ADD & ADHD Therapy
ADD and its counterpart, ADHD, are common but still often misunderstood disorders. Of course, we all have times when we're distracted, can't focus, or struggle to pay attention. Still, for those with attention deficit disorder (or predominantly inattentive type ADHD or ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), those struggles may be constant and can interfere with daily life.
Although we may think that some of the common pharmaceutical interventions for ADD and ADHD are the go-to solution, ADD and ADHD therapy can also be an option for support. Through therapy, those with ADD/ADHD can build life skills and find relief from their ADD and ADHD symptoms.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is common, particularly in childhood. By some estimates, ADD and ADHD affect around 9.4% of kids in the United States. Boys are often about twice as likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, although some believe that boys tend to manifest symptoms outwardly, and there may be a diagnostic bias.
As for adults, approximately 2.8% of adults worldwide are living with ADD and ADHD. But, again, those statistics may not be entirely accurate due to how ADD and ADHD can mimic and intertwine with other diagnoses, such as anxiety, depression, and neuro-divergence. There's also a tendency for adults to assume that ADD and ADHD are childhood disorders.
Technically, the term ADD is a misnomer. The DSM-5-TR recognizes both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and predominantly inattentive type ADHD (or ADD) as forms of ADHD. Both are characterized by a lack of focus, inattentiveness, poor executive function, a lack of memory, and distractibility. The hyperactivity type may also include talkativeness, inability to sit still, or feelings of “nervous energy.”
For adults with ADD or ADHD, this belief that they should have "grown out of it" can lead to feelings of failure. They may wonder, "what's wrong with me?" or "Why can't I concentrate?" They may beat themselves up over procrastination, missed deadlines, forgotten appointments, and disorganization.
Fortunately, there is help available. ADD and ADHD therapy can help you find and build executive functioning skills. There are ways to set up reminders, organize your workspace, and create checks and balances to help you stay on track. A diagnosis of ADD or ADHD doesn’t mean that you or your child will never be successful.
In fact, many famous and successful people have learned ways to thrive with an ADHD diagnosis. Richard Branson, James Carville, Michael Phelps, Justin Bieber, Jim Carey, Henry Winkler, Simone Biles, and Bubba Watson have all lived with the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
Like OCD and PTSD, ADD and ADHD are diagnoses that can often be glossed over or used to jokingly explain behavior. You may hear someone say, “Oh, I feel so ADHD today!" It's important to note that ADD and ADHD are actual diagnoses that can profoundly impact people's lives. Many people suffering from these disorders must work hard using ADD and ADHD therapy and other treatments to ensure they can focus. It's not something to take lightly.
Some people may also dismiss the idea of ADD and ADHD. There’s a misconception that the disorders are overdiagnosed and that medication is the only answer. While pharmaceutical interventions may be a treatment component, there are other paths to ADHD relief.
ADD & ADHD in Children and Adolescents
ADD and ADHD are often noticed in childhood—frequently by school personnel and those who regularly interact with your child.
Symptoms of ADD and ADHD in children include:
- Problems with executive functioning skills like concentration and focus.
- Impulsivity and hyperactivity.
- Restlessness and fidgeting that are significantly out of the expected range for a child their age.
- Talking excessively and with great energy.
- Careless mistakes or risky behaviors.
- Frequently losing items, easily distracted, or struggling with organization.
As a result of ADHD and ADD symptoms, kids may experience frustration with themselves and others. They may have outbursts or experience low self-esteem. In some cases, ADD and ADHD can lead to feelings of sadness or stress as children try to compensate for the symptoms of the disorder.
It’s also important to note that all children may struggle to focus for long periods of time. For example, it may be “normal” for a four-year-old to become restless after being read to for 10 minutes. However, that same level of restlessness may not be appropriate for a 15-year-old.
Why do kids “get” ADHD or ADD? The exact cause of ADD and ADHD isn’t clear, although the disorder tends to run in families, and a genetic factor is likely. Scientists are studying other factors, including smoking during pregnancy, premature birth, and low birth rates. Brain injuries and environmental toxins may also be linked to the disorder, although more study is needed.
