• Quote of the Day
    "The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well."
    Alfred Adler, posted by David Baxter

David Baxter

Mar 26, 2004
Self Help for Adult ADHD
by Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
Dec 16th 2009

So, you are an adult and you suspect that you many have Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AADHD). First, understand that ADHD is an umbrella term that covers many sub categories. Therefore, it is possible that you have Adult Attention Deficit but without Hyperactivity. Nevertheless, the DSM IV calls it ADHD.

It is always a mistake to do a self diagnosis. One reason is that ADHD is difficult to diagnose and requires that it be done by a professional mental health provider. The diagnostic difficulty is due to the fact that can resembles other behavioral disorders. For example, it can be difficult to distinguish ADHD from Bipolar Disorder unless a professional is doing the evaluation. To receive the correct treatment it is important to have the correct diagnosis.

Once a person knows that they have AADHD there are many options available for getting help. One of these is using the many self help books available to develop a treatment plan. Of course, if this is not successful then it is always possible to get a referral to a professional therapist who specializes in treating this disorder.

Basically, the successful treatment for AADHD, whether its self help or through a mental health professional, requires certain alterations in lifestyle and daily habits. These life style changes can result in significant improvement in the ability to:

  1. Pay attention,
  2. Control impulsive behaviors, and
  3. Manage professional and personal life.
What this means is that it is important to develop regular and healthy habits.

Here are some suggestions that an adult with this disorder can try on their own:

1. Learn as much as possible about Adult ADHD. The old saying that "knowledge is power," holds true here. The more a person knows, the better they will be at assisting their own recovery.

2. Practice some basic organizational skills. Getting organized is one of the most challenging aspects and symptoms of people with ADHD. I have seen and worked with the most brilliant individuals in many prestigious professional fields who cannot get their desks and work or family lives organized. They can never find important documents that are needed and have desks and files that are completely chaotic.

Getting organized can feel challenging and daunting. However, by starting small, developing some type of simple system of organization and making small changes, it is possible to get this accomplished.

Some simple steps to get started:

3. Use one organizer for all appointments and commitments. It?s easy to lose pieces of papers with notes on them. It is also easy to forget appointments and "to do" things by relying on memory. In fact, keeping a short daily "to-do" is what makes sense.

Bring the list up to date each day, either that evening or first thing in the morning. Begin with a short listless, and provide extra time extra to get things done.

Please understand that it takes time to develop good habits. At first, it may feel frustrating but with time, practice and persistence, new habits will fall into place.

4. While stress is problematic for everyone, it is particularly disorganizing for people with ADHD. Therefore, try to keep stress to a minimum. Stress leads to more disorganization, forgetfulness and irritability. Decreasing stress increases productivity and reduces ADHD symptoms.

How to reduce stress?

  • Balance work and leisure time.
  • Learn meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
  • Get plenty of exercise every day.
  • Sleep is enormously important.
  • Eat a good and healthy diet.
5. Social skills are always important, both at work, home and in social situations. ADHD symptoms often interfere with forming and keeping good relationships. For example, people with ADHD are easily distracted can tune out the person who is speaking to them, without even realizing it, right in the middle of a conversation. Another example is impulsively interrupting and jumping to an unrelated subject.

The ADHD person feels under pressure of wanting to keep up with the rapid flow of ideas in his or her mind. Part of this inner pressure is to immediately speak.

Here are a few social skills to practice:

  • Active listening. If someone else is talking, practice focusing exclusively on what the other person is saying instead of what you want to say. A good technique to utilize when talking with others is to briefly summarize what the person said before making your statement.
  • Pause before speaking. Instead of blurting things out, a common error of people with ADHD, practice stopping before making a comment. Sometimes that pause provides enough time to realize that the comment was either inappropriate or needed to be re worded.
  • Looking for social cues. Practice listening to the ebb and flow of conversation. There are natural pauses and voice intonations that signal the end of a thought. In other words, there are cues that someone is finished with a conversation. These might include such things as fidgeting, looking at a watch or turning towards the door. Understand these social cues can help make all of more effective communicators.
6. Social Support. It is important to have people to turn to for help and encouragement. A good support network helps everyone get through both good times and bad.

