Do I have ADHD? I am currently on the waiting list for an assessment and seeking an ADHD diagnosis from the mental health and psychiatry team. Although it never occured to me before until I recently read a post by my blogger friend Louise who started sharing her diagnosis with ADHD, or ADD for some people. I’ve always thought I was “not like
normal people” and a bit of a weirdo. I’ve always thought I had some form of neurodivergence and I’ve long suspected my eldest as having ADHD (and getting no help with that…) but it suddenly seemed to click that perhaps the reason I suspect my daughter has ADHD is because I, may, infact, also have it. Not only am I now seeking a diagnosis for ADHD but I’m also seeking mental health support for binge eating disorder, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (undiagnosed, currently). I believe I may also be autistic as there are a lot of cross overs and similar behaviours between Autism and ADHD and so I have been referred to the ADHD and Autism team for the area I live in. It’s a very long waiting list with an average of about two years, which is very frustrating, but at least I am trying to seek support now.
What is Attention Defecit Hyperactive Disorder?
It’s a condition that affects the way people act and behave. It can affect any person and is *usually* diagnosed in children. However, it is becoming very obvious that ADHD can present itself differently in some people, usually women and girls (as well as gender non-conforming and trans people) and this can be why many people go undiagnosed as children and seek assesment and diagnosis as adults. It can present as hyperactive and impulsive ADHD, inattentive ADHD or a combination of both.
What causes ADHD?
According to the NHS ADHD does not have a known cause but it is thought to run in families (be hereditary, which is probably why many parents who have children with a diagnosis regocnise the condition in themselves through the assesment process). Some causes can be low birth weight, prematurity and drinking/smoking during pregnancy. However, I think there is a lot more to learn about the condition, especially with how it can present vastly different in some people.
I think I have ADHD; what now? Getting help with an ADHD diagnosis
If you think you might have ADHD the next step is to get in touch with your doctor, health team and/or GP. You can also pay privately for an ADHD assesment. Some areas of the UK can benefit from the NHS Right to Choose from Psychiatry UK which offer Adult ADHD assessment and diagnosis. Clinical Partners have a (non diagnostic) test which can indicate if a conversation with your doctor about ADHD might be beneficial to you. This test can not tell you if you have ADHD or not because you need to have a psychiatric assessment to diagnose but it can help you to understand a little more about your personal neruodivergence and where to get started with seeking a formal diagnosis.
What are the common symptoms of ADHD in adults?
Some signs of ADHD behaviour include being unable to sit still and general restlessness, constantly fidgeting, being unable to concentrate, excessive physical movement, unable to wait your turn, acting without thinking and interupting conversations. However, there are also inattentive signs of ADHD which include missing details and easily distracted, trouble focusing on the task at hand, becoming bored quickly, difficulty learning new information, easily confused and frequent daydreaming.
My personal experience and why I want an assessment for an ADHD diagnosis
One thing I struggle with is a lot of these issues make me feel like I’m an ignorant and immature child but I’m a thirty-something year old mother. I struggle with most of the above things which makes day to day life quite challenging. I feel like my brain never really ‘grew up’ despite it did because I have tried to find ways of coping with many of the above to live a fufilling adult life but this is what makes me want to seek a diagnosis because I feel like I’m childish and immature yet it could be that my brain is just different.
I wasn’t a hyperactive child in the stereotypical sense of bouncing of the walls so speaking to my family about a potentiality of having ADHD has come as a bit of a surprise to them. I was a ‘good’ academic school child, I didn’t really get bad reports and I wasn’t particularly disruptive to other students. This stereotypical outlook of a child being disruptive and hyperactive all the time is not the be all and end all. Attention Deficit Disorder is a far broader way of looking at all of the issues that come with this type of neurodivergence. For some children and adults its the lack of focus, the daydreaming, the quiet, introverted behaviour thanks to being chronically overwhelmed with life that doesn’t outright signify the fact that there might be an issue. Hyperactivity displays itself in many, many different ways with ADD. In fact, AD(H)D is sometimes written with the H in brackets to signify that hyperactivity itself is not the one factor that makes people have this type of neurodivergence.
I have potentially been living undiagnosed with this for a very long time and I have been through the works trying to figure this out for myself. Many adults are happy to self-diagnose with AD(H)D as they feel they have the right coping mechanisms in place for their individual neurodivergence. They notice and acknowledge particular behaviours and will happily carry on their lives in that way. Some people want support in forms of therapies as ADHD can come with a multitude of other issues such as mood swings, depression, anxiety, compulsion tendancies and issues with food. Support in these areas can sometimes help those with ADHD. In other cases, such as for myself, I am actively seeking a diagnosis because I am struggling with many areas of my life, I have never really been able to ‘solve’ what is wrong with me and I want to feel validated. I want help and I am open to discussing being medicated if that is something that will help me.
