Ice Cream at Midnight

Most people have their secret cravings. But we who have ADHD specialize in one kind of craving. We crave carbs.
It’s the pint, quart, or even gallon of Cherry Garcia or Mocha Nut Fudge ice cream in the middle of the night as a “snack”. It’s the jar of Skippy’s Smooth or Peter Pan Crunchy peanut butter that always seems to be one knife stroke short of empty, no matter how many jars we buy. It’s the jumbo bag of M&M Peanut that we refuse to share when we go to the movies (those days will return. . .). It’s the extra spoonful of gravy we slip onto our mashed potatoes after topping them with more than an average serving of butter. It’s the beer we love. It’s the sugar we add not in teaspoonfuls but in tablespoonfuls (if we bother to measure) to our coffee, tea, cereal, or bowl of blueberries.
We may be overweight. . . or not. We may be pre-diabetic or diabetic. . . or not. We may be behind in our dental bills, or we may avoid the dentist. . . or not. We may or may not be paying a medical price for our sugar cravings and our carb loading. We may or may not suffer pangs of shame and guilt because of it. We may or may not try to curb giving in to these urges.
But most of the time we who have ADHD do not understand the very logical reason that we just can’t resist that final piece of cake. It beckons us all the way from its resting place in the kitchen upstairs to our bedroom just as we are about to fall asleep, only to rouse up out of bed to snarf down that slice before finally going to sleep.
It’s because of the shot of dopamine carbs give us. Remember, we’re on a perpetual search for the dopamine shot, we don’t have as much as neurotypical people. It’s also why we’re 10 times more likely to develop compulsions or addictions of many kinds: to alcohol; to nicotine; to weed; to cocaine; to opiates. And to the many behavioral compulsions and addictions: shopping and spending; gambling; pornography; extreme sports and exercise; and games and screens of all kinds.
And then there’s food. Most people don’t make the dopamine connection with food, especially carbs. The fact is that a spoonful of sugar doesn’t just make the medicine go down, it becomes a form of medicine itself. Not a good medicine, but a part of many of our regimens to self-medicate.
As a means of relieving tension and getting instant pleasure, carbs work even faster than alcohol. It’s much safer from a social standpoint to be a carbs junky than a drug or alcohol devotee. But it can be dangerous nonetheless. Most of us who flirt with the carb cravings—like me—wish we didn’t and try to find better ways of getting that dopamine shot.
The best way to beat the carbs carousel is to develop other ways of getting that dopamine shot. At the top of my list is a creative outlet. Mine is writing. Writing this very note right now is giving me the shot I might have sought from an ice cream or a Triscuit covered with peanut butter. Yours might be drawing, or making a cool TikTok, , re-designing your garden or trying a new recipe. Whatever it is, have a creative outlet!
Second on my list are connections – human or canine. We just adopted two kittens, so I should add feline to the list. Have regular contact with a friend or relative you really enjoy talking or being with. Walk your dog or play with your cat. Connection with another living being makes a huge difference to our mental well-being.
And then physical exercise is among one of the very best ways you can get some good old dopamine. Maybe you like running or going to the gym. Maybe you hate the thought of sports! Use that creative mind and think out of the box for exercise that might tempt you.
So next time you’re courting that bowl of Cookie Dough or that jar of peanut brittle or the stack of pancakes overflowing with syrup, think to yourself, it’s just the dopamine shot I’m craving. Rather than reaching for the snack, how else can I get it? You’ll be glad you did, as you start to develop healthier ways of satisfying your brain.

My Write Difficult!

