Living Well With ADHD: 38 ADHD Self-Help Strategies for Adults
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects not only kids but also adults.
In fact, studies show that as many as two-thirds of the children who have ADHD will continue to have it when they grow up.
In the United States alone, more than 11 million adults have ADHD.
Whether you have ADHD or think you might have it, or know someone who has it, this article contains ADHD self-help strategies that will help you understand your ADHD better and learn how to cope with it as an adult.
Ready? Let’s get started!
ADHD is neurological (in the brain), as brain imaging technology shows, and hereditary (in the genes).
Studies show that when a parent has ADHD, 40 to 57% of his or her biological children will also have ADHD. In other words, if you have a parent with ADHD, you are 8 times more likely to have ADHD than if your parent does not have ADHD.
ADHD can become problematic especially if you find yourself constantly missing meetings and deadlines or spending your paycheck on something fun right now and never saving money for your monthly or yearly payments.
It can also lead to poor investment choices that a little patience and research would have revealed as a bad risk.
Do You Have ADHD?
While only a professional evaluation can tell you whether you have ADHD, the more you can relate to the symptoms mentioned below, the more likely it is that you have this disorder.
12 Symptoms of ADHD
Symptoms of ADHD include the following:
- Having trouble concentrating,
- Easily getting distracted,
- Being highly impulsive,
- Having trouble getting or staying organized,
- Being unable to think clearly,
- Being busy doing lots of things, but not finishing most of them,
- Being told that they talk too much,
- Finding it hard to listen closely to others,
- Interrupting others when they’re talking or doing things without thinking about it first,
- Struggling to get to the point of what they’re trying to say,
- Feeling restless often,
- Forgetting things that need to get done but are not urgent.
One of the misconceptions about ADHD is that a person has to be hyperactive to have adult ADHD.
Hyperactivity is seen more in children with the disorder than it is in adults and oftentimes, the only thing that remains of hyperactivity in adults with ADHD is the feeling of restlessness and the need to keep busy.
How Long Have You Had These Problems?
Most adults with ADHD have memories of the types of symptoms mentioned above. Many were not diagnosed as children either because their pediatrician didn’t believe they have ADHD or their parents didn’t think “being hyper was a reason to see the doctor.”
Going undiagnosed as a child or having less severe problems managing time and concentrating than you did as a child, doesn’t mean that you don’t have ADHS
But having sudden, short-term symptoms (less than 6 months) you didn’t have as a child probably does mean that you don’t have ADHD
How Do These Symptoms Affect Your Life?
ADHD is like a dimension with different people falling at different points along with it. If you want to know where on that dimension you fall, ask yourself how much your life is affected?
Below is a list of typical impairments caused by ADHD in childhood and beyond.
|Typical Childhood Impairments|
* Family stress and conflict.
* Few or no close friendships.
* Disruptive behavior in stores and other settings.
* Low regard for personal safety.
* Increased accidental injuries.
* Slow development of personal responsibility.
* Lower than average school performance.
|Typical Adulthood Impairments|
|* Poor performance at work and frequent job changed.|
* Risky sexual behavior (increased teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases).
* Unsafe driving and frequent accidents.
* Antisocial activities like lying and fighting that might lead to frequent police contact and arrests.
* Less healthy lifestyle (more sedentary self-entertainment, such as TV, surfing the Internet, video games, greater use of nicotine and alcohol, etc.).
* Difficulties managing finances (impulsive buying, excessive use of credit cards, poor debt payment, risky investing decisions, little or no savings, etc.).
* Problems in relationships.
Can You Handle the Problem on Your Own?
Knowing you might have ADHD can feel like a huge relief. At last, you have some idea why you’re been struggling your whole life. knowing what’s wrong will help you stop beating yourself up for not being able to deal with your problems.
However, there are many powerful reasons to get professional help, both for diagnosis and for treatment. For one thing, only a seasoned mental health professional has the training and judgment to define the line between signs of ADHD and symptoms that can be found to lesser degrees in adults.
Moreover, most adults with ADHD have at least two disorders. Below is a list of other disorders than commonly co-occur with ADHD:
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Conduct disorder (CD; aggression, delinquency, truancy, etc.)
- Learning disabilities (delays in reading, spelling, math, writing, etc.)
- Childhood- or adolescent-onset bipolar disorder
- Adult antisocial personality
- Alcoholism and other addictions
- Tic disorders or the more severe Tourette syndrome (multiple motor and vocal tics)
- Autism spectrum disorders
Medication helps improve symptoms of ADHD but this medication requires a doctor’s prescription, which is another reason why you need to get professional help.
ADHD Self-Help Strategies for Adults
1. Insight and Education
#1. Be Sure Of the Diagnosis.
