Jolene, 37 recalls her visit to the Adult ADHD Centre last year. “I had very bad brain fog. I couldn’t remember anything. I just chalked it up to ‘mom brain’ because I do have four kids.”
She says it often felt like her mind was working against her and it was difficult to retain information. “You forget stuff right away. Or it’s not so much that you forgot, it’s that in the last ten seconds, four other thoughts have jumped in.”
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that presents in millions of people worldwide. The name can be misleading as it often presents in complex ways that have little to do with physical hyperactivity.
There are three subtypes of ADHD.
• ADHD-Inattentive Type (sometimes called ADD) people struggle to follow instructions and can be easily pulled off task by distractions.
• ADHD-Hyperactive/Impulsive Type is the least common type and is characterized by erratic and hyperactive behaviours. People often describe being run by a motor and/or inability to sit still.
• ADHD-Combined Type is very common in adults and presents with both problems with focus and with hyperactivity/impulsivity challenges. One of the biggest struggles is maintaining attention and sustaining focus. Contrary to some myths, it is a life-long condition and doesn’t go away over time. It can be managed with a holistic approach tailored to an individual’s needs and goals. Counselling, coaching, exercise—and when deemed safe and appropriate, medication—can all help people to develop life skills and cope with some of the more disruptive aspects of ADHD.
It’s important to create a scaffolding of support to help with the challenges of ADHD and most importantly, be gentle with yourself.
“It is highly hereditary,” explains Dr. Gurdeep Parhar, Director of the Adult ADHD Centre in Burnaby, B.C. He notes the chances of having ADHD are increased in families with one or more members that have been assessed or diagnosed. He has met parents who take their children for assessment and start to see patterns in their own behaviours and challenges, so they seek out their own assessments.
Dr. Parhar says for adults, one of the biggest challenges is executive function. “This is the brain’s capacity to prioritize and manage thoughts and actions and consider the long-term consequences of their actions. For folks with ADHD, this can be very challenging and even feel impossible.”
Reduced impulse control is an unwanted aspect of ADHD, leading to overspending and difficulty with delayed rewards. It can lead to forgetting appointments or difficulty getting started on important projects. People with ADHD can appear restless and fidgety and often struggle to sit through meetings without taking multiple breaks. Their legs might bounce under the table or they may tap their pen repeatedly without realizing it.
Dr. Anita Parhar, PhD is the Educational Director at the Adult ADHD Centre. She says women are often diagnosed later, partly due to ways ADHD symptoms show up in women and girls.
“This could mean daydreaming more often in class, struggling to be on time, and becoming overwhelmed with day to day responsibilities,” she says. “It’s important to create a scaffolding of support to help with the challenges of ADHD and most importantly, be gentle with yourself.”
Exercise plays a crucial role in managing ADHD symptoms. Body movement and cardio can help release the nervous tension that accumulates whilesitting at a desk job or in class and the surge of dopamine that follows a sweaty workout can lead to feelings of well-being, calm and clarity.
ADHD can also be associated with depression, bipolar mood disorders, anxiety and substance use disorders. While co-existing diagnoses are fairly common, some people struggle with receiving a proper ADHD assessment and are incorrectly treated with medications that don’t address the underlying issues. It’s important to seek out an assessment with a trained medical professional.
As awareness grows about ADHD—it’s become a trend on TikTok and othersocial media platforms—it’s vital to know that it is nothing to be ashamed of. There are many resources available and communities of support that are set up specifically for neurodiverse people.
For Jolene, discovering her unique brain has led to increased confidence.
“Since the brain fog has lifted, I’ve been learning a lot, and I’ve been able to retain it. When I was younger I’d wonder, why can I not pay attention to this person talking? But now I actually am able to.”
“For me, the diagnosis was a huge relief. It was like: I’m not crazy. I actually have really good intuition. And I knew this was part of who I am.”
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