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Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
ADD is not just a kid’s problem anymore. We used to think ADD was limited to kids. Because hyperactivity often diminishes as kids get older, it was thought kids just naturally grow out of it. However, persistence of distractibility, the prime symptom of ADD, wasn’t appreciated. Now we know that many grown ups are still hampered by their ADD symptoms.
What we now call ADD carried other names over the years. Recognized as far back as 50 years ago, ADD got renamed every decade reflecting lack of clarity about the diagnosis but also increasing understanding.
Symptoms of ADD
- Easy distractibility
- Losing things
- Blurting out tactless comments
- Hyperfocus (at times)
- Problems initiating and finishing projects
The inclusion of hyperfocus (the ADD kid who can’t pay attention in class but can spend hours glued to a video game) prompted one expert to propose a better name than Attention Deficit Disorder: Attention Variability Disorder.
Diagnostic names aside, we now know that ADD can affect people throughout their lives. Your brain wiring doesn’t necessarily grow out of it but you can develop better management skills allowing you to work around some of the difficulties. In that sense, you can partly grow out of it, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.
Trouble can persist during school years, even through graduate school. High-functioning ADDs can absorb learning in other ways, such as retaining better from lectures compared to reading, so that the diagnosis can seem to be invisible—until more rigorous academic demands finally bring it out.
For example, in high school, a bright ADD can do well during the first two years but once the course material requires building a wall of knowledge brick by brick and in proper order, such as in math or chemistry, trouble happens. Friends may know the kid in question is very smart but poor grades appear to tell a different story.
Discouragement, depression, confusion and plummeting morale may follow. College plans may falter. Or if already in college, the lack of structure compared to high school can result in lowered performance and even dropping out.
Career plans may get abandoned. Or still later, in the course of a career, distractibility can get in the way of performance and promotions. Not recognizing it earlier, many a high-functioning ADD running into their personal brick wall will wonder: Do I have ADD?
We have helped many latecomers to self-awareness, whether college-age or older, to finally diagnose the presence of ADD. Our clinical experience and familiarity with the many patterns of ADD enables us to make the diagnosis of ADD without the need for expensive testing.
ADD Helping Strategies
- Evaluation and Diagnosis
- Medication Management, if indicated
- Cognitive-Behavioral methods to work around ADD tendencies
- Counseling to include significant others (parents, spouses) who are affected
ADD in Adults: A Mixed Blessing
While we have focused on the negatives, there are many positive sides to being “ADDish.”
ADDs are often:
- Insightful, able to connect dots that others miss
- Engage well with other people
- Talented in the arts, theatre and performance
- Excellent at marketing, sales and promotion
Our Vision for Those with ADD
- Preserve and celebrate the positive attributes
- Reduce the negative impacts that get in your way