I'm not a doctor. But I hope my experiences and what I've learned about ADHD can give you some insight!
At 50 years of age, getting a diagnosis of ADHD was mind-opening. All my life I thought of myself as the spaz, the daydreamer, and the loser. I couldn't keep my house clean, stick to a job, pay attention in meetings, or stick to a hobby. In meetings, I couldn't focus on what was being said and I always wanted to get up and walk around.
I made weird noises for no apparent reason. In social situations, I didn't talk at all or talked too much (often sharing things others didn't want to hear). I had no filter so it was safer to just not talk.
I had goals - but couldn't meet them. I had few friends. I just thought I was weird. When I learned I had ADHD, everything made sense. So, in a way, it was a relief. But it was also terrifying. I had built up a lifetime of habits and I didn't know how to change them. If you've been given an ADHD diagnosis, this might sound familiar.
Don't give out hope though. We're in this together!
Prevalence of ADHD in Adults
The overall prevalence of current adult ADHD is 4.4%. Prevalence was higher for males (5.4%) versus females (3.2%)
Not Diagnosed Yet But Think You May Have ADHD?
Don't jump the gun. Your ADHD might actually be something else.
"But I got everything ticked off on that ADHD quiz I took online!"
Online quizzes are a starting point. It can give you the reason to go see your doctor. So, they aren't all bad.
ADHD symptoms cross over with other mental health conditions though and you're not a doctor! So, go see your doctor!
Talking to a health care professional is your first step. From there, you may be referred to someone else that has more experience in working with ADHD patients. Or, your doctor may learn about other symptoms that point to a different diagnosis.
The important thing to remember is you can't diagnose your own adult ADHD.
So, don't get carried away. Talk to your doctor. If your doctor doesn't see your symptoms as a problem but you feel they are, there are other doctors. When people try to get mental health help, they often need to see several doctors to get the help they need. Don't be afraid to fight for yourself!
Once You Have Your ADHD Diagnosis Start Learning!
Hopefully, your doctor will help point you in the right direction but learning about your ADHD diagnosis takes time and a lot of work.
Start reading everything you can find. But remember that not all information about ADHD as an adult is right - especially on the internet. Anyone can write about ADHD (I am and I'm not a doctor) and they don't even have to validate their sources.
Read More From Youmemindbody
For me, books have been my greatest source of information.
I generally buy books from Amazon or a bookstore. I look for a title and description that interests me. Then I look at the author. Who are they? Do they have a degree? Are they writing from experience?
My favorite kinds of adult ADHD books are those written by people with ADHD who also have an education in psychology, psychiatry, or another medical field. That way, I find the best of both worlds.
Some people like videos, too (personally, I can't watch a video - I just end up jumping from tab to tab as I try to focus and don't succeed!). How to ADHD has a great channel on YouTube. There's also loads of videos on YouTube from professionals that can provide you with information.
If you're in doubt about anything you read, you now have a doctor who is aware of your diagnosis, so talk to him or her about it! Ask questions! That's what your doctor is for!
Diet, Exercise, and Dopamine for Adults With ADHD
Diet and exercise play a major factor in mental health, whether you have a diagnosis or not. So, this is always a good place to start.
Most of us don't exercise as much as we should and we eat massive amounts of sugar.
When I first started learning about ADHD as an adult, even before I was diagnosed, I found out that sugar can make symptoms worse. I didn't find out about this by reading about it or watching a video though.
I started the keto diet, mainly to lose weight. I did lose weight. But something awesome happened alongside the weight loss.
I felt calmer. My focus improved when I was working on tasks. I was less emotional. There wasn't a 100% change but I did notice that overall, I was feeling better. Keto wasn't for me and I didn't stick with it, but even today, I know when I keep sugar intake to a minimum, I have fewer symptoms.
Is it a substitute for medication or other treatments for adult ADHD? Maybe. Maybe not. Everyone's ADHD treatment plan is different and how you treat the symptoms should be another discussion to have with your doctor. But your diet might be part of it.
Exercise and Dopamine
Exercise is also great for people with ADHD because it releases chemicals into the brain you're lacking.
ADHD is literally a dopamine deficiency. Some argue that instead of calling it ADHD we should call it ADD - Adult Dopamine Deficiency. I kind of agree.
The key is that you have to exercise regularly because it takes time for the dopamine to build up. As you exercise more often, the brain develops more dopamine receptors and higher levels of dopamine circulate through the brain.
Again, is exercise a substitute for other treatments for ADHD? That's something to discuss with your doctor!
What Is the Best Treatment For Adults With ADHD?
The best treatment for ADHD is the one that works for you!
I know - that doesn't tell you a lot, does it? Here's the thing - every adult with ADHD is different. They have some same symptoms but the severity of the symptoms and how often they have them are unique. Each adult with an ADHD diagnosis experiences they symptoms in their own way, so a treatment that works for one person won't necessarily work for another.
The other thing about your ADHD treatment is that you need to be able to follow up with it.
I was very against medication when I started my journey. I'm the kind of person who tries to avoid medication at all costs. All meds have side effects and if I can avoid the side effects, I'd like to.
But I learned that without the medication my doctor and I decided to try, I didn't have the ability to do the things I needed to do to not take medication.
I wasn't controlling my diet. I wasn't exercising. I wasn't even taking the meds I was already supposed to be on (for diabetes).
Once I started on my ADHD medication - wow! Suddenly, I was remembering to take my other medication and...well, I'm not going to tell you it was a miracle, but things did start to get easier for me. And I'm making progress.
What are the options?
- Self-managed via diet and exercise. This can work. However, from what I'm reading about other people's experiences, it works best after years of other treatments.
- Cognitive behavior therapy/CBT. The more you learn about how your adult ADHD affects your life and how to manage it, the better off you are. CBT can help you with this.
- Medication. There are many different types of medication and you may have to try more than one.
Possibly the best treatment for ADHD in adults is a combination of treatments. Many people who use medication don't find it works well unless they are also involved in CBT. Many people who utilize CBT also manage their ADHD symptoms with diet and exercise. Some people use all three treatments at once.
You will need to work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.
Find Your Tribe
One of the most important things you will learn is that adult ADHD is not accepted by everyone. There will be people who tell you ADHD isn't real or that only kids get it. You'll likely hear the phrase, "We're all a little ADHD sometimes," more often than you like (be patient with them and be happy for them that they just don't understand).
It can be annoying and it can make you feel like there's something wrong with you.
That's why you need to find your tribe. Your tribe is the people who support you, believe in you, and genuinely want to help.
Sometimes your tribe is friends and family in real life. Personally, I have found this isn't usually the case. The exception is my family members (my mom and my daughter) who also have ADHD.
If there aren't people in your every day life who can be part of your tribe, go online! There are so many good and supportive groups for adults with ADHD. Facebook is my place for ADHD support.
There are so many groups. Look for local groups or groups that fit your other needs. Find a group that makes you feel good and understands you.
Adult ADHD is no longer uncommon!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.