Frequently Asked Questions About ADHD
On this page you will find the answers to questions we have been asked about adult ADHD from our many followers and subscribers throughout the years.
My Family Doesn’t Think ADHD is Real. What Do I Do?
Answer: That is a tough spot to be in. You can try educating them with facts like:
- No one person created the diagnosis of ADHD
- ADD was first described in the 1700 and 1800’s, but the name kept changing
- A number of genes have been identified, and they overlap with genes for Autism and OCD and other disorders
- ADHD is highly genetic, as heritable as height
- You could show them brain scans that show the differences between a typical brain and a person with ADHD
- You could show them the 4000 scientific studies around ADHD
And then you could ask them why this one particular diagnosis is so dismissed, whereas Autism, Epilepsy, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Tourette Syndrome, and a score of other mental health issues are not. You could also ask them if they consume caffeine, nicotine, or is are adrenaline junkies and congratulate them, “Oh, so you understand the power of a stimulant in helping with focus.
OR you could buy a copy of our hit documentary ADD & Loving It?! a video that has been bringing families together and changing lives. Ask them if they will watch it with you, no judgement, just ask them if they will. If they won’t, maybe have it playing on the TV one day when they come over. See if they watch it then.
I Think I Have ADHD. What Do I Do Next?
First I want you to know that finding out you have ADHD can be a huge turning point in your life. It was for me. A woman who heard me do a radio interview, recognized herself, and got a proper ADHD diagnosis said it was the single most important event of her adult life.
Up until now you may have assumed you were:
Teachers, parents, siblings, and others may have accused you of this as well.
This is a neuro-developmental disorder, that is heavily genetic, (The first suspect gene was identified in 1999, with many more since.), and appears to involve the neuro-transmitter Dopamine. It’s plays havoc with what’s called Executive Functions.
An overly simple explanation is to imagine a huge car company, with thousands of workers all doing their jobs, but no executives around to manage the goals, production targets, resources, spending, timetables, coordinating, prioritizing. No matter how hard and how well the workers are each doing their job, it’s going to be chaotic, with everyone in crisis management mode. “We need headlights!” “These are the wrong engines!” “The doors are a different colour than the body, we can’t bolt them on, where do we store them?”
Anyway, to get properly tested, you will need to find a doctor who understands ADHD. He or she will give you some screener tests, do an interview looking at your life history (Because unlike Depression, say, this is how we come into the world. So it will be there in our report cards.)
In the meantime, learn as much as you can. This is the biggest thing you can do to help yourself. I would start with the ASRS test on our website.
Watch as many of the videos on the site as you can. Do they resonate? Do some or many of them leave you thinking, “This is me! It’s like they’ve been watching my whole life.”
If you can, invest in a copy of our program ADD & Loving It?! which is still the best introduction to this particular mindset. It’s particularly effective when you’re dealing with people around you who don’t believe in ADHD or think you’re just looking for an excuse. I can’t tell you how many people have written to tell us how their parents, partner, or friends finally ‘got it’ and realized this isn’t some character flaw.
If there are specific issues you are struggling with, there are videos on many topics, and there are full-length videos in the shop on everything from Anger, Sleep, and Emotional Sensitivity, to Medication, Tools & Tips, and Careers.
Finally, I highly recommend our book ADD Stole My Car Keys. It outlines 155 ways ADHD shows up in our behaviors, misbehavior’s, challenges, and even our strengths.
But at some point you want a qualified expert to confirm it. And it’s always going to be a judgment. There’s no blood test. It’s not obvious, the way a broken leg is.
And the challenges are ones everyone faces. Every car company has trouble managing all their resources and being efficient. The one with no Executives just has bigger issues, far more often.
Testing can be expensive, depending on where you live. In the meantime learn as much as you can. The more it fits, the more you understand your particular mix of symptoms, the faster things can change. Everyone has a different ‘flavor.’ I don’t have a problem with being late for appointments. I am terrible prioritizing and sticking with what needs doing, rather than going off and doing something interesting.
Try some of the strategies we suggest in our videos. Do they help? Even before you have an official diagnosis you can be experimenting with strategies.
Keep us posted.
And if it is ADHD, trust me, in the long run this is good news. It’s not going to be rainbows and sunshine from now on, but if you keep moving forward it gets better and better. With some crappy days and weeks along the way.
Is ADHD a Disorder? That Term Annoys Me.
