths – and factual responses – have been collected
from rebuttals to recent media articles about ADD/ADHD. The
rebuttals were written by MAAAN (Metro Area Adult ADHD
Network, based in the Detroit area).

Myth #1: ADHD is a “phantom disorder.” FACT: The
existence of a neurobiological disorder is not an issue to be
decided by the media through public debate, but rather as a matter
of scientific research. Scientific studies spanning 95 years
summarized in the professional writings of Dr. Russell Barkley,
Dr. Sam Goldstein, and others have consistently identified a group
of individuals who have trouble with concentration, impulse
control, and in some cases, hyperactivity. Although the name given
to this group of individuals, our understanding of them, and the
estimated prevalence of this group has changed a number of times
over the past six decades, the symptoms have consistently been
found to cluster together. Currently called Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder, this syndrome has been recognized as a
disability by the courts, the United States Department of
Education, the Office for Civil Rights, the United States Congress,
the National Institutes of Health, and all major professional
medical, psychiatric, psychological, and educational associations.


Myth #2:
 Ritalin is like cocaine, and the failure to give
youngsters drug holidays from Ritalin causes them to develop
psychosis. FACT: Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is a medically
prescribed stimulant medication that is chemically different from
cocaine. The therapeutic use of methylphenidate does NOT CAUSE addiction or dependence, and does not lead to psychosis.
Some children have such severe ADD symptoms that it can be
dangerous for them to have a medication holiday, for example a
child who is so hyper and impulsive he’ll run into traffic without
stopping to look first. Hallucinations are an extremely rare side effect of methylphenidate, and their occurrence has nothing to do
with the presence or absence of medication holidays. Individuals
with ADHD who are properly treated with stimulant medication
such as Ritalin have a lower risk of developing problems with
alcohol and other drugs than the general population. More
importantly, fifty years of research has repeatedly shown that
children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD safely benefit from
treatment with methylphenidate.

Myth #3: No study has ever demonstrated that taking
stimulant medications can cause any lasting behavioral or
educational benefit to ADHD children. FACT: Research has
repeatedly shown that children, adolescents, and adults with
ADHD benefit from therapeutic treatment with stimulant
medications, which has been used safely and studied for more than
50 years. For example, The New York Times reviewed a recent
study from Sweden showing positive long- term effects of
stimulant medication therapy on children with ADHD. Readers
interested in more studies on the effectiveness of medication with
ADHD should consult the professional writings of Dr. Russell
Barkley, Drs. Gabrielle Weiss and Lily Hechtman, and Dr. Joseph
Biederman.

Myth #4: ADHD kids are learning to make excuses, rather
than take responsibility for their actions. FACT: Therapists,
educators, and physicians routinely teach children that ADHD is a
challenge, not an excuse. Medication corrects their underlying
chemical imbalance, giving them a fair chance of facing the
challenges of growing up to become productive citizens.
Accommodations for the disabled, as mandated by federal and
state laws, are not ways of excusing them from meeting society’sresponsibilities, but rather make it possible for them to compete on
a leveled playing field.

Myth #5: ADHD is basically due to bad parenting and lack of
discipline, and all that ADHD children really need is old-fashioned discipline, not any of these phony therapies. FACT:
There are still some parent-bashers around who believe the
century-old anachronism that child misbehavior is always a moral
problem of the “bad child.” Under this model, the treatment has
been to “beat the Devil out of the child.” Fortunately, most of us
are more enlightened today. A body of family interaction research
conducted by Dr. Russell Barkley and others has unequivocally
demonstrated that simply providing more discipline without any
other interventions worsens rather than improves the behavior of
children with ADHD. One can’t make a paraplegic walk by
applying discipline. Similarly, one can’t make a child with a
biologically-based lack of self-control act better by simply
applying discipline alone.