Make sure you have the proper diagnosis and that the profession you’re working with has excluded related or similar conditions, like anxiety, agitated depression, hyperthyroidism, manic-depressive illness, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
#2. Educate Yourself.
Talk with professionals, read books and talk with other adults who have ADHD.
#3. Choose A Coach.
It is useful for you to have a coach or a trusted friend to help you get organized, stay on task, give you encouragement, or remind you to get back to work.
#4. Seek Encouragement.
Self-doubts can accumulate over time and negatively affect the person’s self-esteem, especially if ADHD went undiagnosed for a long time.
Seek encouragement and support by educating and involving people surrounding you. Once they get the concept, they’ll be able to understand you much better and help you reach your goals.
#5. Listen To Feedback From Trusted Others.
People with ADHD are notoriously poor self-observers. They can use denial a lot. This is why listening to feedback from trusted others can help you manage your ADHD better.
#6. Consider Joining A Support Group.
Another great way to get the support you need is by joining a support group. Support groups can have information and practical tips that have not yet found their way into books.
#7. Try To Get Rid Of The Negativity.
Try to get rid of the negativity that may have infected your system, especially if you have lived for years undiagnosed.
Remind yourself that you have a neurological condition. It is not a disease of the will and it is not caused by a weakness in character, not by a failure to mature. The cure isn’t in the power of the will or in punishment.
2. Performance Management
#8. Establish External Structure.
Structure can help reduce your ADHD symptoms. Make regular use of lists, rituals, reminders, notes, etc.
Making your organization system stimulating instead of boring will help you follow it. Because many people with ADHD are visually oriented, using colors for texts, schedules, notes, etc can make anything more memorable and attention –getting.
#9. Get In The Habit Of Acting Immediately On Your Paperwork.
When you receive paperwork of any kind, try to only handle it once. Make the wrenching decision to respond to it right away, or throw the document away. Do not put it in a TO DO pile. They can silently build guilt, anxiety, and resentment, as well as take up a lot of space.
#10. Set Up Your Environment To Reward Rather Than Deflate.
School is a deflating environment for most individuals with ADHD, especially when no special attention has been given.
Now that you’re an adult, try to set things up so that you won’t be constantly reminded of your limitations.
#11. Acknowledge And Anticipate The Inevitable Collapse Of X Percent Of Projects Undertaken and Relationships Entered Into.
It’s better to acknowledge and anticipate these “failures” than being surprised by them and beat yourself up over them. Think of them as part of the cost of learning.
#12. Embrace Challenges.
People with ADHD thrive with challenges. Just make sure you know they won’t all work out and refrain from getting too perfectionistic.
#13. Make Deadlines.
A large task can make a person with ADHD feel overwhelmed. Break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones and set deadlines for the small parts.
#14. Prioritize Rather Than Procrastinate.
A person with ADHD can easily lose perspective, especially when things get busy.
Take a deep breath. Prioritize by doing the most important and/or urgent thing first and then go on to the second and third task on your list.
Procrastination is one of the hallmarks of adult ADHD. Make sure you don’t stop until the task at hand is complete
#15. Be Comfortable With Things Going Too Well.
Accept edginess when things are too easy, or when there’s no conflict and things are going too well. Don’t ruin things up just to make them more stimulating.
#16. Be Comfortable Doing More Than One Thing at a Time.
Most people with ADHD need to be doing several things at once for them to get something done. Accept that you need to do two things at once, such as jogging and deep thinking or planning a business meeting.
#17. Take Breaks.
Transitions are difficult for individuals with ADHD. Take breaks and leave time between engagements to gather your thoughts and help ease the transition.
#18. Keep A Notepad Close.
Keep a notepad in your car, by your bed, and in your jacket. You can also use your phone to jot down any good idea that might hit you or to remember something else.
If you’re reading, keep a pen in your hand for marginal notes, but also for any other thoughts that will come up to your mind.
3. Mood Management
#19. Have Structured “Blow-Out” Time.
Pick some kind of activity where you can let loose in a safe way and set time aside every week to do it. Whether it was dancing, or taking a trip, make sure it’s something you like and enjoy doing.
#20. Recharge Your Batteries.
Every day, set some time aside to waste without feeling guilty about it. take a nap, meditate, do some stretching, or practice yoga, anything that will help you calm and rest.
#21. Choose “Good,” Helpful Addictions.
Many people with ADHD struggle with addictions or compulsive personalities. Try to make your addictions helpful, such as exercising.
#22. Understand Mood Changes And How To Manage Them.
Acknowledge that your moods change independently of what’s going on in the external world.
Don’t waste your time looking for someone to blame or beating yourself over them. Rather, focus on learning how to tolerate a bad mood and how to make it pass sooner.