I absolutely understand what you’re saying. But knowing that people with this mindset suffer from 2 to 3 times the rate of divorce, bankruptcy, being fired, dropping out of school, abusing substances, and even higher rates of car accidents, incarceration, plus a constant sense of underachieving (Which may be accurate because how can anyone achieve their potential with the constant chatter and distractability?) …
At some point it’s so impairing it is a disorder. But as Kate Kelly points in our documentary, ADD & Loving It?!, she has been able to basically eliminate the challenges with a holistic or multi-modal approach–medication, coaching, mindfulness, etc.. So for her, and I think for me more and more, it’s no longer a disorder.
Are ADD Drugs Just Legal Meth?
Ha ha! Everyone thinks its the same thing because it has Meth in the name. But scores of medications for everything from cancer to diarrhea have Methyl in their name. Basically, as I recall from first year Organic Chemistry, Methyl just means ‘one carbon atom.’ Methane has one carbon atom. Ethane has two. Propane has three… You can guess how many Octane has. I made a video to answer this question Is Ritalin The Same as Meth?
My Child Won’t Talk to me About ADHD
It’s a common challenge, getting people who seem to have ADHD to look into it. And then there are the people who have been diagnosed and can’t convince their loved ones that ADHD is real and that they have it.
A couple of thoughts. One, ask him why he won’t talk about ADHD? Then, get him to discuss the challenges he’s facing. Then mention you saw this short, funny video, by a comedian who has ADHD, called the ADHD Awareness Minute. And send it to them, or watch it with them.
You could also that in one of the videos we note that many people working in film, television, music, and theatre have ADHD. Adam Levine from Maroon 5, Zooey Deschanel, Jack Nicholson, and many more. And that in certain fields, such as the entertainment industry, high-tech, Emergency Responders, the Military, and others, there’s a high percentage of folks with this mindset, and they have found ways to make it work for them, and turn it into an asset.
But I’d start with some of the short videos on the site. And work up to some of the full-length ones. The secret is to find where the person is struggling, what symptom is causing them the most problems, and explain that it isn’t a character flaw, it’s the natural outcome of ADHD, and that there are ways to manage the challenge. If you can avoid the word ‘Symptom’ or ‘Mental Health’ or ‘Mental Illness’ and use words like ‘particular mindset’ or ‘way of thinking’, you’re less like to activate your son’s defences.
Hope that helps. And in the meantime, learn as MUCH as you can. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to understand what he’s dealing with, and be able to point him to tools, resources, or information.
I’m Feeling Guilty Because I Gave my Son ADHD
I suspect that every parent has experienced what you’re going through, at least to some degree. We think we’re doing the best for our kids. Our intentions are good. We’re doing the best we know how. But there was something huge that neither you know your child knew about–this invisible saboteur called ADHD.
It took me a while to work through the anger (Why didn’t I know sooner!) and sadness (All of that suffering and struggle!) and regret (If only we had known, how much better could it have been for my child, myself, and my family!) As I was working through this tornado of emotions a loved one gave me a piece of advice that she had found powerful. She said, “You did the best you knew how. But now that you know better, you can do better.” She talked about the need to forgive and move forward. “Easy for her to say!” I thought, but eventually, one day as I was re-hashing it all, “I’m a bad father! My child is damaged!…” and so on, I suddenly realized that the hours I spent in suffering over the past were hours that I could put to better use, helping my son, learning about ADHD, and getting my own symptoms under control. That’s when things shifted. I still sank into that grieving process, but far less often, and each time it healed a little more.
What made the most difference, for me, was seeing my son and myself take on our ADHD, use tools, try out strategies, find things that worked for us, and begin to succeed. Where you are right now is normal. How could you not be upset. If you need help moving forward there is a video in our shop with some great advice by a lot of experts, called Now You Tell Me?!
If you can, talk about what you’re feeling with someone who is not going to dismiss your feelings or tell you to, “Big deal. Get over it!” I also found writing out my feelings, especially the darkest ones, the worst fears about his future and mine, actually helped a great deal. It went from ‘an all-consuming tornado of anger, sadness, and regret’ to a long list of concerns. I then imagined that someone else had written all that I had written. And I imagined I was their best friend, and what I would tell them. It was liberating. It’s not something you may be ready to do yet, but journalling, talking with a friend, joining a support group, sharing in our Forums, getting counselling, and especially learning as much as you can about what ADHD is and what it is NOT, will interrupt the tornado and allow you to deal with the negative emotions, without suppressing or denying them. I hope this helps.
With love, Rick
My Doctor Doesn’t Believe in ADHD. What Can I Do?