Deliberately choosing to do something that is difficult does not on the face of it sound tempting. Sometimes we voluntarily subject ourselves to the difficult in order to improve ourselves by say, going on a diet or taking up a new language. But over the years I’ve found there’s a special category in the world of the difficult that each of us would do well to understand.
I call this category “the right difficult”. This is the difficult the pursuit of which not only improves you but, far greater, fills you with a unique satisfaction no other activity can match. It is especially important for those of us who have ADHD to identify and then ardently engage with this right difficult for as long as we can. It will give us the stimulation our brains crave, providing satisfaction that enables us to focus. I’ve come to believe that finding and pursuing the right difficult is among the top strategies for living positively and successfully with ADHD.
I identified my right difficult in 12th grade when I wrote a novel. Might I call it my write difficult? I’ve been wrestling with writing ever since. Like all right difficults, writing is a stern master, and yields up rewards only grudgingly. But nothing else does it for me like writing does. By “does it” I mean engages me, preoccupies me, grows in my unconscious when I’m not doing it, and, while forever frustrating and bedeviling me, gives me fulfillment like nothing else can. Writing a good sentence makes me glow for a moment or two, maybe comparable to the quick thrill a golfer feels when he or she hits a great shot, or a scientist feels when good results come in at last.
I wrote an entire chapter about the right difficult in the new book John Ratey and I are coming out with on Jan. 12, 2021, ADHD 2.0: New Science and Essential Strategies for Thriving with Distraction. As the title promises, it contains lots of new and good stuff, useful stuff, fascinating stuff, fresh from the research labs as well as the combined 80 years of clinical experience John and I can draw upon. One of the rewards of getting a bit older is that, as the ad puts it, you know a thing or two.
In the book we introduce a new term for ADHD, because ADHD is such an inaccurate term. There’s no deficit of attention in ADHD; there’s an abundance! The challenge is to control it. And so many mega-successful people have ADHD that it makes no sense to classify it entirely as a disorder. Instead, we see it as a trait, which, depending on how you manage it, can become a burden or a special power. So our new term for ADHD is VAST: Variable Attention Stimulus Trait.
You can pre-order the book from a number of booksellers here:
https://drhallowell.com/read/books-by-ned/. And after you’ve read it, John and I would love to hear from you. We want to build a VAST community based on our strength-based approach to this fascinating condition.
Meanwhile, as you wait for your book to arrive, start thinking about what your right difficult might be. Identify it, start to pursue it, wrestle with it, and before you know it, you’ll be dancing with it forever.

Thanksgiving 2020 Note from Ned

It’s Thanksgiving once again. Before you say 2020 has been the pits, that there’s coal in all our stockings, and that the idea of giving thanks makes no more sense than going swimming in the Arctic, let me say hold on, think twice, and relax just a moment. Before you add, “And since I have ADHD, there’s even less reason to be thankful, like below zero reason,” let me add this.
Since I have ADHD myself, I’m at least that much qualified to comment. Yes, ADHD can be a colossal pain in the butt. But, speaking of butt, but. . .
But we have each other. And that’s a big deal. And for all the hassles ADHD gives you day in and day out, let me propose some advantages that might, in your case, come with it, as well as mine.
How about if I name a dozen? Make that a baker’s dozen.
  1. You make people laugh. Ok, sometimes at you, but more often with you. Own it, you’ve got a wicked good sense of humor.
  2. You never bore people.
  3. You’re rarely if ever bored yourself.
  4. Trouble may follow you, but you specialize in solutions.
  5. Let’s face it: you are one creative human.
  6. You’ve got a heart as big as the Grand Canyon.
  7. You’re generous to a fault.
  8. You never give up.
  9. You embrace change.
  10. New ideas come to you all the time.
  11. You’re quirky, but wonderfully so.
  12. You can put a smile on the sourest face.
  13. It’s people like you who change the world.
So there’s a gratitude list for you. I hope you agree with at least some of them?
But what I do not need your agreement upon is my heartfelt warm wishes toward all of you. How can I say all of you, when I don’t know all of you? Because in my mind you’re a group I treasure, the all-of-you group, a group I can honestly say I feel very grateful to have in my life, and a group I love being connected with.
So let me repeat: I send all of you my warmest wishes for a well-fed, happy, and most of all healthy Thanksgiving.

Women with ADHD

I had a video appointment with a new patient this morning.  Video is how I “see” all my patients these days, except those who want to “see” me over the telephone so they don’t have to make themselves presentable, or what they imagine to be presentable.  Video consultation has changed my entire practice, and is changing the whole field of mental health by offering a safe and convenient alternative to in-person meetings.  When the pandemic is over, I intend to continue to offer all my patients the option of video or telephone. For those who want to come see me in person, of course, that possibility will return, but the growth of telepsychiatry it one of the silver linings to the ordeal of the pandemic.

