What to Do if You Are Diagnosed With ADHD as an Adult?

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

"I'm sorry?" I stared in confusion at the learning support coordinator.

"It looks as though you may have ADHD."

I looked down at the test results, utterly perplexed. I'd come to the Universities Learning Support Centre on the off chance that I had Dyslexia; I'd never even thought about ADHD; I wasn't even sure what it was.

"We'll have to confirm, but yes, it looks likely that you have ADHD."

Okay, so what now?

I half-listened as she outlined the support available at the university and things I'd need to access them. I didn't know it at the time, but this diagnosis would significantly affect my personal life and career. At that moment, my only thought was: "I really need to go home and google ADHD."


Perhaps this diagnosis experience rings true to you. Maybe a friend or colleague suggested ADHD. Or perhaps you learned about ADHD online and still aren't sure whether you have it. Whatever the case, getting a diagnosis like this can come with a real sense of "What do I do next?"


In this article, we'll detail some common experiences that ADHD adults have when they're diagnosed and some area's you might like to focus on to help you find your bearings after a diagnosis.


1. Consider Disclosing to a Friend or Professional That You Trust.

When we first get diagnosed with ADHD, disclosure instantly becomes a consideration. Who do you tell, and when? It can be a complex question, sometimes made more difficult if your diagnosis comes with medication or occurred because you were struggling in an area of your life, such as the workplace [1].


When working through disclosure with clients at Unconventional Organisation, we often ask: "What do you want to get out of disclosing?" It might be that you could be provided with a specific set of accommodations; it might be that you'd like to be better understood by a close friend or colleague. Whatever the case, it's essential that ADHD disclosure and your reason for it is something you've considered and feel comfortable with. Remember that you can take your time; it's not a process you have to rush, so disclose once you feel comfortable with your new diagnosis and what it means to you.


2. Examine Whether Self-Criticism Might Be Shaped by Your Neurodiversity

Some studies have found that those with ADHD tend to be more self-critical than neurotypicals [3]. They speculate that this could result from receiving more criticism from others as a neurodiverse child who worked better in different ways than their peers. When we find out about our ADHD, it can be good to take stock of any self-criticism and consider whether it's something we want to keep and what it would mean to reshape how we see and talk to ourselves with more understanding.


One of the ways we can do this is by learning about our ADHD strengths while we work on our weaknesses. Understanding our personal strengths and weaknesses can help us develop a more coherent sense of self that incorporates ADHD and neurodiversity.


3. Remember Medication for ADHD Can Be a Journey

Choosing to start and adjusting ADHD medication can all take time. For some, it's an easy process, while for others, it can take more testing and discussions with their psychiatrist [4]. Regardless of where you fall on this path, remember you can always go back to your health professional and talk through any issues or concerns you have.


4. Look into Workplace Accommodations That Will Support Your ADHD

One of the areas that we can specifically struggle with during undiagnosed ADHD is in the workplace. Having to fit our lifestyle around systems that have often been designed for neurotypicals can be a struggle [5], [6]. And not understanding why you're struggling can make it even harder. Once you get a diagnosis or suspect you have ADHD, you can start to learn about ways you might work more effectively and look into adapting your work routines to suit that new way of operating. If you need additional support, our ADHD coaches are very experienced in helping you through this process.


5. Connect With Other Adults With ADHD.

One of the things we find ourselves saying a lot at Unconventional Organisation is: "That question is very normal," or "That struggle is common with adult ADHD." It can be hard to know what is common with ADHD when you've spent so long in a neurotypical environment. So, reach out, talk to other adults with ADHD, and share your experiences; you might find you have more in common than you think. If you'd like a place to get started, you can check out our Facebook Group, where we post about ADHD strategies and shared struggles.


Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand where to get started after an ADHD diagnosis. This can be a validating, bittersweet, and all-around overwhelming time, but remember you're not alone. Many others, myself included, have been in your shoes and are ready to help with advice, support, and a reminder that these struggles are ones we've all faced.


Talk to you next week.


Skye.


Author:

Skye Rapson is an Academic, ADHD Coach and the Founder of Unconventional Organisation. She has worked in the field of adult education for over seven years. Skye has studied in various fields, including Psychology, Sociology, and Public Health, and is now a Doctoral Candidate in Population Health. You can read more about Skye on our home page or connect with her on LinkedIn.


References

[1] M. E. G. Holthe and E. Langvik, ‘The Strives, Struggles, and Successes of Women Diagnosed With ADHD as Adults’, SAGE Open, vol. 7, no. 1, p. 2158244017701799, Jan. 2017, doi: 10.1177/2158244017701799.

[2] ‘“From Shame and Stigma to Pride and Truth” [podcast episode #237]’, ADDitude, Sep. 27, 2019. https://www.additudemag.com/podcast-adhd-stigma-hallowell-dodson-237/ (accessed Oct. 14, 2021).

[3] A. Fleischmann and E. C. Miller, ‘Online Narratives by Adults With ADHD Who Were Diagnosed in Adulthood’, Learn. Disabil. Q., vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 47–60, Feb. 2013, doi: 10.1177/0731948712461448.

[4] M. D. Weiss, ‘A Guide to the Treatment of Adults With ADHD’, p. 11, 2004.

[5] K. L. Barnett, ‘ADHD and Self-Regulation in the Workplace’, Ph.D., Walden University, United States -- Minnesota, 2019. Accessed: Nov. 03, 2020. [Online]. Available: http://search.proquest.com/docview/2161215966/abstract/940F84A52B9C431APQ/1

[6] N. Bozionelos and G. Bozionelos, ‘Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at Work: Does It Impact Job Performance?’, Acad. Manag. Perspect., vol. 27, no. 3, 2013, doi: 10.5465/amp.2013.0107.





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