The Best of 2021: Must-Read Articles on ADHD
From cutting-edge clinical research to features on mental health during the pandemic to a deep dive on social media’s impact on ADHD brains — ADDitude published no shortage of thought-provoking and insightful articles this year. Below, click through to the most riveting reads from 2021, selected by our ADDitude editors.
Coined by Dr. Russell Barkley, the term deficient emotional self-regulation (DESR) refers to emotional self-regulation difficulties, including emotional impulsiveness (EI), which have long been observed with ADHD — by patients, clinicians, and researchers. Despite its known association with ADHD, emotional dysregulation is missing from the disorder’s diagnostic criteria.
Dr. Barkley presents compelling evidence, from early concepts of ADHD to available research in fields like neuroanatomy and psychology, to make the case that DESR and EI are fundamental aspects of ADHD and should form part of the disorder’s diagnostic criteria and treatment practices.
Additional DESR Resources:
- “Deficient Emotional Self-Regulation: The Overlooked ADHD Symptom That Impacts Everything” [Video Replay & Podcast #369]
- DESR: “Does ADHD Emotional Dysregulation Ever Fade?”
This 5-part series details essential skills and milestones across the major developmental stages — childhood, adolescence, and adulthood — and the ADHD-related challenges that may appear along the way. Each article also provides effective strategies, treatments, and interventions at each stage.
Ages & Stages Part 1: Children with ADHD Need Positive Reinforcement (& Other Interventions That Work)
Ages & Stages Part 2: Teens with ADHD Need Scaffolds and Structure: How Not to Helicopter Parent
Ages & Stages Part 3: ADHD in Young Adults: Avoiding Symptom Collisions in College, First Jobs & Beyond
Ages & Stages Part 4: Adult ADHD is Misunderstood: Realistic Solutions for Managing Life, Time & Emotions
Ages & Stages Part 5: The Ultimate ADHD Medication List
ADHD is not a male disorder, but men and boys are diagnosed far more commonly than women and girls. Why? Lingering stereotypes, referral bias, internalized symptoms, gender role expectations, comorbidities, and hormonal fluctuations all complicate the ADHD presentation in women. Here, Dr. Ellen Littman summarizes common signs and symptoms of ADHD in women, plus roadblocks to a thorough evaluation and effective treatment.
Additional Resources for Women with ADHD:
- “Why ADHD Is Different for Women: Gender-Specific Symptoms & Treatments” [Video Replay & Podcast #337]
- ADHD Looks Different in Women. Here’s How — and Why.
ADHD, like other mental health topics, is immensely popular on TikTok. While this exposure helps build ADHD awareness and community, some social media content oversimplifies the disorder and allows unqualified content creators to spread incomplete information about ADHD. This article reviews the benefits and risks of #ADHDTikTok, and questions whether the pros outweigh the cons.
Additional Reading on Social Media and Mental Health:
- “Did I Really Just Post That?!” The Social Media Guide for Teens
- Safeguarding ADHD Youth Against Depression in the Age of COVID
Research on adult autism and ADHD is scarce, despite the fact that these conditions, often identified in childhood, are lifelong for most people. What is known is that autistic adults with co-occurring ADHD face unique challenges, and there is growing clinical consensus on diagnostic and treatment approaches for this population. Here, Dr. Benjamin E. Yerys reviews symptoms of autism and ADHD in adults, explains how clinicians might distinguish the conditions, and recommends effective supports to improve quality of life.
Additional Resources on Autism in Adults:
- “Could I Be Autistic, Too?” Signs of Autism in Women with ADHD
- Q: How Can I Get Evaluated for Autism as an Adult?
- The Truth About Autism in Adults
“Rejection sensitivity is not a formal diagnosis or disorder, but many women report that the inability to control their reactions to rejection is one of the most undermining aspects of their ADHD.”
In this article, Dr. Ellen Littman reviews rejection sensitivity (also known as rejection sensitive dysphoria) in women with ADHD and how gender constructs, emotional dysregulation, and other factors contribute to this common experience.
Additional Reading on Rejection Sensitivity:
Inadequate diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in children of color, coupled with systemic racism and other barriers, can result in serious, detrimental outcomes in later life. In this article, Dr. Tumaini Rucker Coker discusses the various factors and historical contexts that contribute to these inequities — including the school-to-prison pipeline and medical biases — and how clinicians can provide culturally relevant, equitable ADHD care.
Additional Reading on Equitable ADHD Care:
If you still feel lost and disoriented due to the pandemic, you are not alone. Finding balance and order is all about getting back to the basics — developing a solid routine, honing awareness of your energy levels, managing distractions, and organizing your day based on your brain. Learn how to execute these strategies and others from Linda Walker, PCC.
Additional Pandemic Resources:
- “Time Management in a Pandemic: Better Productivity, Even When Every Day Could Be Monday” [Video Replay & Podcast #341]
- The ADHD WFH Guide: 7 Ways to Build Essential Structure Right Now
Motivation is erratic and ephemeral for many students with ADHD, who often struggle to begin and remain focused on schoolwork they find less-than-captivating. As drive dips, academic performance can suffer, further decreasing motivation and contributing to a self-defeating cycle.
