Cindy Glovinsky, LMSW, ACSW
Psychotherapist and Author
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If you have ADD

Have you been diagnosed with ADD? (Officially, it's called AD/HD, though this is a misnomer because not everyone has the “H,” which stands for hyperactivity.) If so, you’ll want to visit the websites of the two most prominent U.S. ADD organizations to get the latest information: ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association) and CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).

Meanwhile, here are a few suggestions:

1. Think and talk about your symptoms in specific terms. For example, to say you have trouble concentrating isn’t enough. Are you able to concentrate when you read a mystery novel but not when you read a sociology textbook? When you’re not concentrating, is your mind wandering or are you obsessing on something? Are you able to concentrate for a certain length of time before your attention poops out? Do you have trouble shifting attention from one thing to another? Do you concentrate better if someone reads a text to you aloud? The same goes for memory, impulse control, and activity level.

2. Take your symptoms into account in everything you do. Successful management of ADD requires constant strategizing. If you know you’re unlikely to see a reminder you’ve written
in your planner, for example, make yourself a sign with big, bold letters that catch your attention and put it where you’ll see it: DENTIST APPOINTMENT AT 2 O’CLOCK!!!! for example. Use brightly colored, attention-grabbing folders for papers. Lay out clothes the night before to make your morning go smoothly. Keep your keys on a hook next to the door. Books for adults with ADD – see CHADD and ADDA websites for lists -- are filled with such suggestions. Make use of them!

3. Know what your neurological strengths are and use them to compensate for your glitches. For example, a creative problem-solver with ADD might devise an ADD-friendly filing system using pictures to grab his or her attention. Or someone with good leadership skills might develop a network of ADD adults to support one another.

4. Make use of support networks. The world is run mostly by non-ADD adults with little understanding of what it means to have attention problems. For this reason, you may often be
forced to try to “pass” as non-ADD in order to survive, which can be exhausting. Thus, it’s important to find a group of people to whom you won’t have to constantly apologize when you forget what time it is, lose papers, or allow your mind to wander when someone’s talking to you. Support networks such as CHADD and ADDA not only give you a place to be yourself, they may also provide you with essential information and referrals.

5. Learn to advocate for yourself. Get to be an expert on ADD and educate others about its effects on adults. In doing so, be prepared to deal with resistance from those who
choose to regard ADD as “just an excuse.” Acknowledge that living or working with someone who has ADD can be difficult. Arm yourself with biological evidence that ADD is real as well as knowledge about the Americans with Disability Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and their implications for those with ADD.

6. Get the best treatment available. Every day, people with ADD and other disorders are misdiagnosed or pay hundreds of dollars for treatment that is wrong for them. Some things to watch out for are (1) the psychoanalyst who believes ADD is caused by unconscious conflicts and denies its biological roots; (2) the ADD specialist who sees everything as ADD even when it’s not; (3) the holistic healer who attributes ADD solely to allergies and prescribes only natural medicines; (4) the psychiatrist who insists that ADD must always be treated with medication even when the symptoms are mild; (5) the therapist who claims he or she can “cure” ADD with talk therapy; (6) any practitioner who makes you feel exploited or abused in any way. Your best bet is to join a local CHADD group or network with other ADD adults online and get recommendations from others in your area.

7. Find sources of positive reinforcement. People with ADD are continually shamed by others who are adversely affected by their symptoms. From the teacher who gives an ADD student a bad grade for forgetting to hand in an assignment to a boss who chews out an employee for having a messy desk to a spouse who berates his or her partner for failing to listen attentively, negative feedback is a way of life for many ADD adults. For this reason, it’s important to develop talents for which you receive approval, appreciation, and applause. Are you a good actor? Join a local theater group. Is writing your strength? Send your work to some literary magazines. Do you love children? Spend some time helping out a day-care center or shelter.

Good luck on your ADD journey!
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