Myth #6: Ritalin is unsafe, causing serious weight loss, mood
swings, Tourette’s syndrome, and sudden, unexplained
deaths. FACT: Research has repeatedly shown that children,
adolescents, and adults with ADHD benefit from treatment with
Ritalin (also known as methylphenidate), which has been safely
used for approximately 50 years. There are NO published cases of
deaths from overdoses of Ritalin; if you take too much Ritalin, you
will feel terrible and act strange for a few hours, but you will not
die. This cannot be said about many other medications. The
unexplained deaths cited in some articles are from a combination
of Ritalin and other drugs, not from Ritalin alone. Further
investigation of those cases has revealed that most of the children
had unusual medical problems which contributed to their deaths. It
is true that many children experience appetite loss, and some
moodiness or “rebound effect” when Ritalin wears off. A very
small number of children may show some temporary tics, but these
do not become permanent. Ritalin does not permanently alter growth, and usually does not result in weight loss. Ritalin does not
cause Tourette’s syndrome, rather many youngsters with Tourette’s
also have ADHD. In some cases, Ritalin even leads to an
improvement of the of tics in children who have ADHD and
Tourette’s.

Myth #7: Teachers around the country routinely push pills on
any students who are even a little inattentive or
overactive. FACT: Teachers are well-meaning individuals who
have the best interests of their students in mind. When they see
students who are struggling to pay attention and concentrate, it is
their responsibility to bring this to parents’ attention, so parents can
take appropriate action. The majority of teachers do not simply
push pills- they provide information so that parents can seek out
appropriate diagnostic help. We do agree with the position that
teachers should not diagnose ADHD. However, being on the front
lines with children, they collect information, raise the suspicion of
ADHD, and bring the information to the attention of parents, who
then need to have a full evaluation conducted outside the school.
The symptoms of ADHD must be present in school and at home
before a diagnosis is made; teachers do not have access to
sufficient information about the child’s functioning to make a
diagnosis of ADHD or for that matter to make any kind of medical
diagnosis.


Myth #8:
 Efforts by teachers to help children who have
attentional problems can make more of a difference than
medications such as Ritalin. FACT: It would be nice if this were
true, but recent scientific evidence from the multi-modal treatment
trials sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health suggests
it is a myth. In these studies, stimulant medication alone was
compared to stimulant medication plus a multi-modal
psychological and educational treatment, as treatments for children
with ADHD. The scientists found that the multi-modal treatment
plus the medication was not much better than the medication alone.
Teachers and therapists need to continue to do everything they can to help individuals with ADHD, but we need to realize that if we
don’t also alter the biological factors that affect ADHD, we won’t
see much change.

Myth #9: CH.A.D.D. is supported by drug companies, and
along with many professionals, are simply in this field to make
a quick buck on ADHD. FACT: Thousands of parents and
professionals volunteer countless hours daily to over 600 chapters
of CH.A.D.D. around the U.S. and Canada on behalf of individuals
with ADHD. CH.A.D.D. is very open about disclosing any
contributions from drug companies. These contributions only
support the organization’s national conference, which consists of a
series of educational presentations, 95% of which are on topics
other than medications. None of the local chapters receive any of
this money. It is a disgrace to impugn the honesty and efforts of all
of these dedicated volunteers. CH.A.D.D. supports all known
effective treatments for ADHD, including medication, and takes
positions against unproven and costly remedies.

Myth #10: It is not possible to accurately diagnose ADD or
ADHD in children or adults. FACT: Although scientists have
not yet developed a single medical test for diagnosing ADHD,
clear-cut clinical diagnostic criteria have been developed,
researched, and refined over several decades. The current generally
accepted diagnostic criteria for ADHD are listed in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) published
by the American Psychiatric Association (1995). Using these
criteria and multiple methods to collect comprehensive information
from multiple informants, ADHD can be reliably diagnosed in
children and adults.

