Navigating ADHD as an adult comes with specific challenges and hardships. The process of managing everyday obligatory tasks and behaviors – also known as “adulting” – can be a burden when you have ADHD.
If you’re like most of my clients, you’ve probably been dealing with some of these challenges for so long that you don’t even realize why everything feels like such a struggle all the time. You might constantly berate yourself, asking “why am I always running late? Why am I so bad at sticking to a healthy exercise routine? Why do I procrastinate so much? What’s wrong with me?!”
Sound familiar? As a therapist for millennials with ADHD, let me say this: while you may be quick to shame and blame yourself, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just an ADHDer living in a world built for neurotypical people. Learning about how ADHD affects adulthood – and how to properly manage it – can help you normalize your experiences and seek support when you need it.
ADHD can impact all areas of an adult’s life. Here are some ways ADHD affects adulthood:
Making evergreen payments. People with ADHD struggle to make payments on time (or at all). This includes paying utilities, bills, and rent. It can be distressing to always feel like you’re behind on debts. Plus, it can cause problems when debt collectors come knocking or late fees begin to accrue.
Avoiding tasks with too many steps. “If it has too many steps, good luck getting me to do it.” My ADHD clients have said this exact phrase during sessions together. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by too many tasks, or by tasks that involve too many steps. Something as simple as returning something in the mail can feel exhausting. You have to complete the return form, print out the shipping label, tape up the package, bring the package to the mailing center… you get it. To some, this is just an easy task to check off the daily list of to-dos. To ADHDers, it can easily become a neverending cycle of procrastination and shame.
Being on time. Timeliness is a struggle when you have ADHD. Getting to work late, being the last one to arrive to the party, running late for a meeting with a friend or colleague– all these things are the result of time blindness with ADHD.
Concentrating. Focusing, remembering information, and following instructions are all challenges for the ADHD brain. This can make daily tasks extra difficult, from remembering to take out the trash to being productive at work.
Staying organized. People with ADHD often struggle to keep their homes, offices, cars, and other spaces clean and organized. Many of my clients are embarrassed by this and spend hours every week attempting to organize their lives, only to immediately make a mess again. It can feel like a frustrating and defeating cycle.
Sleeping. Around 80% of adults with ADHD reported regular sleep issues, including falling asleep, staying asleep, or feeling refreshed upon waking. Adult ADHD insomnia can be a result of medication, difficulty sticking to a routine, underlying mental health issues, and other factors.
Relationship problems. Interrupting, reacting impulsively, and being distracted during conversations are all ADHD behaviors that can lead to interpersonal relationship struggles.
Impulsive behaviors. Impulsivity, from impulse spending to risky sexual behaviors to binge eating, are common among those with ADHD. Impulsive behaviors are a result of the lack of dopamine in an ADHD brain. (A note: binge eating can be an impulsive behavior, but is also very closely linked to disordered eating and cycles of mental or physical food restriction.)
Trying to navigate ADHD and the tasks of adulthood can be very frustrating. Many of my clients have been dealing with both internal and external judgment throughout their entire lives. This judgment often leads to negative self-talk, shame, perfectionism, burnout, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
This is why seeking treatment is crucial. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, a combination of therapy, medications, and other behavioral remedies are the most effective treatments available for ADHD.
While ADHD doesn’t just go away, there are treatments available to help ease the symptoms and improve mental health and everyday well-being. The two most effective adult ADHD treatments are therapy and medications.
Therapy helps people with ADHD manage their daily symptoms and change unwanted behaviors. When you work with a therapist who specializes in ADHD, like me, you’ll be using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for ADHD. This type of therapy supports you in figuring out specific and individual strategies to cope with issues you’re having in your everyday life. A typical therapy session varies by individual based on your needs and your problems. However, we’ll start by gaining insight into the “why” behind your patterns, emotions, and beliefs. Then we’ll approach your problems in small and manageable ways, setting goals to break down issues you’re having into bite-sized steps.
ADHD medications include both stimulants and non-stimulants, and can be very helpful in symptom management. Medication isn’t for everyone; plenty of people either don’t want medication or don’t do well on meds. However, medication greatly improves quality of life for many people. If you’re curious about medication, talk to a therapist or doctor who specializes in ADHD to help you decide if it’s right for you.
If you want support around all the “adulting” tasks in life – whether it’s paying bills on time, enjoying your career, getting better sleep, reducing anxiety, or improving your relationships – I’m here to help.
During our sessions, we’ll look at the ways ADHD is impairing your life and figure out how to improve those issues together. You’ll learn strategies to help with your specific situation, coping tools for dealing with difficult emotions, and skillsets to better manage your adult ADHD.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.