ADHD and Anxiety

ADHD and all its complexities is something I ponder on quite a bit. Through my work with Adult ADHD NI, as well as trying to manage my own symptoms, I have access to a well of information that I can draw from when thinking about ADHD.  I often wonder what it is like to be “normal” and spend a lot of time comparing those without ADHD to myself and others with ADHD. My wish is to share my thoughts through this blog with the aim of supporting the community of people affected by ADHD to better understand their condition and help readers to  find coping strategies to manage their lives in a society that at present, fails to recognise and support them with their condition.

Recently I have been working with parents of children with ADHD as well as some adults and a common theme that is arising is Social Anxiety.  Social Anxiety disorder is “A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” (Socialanxietyinstituteorg, 2016)  People with Social Anxiety are often extremely self-conscious, have fear of public humiliation when participating in social activates, with the result of feeling unable to communicate properly and often experience symptoms of panic or paranoia.  Untreated Social Anxiety disorder can also lead to comorbid conditions such as depression, panic attacks and low self-esteem.

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The parents I have spoken too report that their kids come home from school crying their eyes out because of how difficult they are finding the environment,  as well as crying in the mornings begging their mums not to force them to go to school, which can be very traumatic for both the child and the parents.  ADHD kids struggle academically, often get in trouble due to behavioural problems  and are usually very disorganised,  easily distracted, forgetful and fall behind in work.  ADHD children become  socially isolated, have difficulty maintaining friendships and are usually the kids who are not invited to birthday parties.  At a very early age these kids recognise that they are different but don’t really understand why and begin to negatively over analysis social situations.  One mother I spoke to just the other day said “my son worries about everything” .  

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For many children with ADHD the constant state of anxiety and worry continues into adulthood and is reinforced due to poor academic achievement, difficulties maintaining employment, constantly being  late for meetings, failing  to meet expectations, procrastinating, always losing things and poor social skills which makes the core symptoms of ADHD (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) much worse, creating a demoralizing and vicious cycle. To cope with the constant state of anxiety many people with ADHD turn to drugs, alchohol, self-harm or complete social isolation to cope with how they feel.

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I have been recently studying Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the good news is that evidence shows that CBT for adults with ADHD is highly effective for alleviating the frustrations caused by deficits in core executive function and working memory as well as helping to reduce symptoms of Social Anxiety.  The CBT model recognises the importance of a personalized treatment plans for the best chance of successful outcomes and can help the person identify and implement, behavioural coping strategies, relieving some of the negative effects of ADHD such as poor time management and lack of organizational skills. CBT can also help the person reduce worry, identify and challenge negative beliefs and assumptions and help the person gain a more balanced view of themselves and their situation.

Other treatments that help with ADHD and Anxiety are ADHD support  groups, having access to a good psychiatrist,  relaxation therapies and as well as developing healthy habits such as exercise, good nutrition and meditation.

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As I have said before many times, ADHD is not a problem for those with the condition, it is a problem of society and how we recognise and support differences.  I personally am very hopeful  for  the future and I see changes in attitude taking place. Last week I was in Liverpool for a The ADHD Foundations annual conference.  Which was a two-day event exploring new ideas, approaches and best practice in Health, Social Care and Education for children, young people and adults with ADHD, ASC and other  neurodevelopmental conditions.  Over 800 people attended that event and I found inspiration from  Dr Tony Lloyd and his dedicated team and look forward to working together in partnership in the future to help those who are #BornToBeADHD.

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If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com

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ADHD and Memory Problems.

I’ve been meaning to write about ADHD and memory problems for some time now but I kept forgetting Boom Boom. Silly joke out of the way, I would like you to think about the list below and try and imagine what life would be like for someone living with the following difficulties.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
  4. Problems with words in speaking or writing.
  5. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  6. Changes in mood and personality.
  7. Decreased or poor judgment.
  8. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  9. Confusion with time or place.

