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If you are often late for class, make friends wait 20 minutes at a cafe for you to show up, or turn in papers or projects beyond their due dates, you are not alone. Many young adults with ADHD struggle with managing time. Despite trying different tips and tools, you’re still miscalculating how long something takes or waiting until the last minute to start it. Why does this keep happening and what can you do to change it?
“I feel genuinely calm, relaxed, and stress-free for perhaps the first time. The pandemic has given my ADHD a break, but I can’t hide in my house forever. As more signs of reopening appear, it’s time to access my resilience and to create a plan to ease my ADHD brain back into the real world while not necessarily accepting the old normal as a foregone conclusion.”
Approximately 8 percent of adults in the United States have ADHD, which therefore means that 92 percent do not. Basic math. We live in a neurotypical world governed by neurotypical rules. This does not mean that they are more normal (whatever that is) or better than we are; however, it does mean that their ways of thinking are not only accepted, but expected, and endorsed.
From the outside looking in, neurotypicals just seem to inherently know how to be grown-ups. They can make it to appointments, balance checkbooks, pay bills on time, remember to get the car inspected each year, and so on. They can even sit at a desk all day without completely losing their minds. And, they make it all look so easy.
Battling stigma is nothing new in the ADHD community. In Black and other marginalized communities, it abounds — outside and, even worse, inside Black families. But reducing stigma in BIPOC communities is not all on us. We need more practitioners who look, talk, and act like the patients and clients they see.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most linked to ADHD. Dopamine insufficiency in regions of the brain associated with self-control (via a suite of skills known as the executive functions) is documented in research on adult ADHD.
A year into the pandemic, and the daily challenges of upended routines and rituals persist. Parents, caregivers, and children – especially those with ADHD – are under tremendous, prolonged stress, which has made for increased family conflict, aggravated ADHD symptoms, and exaggerated behavioral problems. Outbursts, meltdowns, defiance, and intense emotions are among the most prevalent problems facing families today, along with concerns about screen time and a lack of motivation and interest in school.
I remember the exact moment when I realized my son needed rescuing.
Something was desperately wrong. After school, a few months into the fourth grade, Camden jumped headfirst into the car and thrust a piece of paper at me. It was another incident report for getting into a fight at school. He had struck another student at recess.
This one came with a warning for suspension; he was out of second chances. My son leaned forward and put his hands over his face. His body began to tremble with pent-up sobs. Astonished, I reached for his hand and asked him what happened.
A perpetual issue in the management of adult ADHD is trying to remember to remember to use coping strategies at the time and in the places that they are needed – the point of performance. As I have noted in most of these blog posts, ADHD is not a knowledge problem but a performance problem. Even after many of the coping skills become relatively habitual, it is useful to have backup, take-away reminders that can activate skills under pressure.