Try changing sets and getting involved in some new activity like watching TV, reading a book, having a conversation with a friend, etc.
#23. Expect Depression After Success.
Many people with ADHD complain of feeling depressed after a big success.
This is mostly due to the high stimulus of the challenge coming to an end. People with ADHD miss the high stimulus and feel depressed.
#24. Use “Time-Outs”.
When you find yourself upset, angry or overstimulated, take a time-out. Go away and calm down.
4. Interpersonal Life
#25. Choose Your Significant Other Wisely.
Obviously, this applies to everyone. But the choice of a significant other can significantly affect how an adult with ADHD can thrive or flounder.
#26. Learn To Joke With Yourself And Others About Your Various Symptoms.
Whether it was forgetfulness or getting lost all the time or being tactless or impulsive, keep a sense of humor and learn to laugh about your various ADHD symptoms.
#27. Schedule Activities With Friends.
It is crucial that you surround yourself with supportive relationships. schedule activities with friends regularly and adhere to these schedules.
#28. Don’t Stay Too Long Where You Aren’t Understood Or Appreciated.
Staying too long with negative people or people who make you feel not understood or appreciated can be draining and demoralizing.
ADHD and Relationships
In addition to individual treatment, a person with ADHD needs to get, the couple needs to work hard to make their relationship last.
The following tips can help you in dealing with issues of concern to the couple in which one partner had ADHD:
#29. Make Sure You Have An Accurate Diagnosis.
Some of the ADHD symptoms can occur in other conditions from having too much coffee to anxiety to dissociative disorders to hyperthyroidism.
Once you are sure of the diagnosis, learn as much as you can about the disorder and encourage your partner to do the same. The more you and your partner know, the better you’ll be able to help each other.
#30. Set Up A Time For Talking.
After you have the diagnosis and have done some reading and research, take a deep breath and allow yourselves the space to ventilate a lot of built-up frustration.
Then spend some time talking to each other about ADHD- how it is affecting your relationship, what each of you wants to do about it, etc.
#31. Make A Treatment Plan.
Come up together with a plan to help you reach your goals, and follow-through.
#32. Consider Writing Down What You Want The Other Person to Do.
Make lists of things you want your partner to do. This should be done in a spirit of assistance, not of dictatorship.
Use bulletin boards and keep it where you can see it.
#33. Avoid The Pattern Of Mess Maker And Cleaner-Upper.
Don’t “enable” the ADHD partner by cleaning up all the time after him. Instead set up strategies to break this pattern and allow the ADHD partner to clean up after himself.
#34. Avoid The Pattern Of Victim And Victimizer.
The ADHD partner needs support and structure. At the same time, you don’t want the support and structure to turn into control and nagging, making the ADHD partner present himself as a helpless victim left at the hands of the all-controlling non-ADHD partner.
Watch out for the dynamics of control and submission. Make sure you an open and clear communication about what’s going on, so that you can work toward cooperation rather than competitive struggle.
#35. Break The Negativity.
Many people with ADHD struggle with negative thinking, such as “There’s no help for me,” or, “It won’t work out,” or, “Look how far behind you are,” etc.
These thoughts are very difficult to stop and can affect many areas of the life of an adult with ADHD.
Make a conscious effort to stop these negative thoughts and instead replace them with positive ones.
The non-ADHD partner can help by praising and encouraging the ADHD partner.
#36. Learn About Mood Management.
Anticipation can help you deal with the highs and lows that come along with ADHD. When the ADHD is feeling low, instead of attacking his partner “Get off my back,” his response might be, “I’m in one of my ADHD funks.”
#37. Let The One Who Is The Better Organizer Take On The Job Of Organization.
If you can’t do the checkbook, or the kids’ clothes shopping, then don’t do it and let the other person help out. There is no point in frustrating yourself with a job you can’t do.
At the same time, make sure the job done by the other person is adequately appreciated and reciprocated.
#38. Don’t Use ADHD As An Excuse.
Learning about the disorder can add significantly to the understanding one brings to the relationship. At the same time, ADHD shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Each partner should take responsibility for his or her actions.
How to Find a Professional Who Is Experienced With ADHD?
You can start by calling your primary care provider (internist, family practitioner, or general practitioner) to refer you to a specialist in adult ADHD.
You can also call the state psychiatric association or psychological association for a list of specialists in adult ADHD.
Website for Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): www.chadd.org.
Website for Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA): www.add.org.
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, © 2010 by Russell Barkley. All rights reserved.
- Portions of this article were adapted from the book Attention deficit: Diagnosis and treatment for children and adults with ADD and ADHD, © 2020 by John ruwart. All rights reserved.