Myth #11: Children outgrow ADD or ADHD. FACT: ADHD is
not found just in children. We have learned from a number of
excellent follow-up studies conducted over the past few decades
that ADHD often lasts a lifetime. Over 70% of children diagnosed
as having ADHD will continue to manifest the full clinical
syndrome in adolescence, and 15-50% will continue to manifest the full clinical syndrome in adulthood. If untreated, individuals
with ADHD may develop a variety of secondary problems as they
move through life, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse,
academic failure, vocational problems, marital discord, and
emotional distress. If properly treated, most individuals with
ADHD live productive lives and cope reasonably well with their
symptoms.

Myth #12: Methylphenidate prescriptions in the U.S. have
increased 600%. FACT: The production quotas for
methylphenidate increased 6-fold; however that DEA production
quota is a gross estimate based on a number of factors, including
FDA estimates of need, drug inventories at hand, EXPORTS, and
industry sales expectations. One cannot conclude that a 6-fold
increase in production quotas translates to a 6-fold increase in the
use of methylphenidate among U.S. children any more than one
should conclude that Americans eat 6 times more bread because
U.S. wheat production increased 6-fold even though much of the
grain is stored for future use and export to countries that have no
wheat production. Further, of the approximately 3.5 million
children who meet the criteria for ADHD, only about 50% of them
are diagnosed and have stimulant medication included in their
treatment plan. The estimated number of children taking
methylphenidate for ADD suggested in some media stories fails to
note that methylphenidate is also prescribed for adults who have
ADHD, people with narcolepsy, and geriatric patients who receive
considerable benefit from it for certain conditions associated with
old age such as memory functioning. (see Pediatrics, December
1996, Vol. 98, No. 6)

ADD Dinners: Shortcuts in the kitchen for ADD Women (and the men they love)

 

“WHAT SHOULD I MAKE FOR DINNER TONIGHT?”

Let’s face it. For an ADD woman, procrastination and distractibility are often issues that are faced on a daily basis. We hate to be bored and dislike chores that are repetitive. If meatloaf is the only dish that comes out of the oven looking like it’s supposed to, no cook is going to want to repeat that meal day after day. Throw in a couple of ADD kids who are fussy eaters, and you’ve really got a problem on your hands.

So in my 21st year of marriage, I came up with some solutions. My favorite was to stop cooking. That may or may not work for you, depending on whether your budget will allow you to eat or carry out every night. That resulted in daughter number one learning how to fend for herself…until even she got sick of frozen pot pies and Scooby Do Dinners.

Since neither of those were long term options in my case, I came up with some solutions to help beat my kitchen phobia.

Plan ahead

Ugh, the ugly “P” word. It goes against every grain of my ADD body. But believe it or not, it really does work once you get into the swing of it.

I’ve since developed my “POS” (Plan Or Starve) Cards , as I fondly call them. For every day of the week, I have an index card with a full menu on it. By menu, that means there is one home made course- the main dish- and ready made side dishes. If you are like me, then preparing just one part of a meal is enough to feel like an accomplished cook.

My cards, then, look like this:

MONDAY: Meatloaf, frozen peas, mashed potatoes from a box, bagged salad

TUESDAY: Roast Chicken, canned string beans, bagged salad….and so on.

In addition to the M-F cards, (no cooking for me on Saturday or Sunday-those days are sacred) I also add a couple of Jokers (wild cards). These consist of two choices: take out, or a *really* quick and easy recipe, like cooked pasta with bottled spaghetti sauce. Or tuna on toast, topped with cheese. You get the picture.

Now, I am not beyond cheating. Not by any means. So, if I find that on a particular Monday, I will be arriving home late from a meeting, I ditch the Monday card for my wild card, which in that case, usually means stopping at a fast food restaurant to pick up burgers.

This “POS” card method solves one of the biggest kitchen phobia symptoms that I happen to suffer from- making decisions. Once that particular anxiety is out of my mind, all I have to do is to remember to have the ingredients on hand. Another “P” issue.

Self Acceptance

Why is it that some people are able to grocery shop one day a week and have an entire 7 day’s worth of menus all set to go? That is truly beyond me. So, I’ve learned to compensate and accept the fact that I will always be the type of person who will have to run to the store at least 4 days out of the week, in order to pick up ingredients for that day’s dinner.