But back to my new patient, whom I will call Jill, and whom I will describe with enough disguise to protect her confidentiality. In her mid-thirties, she described a lifetime of struggling to get organized, do school, manage the details of everyday life, and preserve some semblance of self-esteem despite frequent ridicule, “kidding,” and reprimands from parents, siblings, classmates, teachers, and pretty much the entire world she had to live in every day. Despite all this, she remained upbeat, or at least put up a good front of seeming upbeat.

Recently she’d moved from the deep south to New York to take a new job, while finishing up online classes at the fourth college she’d attended. Despite frequent failing grades, necessitating her leaving one college after another, so strong was her determination and pluck she never gave up on her education. When we met this week she was only two credits away from her degree.  But she was having a ton of difficulty juggling her classwork with the demands of her new job. She’d heard about me from a friend so she booked an appointment.

I described ADHD to her. “I have it myself,” I began, “as well as dyslexia. I wouldn’t trade either for the world. Both of these conditions are vastly misunderstood. In ADHD there is no deficit of attention. Just the opposite. We have an abundance of attention.  Our challenge is to control it. Our minds are always in motion. We have trouble slowing our thinking down. For women with ADHD, the “H” – hyperactivity – may not be there, or it may present differently. The woman with ADHD maybe quiet, appearing like a butterfly with her brain moving between many thoughts, always seeming here and there. And like a butterfly that can float through a field without being seen, her wandering mind and difficulty in focusing may not be noticed, instead she blames herself for not trying hard enough when in fact she is trying so hard.”

Of course, just as with men, women with ADHD have the strengths of the trait too. Like the curiosity which leads to so many wandering thoughts. But that curiosity, once you learn to control it, is a huge asset. You can’t teach or buy curiosity, and we have curiosity in spades. Same with creativity.  We’re naturally inventive, original, outside-the-box thinkers. That’s another asset you can’t buy or teach, creativity, and we are born with it. Once again, the challenge is to control it. And we don’t give up. I see tenacity and a persistence to keep on trying often in my female patients. Things are tough for them, but they keep on going. ”

By now my new patient was smiling ear to ear with tears in her eyes.  “At last I feel understood and seen!” she exclaimed.  We talked on and on, Jill asking me question after question, as her curiosity naturally led her to do.  She was—and is—on her way to a new and much better life.

She was one of millions of adult women who have ADHD but did not know it.  Struggling, never giving up, working all hours, they are doing their best, but they are driving on square wheels.  They manage to get places, but at an enormous expense of effort.  They are underachieving, and they know deep down that they could be doing so much better, if only…

The “if only” is if only their ADHD were diagnosed. But because many doctors do not know much about this condition, and especially how it can present differently in women, if a doctor meets a patient like Jill the doctor tends to diagnose depression or anxiety, which are there to be sure, but both are being created by the undiagnosed and untreated ADHD. The patient gets put on SSRI’s or anxiolytics which help a little bit but do not get to the underlying issue of ADHD.

The largest undiagnosed group in the ADHD population are adult women.  If only practitioners could learn about this, and if only the women themselves could learn about this, huge benefits would follow. They could find out how to tap into their strengths and manage their weaker points. Lost lives would be found, relationships brought back from the brink of failure, and untapped potential finally put to use.

If you know such a woman, or you are one yourself, consider reading my book, Delivered from Distraction, or any of Sari Solden’s books or check out my Distraction Podcast. If you see yourself there, consult with a doctor who does understand ADHD in women or please reach out to one of the Hallowell Centers.

This is such a good news diagnosis, but only if you find it.  Once you catch on to it, your life can only get better, often dramatically so.

What Fills Your Mind?

I have a problem. Too few topics take up way too much space in my mind. The too few topics are:

  • the upcoming election;
  • the pandemic;
  • the Post Office (Did I ever think the Post Office would occupy a big chunk of my mind? No.); and
  • global warming.

Not a day passes when I do not spend a large portion of my downtime musings on each of those. They are all hugely important topics, but the time I spend dwelling on them is not pleasant or productive time. It is repetitive, ruminative, feckless brooding.

