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Taking Charge of Your ADHD by Knowing Your ADHD

Updated: Dec 14, 2023



Quick Jump Links (because ADHD)

When someone is diagnosed with ADHD, they can get access to tools, treatments, and supports that can make a big difference in their quality of life and even length of life. There are medications that can help improve concentration, psychological therapies, coaching, ways to highlight strengths, coping skills, support from peers and experts, and adjustments that can be made in school and at work.

What does it actually mean to "own" your ADHD, then? It entails accepting that you have ADHD and that it is a part of who you are, acting to treat your symptoms, and speaking up for yourself to get the support you require. (Rooney / Huntington Learning Center, 2017) By embracing and understanding their ADHD and reframing their view of themselves and their lives to include ADHD, individuals can make crucial changes to master ADHD.

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is especially powerful for people with ADHD. It's important to learn as much as you can about ADHD by reading books, going online, reading articles, and talking to people who have had similar experiences. It is important to be critical of the sources of information and to get information from many different places in order to find reliable information.

Research shows that ADHD may be passed down through families. Immediate family members of a child with ADHD have a 10–35% chance of also having ADHD. When a parent has ADHD, there is a 40–57% greater chance that their children will also have ADHD. If one has a parent with ADHD, they are eight times more likely to develop ADHD someone whose parent does not have ADHD. Similarly, if an individual has ADHD, their offspring are up to eight times more likely to have it as well. (Barkley, 2021)

ADHD is thought to be a combination of poor inhibition, self-regulation, and executive function. Self-regulation is the ability to put off getting something right away in order to get something better in the future. Someone with poor inhibitions doesn't have self-regulation. They find it hard to stop and think before acting. Self-regulation, on the other hand, is the ability to put off getting something right away in order to get something better in the future. Executive function is the ability to control your own behavior and get things done well. This includes skills like managing your time, being organized, and setting goals.


Key ADHD Problem Areas

People with ADHD have a hard time keeping track of time, making plans, and setting goals. This can show up as putting things off until the last minute, not knowing how long things will take, wasting time, not being ready for work, or missing deadlines. People who have trouble managing themselves might also forget what they need to do or have trouble doing more than one thing at a time. They might not be able to motivate themselves to start work or keep going, and they might have a hard time remembering what they need to do in the future.

Other signs of poor self-management include not finishing one thing before starting another, not following instructions, not doing what you said you would do, not being disciplined, and having trouble getting started on important tasks. All of these things show why it's important to know how to take care of yourself so you can be successful in your personal and professional lives.

Problems with self-organization, solving problems, and working memory are also common in people with ADHD. People who have trouble in these areas may find it hard to stay focused on tasks, do mental math, remember what they've read or heard, put their thoughts in order, or think clearly. They might forget the point of a conversation or have trouble remembering and carrying out complicated instructions or procedures. They may also find it hard to talk about themselves or come up with more than one solution to a problem. They may also have trouble writing or writing well. They may also think that, even though they are smart, they are not creative or inventive. They might find it hard to learn new or complicated tasks, put things in the right order, or do things in the right order. They may also be easily distracted, have trouble focusing, and take longer to respond to things that come up out of the blue. They may not be able to remember past events or experiences as well as others, and they may not be able to deal with unexpected situations in a quick and effective way.

People with ADHD often have trouble controlling themselves, which can lead to a number of problems. One of these problems is a lack of patience and intolerance for waiting, which can lead to making hasty decisions. People with ADHD often have trouble controlling how they react to things or other people, which can cause them to say or do things without thinking. They may also find it hard to stop or change behaviors when they need to, and they may not listen to feedback about their mistakes. People with ADHD may do things without thinking about the consequences or change their plans on a whim, which can make them make bad decisions in difficult situations or when they are stressed. They may also be more likely to do dangerous things, like speed a lot while driving. Another problem is that it's hard to be objective and see things from other people's points of view. This can make it hard to follow rules and be flexible in how you deal with situations. People with ADHD may also get angry or upset quickly, which can make it harder for them to get along with other people.

People with ADHD may have trouble keeping themselves motivated, which can affect their work and how well they do it. This can show up in a number of ways, such as taking short cuts at work, leaving tasks unfinished, and finding it hard to wait for satisfaction or put long-term goals ahead of short-term rewards. People with ADHD might not pay enough attention to details at work and might not work as hard as others. So, other people might call them lazy or unmotivated, and they might need help to finish their work. People with ADHD may also find it hard to resist the urge to do fun or enjoyable things while they are working, which can lower their productivity. They may not be consistent in the quality or amount of work they do, and they may need a lot of direction or supervision to be able to work on their own. People with ADHD may not have the same amount of willpower and determination as other people and may need immediate motivation to finish tasks and stay productive.

