“I am so ADHD today.”
We have all heard that phrase and know what it means. It is shorthand for someone who is feeling absent-minded, and makes a joke of it that his or her brain is in the grip of distraction issues beyond their control. But have you ever said it about yourself, and wondered if it might hold true?

Sound Familiar?

This may be surprising, but ADHD can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways. We all know the stereotypical, cartoonish depiction of someone with ADHD: over-the-top hyper, unable to get from one end of the room to the other without about a dozen impulses and distractions. But there is much more to it than that. For example, in young girls, the rapid fire thoughts are more likely to cause internal rather than external hyperactivity, like totally absorbing daydreams. Without fidgeting or “acting out” the ADHD can go undiagnosed at times and quiet, distracted girls get incorrectly pegged as ditzy or slow.
Here are a few generalizations about ADHD behavior that might help put the pieces together in your diagnosis. In the workplace, ADHDers struggle with meeting deadlines and seeing projects through to completion. Conflicts in an ADHDer’s home life often revolve around untidiness, poor punctuality, and general disorganization. In relationships the ADHDer has trouble sharing feelings or understanding his or her own personal motivations, and can be oriented around an intense self-focus that leaves the partner feeling neglected or forgotten.
Individually, characteristics like constant lateness or messiness don’t add up to a clinically defined mental health issue. Yet the severity, duration and scope of these problems, and the presence of secondary symptoms, can be cause for concern. When you can’t find a solution no matter how badly you want one, and the people around you can’t understand why something “basic” is such a challenge for you, and the problems drag on for months or years, then the quality of your life is at risk and it’s time to get serious.

Just the Facts

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, known as ADHD, is a neurological condition that affects between 15-20 million American adults, adolescents, and children. The primary symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, emotionality and sometimes hyperactivity. However, the diagnosis of ADHD is not based on the presence of these symptoms alone. Most people find themselves being distracted and impulsive, even hyperactive, for short bursts at some points in their lives. It’s the severity that distinguishes ADHD from “everyday” inattention – the long-term effects on daily life like inability to hold down a job or maintain a healthy relationship.
Those effects result in the secondary symptoms of ADHD, which include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, boredom, addictions and poor self-image. The stresses and challenges of living with ADHD’s primary symptoms can result in serious emotional and psychological burdens.

The Stigma Issue

As stated above, millions of Americans have ADHD, and that number may actually be even higher. It is hard to know exactly how many have this rapid fire thinking pattern called ADHD because many go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed. At times, the secondary symptoms might incorrectly be diagnosed as the root issue. Given the nuances in how the ADHD brain type manifests in different people, the primary symptoms might not seem present in the way that someone familiar with the ADHD stigma might expect.
Even for those who exhibit “classic” ADHD, they may resist diagnosis because that same stigma is lurking in the back of their minds: the spaz, the troublemaker, the odd one out. Confirming the diagnosis means getting stuck with the label. Yet getting diagnosed means arming yourself with the treatment necessary to limit or even eradicate the negative parts of ADHD from your life. Even though the stigma exists, you won’t be a walking stereotype anymore.
And yes, there are unfair stereotypes out there that can be frustrating and demeaning. But consider this: there are more Americans with ADHD than watch American Idol. That’s a pretty significant slice of the population – and it’s too many people to make blanket generalizations about.

Don’t Wait for Your Diagnosis

An ADHD diagnosis comes with a treatment plan, which often includes medication, but also entails dietary changes, exercise, meditation, coaching, and in some cases therapy, to rebuild life skills in ways that will feel totally natural. The diagnosis comes with a support system, not to mention the answers to about a million questions you’ve wondered about all your life. The ADHD population is supportive and welcoming, and every member has special rights. Protect yourself, heal yourself, take back control of your life – don’t hesitate for another day before seeking your diagnosis.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Gignoux, M.Ed., is Boston’s longest-serving ADD/ADHD Coach and Coach Trainer and the founder of ADD Insights. Her approach is focused on the individual, with tailored strategies for long-lasting success. Carol serves her client base of children, teenagers, students, adults, couples, and executives with sincerity and support. Combining her four decades of experience with cutting-edge research, Carol is also available as a business consultant and family counselor, bringing out the best in an ADHD group. Nationally recognized as a public speaker, Carol conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, spreading her message: ADHD is not a handicap, but a different learning style that can become a valuable asset. She also provides her expert advice through her popular blog (http://addinsights.com/category/blog/) and newsletter (http://addinsights.com/newsletter-archives/). Reach Carol today at 617-524-7670 or Carol@ADDinsights.com.