No matter the cause, or the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, it’s critical to realize that a diagnosis of ADD and ADHD isn’t anyone’s fault, nor does it mean that a child isn't intelligent, is lazy, doesn’t care, or isn’t trying hard enough.
If you suspect your child has ADHD or ADD, it's essential that they are carefully diagnosed by an experienced and qualified professional who can also assist with a treatment plan. At Goodman Psychologist Associates, our licensed therapists use a variety of techniques to help children organize tasks, complete schoolwork, and work through emotions associated with the diagnosis. ADD/ADHD testing with a qualified clinical psychologist also is available.
ADD and ADHD in Adults
ADD and ADHD aren’t disorders that impact only children. Many of the symptoms of ADHD in adults look very similar to those in kids. It’s common for adults to live for years with undiagnosed ADD/ADHD and suffer through untreated symptoms.
Like kids with ADD and ADHD, these untreated symptoms can lead to a lowered sense of self-esteem. Many adults may feel like they’re failing. Without the proper treatment approach, ADD and ADHD therapy, and life skill building, the symptoms can lead to trouble in relationships, struggles with employment, substance abuse, stress, financial issues, and more.
Adults with ADHD often describe the feeling as being "driven by a motor," as though they are constantly propelled forward and must always be active and moving. Even without the hyperactivity component, adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive type, may still experience disorganization, procrastination, an inability to concentrate, and distractibility. Those with ADHD may struggle to remember tasks and prioritize. They may often find themselves daydreaming or zoning out, even in times of high stress.
Symptoms of ADHD and ADD in Adults Include:
- Lack of executive functioning skills, such as prioritizing and concentrating.
- Frequent impulsive or risky behavior.
- Struggles with listening or interrupting.
- Trouble processing instructions.
- Forgetting and losing items frequently.
- Struggling with tasks that require a high level of concentration or sustained effort.
- Frequent daydreaming or “zoning out.”
- Feelings of guilt, blame, and shame.
Adults with ADHD often display grown-up versions of the same symptoms seen in children because many adults may have struggled with ADHD for years. Just as with children, it's essential for adults to seek assistance and evaluation from a qualified professional. Testing and ADHD therapy are available.
As with many mental health diagnoses, the diagnosis itself isn’t as important as finding the right treatment and building coping skills to help manage the symptoms. Finding treatment and support for ADHD can give you a sense of relief, hope, and control over areas where you may have struggled for years.
What to Expect from ADHD Therapy and Treatment
When you decide to seek treatment for yourself or your child, it can feel intimidating at first. Treating any mental health disorder is a big step, and it's not uncommon to worry that maybe treatment won't help, that you're going to stigmatize yourself or your child, or that it means making significant changes to your life.
But the truth is that supportive therapy can offer a great deal of relief for those with ADHD. Often in treatment, we begin by exploring and understanding the areas of your life that are impacted by the symptoms of ADHD. For a child, it may primarily affect schoolwork. In adults, ADHD may impact your career, relationships, parenting, or home life.
Often, once the areas of impact are discussed in ADHD therapy, clinicians will help you figure out ways to structure your environment and approach to mitigate the effects of ADHD on your life. Building organizational and executive functioning skills is often a significant step. ADHD treatment may also include mindfulness practices, accountability, and finding outlets for energy, like exercise.
ADHD therapy can also provide support for some of the feelings and frustrations that may occur in conjunction with an ADHD diagnosis. For example, people with ADHD may feel shame, regret, or low self-esteem. They may also experience other diagnoses like anxiety or depression that can factor into their experience.
The first step to finding relief and managing ADHD and ADD is to reach out to a qualified professional and begin the conversation. If you feel the symptoms of ADHD are impacting your daily life or your child's life, therapy can offer support and help you navigate a path forward to success. Reach out today to learn how our therapists can help.