People with ADHD often have trouble controlling their emotions, which can make their daily lives and relationships harder. People with ADHD may react strongly to emotional triggers and become easily upset, which can make it difficult for them to control strong emotions, both positive and negative. They may also have trouble controlling their emotions and find it hard to calm down when they are upset. When upset, people with ADHD may find it hard to calm down and think clearly again. They may also find it hard to move on from thoughts or situations that make them feel bad. People with ADHD can also find it hard to control their feelings in order to reach their goals or maintain good relationships with other people. They may feel emotions for a longer time than most people and find it hard to move on from emotionally charged situations or encounters. When upset, people with ADHD may have trouble turning their feelings into positive outlets, which can make it harder for them to control their emotions.

It's important to understand that ADHD is not simply a minor issue with attention. ADHD can be thought of as a kind of "time blindness" that makes it hard for a person to manage their time and set priorities. However, with the right strategies and support, it's possible to learn to use this knowledge to improve functioning and achieve goals.

Resisting Impulses On the other hand, adults with ADHD often don't keep a close enough eye on how they're doing or use their mistakes to guide how they act right now. On the other hand, adults with ADHD often don't keep a close enough eye on how they're doing or use their mistakes to guide how they act right now. So, they tend to keep going down the same path, even if they make mistakes along the way.

Also, if the task is interesting, fun, or rewarding, it may be hard for adults with ADHD to switch to a less interesting task, even if they need to. (Brown, 2014)

ADHD's "time blindness" stems from a lack of impulse control, and poor inhibition can make any task feel like an endless cycle of one step forward and two steps back. It can also hurt how others see you, so it's important to change the brain to improve impulse control.

Compensating for poor inhibition is all about giving yourself time.

Self-Control and How to Achieve Your Goals:

It's true that lacking self-control basically robs you of free will. When you act impulsively, you may feel like you're following your desires, but in reality, you're letting your immediate emotions dictate your behavior. This can make you make choices that you might later regret or that limit your options for the future.

On the other hand, when you exercise self-control, you give yourself time to consider your options and make a choice that aligns with your long-term goals and values. This can help you make more thoughtful decisions and avoid impulsive actions that can have negative consequences.

While it's understandable to be wary of losing control, it's important to remember that self-control is something that can be developed and strengthened over time with practice. By setting small goals and getting more self-disciplined over time, you can improve your ability to make free decisions and live a more satisfying life.


The Six Key Processes Involved in Self-Control

Self-control is often seen as a loaded term due to the frequency with which we've heard the command "Control yourself!" since childhood. However, understanding the process of self-control can help to diffuse this term.

Here are the six key components involved in self-control:

  1. Self-control is an action directed towards oneself rather than a direct response to an external event.

  2. The goal of self-directed actions is to change subsequent behavior.

  3. This change in behavior aims to maximize positive outcomes in both the short and long term.

  4. Self-control relies on valuing larger delayed rewards over immediate ones.

  5. Self-control bridges the gap between an event, a response, and an outcome, which becomes more important when the time between them is long.

  6. Self-control requires both hindsight and foresight, which means being able to think back on the past and analyze it to figure out what might happen in the future.

Executive Functions

Self-regulation requires the ability to delay responses through inhibition. This lets us watch what we're doing, stop ourselves when we need to, think about what we could do, and choose the best thing to do for the best results. There are at least six other executive functions besides inhibition, which are self-awareness, nonverbal working memory, verbal working memory, emotion regulation, self-motivation, and planning/problem-solving. Impaired executive functions, particularly in individuals with ADHD, can result in various behavioral problems.

The seven executive functions develop in a certain order, giving us a mental structure and a set of tools that help us control ourselves. External events begin to control us, and we gradually become more self-directed. We also become more aware of and focused on what will happen in the future and are better able to put off getting what we want for a while.

Children's first executive function to develop is self-awareness, which is closely related to inhibition. A lack of self-awareness can cause problems in social situations, like not being aware of how loud you are, how you move, or how your words affect other people. This lack of awareness can make emotional reactions worse, which can lead to immature or self-centered behavior that others may not understand.


Nonverbal Working Memory

Nonverbal working memory is the part of your brain that lets you remember sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells. Since vision is so important to our survival, nonverbal working memory is mostly about our ability to create mental images of things we can see, or "visualize."

The sense of hearing follows closely in significance, so we can also "audit" through nonverbal working memory. To be more specific, we can relive past events in our minds by remembering the sounds and conversations we heard.

