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Alyssa Digges, MA
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Amy Schell, LMHC
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Ariel Zeigler, Ph.D
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Begoña Núñez Sánchez, LP
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Braxton Stage, MHC-LP
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Carole Taylor-Tumilty, LCSW
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Caryn Moore, LCSW
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Christina Mancuso, LCSW
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Courtney Cohen, LMHC
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Daniel Rich, LMHC
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Elena Beharry, Psy.D
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Eliza Chamblin, LCSW
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Fanny Ng, Ph.D
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Gary Brucato, Ph.D
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Gavin Shafron, Ph.D
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Janel Coleman, LMSW
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Jen Oddo, LCSW
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Jessa Navidé, Psy.D.
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Joanna Kaminski, LMFT
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Josh Watson, LMSW
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Justin L.F. Yong, LMHC
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Karen Kaur, Ph.D
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Kristin Anderson, LCSW
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Logan Jones, Psy.D
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Lucas Saiter, LMHC
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Madeleine Phelan, LMSW
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Monica Amorosi, LMHC
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Nancy Lumb, LCSW
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Nicole Maselli, LMHC
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Peter Gradilone, LMSW
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Raquele Williams, LCSW
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Regina Musicaro, Ph.D
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    Coping with ADHD as an Adult: How Therapy Can Help

    8 Minute Read

    Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adulthood has become more and more prevalent recently. You may have heard of it and even know more people who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

    Some of us may experience symptoms that mimic those of ADHD however, they can be indicative of other conditions or a temporary states, such as when we feel emotionally drained after a breakup and find ourselves struggling to concentrate in the workplace or keep up with conversations, and forget things more frequently than usual; or when a medical condition can cause disruption to our cognitive capabilities.

    Maybe you yourself have experienced difficulty with different tasks for some time now, and wonder if ADHD-like symptoms are the cause for your challenges.

    Have you sought out a professional opinion and have already received a diagnosis of ADHD? For some people receiving a diagnosis may come as a surprise, while for others it actually makes perfect sense and explains why you were facing so many difficulties.

    Now that you know ADHD is causing your struggles, what steps can you take to make things better? In this blog we’ll explore the challenges that many people with ADHD face, dispel common myths, and share ways you can channel your ADHD symptoms to live a more expansive life.

    How is ADHD diagnosed?

    Talking to a mental health professional experienced in diagnosing ADHD is the best way to find out if you or someone you care about is living with it. A professional may ask you specific questions or provide a psychological evaluation. Rating scales and questionnaires, such as the Conners, can also be used to help assess ADHD. A diagnosis isn’t based on one single test, but is made up of a picture of your symptoms and overall behavior. Neuropsychological testing is currently the most accurate approach to receive a diagnosis.

    As our understanding of ADHD continues to progress, we have come to know that it can be present from childhood and, in most cases, is a chronic condition. However, for some, symptoms will lessen or change in presentation as they age, while others may even have a full or partial remission (become less severe or even disappear completely) as they enter adulthood. Yet there are also cases of individuals who managed to make it through their schooling without a diagnosis, but as life demands become more complex, symptoms often become more prominent and a diagnosis is made later in life.

    It’s estimated that ADHD affects more than 8 million adults (around 5% of Americans) most of whom aren’t even aware they have it.

    As life demands become more complex, ADHD symptoms may often become more prominent and a diagnosis is made later in life.

    What does an ADHD diagnosis mean for me?

    You may already be aware that ADHD is having an effect in various areas of your life, such as:

    • Productivity at work may depend on how interested you are in the activity, leading to procrastination that can put you in a bad position.
    • Minor everyday tasks can feel overwhelming, leading to difficulty with scheduling and even going to sleep.
    • Intense emotions can lead to uncomfortable reactions
    • Social and family life may be experienced more as obligations vs enjoyment
    • Ultimately, these struggles can have a negative effect on your self-esteem and mood.

    As your life changes over time, these challenges may present themselves differently, but having the right tools and the empowered attitude can make them easier to deal with. Managing these changes is a work-in-progress journey, and it’s possible with the right support. For some people this may look like medication, psychotherapy, support groups, specific coping strategies, or some combination of these.

    Seeking help to find the best path to managing your ADHD is not a sign of incapability; it’s taking advantage of the resources available with confidence and self-trust. Just as we turn to professionals to resolve plumbing issues or correct our posture, we can turn to those who can help us find direction and strategies for living with ADHD. With the right support, you can take control and live your best life. With proper understanding and an action plan, you can use the diagnosis to help foster smoother relationships and functioning on a daily basis.