You are indeed in a difficult situation. You are not alone. The United States is far and away the most ‘ADHD-Friendly’ country, with most of the top researchers, authors, and experts. Canada runs a close second. Europe and Britain are starting to catch on, but there’s a long way to go. A few years ago a doctor from Australia was lamenting the situation in Australia.
Unfortunately, you may have to do much of the diagnosing and developing your “treatment plan,” by yourself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can learn and experiment at your own speed. Our videos will give you access to dozens of experts, and lots of different ideas for everything from finding a career that works for you, to getting good sleep, to mindfulness (which is awesome.)
Being alone means you may have to do a lot of explaining and convincing people that this is a real diagnosis, a neuro-developmental disorder, with a biological basis, and not some kind of character flaw. Be careful, you could spend a great deal of time and energy trying to get people to open their minds. It might be better to save your energy for working on your own symptoms and challenges
I also really like ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know by Stephen Hinshaw and Katherine Ellison. Both books are full of information and easy to read.
You might be able to find help through an ADHD coach. You can learn more about ADHD coaching in our video.
Finally, there, is no ‘finally’. Dealing with ADHD, like any aspect of your health, is an endless and ongoing process of learning and improving your skills, while also adjusting your life situation so you can focus on what you love and do well, and eliminate or reduce the tasks and challenges where you struggle. If you have this mindset you were probably born this way, but now that you know what’s going on, and as you learn as much as you can, and actually take on the practices and strategies, life will improve. Trust me! It just may not be a simple, easy, or linear journey.
How Can Have a Normal Life With ADHD?
Sorry to hear that you are struggling. The best place to start is by seeking professional advice, starting with your doctor. As you probably know we’ve interviewed over 100 doctors but we are not doctors.
Following the advice of your doctor is critical.
While you are doing that you also want to educate yourself as much as possible about your ADHD. Educating yourself is a good way to make sure your doctors are asking the right questions about your situation.
It is possible to have a ‘normal’ life with ADHD, you need to find an area where you excel.
A while back I wrote a great blog that may offer you some advice or inspiration. Don’t let the title throw you off, How To Find Out If I Have ADHD?
Good luck to you.
Adult ADHD, Marriage and Relationships
People with ADHD tend to zone out during conversations and they never think “I wonder if I’m low on dopamine and norepinehrine?”. They tend to think, “I’m a terrible partner” or “I’m a terrible father”. It’s just one of the many symptoms of ADHD that can wreak havoc on a relationship. We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 books we recommend to understand how ADHD may be hurting your love life.
The Top 5 ADHD Relationship Books:
Can I Test Myself for ADHD?
A proper ADHD diagnosis can only be given by a doctor, however there are resources to give you an idea of whether you have ADHD or ADD.
- TotallyADD’s Do I Have ADHD? quiz is a good quiz to take. It is based on the list of symptoms of ADHD from the DSM-V
- The Adult ADHD Self Report Screener (ASRS) is another tool you can use to get an idea if you are living with ADHD.
- The ASRS Self Report Scale is a great tool for helping you and your doctor understand your symptoms.
- The Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (DSM)
People with ADHD definitely have some advantages over non ADHD people. The trick is to find work that plays to your strengths. Rick talks about the potential benefits of ADHD in the blog What Are the 5 Super Powers of ADHD?
A: Currently, no other broadcasters have even been willing to watch either program let alone consider broadcasting it. If you would like to see it on television in your country, please send letters to your local broadcasters and let them know about ADD & Loving It?! and ADD & Mastering It!
A: Please visit our Links page for a list of advocacy groups and other helpful websites.
A: Check with others in Totally ADD Connect and our Forums. If you don’t see a mention about support groups, post the question yourself.
A: We have t-shirts and other merchandise in our shop with TeeSpring
A: I wish! Then we could afford to dress better. And I wouldn’t be driving a 5 year old Prius. Totally ADD is owned by a private company – Big Brain Productions Inc. ADD & Loving It?! and Totally ADD were paid for with money from the Global Canwest Television Network as well as government funding from the Canadian Television Fund, Ontario Media Development Corporation and Ontario Tax Credits. Since launching in 2009, the site has been managed and paid for by Big Brain Productions Inc. through sales of videos on PBS and this website. In the Videos section you will find a series about medication. This series of videos are the only thing on the website which were paid for by Pharma companies and explain why there are different medications available and how each medication works. We thought it would be fair for them to pay for that and all four pharma companies in Canada chipped in.