Scat! I want to say. Begone! Rid me of this drill. I do not want to give any more of the precious seconds of my life to useless, painful, frustrating head-banging. While each of the problems I brood over is tremendously important, and if I could make a valuable contribution to solving any of them I’d be proud to do so, what I do with them is not problem-solving. It’s problem-sucking. I suck on those problems as if somehow each issue will squirt out some solution that I can use. But instead, what I get is as dry as dust, as if I were sucking on a rock.

What would I rather think about?

Anything! The lake we used to summer at. The faces of our dogs. The aroma of pumpkin pie. The way a crow shook down on me the dust of snow from a hemlock tree.

I’d rather suck on the juicy fruit of life, not its barren rocks. So why does my mind drift incessantly toward these problems I’m not able to solve? Why, instead of picking one and committing myself to constructive action toward its resolution, do I stupidly, painfully suck on the rock, gnashing my mental teeth on crotchets and sand?

No more, I say to myself, no more! Rise up, take back control of your mind, set your sights on beauty, love, creative projects, and good food. Set your thoughts on wine, long walks, dear friends, and savory treats. Be done with rags and bones and take up fertile and supple things.

  • Take up new ideas and foods you’ve yet to try.
  • Take up people you miss and reconnect with them at last.
  • Take a stroll down memory lane and place a rose on someone’s door.

It’s time for me to clear out the rubble, to revamp my mind, to weed it out the way I need to weed out my cluttered, dusty attic and basement. I need to call 1-800-GOT-JUNK for my mind. I need to cart away all the detritus and be done with fractured artifacts forever. Why nurse pain? Let it go.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you give up on important causes to take walks and drink wine instead. Not at all. I’ve spent my entire professional life championing one cause: helping people achieve peace of mind and more particularly helping the world understand and embrace a condition that is misleadingly called ADHD. I’ve put every ounce of my being into trying to help people understand what a superpower ADHD can become if it is managed properly, and what a curse it can become if it is not. Working for a cause you passionately believe in may be the single best way to spend your time on this earth. No matter what the outcome, you win if you try.

No, what I am trying to rid myself of is time wasted. Time wasted in ruminating, time wasted in going over and over the same script time and again. Instead, I advise myself, why not set your mind on what you can help grow and flourish? Set you mind on what you can sink your teeth into and come out with a prized plum.

It’s all there for the taking, I tell myself, but it won’t be there forever. You’re 70 years old. Don’t waste another second on the mental rock pile. Go for the juicy, sweet, dripping, glistening beauties, morsels, and tidbits that abound all around you. From the cause of ADHD, to the cause of helping your grown children grow even stronger, to savoring corn grilled outdoors, to re-reading one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. #73 is one of my favorites.

May I quote a few lines without boring you?

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west.
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

How much better than brooding is that! To love that well which thou must leave ere long. Not a second more with the rocks.

It’s time to squeeze life at its most excellent parts and drink in the liquor that pours out.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Live it up for all it’s worth. Now. Today. This very moment. And thank all that’s holy with all your heart that you still have time to do it.

Warm regards,
Edward “Ned” Hallowell, M.D.

Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s podcast on “Stop and Smell the Roses” and learn how to appreciate the small things.

Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…If my understanding of physics is correct, which is a dubious assumption for sure, matter has no matter.  That is to say, materials that have mass, which comprise the category we call matter, are made of bits of energy that have no matter. They weigh nothing.  And yet they make up everything. And everything weighs something. But the component parts weigh nothing. Little (and neither you nor I can possibly imagine just how little) squiggles of energy buzz around and congregate into. . . a rock. Now we all know that you can pick up a rock and throw it at a window, which it will shatter.  But how, I wonder, do odd and ends—which odds and ends I believe physicists call strings–of massless energy combine to create that mass-ive stone I just threw through a window?  How does no-mass create mass?  Of course, I may have it all wrong. . .

I may also not understand this phenomenon either, but I am puzzled how universally accepted is the notion that it is healthy, desirable, and altogether a good thing to love oneself.  Almost every self-help book I’ve ever seen takes it as a given that the more you love yourself, the better off you’ll be.  It is also commonly taken as a proven fact that you can’t love someone else until you love yourself. 