    Remember: you’re a person, not a diagnosis. While it’s easy to focus on how ADHD makes your life more challenging, it’s very important to recognize the specific strengths you have. These may include:

    1. Increased creative abilities
    2. Heightened curiosity
    3. Ability to hyperfocus and hone in on specific details and projects you enjoy
    4. Unique outlooks and perspectives
    5. Increased multitasking skills
    6. Ability to think outside the box
    8. Increased energy and enthusiasm
    9. Increased appreciation of the present moment
    10. An increased level of empathy

    Do any of the above qualities resonate with you? If so, you may already be aware that you possess the power to effectively utilize the special talents you possess and successfully address the issues you are facing in order to have an enriching life, improve your relationships, and achieve your goals day by day.

    Common Myths About ADHD

    There are many myths about ADHD that often lead to misconceptions and misunderstanding. It’s commonly believed that ADHD is only experienced during childhood and vanishes in adulthood, yet in reality it is often a chronic condition with symptoms that fluctuate with age. The average age for ADHD diagnosis is 7, and every adult who has ADHD also experienced symptoms in childhood.However, some people do not experience problematic symptoms until later in life – potentially due to increasing demands from jobs, relationships or parenting – and only receive a diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood. 

    Other popular myths include that ADHD is not a real disorder, parents are to blame for ADHD due to poor discipline, or that laziness and lack of willpower are the root causes of the conditions. Of course, none of these myths are true and it’s important to stay informed of the facts in order to better understand ADHD. It is also very important to have the family and loved ones receive this information so that they can also develop the necessary tools to cope with the aspects that affect them, and they can cooperate on a more balanced relationship.

    It’s a common myth that ADHD is primarily experienced in childhood. It’s estimated that around 8 million adults in the U.S. experience ADHD.

    How can therapy help someone with ADHD?

    During the years I have worked with people experiencing ADHD, some of the responses I have witnessed are a lot of confusion about what is their real wish/feeling they have about something, and what comes from the anxiety or the symptoms; dejection about “being different and just having to suffer from these symptoms, and a lot of self-criticism. When a change of perspective is established many benefits can start to appear.

    Therapy is one option that can help you to manage the symptoms of ADHD, allow you to harness your strengths, develop new coping strategies, increase self-compassion and learn to navigate life’s challenges.

    Psychotherapy can be a great starting point to learn about ADHD. Through attending individual or group therapy sessions, you can gain insight into the perspective of others and may learn essential skills to better manage challenges and unwanted symptoms. Additionally, therapy can help to boost self-esteem and motivation, as well as provide you with tools in certain areas where you need a little extra support. Additionally, therapy can help you:

    1. Improve social skills – If this is an area you struggle with, your therapist can help you explore how to enrich your interactions and communication with others.

    2. Decrease reactivity and impulsivity – Therapy can help you learn vital strategies to identify impulsive actions and behaviors, and stop destructive or unwanted behaviors before they occur.

    3. Learn stress-reduction techniques – Relaxation training and stress-reduction techniques can help you manage symptoms of ADHD and feel better prepared to focus and take on life’s challenges.

    4. Increase problem solving skills – Therapy can assist in developing better problem-solving abilities including coping mechanisms and decision making.

    5. Improve overall coping skills – Therapy can teach someone with ADHD how to better deal with difficult emotions and difficult situations.

    6. Learn how to manage ADHD-specific symptoms – Therapy can help you to develop tools and strategies for managing the unique symptoms associated with ADHD, such as hyper-focusing or difficulty organizing your thoughts.

    7. Medication management – If needed, your therapist may collaborate with a psychiatric professional and/or assist you on how to manage side effects and other aspects related to this modality of treatment.

    8. Improve self-esteem – Therapy can boost self-esteem, confidence, and wellbeing, providing a sense of care, support, and improving your outlook and overall mental health.

    9. Assertiveness – Learn how to recognize your own needs, practice asking for what you need, set appropriate boundaries, and develop healthy communication skills with others.

    10. Goal setting – Feeling stuck or all over the place are common experiences for people with ADHD. Breaking goals down into achievable steps, focusing on one goal at a time, discussing rewards and consequences, and creating plans to manage potential distractions are all strategies that can help you stay motivated and on track.

    A trained professional can help you tap into your inner strengths and improve how you manage unwanted ADHD symptoms.

    Harness the Power of Therapy to Manage ADHD and Thrive

    If you’ve just been diagnosed with a mental health condition, it is understandably overwhelming. However, it is important to remember that while there may be challenging moments to navigate, it’s essential to focus on the opportunities for personal growth that diagnosis and treatment offer. In order to process your diagnosis in a healthy way, try to reframe your thoughts towards your diagnosis as an opportunity for growth and development.

    It’s also vital to be kind to yourself – ADHD and other mental health conditions can affect each of us differently, but understanding it is the first step towards managing it. Remember, you’re not alone – there is support available to aid you in your journey to better understand your diagnosis and find the tools to effectively manage it.

    Begoña Núñez Sánchez

    Begona Nunez Sanchez is a licensed psychoanalyst with expertise in anxiety, depression, trauma, ADHD, and relationships. Offering a holistic and client-centered approach, she empowers individuals and couples to navigate challenges, promoting self-awareness and facilitating lasting change.
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