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“Adult ADHD Symptoms Or Poor Coping Strategies?”: Gina’s Talks in Marin, Sacramento

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I invite you to join me in the coming weeks at Northern California CHADD meetings (Marin, 4/21; Sacramento, 5/3) to explore this topic: “Adult ADHD Symptoms or Poor Coping Strategies? Clarifying the Confusion for Adults with ADHD and Their Partners.” The public is welcome; the suggested donation for non-CHADD members is $5.

Here is an excerpt from my book (Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder) that explains why we even ask the question, “Symptoms or poor coping strategies?”

There’s a whole lot more to understanding ADHD and its broad effects on behavior than reeling off the list of symptoms. “I used to think, what kind of disorderly disorder is this?” Grace recalls. “Just when I thought my husband would zig, he’d zag.” She couldn’t understand what was ADHD and what was personality or family conditioning—or, for that matter, where ADHD ended and jerk began. “It took a few years to piece together the puzzle, but I’m glad we did,” she concludes. “Our relationship and our family life is one thousand percent better now.”

It’s true. Trying to understand ADHD can feel like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Even within one person, the traits can appear slippery and shape-shifting over time or in different circumstances.

Typically, the first step in “nailing it” comes in understanding that ADHD’s core challenge involves difficulties with self-regulation, as explained in Chapter 2. That is, adults with ADHD typically have trouble achieving balanced behavior and instead zigzag between one extreme or the other.

Then too, we’re discussing individuals, each with their own particular family and socioeconomic background, generational references, and education—not to mention subtype and severity of ADHD symptoms and possible “traveling companions” (such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder). These factors and more affect how well the person can manage ADHD-related issues, and they form the design features and flourishes of your own particular roller coaster.

“Adults with the diagnosis of ADHD are not a homogeneous group,” confirms psychologist and ADHD expert Robert Brooks, an assistant clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and former director of McLean Hospital’s Department of Psychology. “Their cognitive style, thoughts, and behaviors that led to their being diagnosed with ADHD do not define their entire functioning or existence.”

People are complicated, whether they have ADHD or not. You’ll never know exactly what makes someone tick, and that keeps life interesting. But when you’re ready to begin fostering positive changes in your relationship, Brooks advises that you try to start distinguishing essential ADHD challenges from common “red-herring” attitudes and negative mindsets. In other words, most adults with ADHD have lived for several decades not knowing they have ADHD; consequently, they’ve usually developed some counter-productive coping skills and distorted explanations to explain their challenges.

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  1. L.Friesen’s avatar

    I’ve often said that ADHD and common sense are at cross purposes.

    Common sense tells us that we’re lazy, stupid etc, uncaring.. It can’t be stressed enough that people do need to understand the mechanics of ADHD and unfortunately that actually is a whole lot to learn. Understanding executive function is essential to understanding ADHD.

    [quote]Brooks advises that you try to start distinguishing essential ADHD challenges from common “red-herring” attitudes and negative mindsets. In other words, most adults with ADHD have lived for several decades not knowing they have ADHD; consequently, they’ve usually developed some counter-productive coping skills and distorted explanations to explain their challenges.[/quote]

    Just like those of us with ADHD who may have had no other explantion except moral failing for most of our lives this advice applies equally to our partners and parents.

    People without adhd also need to get rid of ‘red-herring’ attitudes and negative mindsets caused by ‘common sense’.

    Reply

    1. Gina Pera’s avatar

      gin.bean wrote: “People without adhd also need to get rid of ‘red-herring’ attitudes and negative mindsets caused by ‘common sense’.”

      Ha! Well said!

    2. James Tilley’s avatar

      I know it’s common to self medicate,opiates where my fix all for 12 years,I got diagnosed at 6 but parents did not keep up.so I dropped out of school,became a recluse,no friends,heavy relationships with women,then after surgery one time prescribed lorcet and loved it immediately.seemed to turn everything around.but I had to take more and more for same effect.i got to 25-30 a day.finally I got on suboxone started at 16mg,down too 6 now.also my psychiatrist with my mom involved put me on vyvanse at 40mg.my mother brings it too me along with klonopin Zoloft everyday.it is working good.still not at right dose,but family says they got brother back.also vyvanse seems to be helping discomfort in lowering of suboxone.i am 37 but finally have friends,date,go out,and in past got in trouble with law no issues with that anymore.im just glad my doctor gave me this chance .and I love life again

      Reply

      1. Gina Pera’s avatar

        Hi James,

        Congratulations! I’m so pleased to hear of your life’s turnaround.

        And, I can definitely see the appeal of opiates when one is dealing with untreated ADHD: They offer a soothing escape. So glad, though, that you found a better, more sustainable path.

        best,
        g

      2. James Tilley’s avatar

        Thanks for answering,I thought I was only one who self medicating with opiates,I never drink I have tried numerous other drugs.only thing would help me is the opiates.but after 12 years its effects did not work as well.after putting family through hell I decided on suboxone after many attempts to get off them .vyvanse has changed my life im so grateful to mother and doctor I can hardly tell im coming down .thanks again.i joined site for support and research.

        Reply

        1. Gina Pera’s avatar

          Yes, James, marijuana might be a more common “self-medicating” outlet for folks with ADHD, but I’m sure opiates (when they can be had) are right up there.

          Give your mom a big hug for persevering. I’m sure it was not easy! Big thanks to that doctor, too! Some might just have dismissed you as an “addict” and missed the ADHD. It happens all the time.

          g

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