For me the list above sums up exactly what ADHD is like, this is what children with ADHD experience and for many people with ADHD these problems never go away. The surprising thing about the above list is that I took from an Alzheimer’s website describing Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. http://www.alz.org

Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

Many people with ADHD struggle with memory problems, and just as it is for those with early onset of Alzheimer’s, people with ADHD constantly forget information that they recently learned. Every day is a battle to remember important dates or events and you will find someone with ADHD asking for the same information over and over due to the inability to save the information in their mind. People with ADHD are also encouraged to use memory aids such as electronic devices and reminder notes and often rely heavily on family members to help keep them on track throughout the day. For me I experience waking up every day with a blank slate almost like switching off your computer without saving your work. No matter how hard you try to retrieve the information you can’t seem to find it. This loss of information also happens throughout the day and causes the person to feel extremely frustrated and angry at self.

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Challenges in planning or solving problems.

Due to impaired processing in the prefrontal cortex, people with ADHD often have severe difficulty planning, solving problems, keeping track of monthly bills, completing tasks and due to problems in concentrating, those with ADHD often take much longer to do things than other people.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.

As I said previously people with ADHD find it hard to complete daily tasks and this is mainly due to short term memory problems and presents itself as unfinished household chores, incomplete and inconsistent patterns of work performance and letting friends down by forgetting to turn up at arranged times. These examples can cause strain on relationships with family members, work colleagues and friends.

Problems with words in speaking or writing.

People with ADHD often have trouble following or engaging in conversations. They may stop in the middle of a sentence because they have completely forgot what they were saying, which can be extremely embarrassing because it’s so unusual. They often interrupt when others are speaking mainly because if you don’t jump in you will forget your point and this can come across as being rude to the other person. Partly due to memory difficulties in childhood people with ADHD may have issues remembering how to spell words or may have missed out on vital aspects of learning at school due to distractibility and forgetfulness.

Withdrawal from work or social activities.

Due to the stress of everyday life with ADHD the person often removes themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. It is widely known that people with ADHD are at higher risk of comorbidities such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse and social isolation.

ADHD Memory Problems

Changes in mood and personality.

Again due to a life time of ADHD related stress the person can become depressed, anxious, confused, suspicious and many people with ADHD are diagnosed in adulthood with bipolar disorder due to extreme highs and lows in their mood. Without adequate support, understanding and acceptance of the condition a person with ADHD can frequently be upset at home, at work, or with friends especially when a routine is disrupted.

Decreased or poor judgment.

People with ADHD often repeat negative patterns of behaviour, are more at risk of getting in trouble due to poor judgment, decision-making and processing risk. Young people with ADHD especially, are much more vulnerable to being taken advantage of by people pretending to befriend the person for their own gain.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.

Just like it is in the early signs of Alzheimer’s people with ADHD constantly lose things like keys, mobile phones, homework books etc. and due to memory problems the person is often unable to go back over their steps to find the missing items. The person with ADHD may accuse others of stealing due to the confusion and frustration which again causes fractures in relationships with others.

Confusion with time or place.

People with ADHD constantly lose track of dates and time. Due to the impulsivity and forgetfulness the person with ADHD will do what is immediately in front of them and because of this miss important meetings and schedules.

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Some may find it a shocking that I’ve compared ADHD to the early onset of Alzheimer’s but I’m pretty sure anybody that is affected by severe ADHD will agree with the comparison. The major differences with Alzheimer’s is that the person with Alzheimer’s will often go from normal functioning to the above list which I can only imagine is terribly frustrating for a person who had normal functioning previously. As well as the fact that the person with Alzheimer’s gets progressively worse over time until it completely takes away a person’s identity and ability to connect with others as well as their ability to think, eat, talk and walk until they eventually pass away. However, many people with ADHD live their whole lives never knowing what it is like to function ‘normally’, whatever that means. Instead the person with ADHD has a life of frustration due to a combination of problems that society continues to dismiss as non-existent.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it, like us on Facebook Adult ADHD NI and follow us on Twitter @Niallgreene01 & @AdultADHDNI.

Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype.  If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com