There are Adult ADHD support groups and there therapists who are helpful in practicing social skills.

7. Making healthy choices is important for everyone. For example, having trouble getting to sleep and keeping regular hours are more important than trying to get things done. Impulsiveness leads to unhealthy eating and living choices. Regular sleep, healthy eating, and exercising habits are enormously important.

Here is a partial list of healthy choices:

  • Exercising. If there is not enough time for the gym or track, then, some simple ideas for 10-minute activities include climbing the stairs, instead of using the elevator, parking a few blocks from the office and walking to work, and doing ten minutes of jumping jacks during while watching television at night.
8. There are medications for treating Adult ADHD. Among these medications are stimulants, such as Ritalin. Sometimes anti depressants are used because depression frequently accompanies this disorder.

However, it is important to remember that all medications have side effects that can feel unpleasant. Additionally, stimulant medications do have a potential for abuse and should be approached carefully. If medication is being considered then it?s especially important to have an accurate diagnosis from a qualified professional. That professional, in my opinion, should be a psychiatrist who specializes in childhood and adult ADHD.

Readers in the Boulder, Colorado metro area (or Denver area people willing to drive) may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation and psychotherapy. Email him here for details.


Forum Supporter
Aug 5, 2004
The TRUTH about ADHD BLURTING! Here's why blurting really gets us in trouble!

...Whether we realize it or not, what we blurt reveals our attitude and true inner thoughts to the world, or at least to anyone nearby. The basic issue is that blurting is normally just an awkward happenstance, which is sometimes embarrassing and usually uncomfortable, but when we lose friends, jobs and get ourselves in deep trouble because of it, then it's not the blurting in of itself that is causing problems, it's what is being said. What we say is controlled by what we are thinking and what our attitude currently is. Knowing, understanding and admitting this can change one's life, I know from experience.

Can you imagine someone with a cheerful attitude getting in a lot of trouble blurting things like "Happy!", "Roses!" and "Great day!" Probably not, – but why not? Because even though it might be weird and peculiar, and may even raise an eyebrow, it's not hurtful, mean or degrading or otherwise overly negative. Now, if someone blurts out obscenities or that they hate someone or say something otherwise degrading or disrespectful or just plain mean, then it becomes what was blurted out and guess what: that part is curable even if one never stops blurting. What we say is not ADHD, wreaking havoc with our professional and personal lives, even though the blurting part is!

Think about the last time you got in trouble for blurting, I mean serious trouble, not just because it was an interruption or embarrassing. What was it that you said? Think about it for a moment. Once the cat is out of the bag, saying we have ADHD cannot save us and quite frankly, it shouldn’t.

Even if we never control our blurting, can we change our attitude, our perspective and disposition and hence, what we say? Yes, of course we can, even if we have ADHD! That’s also why what we say can get us in so much trouble.

It is not always the ADHD symptoms that get us in hot water; it’s what those symptoms sometimes reveal about our thoughts, beliefs and overall personal points of view. We, as ADDers, have built in truth detectors via our ADHD symptoms, and we can’t completely turn off the blurting, but we do have the power to change what is being said when we blurt. Sometimes we don’t realize this, because we are so focused on the ADHD symptoms that we do not actually realize what is within our personal control. When we change, improve and modify our attitude, so too do we change, improve and modify what we blurt. If we are not thinking it, then we won’t blurt it! Plain and simple. Easy? I didn’t say that.

Of course, normal people don’t have this problem. Right? Perhaps not to the extent we do, of course not, but attitude always shines through from everyone in one way or another, it just so happens that ours can be more obvious when we blurt it out.

If someone blurts that they hate you, are you going to want to be around them, keep them on as an assistant or otherwise be friends with them? If someone blurts out that they think you are awesome, are you going to want to be around them, keep them on as an assistant or otherwise be friends with them? Both examples may be unique, but both examples show that sometimes it is not the act of blurting that is the problem.

ADHD is not a thoughts, moral or attitude based disorder! It’s a behavioral disorder and there is a difference.

This post is not to say ADHD doesn’t cause us serious life challenges, because it clearly does, especially with blurting, but sometimes, yes, sometimes, we get mixed up on what is an ADHD problem and what is not.
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