A: Rick. Jimi, Pamela and Ava are the production and operations leads here at Big Brain Productions. Patrick and Janis McKenna are featured in our specials – ADD & Loving It?! and ADD & Mastering It! Dr. Jain offers a medical perspective and scientific credibility. Our friends Andy and David from Cyberwalker media handle web development along with Steve, Duane and Amelia Rose. (Everyone should have a web designer as a friend. It used to be you wanted a doctor in the family. Today you want a web developer.) And of course we have scores of production specialists who’ve made the videos with us. And dozens of great experts who’ve appeared in the videos.
Rick Green is the face of the website. And possibly the neck and shoulders. A comedian since birth, he was diagnosed with ADHD in his mid 40’s. Since then he has been working to get the truth about this ‘disorder’ out into the world.
A: Well, Ava was primarily a television editor and in the past 8 years also a Producer. Rick is a comedian who writes, acts, directs and produces. With 700 radio and television episodes to his credit, and countless stage productions, he brings a lot of expertise in production. Jimi was a student who came here for an internship, and refused to leave. Pam is a friend and talented artist who is just too great to have locked in a room with paints all the time.
A: By promising to tell the facts, to not sensationalize, to make sure our videos contained solid, scientific, evidence-based facts. And even then it was tricky. The title of our first film, ADD & Loving It?! scared some doctors. It upset viewers too who thought we were going to dismiss ADHD as a gift. But what was great was that it drew in a lot of viewers who really had dismissed or minimized ADHD, because it sounded like we were going to say we love our ADHD. What they didn’t notice was that in the title there was a question mark. Followed by an exclamation mark. As in,”What the…?! Loving it? Are you kidding me?!” I cannot tell you how many people say our program has completely transformed their beliefs. Or rather shot down their beliefs and replaced them with an understanding of the facts.
A: Sure. Post it in the Forums and we’ll make sure they see it.
A: Yes, you can send a cheque or money order directly to Big Brain Productions Inc./TotallyADD, PO Box 33598, Dundurn RPO, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. L8P 4X4
A: For sure. Just be active on the site. Help others. Ask questions. Subscribe to the newsletter. Outside of TotallyADD spread the word. Use what you learn here to educate others and tell . When they ask, “Oh yeah? Where did you hear that?” then you can send them here. As well you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and share what we put out, so other adults will recognize something, “I do that… that’s ADHD?” and they’ll come looking around. Book us to do a workshop in your town or at your company. And seriously, think about the yard work. It’s good for you. Get’s you out in the fresh air…
A: No, we already have kids… Oh, you mean to the website. Yes, I would say so. Teens for sure. This is a site for adults with ADHD, so some of it simply won’t apply to kids. When you’re 10, issues like bankruptcy and divorce are not on your radar. Unless one of your parents has ADHD, in which case you might be dealing with it. I would recommend they see the Bill’s ADDventures. And most of the Expert videos and Straight Answers are PG. The Rick’s Rants… Ned Flanders might find some stuff troubling. Short answer, yeah.
A: Yes, if it’s free and on this site, please do. That’s the point! Even better, send them here and let them explore. They will be drawn into this ongoing ‘conversation’ about what ADHD is, and how it can be managed, and even, perhaps, turned to ones advantage.
A: I’d start where we did, with our documentary ADD & Loving It?! There is a reason this program has won awards, critical acclaim, and had a two year run on PBS. It answers all the questions we had when we first found out. It also dissolves the fear, offers hope, and takes away the huge weight that comes when you first find out there’s something going on and you think, “My brain is broken. Or damaged. Or something bad.”
A: I hope so. There is so much fear, stigma, mythology, prejudice, close-mindedness, superstition and nonsense being peddled by scam artists and cults that I hope we upset them all.
A: I say, Booga Booga! They deserve to be offended. We all need to be offended at different points in our lives. It’s good for us. At one point people were offended that slaves wanted freedom. Men were offended that women wanted to vote. Being offended is good if you’re wrong. If you’re right, being offended by ignorance and stupidity is good, as it motivates you to change things. Right now there is a great deal of ignorance in the world about ADHD. The reason why is a long one, and every side can take some blame. The point is, this is a mindset, it causes problems, if you know it’s there you have a fighting chance, and with the right strategies you can soar, but if you don’t know it will destroy every aspect of your life. And it’s never too late.
33 – Q: Is it true that despite the upbeat and entertaining style, this site is in fact full of reliable, scientific information that is presented in a lively, upbeat way that works for people with ADHD? And the information and human stories behind the entertaining style is so life-changing, even life saving that it can free people who have been working their hearts out all of their lives, and never succeeding in the ways they always felt they might?
A: Possibly. (Blush) Do you forgive me? Q: Possibly.