"Seeing to ourselves" refers to mentally revisiting past experiences that are relevant to our current goals. By remembering and reliving our past ideas, we create a stream of information that we can use to guide our actions and get the results we want. We can also use nonverbal working memory to copy what other people do, which makes it easier to learn new skills and behaviors.

But nonverbal working memory also lets us do the opposite of what other people have done when they have done things that have made things worse. This is called "vicarious learning," and it helps us predict what might happen and change our behavior accordingly.

We become more self-aware when we use our ability to think back on past events. This includes our sense of time and our ability to manage ourselves in relation to it. This skill helps us put off getting what we want and make decisions based on our long-term goals.

Our understanding of past events also allows us to value social cooperation and altruism. Nonverbal working memory may be a key part of developing these traits, which are important for social groups to survive and do well. As we get better at remembering the past and making plans for the future, we learn more about time and our place in it.

The problems with nonverbal working memory that come with ADHD can make it hard for a person to control their behavior and make good decisions. They may have trouble keeping track of time, figuring out how long things will take, and being aware that time is passing. This can lead to impulsive behavior and a lack of foresight.

People with ADHD may also have trouble remembering things that happened in the past, learning from other people through vicarious learning, and keeping track of their own performance and progress toward long-term goals. This can make it challenging to work in a team or be a good friend, as they may struggle with cooperation, sharing, turn-taking, and fulfilling promises to others. In the end, these problems with nonverbal working memory can make it hard for people with ADHD to do well in different parts of their lives. In the end, these problems with nonverbal working memory can make it hard for people with ADHD to do well in different parts of their lives.


Verbal Working Memory

The fourth executive function that children develop is the ability to talk to themselves in a self-directed way. This helps with self-regulation. At first, children say out loud what they are thinking, such as by describing what they are doing or how they are making a choice when they are alone.

Over time, children stop making noise when they talk to themselves. They may still move their lips, though. By the time they are 7 to 9 years old, they usually stop making even these small movements, and their inner speech is all mental.


Verbal working memory is a key part of self-regulation because it lets us talk to ourselves in a way that we choose. This ability, in conjunction with self-awareness, provides several key benefits for self-control:

  • It allows us to reflect on and analyze events and situations.

  • It helps us solve problems by drawing on our past experiences and figuring out what rules will help us succeed in the future.

  • We can formulate and organize rules and plans, including meta-rules that govern the use of other rules.

  • We can picture and evaluate situations in our minds by using both verbal and nonverbal working memory, which work together to give us a fuller picture of what we are thinking.

  • We can remember and follow instructions given to us by others.

  • Verbal working memory also helps us make moral decisions by letting us think back on our actions and weigh the results of those actions.

Verbal working memory is a powerful tool for self-regulation that helps us do things like solve problems, make plans, and think about right and wrong.

ADHD can make it hard to think and talk to yourself in private before speaking. This can lead to talking too much, especially in social situations, and going off topic. This kind of verbal thinking may not be right for the situation and can lead to interruptions, random thoughts, and verbal intrusions. This could also cause people to hear things that were meant to stay private, which could have unintended results.

People with ADHD may not talk to themselves enough, which can make them act on impulse, make wrong assumptions, and solve problems quickly. Without self-determined rules and plans, individuals may be vulnerable to the influence of the environment and other people's advice. They may find it hard to set their own standards and follow rules in a flexible way, which can make them stick to rules too strictly or not care about them at all.

Also, people with ADHD may have a harder time than others understanding information that comes from written, visual, or auditory sources.


Self-Regulation of Emotion and Self-Motivation


The fifth executive function is the ability to control our emotions, which can either push us to act or hold us back. Without control over our emotions, we have less control over our behavior. Emotions can be triggered not only by external events but also by our own internal experiences and self-talk, which are stored in our verbal and nonverbal working memory. However, we can use our working memory to help regulate our emotional responses.

Emotions are meant to motivate us into action, but excessive emotions can lead to impulsive behavior. We can avoid making hasty decisions by being in charge of our first emotional responses to events. By focusing on our past experiences and future goals, we can talk ourselves down and ensure that our emotions do not interfere with our plans. Self-regulation of emotions is like a fuel tank that powers us toward our objectives. This executive function is closely linked with emotional self-control, which contributes to our self-motivation.

When we learn to control our own emotions, we feel like we have more control over ourselves and our quick reactions. This mastery lets us show our feelings in ways that are socially acceptable and keeps us from forcing our feelings on other people. By reacting less strongly to emotional triggers, we can help ourselves reach our long-term goals and stay healthy. This executive function helps us calm down when we're feeling very upset, take our minds off what's making us feel that way, and choose a more appropriate emotional response that fits with our goals.

