Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Whether you have received a formal diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or find yourself relating way too much to people sharing their experiences with ADHD on YouTube or TikTok, it can be both reassuring and overwhelming to realize you may have been dealing with attention issues that went unnoticed.
Whatever the reason for this collective awakening, it can be healing and validating to know that you are not alone. While difficulties with focus and attention can be challenging to live with, there is hope.
Psychology has made significant progress in understanding ADHD, and we continue to learn more about it.
Some say we should actually change the name of ADHD from Attention Deficit to Attention Dysregulation Disorder.
This is because, while trouble starting or staying focused on tasks is an issue, it can also be challenging to pull ourselves away from something we are hyper-focused on.
Can you relate?
Of course everyone is different; ADHD manifests differently in each person, and everyone’s experience with it is unique.
If you are unsure whether you have ADHD, consider whether you’ve noticed any of these common symptoms:
- Procrastination – difficulty initiating or completing tasks.
- Disorganization – frequently misplacing items like keys.
- Time Blindness – struggling to estimate how long tasks will take.
- Rejection Sensitivity – being highly sensitive to criticism or rejection.
- Difficulty regulating emotions – experiencing mood swings or emotional challenges.
- Impatience, hyperactivity, or restlessness.
- Addictive or impulsive behaviours.
- Feeling mentally scattered.
- Sensory issues – struggling to tune out certain noises or seeking background noise.
Disclaimer: The rest of this post gets a bit nerdy, so if you’d prefer to just set up a time to chat about it, please reach out.
Receiving an actual ADHD diagnosis can be complicated, as you have to speak with a medical professional to receive one. In the meantime, if you would like to see a more formal ADHD checklist, you can find the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale here.
Diagnosing ADHD can be challenging, as it may initially be mistaken for anxiety or depression, particularly in adults and women, where historical underdiagnosis has been common.
To be fair, those with ADHD often are also experieincing symptoms of anxiety and depression!
Individuals with undiagnosed ADHD may experience anxiety and depression related to their struggles with managing various aspects of their lives. Overwhelming feelings, difficulty balancing responsibilities, stress at work due to falling behind, or disappointment over personal goal setbacks could all be manifestations of ADHD in disguise.
Given the complexities involved, it is worth considering whether addressing the symptoms of ADHD may be more beneficial than solely focusing on anxiety and depression.
Acknowledging the potential relationship between ADHD and anxiety/depression and treating ADHD symptoms as needed can lead to more effective and targeted support for individuals facing these challenges.
So, what does therapy for Attention Deficit disorder look like?
The types of counselling I talk about on my Therapy Specialties page lend themselves perfectly well to attention dysregulation and the issues that come with it. The main difference with treating ADHD vs. somthing like anxiety or depression would be that we would keep in mind that people with ADHD have more difficulties with “exeutive function”.
Addressing Executive Function Difficulties in ADHD:
Executive function skills are critical cognitive processes that assist us in planning, organizing, initiating tasks, shifting focus, and managing time effectively. Individuals with ADHD often face challenges with various executive function skills, which can impact their daily functioning:
1. Organization: Difficulty keeping track of belongings, managing time, and prioritizing tasks can lead to disorganization in both personal and professional settings.
2. Time Management: Individuals with ADHD may have trouble estimating time accurately, leading to difficulties in meeting deadlines and managing schedules.
3. Initiation and Persistence: Initiating tasks and staying engaged in activities that require sustained effort can be challenging for individuals with ADHD.
4. Working Memory: ADHD can impact working memory, making it difficult to hold and manipulate information in the mind while completing tasks.
5. Task Shifting: Switching between tasks or transitioning from one activity to another can be problematic for individuals with ADHD, leading to decreased efficiency.
6. Emotional Regulation: Impulsivity and emotional reactivity are common in ADHD, affecting the ability to manage emotions effectively in various situations.
Now, let’s explore how some of the therapeutic approaches I use can help address these difficulties:
1. Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive Therapy plays a crucial role in addressing executive function challenges by identifying and challenging unhelpful thought patterns related to organization, time management, and task initiation. By working on cognitive restructuring, individuals with ADHD can improve their ability to plan, prioritize, and stay on track.
2. Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can enhance executive function skills in ADHD by promoting present-moment awareness. Through mindfulness, individuals can develop better focus, reduce distractions, and regulate their emotional responses, contributing to improved working memory and task shifting.
3. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT offers valuable tools for managing executive function difficulties in ADHD, particularly in goal setting and task initiation. By focusing on personal values and committing to specific actions, individuals can work towards overcoming challenges related to organization and persistence.
4. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT equips individuals with ADHD with practical skills for emotional regulation, which can positively impact executive function. By learning to manage intense emotions, individuals can enhance their ability to stay focused and make more informed decisions in various situations.
5. Trauma-Informed Therapies: Trauma-informed therapies recognize the impact of trauma on the nervous system. When we’re more likely to slip into our “freeze” or “shut down” defence mechanisms, it can directly impact our executive function skills. By addressing trauma-related emotional reactivity and promoting emotional regulation, individuals can improve their ability to manage daily tasks and transitions effectively.
By weaving executive function difficulties into the context of each therapeutic approach, we can create a comprehensive understanding of how these evidence-based therapies can help individuals with ADHD develop coping mechanisms, improve executive function skills, and lead more fulfilling lives.