Psychologists Describe ADD in Adults

Though ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a common neurodevelopment disorder of childhood, it most certainly presents in adults as well, as it can last into adulthood. It’s characterized by ongoing patterns of inattention (wandering off task, difficulty sustaining focus). Sometimes both of these behaviours will present, and sometimes just one of them.

Psychologists notice that adults with ADD may have experienced one or more of the following in childhood:

  • A parent with ADD, which may have caused the parent to be:
    • Easily overwhelmed or emotionally explosive
    • Easily distracted, unreliable or inconsistent
    • Permissive OR authoritarian in their parenting style
    • Unstable in their employment or relationships
  • Difficulty in school
  • Lack of support or empathy from authority figures in their life;
  • Getting into trouble in school (overly talkative, underachievement, boredom, aggression)
  • Difficulty with social interaction; bullied OR being the bully; socially awkward/anxious

Signs and Symptoms of ADD

Common signs and symptoms of ADD include:

  • Inattention, including wandering off task, difficulty focusing, easily distracted, etc
  • Easily overwhelmed 
  • Restlessness, fidgeting, interrupting 
  • Making impulsive decisions and not considering consequences
  • Turbulence in work and relationships
  • Feeling like you “have a lot of feelings” 
  • Experiencing strong emotions
  • Forgetfulness and misplacing things
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Challenges with scheduling and organization

ADD affects men more commonly than women, but many women have ADD. One of the major difficulties with ADD is when the individual starts to believe that symptoms of ADD are actually character flaws (eg. I am lazy), and not symptoms of a neurodevelopment disorder that can be managed. This can lead to the development of other conditions, and ADD is often comorbid with other conditions, meaning it is often experienced with other conditions, including: 

What it’s Like to Have ADD

With ADD, many people experience the following limiting beliefs, which are beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the world that become part of our identity:

  • I’m incapable
  • I cannot succeed
  • I’m lazy
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m inferior
  • There’s something wrong with me
  • I’m not in control

Many people with ADD experience a chronic sense of underachievement, inconsistency, and negative feedback from others. This is especially true when:

  • a diagnosis comes later in life
  • ADD is not adequately treated, or 
  • when early-life caregivers do not have an accurate understanding of ADD symptoms and mechanisms. 

Inattention or difficulty with motivation may be perceived as laziness or a lack of motivation, when in reality the brain is not able to perform the cognitive functions required of it in a particular situation. These factors might in turn internalize the limiting beliefs even more.

These limiting beliefs might then lead to compensatory behaviours, or dysfunctional needs:

  • I need to succeed
  • I need to be perfect
  • I need to prove myself
  • I need to be in control

Shift’s ADD Psychologists

As with all disorders and psychological concerns, Shift’s approach is to get to the root of the presenting concern, including the limiting beliefs outlined above. The ultimate goal of treatment for ADD at Shift is to remove these limiting beliefs and dysfunctional needs that inhibit a sense of hope and self-efficacy. This is done through a technique known as bilateral stimulation, and all Shift psychologists are trained on how to use this technique. 

Additional therapeutic interventions that our ADD psychologists will use may include:

  • Conducting what is known as a Life Analysis, to determine an individual’s needs and make sure they’re making enough time for those needs
  • Time management and scheduling techniques
  • Energy Matching, which is determining when an individual’s high and low energy points occur, and scheduling tasks during these times

With these therapeutic interventions, we can open the way to recognizing strengths and weaknesses with a level of acceptance and self-compassion for individuals with Attention-Deficit Disorder.