By Rick Green,
Should I tell my boss I have ADHD? Is it better to disclose my ADHD diagnosis at work? Should I tell my child’s teacher he has Attention Deficit Disorder?
All valid concerns. With potentially wonderful or devastating outcomes.
In our video about disclosing your diagnosis, To Tell or Not to Tell? most of the dozen or so experts urge caution in sharing your situation. Yet some point out that if you have an understanding boss, or if things have deteriorated to the point where you’re ADHD has you in danger of being dismissed or demoted, then talking about what’s going with you can be the first step to getting support and accommodations that allow you to soar.
The experts offer a range of great ideas on what to say, who to tell, and when to disclose. But all agree it’s a tricky decision, fraught with peril.
I DISCLOSED THE HECK OUT OF IT
By now you know what I did. I blabbed to everyone. The more I learned about ADHD, the more I understood myself, and hey, who doesn’t want to share good news?
I even told the network executives.
Were there consequences? Did I get fired? No.
Eventually, I convinced Patrick McKenna to get a proper diagnosis, on camera, in a television special about adult ADHD. And then Patrick convinced his wife Janis that what he had agreed to do would be a great idea.
So Patrick and I were loud and proud. And I heartily recommend you don’t do what we did.
I’m not saying you lie about it. Or go around saying, “I don’t believe in ADHD!” thinking that will throw people off the scent.
Disclosing can be helpful.
But it can easily backfire. And often does.
Executive coach Linda Walker says that half of her clients who disclosed were either sidelined, passed
over for promotion, or eventually fired.
Has disclosing adversely affected my career? Or Patrick’s? We’ll probably never know. Show business is unique, and it may not carry the same stigma.
If your ADHD is affecting your performance at work, there are ways to get the support and understanding you need without mentioning that you have a ‘mental disorder.’ The term is fraught with peril. Even the doctors in To Tell or Not To Tell? agree a sizable majority of folks still think ADHD is a joke, or will jump to the conclusion that you’re an unreliable, troublesome, drug addict.
BUT WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS AND FAMILY?
So in the workplace, disclosing can have big consequences. Good and bad. It depends.
But what about family?
“Surely my loved ones, the people closest to me, will be compassionate, supportive, and wanting to learn more.”
HA HA HA HA HA!
HO HO HO!
BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!
HA-HA! OH, THAT’S GOOD! STOP, YER KILLIN’ ME!
Sorry, give me a second to dry my eyes. Phew… I needed a good laugh.
Okay, so yes, at some point you may want to tell friends and family about your diagnosis. But be very judicious about who you tell and prudent about what you say.
I’d even suggest that you should be more cautious than at work.
Because you can probably get another job. In fact, if you have ADHD you may love going from one job to the next.
But you only have one family. (Thank goodness.)
WHAT IF THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG?
If you have already disclosed to your loved ones, don’t despair. Even if they are dismissive, hostile, or bullying about it. Don’t avoid seeing them.
Instead, don’t bring it up. At all. Don’t share stories or insights you’ve had.
You cannot convince people who think they know better.
Arguing NEVER works. Facts DO NOT MATTER.
Trust me, you can quote scientific studies or talk about all the genes that have been identified in the last two decades, and they’ll roll their eyes, shrug it off, and sneer, “You can find scientific studies that prove anything. Last year they said red wine is bad for you, now they’re saying it’s good for you…”
Avoid getting activated, angry, and hurt. Save your energy for dealing with your ADHD.
And if someone else brings it up? What do you do if your know-it-all Uncle or holier-than-thou Aunt smirks, “So how is that ADH-whatever going? Still using that as an excuse?”
Laugh. And change the subject.
“Yep. How about you? Still working on being less of a judgmental, ignorant, passive-aggressive ass?”
Okay, no, don’t say that. Think it if you must, but don’t say it.
SILENCE SAYS IT ALL
Instead, just look them straight in the face, wait a few seconds, longer if you like so it gets really uncomfortable, and then just ask how they’re doing.
What if they won’t let it go? What do you do if they bring it up again?
Do something completely unexpected. (You have ADHD, that’s easy, right?)
Pretend that you actually value their opinion. (Since they obviously value their opinion over anything you or 10,000 studies say.)
Ask questions. Be interested in their arguments. If they snort, “I don’t believe in ADHD. It’s not real!, get them talking…
Smile, “So, what about DRD4.7, SHANK-4 and the other suspect genes? And which of the 18 symptoms in DSM-5 do you disagree with?”
Or, “You think ADHD is over-diagnosed? By how much? What is the current rate of diagnosis? Where is it over-diagnosed? What should the actual rate be? What about the rates of adults versus children? What about the 2010 NIH study on the National Comorbidity Survey Replication on prevalence by Kessler, Adler, Barkley, Biederman and others” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859678/
QUESTIONS THAT CAN’T BE ANSWERED
Ask them to share what they know… to expose how little they know.
But be warned, as satisfying at this sounds, as much as you are smiling right now, picturing your Uncle harrumphing and back tracking, it’s going to put a big chill on the family gathering. For better suggestions check out Facing The World for ways to defend yourself, your child, or loved one.
Ultimately, there’s nothing you can say. So say nothing. And wait. As Master Yoda told Luke, “Patience you must have.”
Because as I have discovered, it’s possible for people to eventually get the facts, and they change their mind, and become understanding. Even supportive!
They’ll most likely never apologize for their earlier scorn or even admit they were dismissive. Instead they’ll surprise you one day, by talking about someone else they know who has ADHD, or even, and this is my favorite “I’ve been looking into it, because, you know, it runs in families, and I’m thinking a few of us have it…”