Q: At 31, I've just been officially diagnosed with adult ADHD, which is not surprising at all. My doctor thinks I've gone undiagnosed my whole life. I believe having my temperament and sensitivity, although not easy in my business, has made me successful. These lifelong "struggles" make me who I am. My fear is taking meds and or going to see a therapist will change or neuter my capabilities. Please advise, Noah.
A: Mental health or physical diagnosis should never define a person. Your doctor is only "today" pinpointing and categorizing issues you've long since struggled with.
Rather than rethinking your whole existence, instead ask yourself a few simple questions. Have problems concentrating, completing work assignments within a time frame, or remembering dates and times significantly impacted your professional and personal life?
All right, you are successful! Perhaps you can be even more successful if these skills were improved through self-care...
No doubt your "temperament and sensitivity" have been the driving force behind professional advancement; what does that have to do with having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms?
Interestingly, varying degrees of hyperactivity and impulsivity (so often associated with adult ADHD) are active characteristics associated with many high-powered leaders in business. However, these are hardly the great directives or single catalysts that lead successful people to great accomplishments. That imagined line of thinking is popular Hollywood mythology.
Actually, at only 31 years of age, these negative symptoms have time to worsen if left untreated. Professional issues can develop as your career responsibilities increase and more is being asked of you.
Even more importantly; ADHD can have a serious impact on your social life. Getting the proper treatment is incredibly important if you're planning to get or stay married and have a family. Depending on the severity, your condition can dominate an individual's emotional state, leading to severe mood swings and a low tolerance for frustration.
These elements of your diagnosis demand treatment in order to have healthy intimate relationships. However, this is highly treatable -- do not be discouraged!
I understand your concerns over taking regular medication. If your doctor hasn't mentioned medication, do not be overly concerned at this time. If medication is eventually suggested, talk with your doctor at length about your fears and ask about all available treatments.
There's no problem in seeing a psychotherapist, talk therapy is a win-win situation. I'd advise you to go into therapeutic treatment much like you go into life: eyes wide open and feeling in control.
Be honest and up front, and state that you believe your "symptoms" are part of who you are and what you feel makes you successful. Find a therapist who offers behavioral coaching from a psycho-educational perspective.
You will learn some relaxation and stress-management techniques, and may actually improve on your organizational strategies, as well as enhance your focusing capabilities.
Think of treatment as a tune-up! The goal is to channel your innate skills so that they can be used in the most productive fashion possible, both at home and in the office.
Lastly, do not give too much weight to your diagnosis. Having a "title" for your issues doesn't make them more important. You've gotten to know yourself well, and you're your own best advocate.
Seeing a therapist to advise you on dealing with a collection of symptoms will only aid in that process -- nothing more, nothing less.
Keep me posted on your treatment decisions. I wish you the best of luck.
Thanks, folks. Continue sending all of your questions and comments to ASK NOAH at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a profitable and peaceful week,
This column was originally posted on TheStreet.com Jan. 11, 2013.
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