Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC28729) 
  1635 Solano Avenue 
  Berkeley, CA 94707 
  (510) 526-8208 

  Individual, family, couples,
  counseling and psychotherapy
  for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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What Adults with ADD Would Like Their Friends, Relatives, and Significant Others to Know

by Melinda White, MFT

There has been a great deal written describing ADD and appropriate treatment methods. There is very little published, however, that deals with the day to day emotional issues that adults with attention deficits face as they try to explain themselves to important people in their lives. Many adults with this condition feel misunderstood and blamed when they are honest about their symptoms to significant others. They often feel discounted when others minimize their experiences by telling them everyone has ADD traits sometimes. 

While it is true that many adults may have ADD characteristics to some degree, the traits of ADD are more intense and pervasive for an adult with this condition. It is the intensity and frequency of these symptoms that make living with attention deficit disorder unlike anything others encounter on a daily basis.

Adults with ADD would like others to be aware of the following:

1. When I don't complete a task I've told you I'd do, it's not because I don't care about you and it's not that I am intentionally avoiding it. I get distracted by stimuli in the environment and often just forget. I do this with things I want to accomplish for me as well. Please don't take it personally.

2. I agree that I shouldn't use my ADD as an excuse for not completing things. I am trying to find the right strategies to help me become more productive. Please be patient with me and realize that I need to find the method that best suits me.

3. When I say I will do something, I need to be given the freedom to do it my own unique way. My way may not make sense to you but I need you to respect my differences and accept them as part of me.

4. I may be easily overstimulated by noises, lights, or crowded places. Shopping trips, parties, large social or business gatherings may overwhelm me and I might need to retreat to regain my equilibrium.

5. A full day of work or school may leave me feeling spent. I often need some "down time" alone to recharge my batteries. This doesn't mean I don't appreciate having you around. I am able to be more receptive to you once I've had some uninterrupted time doing whatever helps me unwind.

6. I sometimes say the first thing that pops into my mind without stopping to think how it may affect you. I don't mean to hurt your feelings. My filter for screening my thoughts isn't as well developed as I'd like it to be. Please let me know in a kind way if I offend you. It isn't my intention to do so.

7. I have developed the habit of saying yes to requests without really thinking through whether I can or want to do them. I am learning to say no when that is the best answer, yet this is difficult for me. After years of being criticized by parents, teachers, and partners I learned to say yes to get them off my back. This was easier than admitting I had no idea if I could or would actually do what I'd said.  This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, nor will each component apply to every adult with ADD. Each adult is unique in how he or she is affected by ADD. Certain characteristics will apply to a large extent for some people and minimally or not at all for others. Each adult will also be shaped by the amount of support and acceptance or criticism and rejection he or she has felt in growing up with ADD.

(c) 1999, by Melinda White, M.A.