When someone who you care about is doing things that are annoying and appears to be disrespectful, don’t assume that they don’t love you! There might be something else going on that you just don’t understand.
This week I took another professional development course on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It reminded me that some of my clients are struggling because of this even though they present with other issues.
Let’s review the professional (DSM-5) criteria for ADHD diagnosis in simple terminology. This is not so that you can be the therapist but so that you can help your loved one to also gain understanding and appropriate help:
- Inattention evident for a period of at least six months. The person might present as careless, not listening, lacking follow through, frequently not completing tasks, having problems with organization, losing items, being distracted or forgetful.
I often see clients who dislike any type of paperwork because they cannot focus well enough to do it.
- Hyperactivity and impulsivity. The person can be disruptive and seem inappropriate because of fidgeting, squirming, leaving an expected standing or sitting position, acting “as if driven by a motor”, talking excessively, interrupting or blurting out answers to questions prematurely.
Many young children act like “Evil Knievel” and adults can be frightening to others because of their excessive risk-taking experiences.
The AHDH diagnosis can be stated as “Predominantly Inattentive Presentation”, “Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation” or “Combined Presentation”.
Neuropsychologist, Dr. Russell Barclay, who has studied and written a great deal about ADHD states that it affects the brain with a “time blindness”. This explains a lot! When a person’s brain isn’t wired to measure time, that person might feel that life goes too slowly and is boring. Their attempts to make it more exciting can be very frustrating for those around them. They are usually either the first person finished a task or the last because they don’t know how to pace themselves. They might take chances that others would avoid or ignore things that most view as being important.
When you ask someone with ADHD to do something, s/he can fool you with their charming personalities. Promises made are not very realistic because they will likely forget the whole conversation long before the task that they promised to do.
Then, when they find themselves in trouble because of what happened, they can become very angry. Sometimes you might think that they are blaming you or someone else for their failure but deep down inside they are more angry with themselves than anyone and feel deep shame.
ADHD is not curable, and it doesn’t disappear. Adults often have learned strategies – some positive and others not so positive – to deal with things in a way that they hope will bring better results but the difficulties still plague them.
Living or working with a person who has ADHD can be very frustrating. They can be intelligent, kind and eager individuals – and soooooo challenging! At times it might feel like having a Lamborghini without the keys!
One of the best things that you can do to deal with the situation is become educated about ADHD. Gain understanding and learn how to help the other person to function better with a technique called scaffolding.
There are many free resources that you can access on this journey. One of my favourites is a Ted Talk called “Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story” told by Jessica McCabe on YouTube.
And remember, even if you work hard and think that you have the answers, you are not the one to do the diagnosing or provide treatment. There might be something that you have missed or other factors that should be considered.
No assumptions allowed!