Stress & Anxiety

The Panic Button: Why Anyone with ADHD Should Never Hit It

The one rule parents with ADHD should follow is to take a moment to let panic pass – or combined with hyperactivity and impulsivity, mistakes will follow.

A mom looks at her watch and is stressed out because her son with ADHD is behind on his daily routine.
A mom looks at her watch and is stressed out because her son with ADHD is behind on his daily routine.

It is amazing to me how much damage a moment of panic does to my otherwise nicely organized morning. I have routines. I have to-do lists. What more could I need?

My hyperactivity usually has a wonderful upside, where I can hit the ground running while juggling six balls, then catch another ball in stride. I can be a little intense to be around when I’m rushed, and the intensity wouldn’t be necessary if I were just a wee bit more organized, but I am fond of how the “H” in ADHD helps me out in a pinch.

There are those times, though, when a new ball comes hurtling at me, and instead of gracefully adding it to my armload of spinning tasks, I screech “Not the face!” and duck for cover. I might also freeze in place as emotion and chaos flood my mind with indecision. Everything then comes crashing down around me. I quickly engage hyperactivity, scoop up everything that’s fallen, put it all up in the air again, but this time with a panicked edge and a feeling of dread. This is usually because, in my haste to recover, I have missed something important.

I’ve had a few dramatic train wrecks here and there, and poking around the wreckage of my life has taught me that I am most vulnerable when I’m overtired or stressed from too many balls flying in the air. The latest example was last month.

It was 6:20 am, and I was making eggs-over-easy that looked mysteriously scrambled, when my daughter came rushing into the room. She was in a panic because this was the day that she was supposed to wear a Halloween costume to school. The announcement landed in my kitchen like a bomb. What? You’re telling me this now? One of my eyes snapped open wide and crazy as I realized that we only had 25 minutes before her bus arrived. Her panic was contagious. I called for the paint kit and prepared for an emergency face painting. No daughter of mine was going to school without a costume because I was unprepared.

[Self-Test: Could You Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?]

Paint flew, mistakes were made and corrected, and suddenly my 14-year-old was transformed into a cat. The bus arrived as I put on the final whisker, and she was off!

Nine hours later my cat-faced daughter returned home. She quietly closed the door and walked over to me in silence. She handed me a flyer and gave me a look that told me something was wrong. I looked over the flyer and noticed where her finger was tapping. The school’s Halloween day was in one more week. I looked up at her with my mouth wide open, and burst out laughing. The poor kid had attended all her classes painted up as a cat during a regular school day. We both laughed for quite some time.

The moral to the story is: “Do not panic-ever.” With our impulsivity issues, a panicky thought sends us off in the wrong direction, quick as lightning. Maybe it’s because we’ve made too many mistakes over the years. Maybe we’re just caught up in the ADHD moment. Whatever the reason, the panic fuels an already-impulsive mind to make a hasty decision that rarely ends well.

Train yourself to take a moment to breathe and let the panic pass. It might save you from embarrassing yourself-or your family. At the very least, you’ll have your wits about you to have a more measured response. I’ve already got an action plan in place for the next morning panic. I’ll ask to see the event flyer first.

[Rein In Your Impulsive Demons]