Not again. You missed an important
meeting – the second time this month
you’ve forgotten one – and the boss wants
to see you in his office. Immediately. Or
maybe you're so buried in Post-It notes
that you don't know which way is up. Or
you've got a stack of papers to get through
on your desk, but you can't even get past
the first sheet of paper.
Do you have chronic trouble with
forgetfulness, disorganization, listening
to others, inability to start or complete
tasks or being late to work or other
important events? If so, you may have
attention dehcitfhyperactivity disorder
(ADHD). If you think that ADHD is
just a kid’s diagnosis, you’re mistaken,
said Stacey Spencer, EdD, a clinical
neuropsychologist practicing in New
Jersey. “Four and a half percent of
adults have ADHD,” she explained. “The
focus in the media is on children with
this disorder; we tend to overlook the
symptoms adults have that may also
indicate ADHD.”
The disorder may be under-
recognized for several reasons,
according to Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a
Florida psychotherapist and author of
four books on adult attention dehcit
disorder. While mental health experts
know today that adult ADHD is merely
a continuation of childhood ADHD,
some adults were never diagnosed as
children, so are unaware they have
the condition. “When you have a lot
of structure in your day to day life and
your parents are in control of things,
the symptoms aren’t always obvious,”
said Dr. Sarkis. “But once you start
college or a job and you’re left to
your own devices, they start to cause
Another problem, added Sarkis,
is that even if you’re aware you had
ADHD as a child, the symptoms
change in character from childhood
to adulthood, being somewhat more
subtle and making the diagnosis more
difhcult. ¨Some of the hyperactivity
turns into an inner restlessness,” she
said. “You can’t just relax and watch
Many of the challenges we all face both in the workplace and at home are even more difficult for those with adult ADHD. Here are
some tips from the experts for coping:
• Choose your career wisely, advised David Sack, MD, psychiatrist and CEO of Elements Behavioral Health in California. “People with
ADHD have trouble with management jobs due to lack of organization and inability to sit still and focus. Yet they may be much
more successful at a job in sales or contracting, where they can move around and be in the moment.”
• Take advantage of technology, suggested Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a Florida psychotherapist and author of four books on adult
attention deficit disorder. “Go as paperless as possible to reduce the clutter and help remind you of things,” she said. “Use your
phone calendar and to do list, use apps for travel packing and shopping, use money management software, direct deposit and
automatic bill payment.”
• Enlist help, even if you have to hire someone to help with organization, light cleaning and necessary paperwork, said Dr. Sarkis.
Friends can also help you manage impulsive behaviors by providing feedback about what they see and help you to practice more
positive behaviors.
• See a therapist, in addition to taking prescribed medications, said Dr. Sack. “Behavioral therapy is a cornerstone of ADHD
management. It can help with the frustration of living with the disorder, and with social skills training.”
• Break tasks down into small pieces. “Study or work on a difficult task for a half hour, then go outdoors and take a walk,”
recommended Dr. Sarkis. “Exercise helps you to raise the brain chemicals you need to help you focus.”
television, for example. You’re itching
to do something else, so you have to
talk on the phone while watching.”
ADHD can wreak havoc in an
adult’s life, contributing to job failure,
accidents and marriage problems,
among other issues, according to Dr.
Sarkis. “Basically, there’s a big gap
between ability and performance,” she
David Sack, MD, psychiatrist and
CEO of Elements Behavioral Health in
California agrees. “People with adult
ADHD are less successful than their
intelligence would predict,” he said.
“They have ongoing problems with not
getting work done on time, missing
deadlines, forgetfulness at a job or at
school – usually because they didn’t
place. At home, in a relationship, they
may even forget to pick up the kids
from school or child care.”
The good news, said Dr. Spencer, is
that adult ADHD can be diagnosed and
treated, both with medication and with
behavioral therapy. Beware, though, of
self-diagnosis. “There are lots of online
tests you can take to see if you have
ADHD,” she said. “But it’s important to
talk to a mental health professional, a
human being, to have a dialogue about
your symptoms, so that you can be
treated appropriately.”
Making the Diagnosis
These days, we’ve become accustomed
to high tech tests, such as imaging,
to help doctors make a diagnosis. But
while some research suggests that
dopamine (one of the building blocks
of norepinephrine), and other theories
purport that those with ADHD have a
different theta/beta brain wave ratio
than those without the disorder – there
is no biological test at this point that
can conclusively diagnose the disorder,
said Spencer. According to Dr. Spencer,
the best way for a mental health
professional to diagnose adult ADHD
is by conducting an interview with the
patient and his or her family members,
using criteria from the “Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,”
(DSM-5), published by the American
Psychiatric Association, a listing of
certain symptoms that may be present
in those with ADHD.
Because adult ADHD is believed to be
a condition that has been present since
“People with
ADHD have to
work fve times as
hard to get half
the amount of
work done.”
–Stephanie Sarkis, PhD
childhood, the diagnosis is fairly easy
for those who have been diagnosed
previously. But In adults who weren’t
diagnosed with the disorder during
childhood, it can be a little trickier, said
Dr. Spencer. “We need to look back to
middle childhood to identify symptoms
that may give us clues of ADHD.”
This, she explained, may be done by
examining school records to identify
grades that were lower than might have
been expected, or behavioral problems.
maybe a spouse or a parent, who can
help to identify both past and current
symptoms that the person may not
Sometimes, a diagnosis of adult ADHD
may come as a surprise, added Dr.
Spencer. “Many times, people with adult
ADHD seek help for other problems that
go hand in hand with the disorder, such
as anxiety or depression,” she explained.
The best advice? If you have any
symptoms that are interfering with your
job or relationships for more than a brief
time, see a mental health provider, said
Dr. Spencer. MS&F
Children and Adults with Attention
Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
(CHADD): chadd.org
Attention Deficit Disorder Association:
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Those challenged by ADHD often experience many of these
symptoms: depression, anxiety, short attention spans and difficulty
focusing, organizing, planning and managing life in general.
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise activates and balances
the body’s natural chemical system: endorphins, dopamine,
norepinephrine and serotonin. Together these chemicals elevate
mood and improve focus and attention. Interval workouts are
perfect for those short on time and attention. Try these two interval
circuits for a quick workout option.
1, 2, 3, 4 Agility Ladder Drill Workout
(If you don’t have access to an agility ladder, you can use chalk
on the sidewalk – just like hopscotch!)
• 1 foot in each box
• 2 feet in each box
• 3 steps in each box (left-right-left)
• 4 steps in each box (left-right-left-right)
Bodyweight Circuit
• 10 pushups
• 10 squats
• 10 skater lunges right
• 10 skater lunges left
• 10 seated tricep dips
Repeat for 5-10 rounds. Set a timer and repeat the drills in order
given. How many times can you complete the set in 10 minutes?
15? 20? How did you do?
The important thing is to incorporate whole-body movements
that are enjoyable and that challenge your ability. Exercise should
be enjoyable. Choose what you like to do so you stick with it.
Good luck!
–By Joanne Blackerby (JoanneBlackerby.com), ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of Spirit Fitness
Training in Austin, Texas (SpiritFitnessTraining.com)
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