If you find yourself constantly disorganized, late, forgetful and overwhelmed by your daily activities, you may be suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. More than 16 million American adults have been living with this condition since childhood without realizing it. ADHD affects the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, where all of our planning and decision-making functions occur. Left untreated, the disorder can hinder everything you do in your daily lives, from school to career to relationships.
Adults with ADHD typically have trouble organizing their work or household responsibilities. It is not surprising that they may change jobs very frequently or have multiple periods of unemployment over the course of their career. Poor decision-making at the workplace – such as giving up on projects midway or asking for change of projects very often – can also affect professional development and career success in the long run.
At home, this disorganization often manifests into poor money or saving skills and/or impulsive spending, which can cause arguments between spouses/partners. Arguments can be caused by an inadequate contribution to household responsibilities. Adult ADHD may also cause mood swings and cause difficulty making or holding on to friends.
For adults with ADHD, the divorce rate is twice as high as average. Patients may also experience inner restlessness that they often channel into risky and reckless behaviors. These include alcohol, drug abuse, illegal behavior, and other socially unacceptable behaviors. Medication can often provide dramatic improvement of symptoms in adults. Most patients experience a significant reduction in their symptoms the same day they begin their medication. However, because drugs aren’t a cure for ADHD, they must be taken on a continual basis, otherwise the symptoms will return.
Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
- Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
- Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
In addition to these symptoms, the following conditions must occur:
- Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
- Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
- There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
- The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder).
- The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
- Improve planning and prioritizing skills
- Establish and maintain good habits and routines
- Improve time management: Decrease procrastination, keep up with appointments, meet deadlines
- Become more organized: Keep up with possessions, keep living space neat/clean
- Become a better listener: Interrupt less, pay attention to others
- Health promotion: Exercise regularly, eat healthy diet, adequate sleep
Coaching is an intervention that complements medication and/or other non-pharmacologic alternatives. Most programs are primarily based on a CBT approach specifically targeting the core impairments of ADHD such as planning, time management, goal setting, organization, and problem solving. Most current ADHD coaching programs acknowledge the biological underpinnings of the disorder in addressing the core symptoms of ADHD (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity); however, the programs address the academic, vocational, emotional and interpersonal life difficulties that are a result of these symptoms.