It just makes me wonder, because I know many people who love themselves who. . . really shouldn’t.  I mean, they’re selfish, narcissistic, pushy egomaniacs who add nothing to the world but greed, blind ambition, and self-aggrandizement.  And they love themselves?  What is that love but massive, unattractive, often comical self-deception?  And, I also know plenty of people who deeply love others who can’t find their way clear to loving themselves.  The actual fact is that lots of people can love others but not love themselves.  I dunno, it may just be me, but I think it’s healthier to harbor some lingering doubts about your self than to go whole-hog on how absolutely divine you think you are.

On the flip-side you have the person who truly ought to love him or herself, but just can’t.  I know so many people like this: really awesome individuals who have the hardest time giving themselves much of a break at all.  They’re great people–giving, skilled, contributing to the world—but they only see what they’re lacking, and rarely give themselves a pat on the back for all their wonderful deeds and qualities.  You can offer them compliments and reassurances until you’re blue in the face—as I have done—and they will give a polite “thank you” in reply, but not metabolize what you’ve said at all.  They could read self-help books all day, or go to a Tony Robbins talk every night, but still be left with that gnawing feeling of inadequacy. However, one fact is sure: this group makes for a far better friend than the first group!

Another puzzlement:

We often talk about the problem of evil, but what about the gift of goodness?  Is it just because evil is more interesting than goodness that we give goodness short shrift?  Or is it because goodness is in short supply?  I don’t know about you, but most of the people I know are really good people.  So goodness is not in such short supply.  There are evil people, because I read about them, but I don’t know any personally.  And the fact is, that if you get to know a supposedly evil person, before you know it you’ll probably be finding something you like about him or her. I just wonder why we don’t notice goodness more.

Which again makes me wonder about physics: what are good and evil made of?  Not matter, certainly.  Strings maybe?  But there would be no good or evil without the matter that makes up our brains, so can we say that good and evil depend upon, but are not comprised of matter in real time?

Speaking of which, what’s time? 

Time has no matter, correct?  And it is not comprised of strings, is it?  If a physicist is reading this, please reach out to me and enlighten me.  My question is: What is time? Is it a force, an energy, a wave function, an idea, or what?  We live in time, right? Our time is short, or long, depending on your point of view.  It’s with us always and everywhere.  But where was it before the Big Bang, or whatever started the whole shebang? (And why is it a shebang rather than a hebang?)  Was there time before matter or energy?  And if there was no time, what was there? What comprises nothing?  Nothing?  Ok, then, you know the next question: What’s nothing?

As for time, as of now, we are not able to stop it or speed it up.  Speed it up?  What is the speed of time?  Why do we experience it subjectively so differently, depending on how old we are and what we’re doing?  Sometimes time flies, while at other times each second seems like an eternity.

Okay, I’ll stop.  I just wanted to share with you some of my puzzlements.  I have tons more, but that’s enough for this column.  Thanks for listening, er, reading.  Please email me with your comments and solutions.  I will be most grateful.  I may even love you more than I love myself.

Read Dr. Hallowell’s post “Time Is Precious” to learn how to manage your time.

Listen to Dr. Hallowell’s and learn how to “Stop and Smell the Roses.”

Feeding Your ADHD Brain … Literally

Perhaps you’re asking, why should I worry about feeding my ADHD Brain?  My reply would be, “How many times have you heard it said, ‘You are what you eat?’ “ We know that an unhealthy diet contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and diabetes. It’s ironic, however, that the subject of food rarely comes up when we talk about the mind and the brain – an area where what you eat is as powerful, if not more so, than any medication. It is such an obvious point that it usually goes overlooked.  The most common errors, like skipping breakfast or self-medicating with food, can sabotage the best of treatment plans.

In recent years, the whole field of diet and the brain has really taken off. Gradually, we have come to take nutrition seriously, viewing food as the remarkable “drug” that it is – carrying with it enormous potential to make us well … or to make us sick.

Nutrition and ADHD

When it comes to treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other cognitive and emotional conditions, diet and nutrition play an important role. If you do not eat properly, you can become distracted, impulsive, and restless, not to mention develop all sorts of other symptoms. You can look like your have ADHD, even if you do not. Therefore, the treatment of ADHD – as well as any effort to lead a healthy life- must now consider diet as an essential component of a proper regiment.

