Adult ADHD questions
September 28, 2009 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Adult ADHD newbie has lots of questions for you.

I have just been diagnosed with ADHD, including the H even though I am a couch potato. I am a geek girl in my early thirties.
I have suffered from depression and anxiety in an almost cyclic fashion forever, and have been seeing a psychologist and taking antidepessants for about two years. We have ruled out other "cyclic" diagnoses such as bipolar, etc. and it seems that while I cope and compensate very well for the adhd, after a certain period of time I just can't anymore. I hadn't considered adhd previously, but in hindsight it makes a lot of sense. I am presently off meds due to the testing for adhd. I live in europe in a country with fairly open attitudes to this sort of stuff, and am being offered meds as well as other support, and have my first meeting about it with my dr. next week. I don't know what to ask about?

I have been trying to combat my "stress" by simplifying my life, doing calm things, not multitasking, and so on, but it sounds like that might be the worst thing for me?

Am I likely to be able to study now? The neuro-testing says I am not as dumb as I have previously thought, so I would like to try again. Anyone with experience of that?

I want to try meds but do you have other advice? Hydration, fishoil, b-vitamins etc? Can these be combined with stimulants when I get them?

Will treating this help me with follow-through or willpower? I want to work out, I really do, and I want to do the vacuuming, really, I just never actually do. Same goes for really wanting not to take both of the last pieces of cake. Is this the impulse aspect?

So that's the background, and a bunch of questions. Advice and real life tips please.
What is there that I don't even know to ask about?

Throwaway account: (why deprive somone of a good userid).
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The willpower aspect sounds like it's possibly related more to the depression than to ADHD, to me. Or, you know, just being a normal human being who enjoys fun stuff like cake but doesn't enjoy boring stuff like vacuuming. At any rate, I don't think it's necessarily an ADHD thing.

It sounds kind of like the depression and anxiety are the things that cause you actual distress, not so much the attentional or physical agitation types of symptoms? My real question here is, what are the things that you see as being most problematic right now? It seems like you're not entirely sure yourself--did this whole diagnosis thing make you question your actual experience? Because honestly, I feel like your experience is the #1 most important part. If simplification and doing calm things wasn't hurting before, and may have been helping, trust that!

If you do have ADHD, the meds should make a difference in attention and hyperactivity(?) symptoms quickly. If the meds don't make a difference, you probably need to try another medication, OR it may not truly be ADHD. Neuropsych testing is great, but it can still skew a bit incorrectly for various reasons.
posted by so_gracefully at 2:00 PM on September 28, 2009

As my therapist explains it, even though I am not physically hyperactive (I told her that I suffered from attention deficit sloth disorder) I still have ADHD. The difference between ADD and ADHD is that ADD is a receptive disorder (you don't understand directions, confuse easily and get stuck doing nothing) whereas ADHD is an output type of disorder. We know what to do, we know how to do it but we just overwhelm ourselves with details and distractions and don't do it (whatever "it" is).

I was in my late 30s when diagnosed and it's made a HUGE difference in my life to be on medication. I am now a full time student and actually do my schoolwork willingly because I know I need to-before I couldn't really get myself together to do anything I didn't find pleasurable. It does help with follow through but not so much with willpower (in my experience). Just knowing you have ADHD and being treated for it will change a lot for you-good luck!
posted by hollygoheavy at 2:24 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was diagnosed with ADHD at the ripe old age of 25, and I found Delivered from Distraction to be an invaluable resource.
posted by Zozo at 2:25 PM on September 28, 2009

Other advice besides meds? Exercise, eating healthy foods, positive social interactions, engaging in work/hobbies you love. Based on what you said, seems like you have some work to do in some of those basic areas. I'd start there, before medication.
posted by whiskeyspider at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2009

Seconding Zozo, and adding that all of Halliwell's books are great. And you can easily jump around the topics covered. They're not "cover-to-cover" type books at all.
posted by cooker girl at 3:12 PM on September 28, 2009

Struggling with ADHD myself, I've found that good hard exercise really, really, really does help.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 3:14 PM on September 28, 2009

Also a geek, also in early thirties, was diagnosed earlier this year and it's been a drastic positive change since I started treatment - one thing that's helped, though, should be pretty easy: set little alarms on your phone or computer or watch or whatever to remind you to do things (like take your ADHD pills)
posted by jtron at 4:24 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your perceived difficulty with mustering the will to do (or not do) things is absolutely related to ADHD, and it will improve if you pursue treatment. An effective treatment plan will involve much more than medication and may not even involve medication at all (on that note, check out this thread for a good range of personal testimony re the use of stimulants).

A few general observations:

1. Your doctor should be able to give you or direct you to resources that will help you create a solid set of organizational strategies for completing the things you need to do when and how they need to be done. You might chafe at and feel a bit infantilized by some of the guidelines, but they work precisely because they are so basic.

2. Maintaining good health in general is a big help, in fact, though it can seem like a bit of a Catch-22 when you know that being healthier will help you focus more but you can't muster the effort to focus on being healthier. Regular exercise seems to help directly, while getting good sleep and eating well just function to remove the obstacle of feeling crappy, which when you have a tendency towards impulsiveness can be a big obstacle.

Over all, just knowing is a big help. Don't get yourself down about occasional periods of lack of focus where you start to feel irresponsible again, because they'll probably happen even after you've been pursuing treatment for a while. The trick is to not let it snowball, which is something you'll definitely learn to do after a while. Good luck.
posted by invitapriore at 11:20 PM on September 28, 2009

Re wanting to vacuum but not doing it: I've found medication has helped me greatly with chores. Before I would want to the house to be clean but I just couldn't figure out where to start. I would putz around for an hour but not really make progress. Now it's much easier for me to pick one task and stick with it until it's done -- or close to it, since housework is never really done. Getting stuff done leads to improved self esteem.

Some (all?) ADD meds help with anxiety and depression, but you might also feel more emotional in general when your distractions are gone. I was furious for a while after I first got treatment and realized how much easier things would have been if I'd been diagnosed earlier. I wish I'd known when I was in school that things were harder than they had to be.

Fish oil is fine to take, in my experience (I handle the medication for someone who has ADHD and other issues), although of course you should talk to your doctor about supplements. Nutrition and hydration can both be problems for people on stimulants, so you'll need to be extra good about that.

I've known other people who were misdiagnosed as bipolar and then turned out to have severe ADHD, so you're not alone in that.

The world is much quieter now.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:00 AM on September 29, 2009

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