People with ADHD often have trouble keeping their feelings in check, which can cause problems in many areas of life. Here are some ways in which ADHD can interfere with emotion regulation:

  • Emotional reactions can be impulsive and hard to control. This means that people with ADHD might not have enough time to change how they feel in the first place. Also, they may not be able to use verbal or nonverbal strategies (like self-talk or mental imagery) to control their emotions as well as they could.

  • Emotions that are out of proportion can lead to social rejection and bad decisions. For example, laughing loudly at a funeral or getting very angry over a small mistake at work can turn people off and make it harder to succeed in different areas. In the same way, people with ADHD may not try for more difficult goals because they are happy when they reach smaller ones.

  • People with ADHD often have trouble getting started and keeping going. Even though strong emotions can sometimes help you get things done, the emotional dysregulation that comes with ADHD can make it hard to stay focused and interested in tasks. Moreover, ADHD can make it easier to experience negative emotions such as frustration, boredom, and resentment.


Planning and Problem Solving

As we get older, we learn how to use our imagination to change images and words in our minds. I think this kind of mental play comes from the long periods of physical play that children have when they are young. When they are young, they play with objects, and as they get older, they play with images and words in their minds.

When we play with words as kids, we learn how to put them together in our minds. This helps us think of new ways to solve problems as adults. Planning and solving problems give us the ability to think about all of our options and figure out the best way to reach our goals. By mentally manipulating information, we gain a remarkable capacity for goal-directed creativity and innovation.

Planning might seem like a slow process, but it can actually help us finish projects more quickly. There is a saying, "Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast." This applies to all of us. ADHD can make it hard to make plans and solve problems, which can make it hard to respond quickly to unexpected needs. Some people may think that being quick to react is a good thing, but not being able to keep a lot of information in working memory and change it quickly makes it hard to plan out possible courses of action or solve problems.

The problem is not that people make decisions quickly; the problem is that they don't think about all their options before making quick decisions. People with ADHD may also have trouble staying organized and imagining the "game board" because they have trouble manipulating their thoughts.

Putting ideas in the right order is another big problem for people with ADHD. This is because tasks like reasoning, problem-solving, planning, explaining, and writing require the ability to communicate ideas quickly and in the right order.


Using This Knowledge to Take Charge of Your ADHD

Knowing where your specific ADHD struggles are the greatest is the first step in owning your ADHD and accepting it. Everybody’s ADHD is different. Some people may only struggle with a few of these issues, while others may struggle with all of them. Finding out what your specific cocktail of ADHD is will take some time and introspection. But once you see it, you will be able to tailor helpful tools and techniques you can use to help mitigate your struggles. When I first got my diagnosis of ADHD, I immediately began researching everything I possibly could about it. I found it liberating to discover that I wasn’t just lazy or stupid my whole life and that there really was a reason why I was the way I was. At the same time, however, I was angry that I hadn’t been diagnosed earlier because I felt like I could have avoided a lot of the grief I had suffered throughout my life had I known what was going on.

The more I studied and learned about ADHD, the more I realized that my ADHD was completely different from anyone else's. And eventually, I realized that no one's ADHD is the same because there are so many different factors that can be affected at different levels of severity.

I came to find that the executive function that my ADHD affected the most was emotional regulation. Having that knowledge, I was able to seek out therapy specifically targeted at that in order to find the best tools and strategies to work with it. I ultimately landed on "Dialectical Behavioral Therapy" (DBT), which you can read about here. Another area I struggle with is non-verbal working memory. For this, I have discovered strategies to help me externalize the function of my working memory using things like note-taking apps as well as the classic Post-It note. ADHD is an ongoing journey for all of us. For me, I’m definitely continuing to learn a little more about myself, as well as tools, tips, and tricks to help me function in a world that is not designed for my brain. I’ve still got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I know that the more I learn about the way my brain functions, the more I will be able to successfully navigate the world with my ADHD. My hope is that if you are still reading this, you will continue to do the same for yourself.

 

References:


Rooney / Huntington Learning Center, D. M. (2017, October 12). The Power of Owning Your ADHD. Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://omaha.com/momaha/sponsored/huntington/the-power-of-owning-your-adhd/article_8979a51c-a86d-11e7-86b2-b314f59987c2.html

Barkley. (2021). Taking charge of adult ADHD proven strategies to succeed at work at home and in relationships. Guilford Publications.

Brown. (2014). Smart but stuck Emotions in teens and adults with ADHD. John Wiley Sons.



 

If you find this article interesting and want to learn more or have a comment, feel free to leave a comment below. Or better yet, come talk to us about it on our Discord server! We have a lot of great people who love to talk about ADHD, neurodivergence, nerdy stuff, and all the other things. We've also got a lot of links to resources for further reading and personal growth.

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