I am going to continue writing about what I learn as time goes on but here is what lead me to ask my GP for an ADHD referral
- I am currently seeking help with binge eating disorder which can sometimes be linked to ADHD due to compulsive behaviours. I also have emetophobia (fear of vomit) which can cause panic attacks and why I know I have binge eating issues.
- I am always losing things. Keys, Phone, Purse, Bag are the top four but things just get misplaced all the time. I never remember where my ‘safe place’ is.
- I’m very messy because if I can’t see a thing then it doesn’t exist. I need to be able to see things to know I need to do them. Visual queues are my friend. However if often leads to ‘Oh I forgot I had this’ moments of nostalgia when looking for the things.
- I have lived with anxiety all my life and I would like to understand this more
- I have an issue making simple decisions every day of my life such as what to cook
- I struggle putting a routine in place in my day to day life
- I have struggled holding down a job – thank you self employment
- I have a lot of hobbies, courses and projects I have started and want to finish but lack the motivation to do so
- I struggle with life admin, the boring side of my work and motivating myself to do things I want/need to do
- I feel like I am lazy because I struggle to get up and get things done unless I am in the mood
- I have trouble staying asleep through the night
- I hyperfocus on things and often find myself only being able to talk about that thing
- I constantly reread books, listen to the same songs, rewatch tv shows for sensory comfort
- I have sensory issues such as not being able to eat certain foods, feel certain textures on certain body parts, and struggle touching certain materials with wet or just washed hands
- I struggle with intrusive thoughts, skin picking and hair pulling compulsions
- I often spend money when I am in a low mood for a pick me up. Thankfully I haven’t turned to substance abuse as I don’t smoke, rarely drink and have never taken any form of drug but that is something that can happen
- I spend more time organising and planning things than actually doing them. I plan and then I get so overwhelmed that I don’t actually follow through and then I feel guilty.
- I worry that my issue isn’t neurodivergence but in fact laziness and that again makes me feel shame and guilt
- I get overwhelmed with the amount of things I feel I need to get done
- I don’t ever feel like I’m living up to my full potential because I’m always procrastinating
- I use forms of escapism such as reading and video games to avoid life overwhelm. However, I recently started a book blog and now I feel overwhelmed by my reading list and have not been able to read much because I am trying to escape the overwhelm and it turns into a vicious circle of constant overwhelm and guilt.
- When I have a ‘hyperactive’ stage it usually hits me and I feel like I have to get things done – this is kind of like my superpower because when I *feel like I can* and the urge to do comes in I hyperfocus and I am so productive. If I could like zone in on this part of my brain for like six hours a day my life would be so much easier (at least I hope it would anyway)
- I struggle waiting my turn – I often interupt people or finish their sentence, I struggle waiting in lines and get restless, I struggle with wait times on video games, waiting for anticipated books to release. This can make me agitated and come across as rude, and sometimes, a bit aggressive.
- I have to compete with myself or make up challenges to help me with ‘waiting’ or ‘boring’ tasks. For example, I will see how much washing up I can get done before the kettle has finished boiling. This usually means because I am focusing on ‘competing’ things like washing up aren’t done very well as I’m not thinking about doing a task well, but trying to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.
Basically I struggle with most day to day things and can’t keep a routine in place but equally I hate spontaneous living and like to have a concise plan. I can organise and plan effectively but I really struggle to follow through with simple tasks which has made being a mum, work at home parent, trying to keep our space clean and tidy really tough. We have a lot of clutter, there’s no cleaning routine in place which makes things really stressful. I’m very much a hoarder which means living in a small space feels very overwhelming but I also feel like I can’t get rid of things because I paid money for them. My life is a constant cycle of hyperfocus – overwhelm – procrastination – guilt/shame and then back to hyperfocus again. The issue is that the time between procrastination and hyperfocus is so varied depending on other life stresses. I can have weeks of super productive energy where I’m working and the house looks okay and I’m paying off debt to then months of “falling of the wagon” and essentially feeling like I’m in an even worse place than when I started.
I am hoping an ADHD diagnosis will help me feel a bit more validated, help me establish and stick to a routine of work, exercise, household duties and hobbies. I have joined a group of other adults that have ADHD to try and help me put coping mechanisms in place right now whilst I wait for the assessment and I’m doing my best to try and figure out my own neurodivergent brain and how I can make the most of it. On the plus side I have lots of interests and hobbies, I have lots of ways to spend my time and things I want to do. I’m an ambitious person but struggle to keep myself motivated and I’m hoping I’ll be able to learn ways to use my hyperfocus time to the best of my abilitity.