Recruit!

I was blessed with a daughter who is comfortable in the kitchen. I was doubly blessed with a husband who cannot differentiate between the textures of shoe leather and pot roast.  So, when I’m in no mood to cook, I let my teenager fix her own dinner and let my husband fend for himself. Eating tuna out of a can never killed anyone, and besides, he likes to reminisce about his bachelor days at times. If I’m really lucky, there’s enough leftovers from my daughter’s culinary experiment to feed her younger sister.

The lesson here? Let go of your internalized expectations of needing to have a hot cooked meal on the table every night. Not only will you teach your children to become more resourceful, your husband will then pay you a million compliments the next time you follow a recipe from the back of a Campbell’s soup can.

Easy Cooking

You may have noticed that I only gave two examples of meals on my POS cards. That’s because I’ve kept the best secret for last. It’s a strategy that isn’t quite cooking and isn’t quite carry out, but it is one of my favorite tricks, aside from eating out. You can add these ideas to your wild cards for those days where you don’t want to or don’t have time to cook.

Easy cooking entails finding ready made foods at the market that look as if you’ve spent a couple of hours over a hot microwave…er….stove. I promise you that if you take the time one day to really study what is offered in your local supermarket, you will be shocked and pleased to see all the possibilities.

One of my favorites is the frozen bag that contains “everything” you need for a full meal: chicken, vegetables, and if you’re really lucky, a starch like rice or noodles. VOILE!. Buy two bags and dinner’s on the table. You can even get away without adding a salad.

Some other ideas-

*Check out the deli section for cooked chickens, ribs, etc. Grab a ready made container of potato salad or coleslaw, and you’re set.

*Scour the ethnic foods section- a great meal can be made from pita bread, hummus spread and canned soup.

*Buy large quantities of a frozen side dish you like, and make that the main dish. Instead of one box of mac and cheese, buy four. Add a salad or cut veggies and you’re set.

Break The Rules

Since when does making dinner mean having a meat, starch and veggie…every day? Here are some ideas that will make your kids’ friends drool with envy:

* Serve breakfast for dinner. Scramble some eggs, toss a couple slices of American cheese on top- or sliced hot dogs- and dinner is ready in minutes.

* Have an appetizer dinner: buy cocktail hotdogs in a crust (in the freezer department), tator tots and if you’re really feeling adventurous, slice some fruit and thread them onto skewers.

* Make mish mosh: Pull out everything in your fridge that is one day away from turning green, and throw together into a surprise meal. There’s no reason why you can’t have a plate of cold cuts with left over soup and re-heated veggies from the night before. Be bold!

Nobody said that dinners have to be fancy. In my house, the sole purpose of a cooked meal is to fill hungry stomachs. Anything more is icing on the cake.

Remember, no one is going to suffer from your cooking shortcut methods. I truly believe that once we, as ADD women, give up the pressure of having to “perform” in the kitchen, we’ll end up actually enjoying our time there.

Now…pass the menu, please!

Copyright 2000 Terry Matlen, MSW

Not to be distributed without permission from writer

Contact terry@addconsults.com

Keeping Strangers Away

Contributed by: Carrie Greene

I know a lot about getting organized, yet the more I talk about it the more I realize that getting organized is not what it’s about.

So then what is it about? It is about creating time, space and energy so you can focus your attention on the things that are truly important to you.

Imagine this. The doorbell rings. You look outside and see a group of 10 strangers. What do you do? Do you rush to the door, open it, let the uninvited people in, ask them to sit in your prime seating and wait patiently until you get a chance to speak with them? Of course not!

However, many of us do just that. We allow intruders into our lives everyday. We allow our lives to be ruled by strangers.

How do we let this happen? We allow unsolicited phone calls to intrude on our days. We allow piles of unsolicited mail to sit on our desks, tables and countertops. We allow information of all kinds into our offices, our homes and our minds. We trust strangers to tell us what information and things we “should” bring in to our lives.

