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Newly Diagnosed With Adult ADHD? Here’s What to Know

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 21, 2021

Doctors once thought that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affected children alone. But most people don’t outgrow the disorder. Instead, it usually lasts throughout life. As many of 5% of U.S. adults live with the condition, which affects how your brain manages thoughts and actions.

If you’re newly diagnosed with adult ADHD, you may:

  • Have trouble with daily responsibilities, time management, organization, self-control, concentration, and memory
  • Get distracted easily
  • Lose things often
  • Feel the need to move all the time, fidget, or struggle to stay seated
  • Interrupt
  • Find it hard to wait

ADHD symptoms can cause problems in your relationships and in your job. This can leave you with long-lasting feelings of:

  • Frustration
  • Guilt -- you regret your actions
  • Shame -- you feel bad about who you are

How a Diagnosis May Make You Feel

If you’re an adult who’s been recently diagnosed with ADHD, you may feel surprise or disbelief. You might be in denial that you have ADHD. Or you may feel relief or validation because you now understand that ADHD symptoms have caused many of your difficulties in life.

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A new diagnosis may also make you feel angry or sad. Maybe your doctor didn’t recognize the disorder when you were a child, something that’s not uncommon. You may feel regret and wonder how much ADHD has hurt your personal and professional lives.

But a diagnosis means you have a chance to learn how to handle your ADHD. Doctors can’t cure it, but medication, therapy, and skills that help you manage your behavior can make it easier to cope with symptoms.

Follow these steps to live better with adult ADHD.

Let Go of Self-Blame and Shame

With ADHD, you may feel shame because it’s hard for you to handle adult tasks and relationships. Family, friends, and employers may judge you, too, and see you as lazy, rude, or unreliable.

To move past these feelings, it’s key to understand and accept that ADHD is a brain disorder and not a character flaw. One easy way to do that is to learn about the disorder and how it affects your life. From there, you can take steps to address the areas you need to improve.

Get Treatment and Support

The best way to treat adult ADHD is with a combination of medication and therapy. You can also get support from an ADHD coach and from others with the disorder.

Therapy

A therapist or counselor can educate you about the disorder and how it affects your life. They often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you identify and manage your thoughts and behaviors as they happen, rather than revisiting past experiences.

When you have ADHD, it also affects your family members. Family or individual therapy can help them understand and cope with the disorder.

Not all mental health professionals are trained to treat ADHD, so it’s important to find one who is. They can use CBT and other tools to help you improve your self-management, emotional control, and ability to plan. CBT can also ease depression and anxiety, which are common in adults who have ADHD.

Medication

To ease some ADHD symptoms, a psychiatrist or other doctor can prescribe medications that affect your brain function They will probably try a stimulant medication first. It may take some time for them to find the type, dose, and time of day to take it that work best for you.

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These medications don’t work well for everyone. But if stimulants don’t help enough, your doctor may prescribe one of several nonstimulant drugs that can lessen ADHD symptoms. If you have depression or anxiety, they may also prescribe an antidepressant.

ADHD medications can improve your attention and impulse control. But they can’t solve all the behavior issues the condition can cause. That’s where coaching can help.

ADHD coaching

If you want to get more organized and more productive, you may want to work with an ADHD coach. They can help you sharpen your focus and motivation so you can set and reach your goals.

People don’t need a specific degree or license to be an ADHD coach. Some are mental health professionals. Others have been trained in the practice but aren’t licensed counselors or therapists.

Look for a coach who fits your personality and needs. You may need to interview two or three to find the best match. You should also research potential coaches to understand their training and experience.

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The ADHD Coaches Organization offers more information and a coach directory. You can also use the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) resource locator tool to find a coach in your area.

ADHD support groups

Support groups for adults with ADHD can help you connect to people who understand your challenges. CHADD’s affiliate portal can help you find a group in your state.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): “About ADHD: Coaching,” “CHADD Affiliates,” “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy,” “Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults,” “Living with ADHD: A Lifespan Disorder,” “Medication Management,” “Overview,” “Professional Directory,” “Treatment of ADHD in Adults.”

Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA): “ADHD: The Facts.”

Understood: “ADHD and feelings of remorse.”

Donna Sisson, licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, Sisson Counseling Services LLC, Birmingham, AL.

ACO International: “Find Your Coach.”

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