Everyone with ADHD is different . . . But we’re all the same

Everyone with ADHD is different . . . But we’re all the same

  • February 10, 2018
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  • ADHD

When I went to my first ADHD group meeting I was struck by the similarity of the other people there to myself. Each person was unique and were from various walks of life, some in corporate business, a few self-employed, some unemployed and others struggling or getting by in various jobs.

We were also different from each other in terms of style or look. Some hippies, some punky types, some sporty types, some conventional types, some cool, trendy types, some scruffy, some smart, some playing safe, some totally outrageous. Some were confident, others awkward, some funny, some sad. They couldn’t have been more different but there was a common thread running through us all. It was as if we shared a personality.

As I heard people talk about their troubles, their successes and failures, their lives, it sounded like it was me talking. It could have been me. By describing themselves they were also describing each other. I recognised myself in what they said and it made me finally accept, yes, Angie, you definitely have ADHD.

It’s funny that most of us who have this neurological condition have difficulty accepting it. I’m forever telling myself “Don’t be silly, you don’t have ADHD! They made a mistake, there’s no such thing” etc etc. Well apparently most people with ADHD also have this same voice in their head. They also find life extremely hard to cope with.

One thing that we all share is we have a malfunctioning limbic system in our brains. The limbic system consists of four brain areas; the hypothalamus (in charge of stress hormones); the amygdala (which regulates anxiety and fear), the hippocampus (affecting memory and recall) and finally the cingulate cortex (this ties the limbic system together in a way by deciding what you need to pay attention to).

Depending on how this system is malfunctioning it can produce slightly different results. An overactive amygdala often produces excessive worrying. Too many stress hormones from the hypothalamus can result in depression. This continual depression then affects our ability to control our worrying which then stimulates the production of more stress. This is a horrible, vicious circle where we are continuously in “fight or flight mode”.

So, although we are all different, our brain chemistry is similar. We still don’t know exactly what causes ADHD to happen but it seems that it is likely to do with our dopamine transmitters. These allow dopamine to travel from one cell to another, carrying messages. Our transmitters are crap basically. They are not completing the journey or are dropping the contents on the way! So messages are not getting through. This makes it hard for us to learn, pay attention, stay still, relax, focus, stop thinking. Our brains are constantly wired, trying to make sense of a nonsensical brain. It can be exhausting!

At my first meeting one girl said “I’m usually seen as the weak one, the worrier, always anxious, flakey, accident prone. But when things actually go wrong I am the one who copes. It’s like I turn into a super-hero and I feel really calm.” I laughed as this is almost word-for word, the same as I describe myself. It’s like I can finally relax when a disaster happens. Now I know what’s wrong, I can deal with it. Nothing can be worse than what I’ve already imagined in my head. And, after all the worrying, ruminating on solutions, it’s as if I’ve rehearsed every disaster scenario already and am prepared.

Another man spoke of his frustration with work. No matter how hard he worked, there was always a sense of climbing a mountain made of sand. Each step you climb, more sand fell beneath you, making progress very slow. He described how he procrastinated deliberately too create more stress. He could only be effective in his work when under extreme stress so often left things till the last minute, meaning his work was careless, rushed and full of mistakes. Again, he could have easily been describing me.

It’s weird to think that the traits that I thought were my personality, the idiosyncrasies that make me who I am, are all just caused by brain chemistry. It makes me wonder who we really are.

ADHD Symptoms Women

  • December 14, 2017
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  • ADHD
The ADHD Symptoms women experience are often different from the typical symptoms that people think of when they hear the ADHD Acronym.
I just wanted to add to the post I wrote yesterday but feel that it warrants a whole new topic. I’ve been contacted by a few women privately who have said they may have concerns about having ADHD. So I wanted to outline some of the lesser-known symptoms that can be typical in ADHD.
Most girls are not hyperactive, in fact many girls with ADHD are more often day-dreamers, “air-heads”, they tend to zone out more. I was 50-50, I’d either be talking excessively, worrying or hyper-focussing on drawing or something like that.
For me the thing that has always haunted me is the anxiety and depp-rooted feeling that something was wrong. I sppent my whole life worrying about everything and as a result was under sonstant stress. As you can see from my typping another thing I have is dyslexia and dyspraxia. Ihave nervous ticks. I used to make involuntary noises as a child. I have OCD. I cannot stop biting my nails. Probably the most ebarrasing aspect – which I have never shared before, is my tricholomania. If you don’t know what it is, read about it here. It’s horrendous – that’s why my hair is always so short! All these often occur alongside ADHD. Incidentallu, his pargrap is what my writing wouldlook like without spellcheck.
I also find it very hard to read. When I do I rarely finish a book I’m clumsy, I procrastinate terribly, I underachive, I put obstacles in the way of success because extreme challenges are the only things that can really motivate me. I’m always rushing to get deadlines finished.
We all have bouts of these things – procrastination, worrying, stress etc. It’s when it’s a constant struggle in your daily life that you need to do something. If it affects your work, relationships and sense of self then you probably need help like I did.
Creative ADHD