A diet high in carbohydrates, sugar, trans-fatty acids (and all those other ingredients contained in the many processed foods we Americans love to consume) is not beneficial for anyone, least of all people coping with ADHD. People with ADHD need to “feed” their brains with the right kinds of foods. So what are these “right” kinds of foods?

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

One of the most important recommendations doctors are starting to make to their patients is to supplement their daily diet with omega-3 fatty acids. Current estimates suggest that the average American eats only 125 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, which is only about 5% of what the average American ate a century ago. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. We also know that omega-3 fatty acids increase the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that ADHD medications act to increase. Therefore, although not yet proven, it is logical to speculate that omega-3 fatty acids may provide a specific nutritional treatment for ADHD.

Tips to “Feed” Your Brain:

  1. Always eat breakfast, and eat protein as part of that breakfast. Protein is the best long-lasting source of brain fuel.
  2. Eat lots of foods with vitamin C. I say eat because the Vitamin C in pills is not as good as the vitamin C you get from eating fruits and other foods that contain vitamin C.
  3. Blueberries and grape-seed extract are rich in antioxidants and may help improve memory.
  4. Super blue-green algae may be even better than blueberries for cognition and memory.
  5. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – like wild salmon, sardines, and tuna.
  6. Also take a daily supplement of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish-oil, as well as in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and certain other plant sources.
  7. Take a daily multivitamin supplement that contains vitamin C, vitamin B-12, folic acid, vitamin E, selenium and others (but be careful not to overdose on the fat-soluble vitamins, which are A, D, E and K).
  8. Drink lots of water. This is good for you in many different ways. Eight glasses is a good amount.
  9. Finally, eat a balance diet, of course. The meaning of balance changes as we learn more. Avoid junk foods. Try to eat fresh foods, and avoid foods that come in boxes, bags, wrappers, packages or tubes.

NOTE: When it comes to vitamins and any kind of supplements, remember to always consult with your doctor first, who should always supervise what you’re taking.

Wellevate

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With our Wellevate store, you can order the highest quality vitamins and supplements available online and have them shipped right to your home – you can even purchase some of my best selling books including, Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction and The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness.

Setting up an account with our store is free. Plus we are offering you an exclusive 10% discount and free shipping for orders $49 or more.

Visit our online store: wellevate.me/hallowell

Additional Resources:

Read Dr. Hallowell’s blog post on Family Breakfast.

Click here to learn about “Exercising your ADHD Brain”

Read about Connect: The Other Vitamin C.

OmegaBrite

This post contains affiliate links.

Promoting Hope in ADHD

Most people who discover they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD,) whether they be children or adults, have suffered a great deal of pain. The emotional experience of ADHD is filled with embarrassment, humiliation, and self-castigation. By the time the diagnosis is made, many people with ADHD have lost confidence in themselves. Many have consulted with numerous specialists, only to find no real help. As a result, many have lost hope. So the most important step at the beginning of treatment is to instill hope once again.

Individuals with ADHD may have forgotten what is good about themselves. They may have lost, long ago, any sense of the possibility of things working out. They are often locked in a kind of tenacious holding pattern, bringing all theory, considerable resiliency, and ingenuity just to keeping their heads above water. It is a tragic loss, the giving up on life too soon. But many people with ADHD have seen no other way than repeated failures. To hope, for them, is only to risk getting knocked down once more.

And yet, their capacity to hope and to dream is immense. More than most people, individuals with ADHD have visionary imaginations. They:

  • think big thoughts and dream big dreams;
  • can take the smallest opportunity and imagine turning it into a major break;
  • take a chance encounter and turn it into a grand evening out; and,
  • thrive on dreams

But like most dreamers, they go limp when the dream collapses. Usually, by the time the diagnosis of ADHD has been made, this collapse has happened often enough to leave them wary of hoping again. The little child would rather stay silent than risk being taunted once again. The adult would rather keep his mouth shut than risk flubbing things up once more. The treatment, then, must begin with hope.

