Chaos to Order: Adult ADHD Symptoms and Diagnoses

How to Manage Adult ADHD Symptoms and a Diagnosis?

Lately we have seen more adults come into the clinic querying if they have a ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) diagnosis and how they can better manage their symptoms. However, it is important to decipher between what is representative of a mental health condition needing a diagnosis or rather examples of struggling with normal parts of life. Let’s look at how to manage adult ADHD symptoms and diagnoses.

There has certainly been an increase in the awareness of mental health disorders on popular social media platforms and within the general population. And whilst this can decrease the stigma associated with these disorders, it can lead to confusion between what does and doesn’t need a diagnosis. So, here we are going to focus on ADHD and explaining the symptoms, a diagnosis and how to manage the struggles associated with ADHD (yet these can be helpful for everyone!)

What is ADHD?

ADHD affects about 4% of Australian adults and it is more common in men. It is usually described by a range of behaviours, including forgetfulness, inattention, disorganisation and impulsivity. In adulthood ADHD can lead to lower educational attainment, a greater amount of unsuccessful marriages, increased likelihood of a comorbid mental health issue and increases in unemployment.

Two Types of ADHD symptoms

Inattention

  • Trouble maintaining attention
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Trouble listening
  • Struggles to follow instructions
  • Organisation difficulties
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetful

Hyperactivity

  • Fidgeting
  • Trouble staying seated
  • Feeling restless
  • Struggling to take part in leisure activities quietly
  • Interrupting others
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts answers out
  • Always “on the go”

In an ADHD diagnosis, we can have predominantly the inattentive type (which is where we experience mainly the symptoms on the left-hand side of this post) or predominantly the hyperactive-impulsive type (which is where we experience mainly the symptoms on the right-hand side of this post) or we can have a combined presentation (which is where we experience a mixture of both types of symptoms). So how many symptoms do we need to have to receive an ADHD diagnosis?

ADHD Diagnosis

There are lots of resources and info available which can lead us to believing we must have ADHD and diagnosing ourselves. However, it is important to remember mental health disorders are complex and the only way to diagnose one is to see a specialist and take tests. ADHD is diagnosed by a persistent meeting of symptoms called diagnostic criteria.

To diagnose ADHD in adults, five symptoms need to be present and they need to be experienced in at least two settings (i.e. at work, home, social). Struggling with these symptoms also needs to clearly interfere with one’s quality of life and functioning. So, like we mentioned on our previous post, although we may experience certain symptoms characteristic of ADHD, this may not be to a “clinical” extent where it is occurring in an array of contexts and impairing our life. Using these guidelines, is how professionals distinguish between a diagnosable disorder and presentations which are instead characteristic of everyday struggles.

It is important to not self-diagnose ADHD. A diagnosis can provide a lot of clarity and understanding to the diagnosed individual and it’s important they maintain their integrity and terms aren’t over-popularised. However, the tips for managing ADHD can also be quite useful to the everyday person.

How to Manage ADHD symptoms?

When we look at trying to manage ADHD we focus on skills which help to control the symptoms. The main way to manage ADHD is organisation skills. There are three tips which are super helpful when it comes to developing techniques which can help improve our daily habits, routine structure and work efficiency. Let’s look at those now!

Organisation Tips

  1. Write it down
    • Use a planner and check it regularly throughout the day
    • make a new “to do” list each day
    • colour code lists
  1. Simplify
    • Declutter your spaces
    • Have a rotating dinner menu
    • Tune out distractions (turn phone off, listen to white noise music)
    • Break up large tasks into smaller ones
  1. Track
    • Keep small items together
    • record your spending
    • Work for set periods of time then have a short break

However, managing sleep and emotion regulation are other ways psychologists will help diagnosed individuals tackle ADHD.

Sleep Tips

  • Have a sleep routine
  • Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning
  • Use a wind down time before you actually go to bed, such as, limiting screen time before bed and engaging in slow or effortless activity
  • Limit distractions before and in bed
  • For more tips on sleeping see here
  • For tips on insomnia see our previous blog on the topic here

Emotion Regulation

  • Make sure you have “you” time
  • Have time in the day just to do nothing
  • Develop an understanding for your emotional triggers and how you can limit them
  • Know what strategies work for you when your emotions are triggered.
  • For more tips on emotion regulation see our previous blog about unhelpful cognitions here 
  • To read more about emotion regulation see here

When we focus on ways to cope with our ADHD symptoms we build self-efficacy and take back control of our lives. These are important ways to build a patient and accepting attitude around our ADHD struggles rather than trying to “fix” or “get rid of them”.

 

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of ADHD it’s really important to see a psychologist. Seeing a psychologist can help us to firstly, understand and diagnose our symptoms and secondly, regularly explore techniques like CBT which can help us to manage an ADHD diagnosis.

To consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist, please download our referral form here and take it with you to your GP appointment. We hope to be of assistance soon! Remember to reach out if you need further assistance.

 

Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.

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