We hear it all the time. These days, anytime anyone feels they are unfocused, overly scheduled or mentally cluttered they may say “I’m so ADD”, but are they really? What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (aka ADD or ADHD) anyway? We wonder. Are we ADD if we’re cranky? How about if we’re perpetually menopausal? Or if we can’t sleep anymore? Are we ADD if we can’t stop asking questions? Hmmmm…
Twenty years ago, we hardly heard of ADHD, and now the term is almost too familiar. Here’s the big question, though: When is it just a simple lack of focus due to stress or bad habits and when might it be ADHD?
How You Know You Have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
1. You have NO filter and are highly impulsive.
Being candid, bold, opinionated is one thing and many people with strong personalities possess these traits. If you find you are getting into frequent arguments with family, friends and co-workers who accuse you of not thinking before speaking or acting, then there could be more going on.
You have to look at how certain behaviours impact the general well-being of your life. If you are unable to keep a job, and 50% of people with ADHD struggle to do so, then it would be wise to get an assessment for ADHD. People who find they consistently miss deadlines and simply forget or rush through them without a careful eye on quality of the output are red flags. Of course, there are other psychological considerations and implications but having an ADHD assessment is a good start.
2. You’re constantly putting out fires.
People with adult ADHD frequently lose important papers, documents on their computers or their personal belongings like cell phone, credit cards, keys etc. They find they consistently miss appointments, arrive to work late, feel disorganized and scattered. This inattention to the details of life leads to being in crisis mode cleaning up your own messes. This is a recipe for high stress, poor confidence, second guessing oneself, and low self-esteem.
When you are constantly cleaning up mistakes or apologizing for lateness you start to question your abilities and judgment. This is the uneasiness that may even lead to depression if adult ADHD isn’t properly diagnosed and treated with the help of a trained licensed therapist who specializes in ADHD.
3. You are either easily distracted or off in your own world.
ADHD often has people focusing in two different ways. First, they may have such trouble focusing that they can’t sit through meetings at work, dinners with family or friends, can’t remain engaged in conversations and just feel antsy and always onto the next thing. The second way ADHD impacts focus is where they are so immersed and deeply focused in something that everything else around them is non-existent.
Someone who is in this hyper-focused state can easily lose track of time, their kids, and other commitments because when you have ADHD, nothing is more important than what you are on hyper-focused on. People with ADHD feel they “lost time” because they were focused on one thing for so long and didn’t realize where the time went.
4. You feel like there’s never enough time for anything.
Time management is a big challenge for people with adult ADHD. They tend to overschedule themselves and underestimate the time it takes for certain tasks. They often add to their anxiety by creating unrealistic to-do lists then struggle to get things accomplished because they’re distracted. Anxiety is often an overlapping condition, as are obsessive compulsive traits.
There’s a self-defeating cycle going on where they take on too much then feel inadequate when things aren’t completed. They frequently say that there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a NYC-based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, teaching faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.