Hope is at Hallowell

ADHD and HopeCome to one of my Hallowell Centers and let us introduce you to my strength-based approach. It begins with a personal connection with you—and your family if appropriate—and one of our clinicians.  We believe in the power of positive connection above all else. Together we turn what you may have thought was a “deficit disorder” into an advantage full of powers that can’t be bought or taught. We open up what you’ve known all along was a treasure chest, but you just didn’t know how to open.

Tips on Managing ADHD

Dr. Hallowell's ADHD ToolboxI have ADHD and I understand the struggles associated with ADHD. I know it can take a variety of strategies and tools to manage ADHD symptoms. (And they might not always work.) In this Distraction episode,  I share a few quick insights about how I manage my own ADHD on a daily basis.  One of my tools is self-acceptance. It took me awhile to get there, but now I accept who I am. 
One of the biggest challenges facing people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is maintaining a positive self-view. In this ADDitude article, “All You Need is Self-Love,” Dr. Hallowell, who has ADHD himself, outlines 10 strategies to repair your self-esteem, and ADDitude readers weigh in with their stories of self-acceptance.

ADHD Diagnosis and The Parents Role

ADHD Diagnosis: The Good, The Bad, and The Parents Role: If you are the parents of an ADHD child, you may worry, and rightfully so, that the diagnosis can make your child feel labeled or set apart from other kids. It is important that your child not feel defined by ADHD. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is like being left-handed; it’s only a part of who you are. Try to answer any questions your child has about ADHD, but keep the answers simple and brief. Some older children may want to read a book about ADHD, but they don’t need to become experts on ADHD – just experts on living their lives as fully and well as they can.

One of the most important things for the parents of a child with ADHD to do is help that child feel good about who he or she is. You’ll need to search out and promote the positives – both about life and about your child – even as you deal with the all-too-obvious negatives. If your child feels good about who he is and about what life has to offer, he will do far better than if he does not.

The Positives of ADHD:

All 3 of my children have ADHD. When they were diagnosed, my reaction was not typical. Because I’m an expert in the field and I have ADHD myself, I was actually excited. I know that ADHD is as much a marker of talent as it is a potential problem, and I know the problems can be taken care of.

I am thrilled my kids can think outside the box, are intuitive, persistent, and creative, have a “special something about them,” have huge hearts and a desire to march to the beat of their own drums. All these positives are what make people with ADHD so interesting and potentially successful. Knowing all this, I was thrilled that my kids had a condition that could lead them into phenomenal lives. But I was so happy only because I have the special knowledge most parents do not yet have. I embrace the condition of ADHD. I do not see it so much as a disorder, but as a trait, a trait that can lead to huge success, joy, and fulfillment in life. My wife was a little more skeptical.

The Challenges of ADHD:

It is true that people with ADHD tend to contribute to the world in a very positive way. But first, they must get a handle on what’s going on. And they cannot do it alone.

My wife, being married to me, also understands ADHD and how positive it can be. But, being a mom, she was also a bit afraid, especially with our first child. Would things REALLY work out all right? Did I (me, Ned Hallowell) REALLY know what I was talking about when I said this could be a blessing, not a curse? At the beginning, she was apprehensive.

ADHD is a trait that can lead to very bad outcomes (the prisons are full of people with undiagnosed ADHD). With tendencies toward impulsive behaviors, and stimulation-seeking activities, people with ADHD are at increased risk. They are more likely to suffer from addiction, to get into accidents, to engage in not-well-thought-out-risk-taking behaviors. Having ADHD is like having a race-car engine for a brain, with weak brakes. Once you strengthen your brakes, you’re ready to win races! But those breaks really need some work, first.

The challenges of ADHD show up in all aspects of our children’s lives – in school, in social dynamics, in family relationships, and especially in their self-concept. Our kids run the risk of believing that their “bad behaviors” are a reflection of them. It is our job, as the adults in their lives, to teach them to manage their challenges, while celebrating their strengths.

What’s the Role of the Parent?

One of the reasons my kids, thank God, are doing well is because my wife provided the love and structure that they needed. I could not have done that on my own, nowhere near. My wife, Sue, deserves so much credit for being such an awesome mom. She always has faith in the positive, even when she is dealing with problems and conflicts. She never gives up. This is what these kids need more than anything else. Love that never gives up.

Ultimately, like Sue did with my children, a parent’s love, combined with a healthy amount of structure, can steer a child with ADHD to success in adulthood.