You get to choose who you invite into your office or home. Guess what, you can also choose what things and what information gets in.

Just because you get a phone call from someone asking you to take on a project, does not mean that you have to do it. Just because a catalogue shows up on your desk and offers you “20% off your next purchase” does not mean that you need to look through it to find something to buy.

Just because someone makes you an offer that “you can’t refuse” does not mean that you can’t refuse the offer.

Just because you get an email at 10:05 asking you for information does not mean you have to stop working on your priority in order to answer the email by 10:06.

Yeah, I know the reality of doing this isn’t always easy. These four questions will help guide you as you decide which strangers to accept into your life.

  1. Is this something I was interested in before I saw this offer?
  2. Would the impact on my life or business be significant enough to warrant the interruption or the time and effort necessary to do this or learn about this?
  3. Are there other ways of going about this using things that I’ve already allowed in?
  4. Time and space are finite so consider this. If I allow this in what do I have to ask to leave in order to make room for it?

When you get down to it getting organized is about making conscious decisions about what you allow in to your office, your home and your life. As you become more discerning in what you allow in you will find the energy, time and motivation you need to focus on what’s truly important to you.

By Carrie Greene, CarrieThru, Coaching & Organizing Services.

Work with Carrie to get places and get things done on time, figure out priorities and get the projects that you start done. Cross things off your to-do list, stay focused, deluctter, get organized and stop procrastinating. For free resources, including Carrie’s 4-part ecourse to help you get rid of the clutter and get organized, please visit http://www.CarrieThru.com.

Erratic Work Performance and ADHD

 

A 2008 study published in the online edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, reported that adults with ADHD suffered low job performance and more absences and accidents compared to their non ADHD counterparts.

Lead researcher, Dr. Ron de Graaf of the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, noted that difficulties in concentrating costs the average ADHD adult 22.1 days of “role performance” per year, including 8.7 extra days absent. The researchers discovered that there were many more adults with ADHD whose job performance was affected than they’d originally expected.

Dr. Ronald C. Kessler of Harvard University, a co-author of the report, noted that ADHD in adults can be quite impairing, perhaps even more so than those suffering with depression. In his work with that population, he found that treatment for an individual suffering from depression costs $1,000, preventing $4,000 in lost productivity and predicted that adults with ADHD would cost even more in lost productivity.

“From a societal point of view, it’s a pretty big deal, because ADHD affects work performance even more than depression does,” Kessler added. “It’s more persistent and severe than many mental disorders, and it results in more sick days, more accidents, and more problems interacting with colleagues.” His hope is that further studies could be implemented to show that proper treatment for ADHD adults would increase productivity. Further, Dr. de Graaf suggested that having employers screen and treat employees for ADHD would be a cost-effective plan.

Linda Anderson, past president of The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA: www.ADD.org), expressed concerns over the data, noting that the new study may underestimate the numbers of adults who actually have ADHD, as many may not have jobs and those who do, often struggle to keep up. However, she added that there are treatments available to help adults with ADHD who are having difficulties and that it’s vital for these adults to seek them out.

The researchers found that the majority of the lost performance was due to reductions in quantity and quality of work rather than actual absenteeism, a fact they found most striking and disturbing.

The study was conducted by interviewing 7,075 workers aged 18 to 44 in 10 countries. They concluded that of those studied, 3.5% had ADHD.

The rate of adult ADHD in the USA was shown to be 4.5% among workers and costing an average of 28.3 days performance.

Of the 10 countries studied, France had the highest number of ADHD in working adults- 6.3% – but lost productivity was shown to be at 20.1 days.

 

The other countries studied and days lost per ADHD worker were reported as follows:

Lebanon: 0.9 percent, 19.4 days

Spain: 1.3 percent, 1.1 days

Colombia: 1.9 percent, 29.4 days

Mexico: 2.4 percent, 6.1 days

Italy: 3.4 percent, 22.2 days

Germany: 3.5 percent, 13.6 days

Belgium: 3.7 percent, 16.5 days

Interestingly, The Netherlands had a 4.9% rate of ADHD in working adults but there was an improvement, rather than a decline in work performance. The researchers were unable to explain this finding.

