The Invisible Injuries of Untreated Adult ADHD
In my professional career, I have worked with hundreds of children, teens, and adults with ADHD. It’s one of the more treatable mental health conditions that can lead to positive outcomes. If left untreated, life can get messy.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is also known as ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. It has three diagnosable types: Hyperactive; Inattentive or Combined. Primary symptoms are inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, disorganization, and impulsivity. In a nutshell, it’s really hard to focus.
There are some pretty effective ADHD meds. If you are an adult wondering why it’s so hard to get to work on time, complete tasks, let alone multi-task, or sustain longer conversations with your loved ones, are forgetful or act impulsively then you may want to talk to your primary care provider for an evaluation and possible medication.
It is really important to note that women are often underdiagnosed because they tend to have inattentive ADHD rather than hyperactive ADHD. All their symptoms are more inward than outward - more distraction, forgetfulness, and daydreaming. It is also important to note that ADHD tends to be comorbid with other mood disorders - it’s not uncommon to see anxiety and depression happening as well. Additionally, as children, ADHD left untreated can result in school underperformance. Bad grades compounded over the years can leave an adult to create some pretty negative labels about themselves (“I’m lazy”, “I’m dumb”, “I’m not cut out for school”, “I’m too awkward”, “no one likes me”, “people only like me because I’m the class clown”, etc).
Imagine what happens in social settings for those who have a hard time focusing. When it’s hard to sustain a long conversation, or keep impulses at bay, or not change the subject every 5 seconds, then your peers will start to make meaning about you if they don’t know you have ADHD. And even if your loved ones know you have ADHD, it can still be difficult sometimes relationships require intentional focus for them to thrive.
The good news is that ADHD is pretty treatable. There are effective medications out there. The gold standards are short-acting stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin. You will know within days if these meds are right for you. Some also like to prescribe Wellbutrin for those who have a mood disorder as well. Your doctor can likely help you find the right fit.
Routines and lists are an ADHD person’s best friend. Do not try to rely on your short-term memory. Dictate tasks to your phone. Establish a daily routine to eliminate decision-making fatigue. Combine pleasure points to your pain points; meaning if there is a task you are dreading (cleaning the garage), then pair your painful task to a reward at the end. And break it down into manageable pieces. (I’ll clean the garage for 30 minutes and then look at my phone for 10 minutes). Oftentimes, you’ll need to keep that phone in another room during your painful task so you are not tempted to take a look at your phone and inadvertently reward your procrastination behavior.
In the end, if you have ADHD and decide to start medication and find some good life strategies online or with your therapist, your life can start to feel a lot less messy.
Jenny Elledge, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in couples counseling, sexual issues, faith and life transitions, mixed-faith relationships, and parenting issues. She is well-versed in working with entrepreneurs and telecommuters and the intersection of work/home balance. Additionally, she assists those with anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, and trauma work. She offers both therapy and coaching services in-office and online for couples, adults, older children, and teenagers.