Adult ADD, Part 2
To treat or not to treat?
Debra Brooks was another holdout — at first. Depressed about her diagnosis, she says, "for about six weeks, I flailed. I resisted starting medication. But then I remembered what the neurologist who diagnosed me had said: 'Why did you pay me $1,400 if you didn't want my advice?'"
For those who take the plunge and start treatment, it can take time to find the right professional help and therapy — usually medication and behavior modification. Whether going for a diagnosis or treatment, it's best to have some knowledge of the condition and what a clinician should do for you. Even under the care of an experienced physician, it may take weeks or even months to find the medication and dosage that work best for you. As a result, says Harold Meyer, director of the New York City chapter of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), "It can take six months to a year to see major improvements."
Despite this caveat, many people report positive results from medication almost immediately. After much deliberation, Brooks started a stimulant medication. "The first day was like, who pulled up the shades?" she remembers. "They've been covering my eyes my whole life. Already, I'm much more organized and on top of things. I can remember what time I told my teenagers to be home. And I notice things I never did before. I got mad at my husband for walking on the white carpet with muddy boots. Before medication, I wouldn't have noticed - or cared."
Michael Adams, age 43, a stay-at-home dad in New York, says he easily accepted his recent diagnosis. He says he's fit the typical ADHD profile for as long as he can remember, struggling in high school, starting but not finishing college, being disorganized at home and at various jobs. When his wife came across a book about ADHD, the signs became clear. Since his diagnosis and treatment, Adams is finally accomplishing what he set out to do 20 years ago. "I'm completing the requirements for my English degree and also getting certified to teach high school English," he says. "I sometimes think about what I missed in school because I didn't know I had ADHD. But I try not to be angry about the past—especially when I have so much to look forward to."
Getting the right support
Once a newly diagnosed person has started on a medication regimen, he or she should also begin working with an experienced psychologist, psychiatrist, or life coach, says CHADD director Meyer. These professionals can help people with ADHD learn behavioral, time management, and organizational strategies to enhance their quality of life. Meyer offers these tips for the newly diagnosed among us:
- Know your legal rights. Having ADHD means you're protected under two federal laws that apply to individuals with disabilities.
- Seek support by attending meetings of your local chapter of CHADD, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization (click "Find local chapters" on CHADD's home page).
- Don't feel compelled to tell your boss. "There's more understanding about ADHD now, but that doesn't mean that supervisors are happy to learn that one of their employees has the condition," says Meyer. If, however, you think accommodations—closing your office door, taking more breaks—will help you improve your job performance, you may want to discuss these with your employer.
This article appears in the February/March 2005 issue of ADDitude.
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To connect with adults recently diagnosed with ADHD, visit the Just Diagnosed With ADHD support group on ADDConnect.