Creative ADHD

  • December 13, 2017
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  • ADHD

Something happened to me lately that has changed my life. I want to share it as I believe it may help others who have faced similar issues to me. A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with ADHD.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a child. I had been going through a particularly bad period of anxiety and was recommended a psychotherapist by a good friend. Whilst talking to her she asked if I’d ever been assessed for ADHD.

ADHD Word Cloud

“No. I don’t have ADHD” I replied.

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, I’m not hyperactive”

She explained that it doesn’t always manifest in hyperactivity, particularly in adult women.

She asked if I’d be assessed even just to rule it out. According to her the treatment she’d offer me would differ based upon whether I had it or not.

So, anyway, I went to my GP. The first GP I spoke to told me to increase my anti-depressants as it’s just anxiety and the waiting lists for assessments are really long. When I told my therapist about this she suggested that I might want to persevere. So, I went back and saw a different GP at the practice who was incredibly supportive. He listened to what my therapist had suggested in terms of possible symptoms. He agreed that it was worth investigating and referred me to my local mental health team for assessment.

After a few months the assessment day arrived. I went along still thinking I was ruling this out. The assessment involved an hour and a half of questions and tests. As the questions came I had a really strange sensation that these questions had been written just for me. It was like they were describing my personality. They looked at my school reports which always described me as a chatterbox who distracted other pupils and was “bright but careless”. They asked abut all areas of my life; family history, relationships, work, leisure, hobbies.

At the end of the assessment I was told I have combined ADHD. In other words I have problems paying attention and controlling impulses. I also have issues with mental hyperactivity – it’s hard to switch off my brain.

After the initial shock I started to feel relief at a sense of recognition. Much of what I have struggled with can be explained by my ADHD. I’d always felt that there was something wrong, now I knew what it was I could do something about it.

I was prescribed medication which I started soon after diagnosis. I was reluctant at first but the nurse explained that I needed a rest after 54 years of coping with this condition. It has been exhausting, I must admit.

The first day I took the medication it was pretty amazing. I felt like time had slowed down for me and I could get things done. I can focus on things more clearly and I’m less likely to procrastinate. I loose things less, I can relax more easily. My partner, Jo, has also noticed changes. I’m calmer, happier and less irritable than before.

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while. should I? Shouldn’t I? I know it’s a very personal subject but I feel that it’s important to share. I have already discovered 4 or 5 people I know also have ADHD. Most of them are in the creative industries. It seems that we are attracted to design-based jobs. And computers are a bit of a god-send for anyone with ADHD as they offer an endless source of excitement and problem-solving for us to hyper-focus on.

In terms of my work, I’ve always had difficulty getting things finished and maintaining attention to detail. Now I understand why that is and I can stop battling against it. Instead, I can find ways to work to my strengths.

For my friends and family, it explains why I have a need to lock myself away and hyper focus on my work. And why I find social situations extremely difficult (surprising for those who have always thought of me as an extrovert). I’m hoping I can find ways to get out and about a bit more.

Anyway, I plan to write more about this subject as I discover more. I hope that sharing this will help some other people who may be struggling unecessarliy. I don’t plan to stay on medication forever. Once I’ve had a rest I want to explore other ways of helping my symptoms and I’ll share my successes and failures here.

Please get in touch if you have anything to contribute but please focus on support. At this point I don’t really want to enter into debates about whether or not ADHD exists. All I can say is that I definitely have issues that have been helped enormously from the treatment I am getting from my therapist and the ADHD team. I am very grateful to them for getting me here.

If you recognise any of this as being you or are worried about a friend or family member, there’s a self test you can do. If it comes up with a high score, take the test and results along to your GP. There’s also a separate test for women and girls as their symptoms tend to be different.

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