Researchers also found that ADHD was more common among men than women, more common among blue-collar workers than white-collar professionals, and more common in developed than developing countries (such as Mexico, Lebanon, and Columbia). Age did not appear to be a factor.

Of the ADHD adults surveyed, very few of the diagnosed patients said they had received any treatment for ADHD in the prior year and were mainly American and Dutch respondents and of those, few received any treatment at all in previous years. Specifically, 3% of the Dutch workers and 13% of the U.S. workers received any treatment for their ADHD.

Kessler noted: “While surveying mental disorders around the world, we’ve interviewed close to 200,000 people in almost 30 countries, and we’re discovering that an enormous number of adult workers — more than 3 percent on average — have untreated adult ADHD”

The report showed that besides the 22 fewer days ADHD adults worked, there was an average of more than eight days where ADHD adults said they simply were unable to carry out routine tasks, and nearly 14 days of reduced quality in the work they produced.

“The fact is that adult ADHD hasn’t been on people’s radar screens,” said Kessler. “The feeling was that somehow magically when kids with ADHD grow up they grow out of it. But this survey shows that this is not the case.”

ADHD and Hypersensitivities

Little is written about ADHD and hypersensitivities, yet those of us who are touched by ADHD as adults or who are parenting ADHD kids know full well how it can affect us and those we love. Children with ADHD are notorious for being picky eaters. They complain about textures, food smells or having food touching on their plate. They often hate pants with snug waist bands, shirts with tags, socks with seams…and the list goes on.

Since distractibility is a cornerstone symptom of ADHD, being overly sensitive to ones’ environment only adds to the problem. There’s often the difficulty of filtering out noise, smells, etc., which leads to an increase in the distractibility.

According to Temple University researcher Kristie Koenig, Ph.D, OTR/L: “Many children with ADHD also suffer from sensory processing disorder, a neurological underpinning that contributes to their ability to pay attention or focus.” She and her colleagues authored a research study titled, “Comparative Outcomes of Children with ADHD: Treatment Versus Delayed Treatment Control Condition. In it, they explored whether ADHD related problems would decrease if underlying sensory and neurological issues were treated with occupational therapy. They note that children with ADHD “either withdraw from or seek out sensory stimulation like movement, sound, light and touch. This translates into troublesome behaviors at school and home.”

Not surprisingly, many adults with ADHD also suffer from hypersensitivities. But more often than not, they hide these discomforts as best they can, embarrassed by their differences and difficulties. Having spoken to hundreds of adults with ADHD, here is a short list of common hypersensitivities that have been shared with me:

  1. Strong negative reaction to perfumes; aversions to various odors such as cigarettes, burnt foods, car fumes, etc.
  2. Vertigo/dizziness on amusement park rides
  3. Uneasiness with being hugged/kissed
  4. Pain when skin is gently touched
  5. Feeling overwhelmed to the point of panic at malls, concerts, stadiums, etc.
  6. Phobias
  7. Hyper reactivity to sudden noise and touch
  8. Panty hose
  9. Synthetic clothes
  10. Car/boat/air sickness
  11. Migraines
  12. Temperatures: feeling too hot or too cold
  13. Movies: too loud, too overwhelming
  14. Crave being barefoot or conversely, need socks and shoes on all the time.
  15. Dislike beach and sand; sun too intense
  16. Uncomfortable wearing jewelry
  17. Acute hearing: hypersensitive to sounds others don’t hear: refrigerator, electric lights, people chewing, ticking clocks
  18. Strong flavors
  19. Difficulty with dental work
  20. Feelings of claustrophobia

Often, these hypersensitivities can create much difficulty. They can cause people to become not only irritable when faced with them, but even downright rageful. Relationships often are strained, particularly when the non ADD partner doesn’t understand the true nature of the pain and discomfort that is felt. Intimate moments can lead to disaster if the partner is unaware of the issues at hand.

