Tips for ADHD Adults

  • The following article was published in ADDvisor
    newsletter earlier this year. We are publishing this article in our
    newsletter with kind permission from Alan Graham and Bill Benninger
    of ADDvisor.

    “ADDvisorTM is your link to trustworthy, reliable
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    or Bill Benninger at
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    We will give you the information you request.”


    Edward Hallowell, MD and John Ratey, MD have listed 50 tips or
    practical suggestions for the management of adult ADHD. These are
    non-medication suggestions. Over the next few months, we will share
    these very useful strategies that Drs. Hallowell and Ratey have
    proposed. They are divided into four categories:


    1. Insight and Education








    PART I – Insight and Education

    1. Be sure of the diagnosis.

    Choose a professional who truly understands ADHD and
    its related disorders

    2. Educate yourself.

    Understand ADHD. Read books. Talk to professionals.
    Gather information. Learn.

    3. Coaching

    Get yourself a coach. A coach can help you get and
    stay organized, stay on task, give you encouragement and be in
    your corner..

    4. Encouragement.

    Adults with ADHD need lots of encouragement. Find
    people who understand you and encourages you to reach your

    5. Realize what ADHD is NOT!

    ADHD is not a psychological conflict. It is not
    because you and your mother don’t get along.

    6. Educate and involve others.

    Teach others around you about what ADHD is and what
    they can do to help. This can include family, friends,
    coworkers, even your boss.

    7. Give up guilt over high-stimulating behavior.

    Understand you are drawn to this type of thing. Try to
    make better decisions, don’t “beat yourself up” about the bad

    8. Listen to feedback from trusted others.

    Individuals with ADHD are poor self-observers.
    Information from others you trust can help you.

    9. Consider joining or starting a support group.

    Much of the information you need is in the minds and experience
    of other people. Bring these people together for support and increased knowledge.
    With new technology, telephone groups, like the ADDvisor, can be helpful in
    providing this support. (Write

    10. Try to get rid of the negativity.

    Many of you have heard negative feedback for ages
    making it hard to accept the positive. Psychotherapy may help
    with this.

    11. Don’t feel chained to conventional careers or
    conventional ways of coping.

    Give yourself permission to be yourself. Give up on
    what you thought you SHOULD be and explore what you REALLY WANT
    to be.

    12. Remember what you have is a neurobiological

    ADHD is caused by biology. It is how your brain is
    wired. It is NOT a disorder of will or moral fiber. Weakness of
    character has nothing to do with it. It is rooted in biology.

    13. Try to help others with ADHD.

    By helping others, you learn more yourself and feel
    good about helping others.


    Performance Management

    1. External structure

    Structure is the hallmark of the management of ADHD.
    Use lists, notes to yourself, color-coding, rituals, reminders,
    files. The PDAs (personal digital assistants) such as the Palm,
    Handspring Visor, etc. are very helpful organizers.

    2. Color-coding.

    Many ADHD people are visually oriented and color can
    help call attention to things, thus making them easier to

    3. Use pizzazz.

    In keeping with #2, make your environment as peppy as
    you want without overwhelming you.

    4. Set up your environment to reward rather than to

    A deflating environment (remember what it was like in
    school) will hinder motivation. Try to set things up so you are
    not constantly reminded of your limitations.

    5. Acknowledge and anticipate.

    Expect that a certain percentage of your projects
    undertaken, relationships entered into and obligations incurred
    with collapse.

    6. Embrace challenges

    ADHD people thrive on challenges. As long as you are
    realistic about success (see #5), give it a shot. You’ll get
    more done.

    7. Make deadlines

    Think of deadlines as motivators rather than echoes of
    doom. Make them and stick to them. Use your PDA to remind you
    of them.

    8. Break down large tasks into small ones.

    Attach deadlines to the small tasks and then the large
    ones get done. Large tasks may feel overwhelming. Smaller tasks
    are more manageable.

    9. Prioritize

    Put first things first. Procrastination is the enemy
    of adults with ADHD. Watch out for it and avoid it.

    10. Accept fear of things going too well

    Accept feeling edgy when things seem too easy. Try not
    to shake things up just for some stimulation.

    11. Notice how and where you work best

    Individuals with ADHD often do their best in the
    oddest situations. Learn what is best for you: working in front
    of the TV and stereo, in a crowded room, etc.