Team-Work – Everyone Has a Role:

Just as we encourage our children to find their islands of competency, we parents should make an effort to do what we do best. In our family, Sue was a master of structure, organization, and making sure each child went off to school fully clothed, book bag in hand, with a good breakfast in the belly. I was more the fun-maker, the new idea generator, the soft touch. This sometimes led my wife rightly to resent that she had to be the “heavy,” and I got off easy being the fairy-god-mother. But we worked this out with discussions. I tried hard to follow her lead and not undermine her attempts to create order.

There is usually one parent, more often the mom than the dad, who takes on the role my wife does in our family. It definitely helps when one parent can take the lead. But when there are reasons that will not work – like when both parents are ADHD, themselves – then dividing responsibilities based on strengths can make all the difference in the world.

This varies from family to family. Let the best organizer tend to organization and the best cook make the meals. Let the best mathematician help with math homework, and the best ball player play catch. There are many tasks that both can do equally well. The point here is to try to make sure those tasks are divided more or less equally. And, don’t forget to give your kids chores as well!

Finally, my most important single rule for parents is this: Enjoy your children. If you are doing that, you are doing it right, almost for sure.

What Else Do Parents Need?

The most important thing for parents to do when their children have ADHD is to find the support you need, and use it! Whether you join support groups, or coaching groups, don’t hold the frustrations inside. Tell trusted others about what you’re up against. As you build a team of support, for your child and yourself, you’ll have the strength to persevere, and you’ll be teaching your child the valuable lesson of reaching out for help and support. You cannot do it alone, nor should you try.

Learn more about ADHD for parents HERE and about getting an ADHD diagnosis.

In this Distraction Podcast on “What You Tell Yourself Matters” Dr. Hallowell speaks with Steven Campbell about how your brain is always paying attention. Changing your mindset can take a lot of work, but it is possible. Steven grew up thinking he would never be good at math, and went on to write two textbooks on the subject! It’s all about what you tell yourself and what you’re willing to do.  LISTEN NOW.

 

Seven Critical Habits for ADHD Adults

In today’s increasingly harried, “crazy busy” world, the ability to organize oneself is a critical survival tool, as there are so many more potentially distracting stimuli and demands on our time. For the person who has ADHD, that challenge is an even greater one. In his best-selling book on ADHD, Delivered from Distraction, Dr. Hallowell identifies seven critical habits that can help adults struggling with the condition:

1. Do what you’re good at.

Don’t spend too much time trying to get good at what you’re bad at. (You did enough of that in school.)

2. Delegate what you’re bad at to others, as often as possible.

If you don’t have someone to help, then hire someone. Delegate to others what you’re bad at.

3. Connect your energy to a creative outlet.

I call this the “creative imperative.” People with ADHD really need a creative outlet. I found that for most of us with ADHD, this is essential.

4. Get “well enough” organized to achieve your goals.

The key here is “well enough” organized to achieve your goals. It doesn’t mean you have to be Martha Stewart.

5. Ask for, and heed, advice from people you trust.

Then ignore, as best you can, the dream-breakers and finger-waggers. An old friend of mine used to say, “Be a dream maker not a dream breaker.”

6. Make sure you keep up regular contact with a few close friends.

I believe in the other Vitamin C – Vitamin Connect. Make sure you stay in touch with a few close friends. Loneliness is the biggest medical problem in the US today. One of he antidotes to loneliness is to have friends. If you don’t have friends, try to make some by join some groups visit the library, a gym. Or “get a dog.”

7. Go with your positive side.

Even though you have a negative side, make decisions and run your life with your positive side.

This list is a guide. It’s what works for me. If these habits don’t resonate with you, add your own to the list.

In this previously released Distraction mini episode on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective ADHD Adults, Dr. Hallowell gives his spin on Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, with a similar list as above for those with ADHD. From doing what you’re good at, to asking for advice, you’re bound to find a few nuggets of applicable wisdom for your own life.

If you’re looking for ideas on managing your crazybusy life, read Dr. Hallowell’s blog post on:  Taking Back Control of Your Crazybusy Life.

Learn more about Adult ADHD & High Achievers here.