Lack of motivation is closely related to the neurobiology of ADHD and how the brain perceives challenges. In this article, Jerome Schultz, Ph.D., explains the science behind motivation problems in children with ADHD, and how parents and educators can increase their interest in learning.
Additional Resources for Motivating Your Child:
- “Motivating Your Child with ADHD: What Ignites Interest in and Energy for Learning” [Video Replay & Podcast #364]
- Why Teens Stop Trying — and Achieving — at School
OCPD is not obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It’s a personality disorder characterized by an intense need for perfectionism and orderliness in practically all aspects of life. What’s more, individuals with OCPD rarely see their symptoms as problematic; they believe their way is the “best” way.
Learn more about OCPD, its signs and symptoms, and its relationship to OCD and ADHD.
Additional Reading on Comorbid Conditions:
- When OCD and ADHD Coexist: Symptom Presentation, Diagnosis, and Treatment
- The Truth About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Gender identity exploration is a healthy and natural process. When ADHD is in the picture, it can influence the journey in several ways. In this article, Sharon Saline, Psy.D., and Julie Mencher, MSW, discuss the intersection of neurodiversity and gender diversity and provide guidance for parents working to support their children.
Additional Resources on Gender Identity:
- “Gender Diversity and Neurodiversity: How to Support a Child, Teen, or Young Adult with ADHD as They Explore Gender” [Video Replay & Podcast #350]
- How to Support a Teen with ADHD Who Is Questioning Their Gender
“Self-compassion allows you to be good enough as you are, with your warts, with your foibles, sometimes off-balanced, sometimes more reactive than you’d like, sometimes disorganized, but fundamentally perfectly imperfect as a human being, just like everyone else.”
Here, Sharon Saline, Psy.D., explains four ways to practice self-compassion and undo negative thought patterns.
Additional Reading on Self-Compassion:
In this guide, Dr. David Anderson, provides a hierarchy of techniques — from parent-child relationship building and positive reinforcement to reward systems and more — that are proven to curb unwanted behaviors in children.
Additional Behavioral Resources:
- “Discipline Strategies for ADHD: How to Manage Your Child’s Most Challenging Behaviors” [Video Replay & Podcast #346]
- A Survival Guide for Parents with ADHD: Strategies from Preschool to High School
Why are you tired all the time? The mental energy it requires to live with ADHD leads to fatigue and exhaustion for many adults. The solution? Building better routines by stacking habits — because the more we automate tasks, the more bandwidth we have to tackle everything else. Here, learn 8 strategies for creating helpful new habits from Dr. Michele Novotni.
Additional Resources for Building Habits:
- “The Healthy Habits Playbook: How to Make Meaningful Changes Actually Stick” [Video Replay & Podcast #361]
- These 6 Healthy Habits Can Improve Memory & Focus
“An ADHD diagnosis often answers some big, life-long questions. Then, it quickly raises new ones: What exactly does this mean? What are our options? Where do we go from here?”
Here, the world’s leading experts in ADHD answer your most common questions about available treatments and interventions, how to tell if ADHD medication is working, how to explain ADHD to a child, and more.
Additional Resources for the Newly Diagnosed:
ADHD doesn’t just affect attention and focus. In fact, writes Dr. Lidia Zylowska, it linked to chronic stress, sleep problems, mood disorders, and other issues that, in turn, further exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
In other words, ADHD impacts the whole self. That said, treatments and interventions must do the same — addressing symptoms beyond the obvious and striving to improve overall health and wellness. Enter integrative medicine. This article provides an overview of complementary therapies and approaches that promote holistic well-being.
Additional Wellness Resources:
- “The Whole-Person Treatment Approach to ADHD” [Video Replay & Podcast #374]
- Mindfulness Meditation: ADHD Symptom Relief with Breath
Though the return to in-person learning was largely positive, the transition introduced new challenges for some students with learning differences. This article describes those difficulties, as well as the importance of maintaining flexibility and patience as students navigate new and different classroom requirements with helpful accommodations and supports.
Additional Resources for In-Person Learning:
- “What Will a Return to In-Person Learning Mean for My Child with ADHD?”
- Surviving the In-Person Learning Transition: Game Plans and Instant Replays
More Great Articles from ADDitude in 2021:
- How I Beat “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” and Got My Life Back
- Schoolhouse Blocks: Foundational Executive Functions Series
- ADHD Brains on Screens: Decoding a Complicated Relationship
- What is Sensory Processing Sensitivity? Traits, Insights, and ADHD Links
- “Is My ADHD Teen Addicted to Porn?”
- The Science of Fear: Probing the Brain Circuits That Link ADHD and PTSD
- Is ADHD or Anxiety to Blame for My Perfectionism?
- How to Shepherd — Not Carry — Your Child Toward Fulfillment
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