    12. Know that it is okay to do two things at once.

    Often, people with ADHD need to be doing several
    things at once in order to do anything at all.

    13. Do what you are good at

    Even if it seems easy, try to do the things you are
    good at and not only what you are bad at.

    14. Leave time between engagements to gather your

    Transitions are difficult for people with ADHD so
    scheduling breaks in between can help make the transition

    15. Keep a notepad in your car, by your bed, and in your
    pocketbook or jacket.

    You never know when a good idea will hit you or when
    you need to remember something.

    16. Read with a pen in hand.

    Use the pen to jot down “margin” notes but also any
    other idea that may come to you.


    PART III – Mood Management

    1. Have structured “blow-out” time.

    Set aside time every week to just “let go” safely.
    Pick an activity that you enjoy and let loose without getting
    into trouble.

    2. Recharge your batteries

    This is related to the above tip. On a daily basis,
    take some time out to recharge your batteries: take a nap, a
    bath or watch TV. Designate this time as special so as to make
    it guilt free.

    3. Choose “good” helpful addictions

    Such as exercise. Many ADHD adults get hooked on
    something. Make it something positive.

    4. Understand mood changes

    Rather than trying to figure out why you are in a bad
    mood or look for someone to blame, focus on learning to
    tolerate a bad mood. You know it will pass and by developing
    strategies, you can help it pass more quickly. Doing something
    different, such as getting involved in some new activity can

    5. Recognize the ADHD mood cycle.

    a. something ‘startles’ your psychological system, a
    change, a transition, a disappointment or even success. It can
    be quite trivial.

    b. This startle is followed by a ‘mini-panic’ with a sudden
    loss of perspective. The world has been turned on its end.

    c. You try to deal with this by obsessing over some part of
    the situation for hours, sometimes days or weeks.

    6. Plan scenarios to deal with the inevitable

    Have a list of friends you can call. Have some videos
    that can distract you. Have some access to exercise. Rehearse
    some pep talks for yourself. These are the ADD blues. They will
    pass, you will be okay.

    7. Expect depression after success.

    People with ADD often feel depressed after a big
    success. This is because the high stimulus of the challenge or
    preparation is over. The stimulus is gone and so depressed
    feelings emerge.

    8. Learn symbols, slogans, sayings

    These are short hand ways to label slip-ups, mistakes
    or mood swings. Such as, “Oops, there goes my ADHD again.” This
    is not an excuse but rather a way to avoid obsessing over your
    unconscious desire to sabotage yourself.

    9. Use ‘time-outs’ as with children

    When you are feeling overwhelmed or upset, give
    yourself a time out. Go away. Calm down.

    10. Learn to advocate for yourself

    Learn to get off the defensive and be appropriately
    assertive for what you need to be successful.

    11. Avoid premature closure of a project, a conflict, a
    deal, or a conversation.

    Don’t “cut to the chase” too soon, even though you
    might want to.

    12. Try to let the successful moment last.

    Remember it. Train yourself to consciously and
    deliberately do this because you can easily forget your

    13. Remember that ADD usually includes a tendency to
    overfocus or hyperfocus at time.

    This can be used constructively or destructively. Be
    aware of its destructive use: the tendency to obsess over some
    problem that you cannot let go.

    14. Exercise vigorously and regularly

    Schedule this into your life and stick to it. It helps
    work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way. It
    stimulates the hormonal and neurochemical system in a most
    therapeutic way and soothes and calms the body. Make it fun so
    you will stick with it over your lifetime.


    PART IV – Interpersonal Life


    1. Make a good choice in a significant other.

    With the right mate, an ADD adult can thrive.

    2. Learn to joke with yourself and others.

    The more you can have a sense of humor and be relaxed
    you can be with your symptoms such as getting lost, being
    tactless, forgetfulness, the more others will be able to be

    3. Schedule activities with friends.

    Adhere to these schedules faithfully.  Keeping
    connected to people is critical.

    4. Find and join groups.

    People with ADD find great strength from group
    . They feel liked, appreciated, understood and enjoyed.

    5. Don’t stay too long where you aren’t appreciated or

    ADD people become drained and demoralized by negative

    6. Pay compliments. Notice other people.

    Work on building your social skills. Using a coach
    enhances this.

    7. Set social deadlines.

    Just as you set dates and deadlines and structure
    other parts of your life, do so with your social life. Keep up
    with your social calendar. This will help you keep in touch
    with friends and the kind of social support that you need.