Years ago, before I knew of my own hypersensitivities and ADHD, I had an interesting experience. In the dead of night, I awoke from the intense smell of skunk. Thinking our dog, which slept with us might have been sprayed, I woke up my husband and in a sleepy stupor, suggested we check the house for the offending skunk. Of course, he thought I was crazy, but I couldn’t doubt the strong smell radiating throughout the house.

After a quick search and finding nothing, we went back to sleep, with me nearly gagging from the horrific odor. A few hours later, my husband called me on his way to work to report that he saw a dead skunk lying in the road about a mile from our house

It’s important to understand that such hypersensitivities are commonly seen in ADHD – you are not alone!

ADHD and the Pandemic: It’s OK to Be OK

I hate formal events like weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, showers; anything that requires dressing up, small talk chatting, especially when I can’t hear what guests are saying, loud music, flashing dance lights, foods that take three days to digest, and chocolate-covered fruit at the dessert table. Oh, and nuts that have been mauled by all those fingers.

I also detest (and avoid) manicures, pedicures, and clothes shopping. I recoil at the thought of pre-ceremony events like out-of-towners parties, brunches, and special hair styling. Oh, and trying to find the perfect gift and then wrapping it? I am all thumbs when it comes to paper, scissors, and tape. That children’s game, Rock, Paper, Scissors was named for me and my total incompetence when it comes to gift wrapping.

I freak when people stop by unannounced, and I haven’t had a chance to hide my clutter or sweep up the avalanche of furballs and bunnies.

The Pandemic has removed all of these activities from my life this past year and I couldn’t be happier.

I was talking to a friend of mine via email about ADHD and how the pandemic has altered her life, as it has just about everyone’s. She admitted sheepishly that though she’s thrilled the vaccines are rolling out and hopefully allowing us to return to some sort of normalcy soon, she quite enjoyed a year of downtime.

And I agree. For me, anyway.

Of course, we are heartsick for those who lost their lives during this horrific year. There are no words to comfort those who lost loved ones or who were severely sickened by this awful virus.

On the other hand…

For many of us with ADHD, especially the introverted inattentive type, there’s been a sense of relief: no last-minute frenetic scurrying to get the house de-cluttered for guests.

No large gatherings where we might have to deal with boredom, shyness, maybe even outright anxiety at such events.

On the plus side of the pandemic are:

Not having to worry about makeup (yay!).
Getting away with not shampooing for days (Ok, let’s be honest: and other grooming routines).
Being able to work from home in pajamas.
Sleeping in late.
A bare calendar.
No massive holiday dinners to prepare or attend.
There are indulgences, too:

Netflix, etc.

Chocolate

Take- out meals

Grocery deliveries

Not worrying so much about the state of your home.

This isn’t to downplay the hardships many have endured- those of you who have lost income, or worse- your job. Losing your home, your car, your credit card. Or worrying about getting ill or losing someone to the virus. Or depression. Anxiety. Relying on alcohol for comfort. Loneliness. The list goes on.

A lot has been written about this. But I wanted to discuss the other side of the coin- the good news for those of us with ADHD, hypersensitivities, anxiety, and such… because not much is said about it. Why? I think it’s because people feel guilty about sharing the positives of hunkering down and taking a step back when the world seems to be in shambles.

We who crave our quiet time, have the opportunity to self-reflect. To express ourselves in creative ways. My friend, above, has been spending her days making art. I have, too, and recorded a song I wrote for my grandson.

Other people I know have deepened their relationships with loved ones, knowing how easy it is to lose people close to them. I’ve seen copious amounts of creativity being expressed.

The pace has slowed down for many, and though virtual schooling is extremely hard for moms with ADHD, many have reported a deepening in their relationship with their children.

What are some of the positives you’ve experienced this past year? Please share in the comment section below.

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