Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a pervasive pattern since childhood of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that creates significant distress and/or impairment in two or more domains (such as at school, home, work, or in social interactions) and often persists into adulthood.
An important aspect of managing ADHD or any other disorder is understanding the condition and how it uniquely affects the individual. Even young children can benefit from an age appropriate understanding of their diagnosis.
Each individual and the context in which they live is different, so symptom expression, level of distress, and impact on functioning varies from person to person. It makes sense then, that there is no cookie cutter approach to living well with ADHD. I know that can be frustrating for clients to hear as they hope that once a diagnosis is made, there will be a quick path to improvement. Instead, there is usually a period of trial and error where different strategies are tried and modified with effective techniques being retained and ineffective ones being discarded. New techniques are often needed throughout the lifespan as the individual and their context changes. What might have worked in high school may not be enough in college or in the workplace.
A good way to develop an understanding of ADHD is by reading books (or listening to audiobooks) and doing some online research. There are a number of books out there that are written for adults and children with ADHD to help them understand the condition and learn new ways to cope with the symptoms. There are also some informative scholarly books, but they may not be easy to read for people with shorter attention spans. Finally, there are a number of excellent websites addressing ADHD for both children and adults. The following is a list of books and websites that I have personally reviewed and can recommend to clients.
Kelly, K., & Ramundo, P. You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?
This is one of my favorite books for adults with ADHD because when they read it, they often come back with tears in their eyes saying they finally understand why they behave the way they do and they don’t have to blame themselves so much anymore. Fortunately the author continues to update it every so often which help keeps it fresh and relevant.
Hallowell, E. M., & Ratey, J. J. Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood
This is an old classic that really needs to be updated, but is still highly recommended as a resource. Its written for adults, but covers the disorder throughout the lifespan. These authors have a newer book called Delivered from Distraction that focuses on adult ADHD, but I have not read it yet and cannot comment on it.
Solden, S., Hallowell, E. T., & Ratey, J. J. Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life
I like to recommend this book to women because it talks about the unique ways our gender and context may impact the expression of symptoms and its effects on functioning. Most people diagnosed with ADHD are male, so much of our knowledge of this disorder is based on the male experience. This book focuses on the female experience of ADHD.
Zigler-Dendy, C. A. & Zigler, A. A Bird’s-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD: Advice from Young Survivors
This book quotes the experiences of boys and girls of all ages diagnosed with ADHD. The children interviewed are quite exceptional which gives the book an upbeat and hopeful feel. I got the impression these kids would be great role models. The children discuss their difficulties and suggest ways to overcome them. There is also a lot of good science in this book written in a way that young people with ADHD can comprehend it. I would recommend that both the child and the parent read it.
Walker, B. The Girls’ Guide to AD/HD
This is a really cute book that would be engaging to traditional girls age 12 -18. It is pretty girly, so tomboys might not relate. It is also slightly slanted toward the Inattentive Type of ADHD, so primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive girls may not get as much out of it. Even though its cute, it does have a lot of hard science in it written in a way that can be understood by youngsters. It also offers advice for ways to cope with and overcome challenges particular to ADHD.
For More Scholarly Reading:
Barkley, R. A. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment
This informative book includes interviews for children and adults with norms by which to compare results.
Barkley, R. A., Murphy, K. R., & Fischer, M. ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says. Dr. Barkley shows that most adults do not grow out of the disorder as previously thought, and that the symptoms often look different in adulthood than they do in childhood.
Wender, P. H. ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children, Adolescents, and Adults
This one needs updating, but it is still quite informative and includes checklists for aiding in diagnosis.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), a non-profit organization serving individuals with AD/HD and their families, has an excellent web site full of facts and resources. They also have a nice publication called Attention Magazine which is published six times per year and is available to members.
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) is an international organization that provides information, resources and networking to adults with ADHD and professionals. They also have a quarterly publication called FOCUS. They offer a video called Adult ADHD: Regaining Focus that can be viewed from a link from their site and gives a basic overview of the disorder.
If you suspect you or your child has ADHD, it may be helpful to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist to see whether an is warranted. You can find local psychologists via the American Psychological Association psychologist locator and psychiatrists through contacting the American Psychiatric Association Answer Center at 1-888-35-PSYCH.