Do You Have Attention Deficit Disorder? Does this sound like you or someone you know - a sense of underachievement and a feeling like you just can't get your act together, trouble getting organized, chronic procrastination and trouble getting started, great ideas and no follow-through, easily distracted, insecure and problems with self-esteem, impulsive, and possibly problems with addictions or compulsive behaviors? I realize that these issues could be applied to most people. However, if you put most of them together, experience them on a chronic basis, and historically trace them back to childhood, then you might be dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder, or A.D.D.
A.D.D. is a comparative diagnosis. It depends not just on the presence of symptoms but upon the intensity and duration of those symptoms. Most children are distractible, impulsive, and restless some of the time. But the vast majority of children do not have A.D.D. (Driven To Distraction, by Drs. Hallowell and Ratey).
Why Would You Suspect You May Have A.D.D. ? Most adults procrastinate and get disorganized at times. But that does not mean that they have A.D.D. Many therapists are only now beginning to know and understand that ADD is an issue to be addressed in adult clients and not just children. Life for these clients seem to include a history of struggle and frustration. It often means having to work extra hard to mask the symptoms and appear as a highly achieved individual, or for many it feels like one failure and frustration after another. For many, the solution has been to self medicate through drugs and alcohol, or behaviorally, constantly seek stimulating situations like those provided by sex, food, or shopping.
My Professional Experience with A.D.D. : It was only as recently as 1995 that I came to comprehend the magnitude of this diagnosis. As a psychotherapist, I realized that I had missed this diagnosis in a number of clients over the years. This made the possibility of more than limited success in therapy for those clients difficult. For some, therapy became just another sense of failure and frustration. While insight occurred, and changes were achieved, some invisible glass wall kept them form moving completely to their desired goals. It was neither their fault, nor mine.
Treating the individual symptoms and not the overall cause of any illness will not bring the persons world into balance. Balance is our natural state of being. My own personal, as well as professional approach to life is Holistic. The body, mind and spirit all work together in us to allow us to experience life fully. Body, mind and spirit, in balance, brings us peace and serenity. This state allows our bodies to access their own natural healing resources. For a body that has been infected by something like HIV or any other infectious agent, this balanced state also supports the medical treatments one may choose to help the body in its effort to ward off the impact of the infection. This imbalance can be addressed through getting a diagnosis, beginning medical treatment (if appropriate), and seeking the assistance of a therapist with experience in helping clients deal with their ADD.
What Causes A.D.D. ? Attention Deficit Disorder is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is often considered a hereditary condition and may run in families. It is often a relief to find out that years of believing oneself to be "lazy, stupid, out of control, weak-willed, bad, or unworthy" is actually not one's fault. But, it is important to realize that the diagnosis is not to be used as an excuse for the continuation of certain behaviors. It is an explanation for the feelings and behaviors and comes with the possibility for treating the overall problem.
How Can A.D.D. Be Treated? Treatment may include a variety of possible medications to help balance the brain chemistry. These medications, usually prescription amphetamines, can result in a dramatic change in people who really have ADD. One client that I know reported the following:
Within 30 minutes of taking my first dose of the medication, a lifelong undercurrent of anxiety and fear lifted completely. I was no longer tired all the time. My lifetime of chronic procrastination, which drove past employers crazy, as well as myself, has diminished by 90% I am incredibly focused and organized in ways I used to envy in others. Most amazing has been the 85% elimination of what I used to refer to as Sex Addiction in my life. Now I realize that it was a secondary symptom of the primary diagnosis of ADD.
It is important to hear clearly that his treatment for ADD has not just been the medication. What that did was clear up the interference in his head to allow the psychotherapy and other personal growth tools he uses to be more effective and successful.
What Changes Can I Expect From the Treatment of my A.D.D. ? ADD is different in different people, and not all people with ADD react medical treatment. However, with the diagnosis of ADD, and with the support and guidance of a therapist with experience in helping patients with ADD, you can take control of your life and finally overcome the obstacles which have always limited your potential. It had such an effect with one of my clients:
I continue with therapy, but the focus is a little different. I have anger and grief to deal with over the loss of 45 years of my life. This was a life where everyday was a struggle to appear "normal" and keep up a successful front so that no one would see what a complete fraud I felt like inside. It also includes helping me to learn to structure and organize my life, my home, my career and relationships so that I am not always trying to catch up. It has taught me that I can follow through on ideas and promises without waiting or avoiding them completely.
How Do I Manage A.D.D. Once I Have Been Diagnosed? It is most important to be working with a therapist who knows about ADD and is experience in its treatment. There is no definitive medical or psychological test for ADD
It is important to underline this point: the diagnosis of ADD is based first and foremost on the individual's history of life story. The most important step in determining whether one has ADD is sitting down and talking to somebody who is knowledgeable in the field.
Beyond trial and error in finding the right medication and dosage, then comes a process of education and coaching for the client. It is important that the client read enough to understand ADD and its impact on their life. It is important that the client be an active participant in structuring the treatment beyond the medication.
My Message for Those Struggling With A.D.D. : I have always believed that life does not have to be a struggle and that we all deserve love and joy. For those with ADD this is a difficult belief to maintain. It is my intention that this information will touch at least one person and motivate them to seek help. That they, too, are able to feel a sense of hope and an case to their frustration and pain.
I have experience in helping clients mange their ADD, and I work in close cooperation with professional psychiatrists can manage the clinical aspects of their ADD, where appropriate. I would be pleased to discuss with you possibilities for helping you to confront and managing your ADD.
This can be done briefly over the telephone, or in person through a free consultation. If you feel more comfortable, please consider enrolling in a new ADD support group which I now assembling, and share your hope of dealing with ADD with other who have also suffered with ADD, But are now sharing the experience and the strength of doing something about it.
I have been able to help my clients finally to gain control of their lives, and I can do the same for you.
Do not allow your ADD to come between you and your potential in life. Do not put off calling
Stuart Altschuler, M.F.T.