Adults Living with ADHD

Learning to forgive yourself after your diagnosis

Photo Credit: @messythoughts27 VIA Twitter

By: Melissa Cohan, Seneca College

ADHD is one of the most common mental health disorders among children and affects nearly 5 percent of people of all ages. It is a neurodevelopment disorder that impacts people from all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, and contrary to popular belief, ADHD is hereditary – meaning, if you have ADHD, chances are that someone within your immediate family also has this disorder.

Within the past few years, ADHD has been a hot topic in the social media world. TikTok users and Instagrammers are starting to use their platform to shed awareness on this mental disorder and what it’s like for them, mentally and physically, with most advocates being women. ADHD in adults is growing four times faster than that in children, with the diagnostic rate in men at about 5.4 percent compared to 3.2 percent for women. ADHD is underdiagnosed in adults, especially when compared to children.

The diagnosis rate in children is much higher than in adults, and for a long time, people thought ADHD could only be in school-aged boys because of their outwardness of hyperactivity. It was seen as that one boy in your class that couldn’t sit still and would always be running around with an endless amount of energy. For children, 13% of boys are diagnosed with ADHD versus only 6% of girls.

What we’re now starting to learn is that girls and women internalize their hyperactivity, meaning outwardly we’re seen as shy, quiet, people pleasing. But internally, an endless stream of chaos is going on inside our minds. It is never quiet, and our brains are always screaming at us to do something, to do the important things.

There are many symptoms and impairments that makeup ADHD, but they are categorized into two specific sections. First, we have Hyperactivity. From an outsider's perspective, this can look like an inability to remain still; someone who seems to move around constantly, including situations when it’s not appropriate, or they could excessively fidget. Hyperactivity in adults may also mean they have extreme restlessness and have the tendency to talk too much.

The next impairment is Executive Functions, and I say impairment and not symptom because of the severity of things that are attached to it. This includes issues and difficulty with attention, organization issues/time management – also known as “time blindness”, self-regulation/self-monitoring, impulsivity – like spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need, working memory problems, processing speed – like audible processing, flexibility, and emotional regulation.

According to the National Library of Medicine, recent articles published discuss how if one child in a family’s household has ADHD, then there is a high chance that that child got their ADHD from one of their parents, making this disorder hereditary. It's seen that children have a higher chance of getting ADHD from their father, with their mother not far behind.

Canada’s ADHD percentage rate is the second largest among the countries surveilled. We sit at 7%, with the United States not far ahead of us at 8.1%. If you take a look at the world map and the studies that have been conducted throughout those countries, Canada, the USA, and France hold the top three spots for diagnostic testing.

With all of the testing done, most of those results come from monitoring children and their behaviours, with adults having a more difficult time receiving their diagnoses. For one such individual, he didn’t get a diagnosis until he was 44 years old. Andre Brisson from Ingersoll, Ontario says that he’s always known he was different but that the adults in his life never really paid close attention to the potential signs of ADHD.

This left him alone to struggle throughout his entire life with no tools or ways to help make his life easier. He went into detail about how his childhood was a very negative one, how the environment itself was negative and was told not to do a lot of the things that just came naturally to him.

"It wasn't very fun, I don't think I had a childhood."

Being who he was naturally made him feel embarrassed because of the lack of support he received from his home life, and due to his hyperactivity he was always told to "temper it down, settle down, stop asking things, stop doing certain things." In his household Andre says that the decisions in his home were solely based around other people opinions, and in school the way his ADHD presented itself was how he would challenge his teachers intellectually, correcting them if they were wrong.

He was bullied in school but said it was almost like an escape from his home life, and he always placed the blame upon himself for being the way he was because society deemed him different from them. But upon receiving not only his ADHD diagnosis but also with his Asperger's or ASD, which is the Autism Spectrum Disorder, he's learned new ways to embrace who he is and to connect with other neurodivergents like himself.

Andre created a Podcast called The Impulsive Thinker, where he talks about everything from his own personal ADHD undiagnosed/diagnosed journey, to how he redefined his systems, routines and his habits once he received his diagnosis. Throughout his Podcast episodes, everyone Andre has spoken to has said that they also had other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

I sat down with Andre Brisson to learn more about his struggle with ADHD and his podcast The Impulsive Thinker.

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