Welcome to It's Just Stuff's #whatsonyourmindwednesday guest blogs. Every week #TeamIJS is inviting one of our Preferred Partners to share what is on their minds as it relates to the services they provide and the connection to helping anyone struggling with organizing and executive functioning skills.
This week we asked nationally recognized ADHD expert Cindy Goldrich to share her incredible knowledge about what ADHD really means and whether getting a formal diagnosis is important. As our COCTC aka Chief of Chaos To Calm, Beth Blacker has stated many times, Cindy is the reason Beth finally got the answers she needed since childhood about why she had the inability to be able to focus in school unless she overcompensated by hyper-focusing. Beth always thought that was just the way it was supposed to be even when it would cause conflict with her parents, significant others, children, friends, and co-workers. As a result of Cindy's "intervention" with Beth when Cindy first moved to Colorado in 2018, Beth is now receiving the proper support and guidance to better regulate her attention to tasks and details. Like any type of "disorder", there is no shame in a diagnosis and as many ADHD experts will say, it is, in fact, a blessing and not a curse.
By the way...If you think you provide a related product and/or service and would like to be featured on our Partners & Resources page and/or write a guest blog in the future, please fill out the intake form by clicking HERE.
ADHD...is it a real and diagnosable condition?
ADHD is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of attention, impulsivity, and in some cases, hyperactivity. There needs to be several noticeable inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms evident in two or more settings. This helps explain why it may impact each individual very differently in very different settings (school, work, home, leisure). There must also be clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of an individual's social, academic, or occupational functioning. In other words – just because you struggle sometimes, it does not mean you necessarily have ADHD.
We also have learned that ADHD is highly hereditary, so yes, if mom or dad are so blessed, so too may one or more of their children. And whereas we used to think of ADHD as primarily a boys' disorder, we now recognize that many girls and women are equally impacted. However, many have been misdiagnosed with Anxiety or Depression (read ADHD – How it's Different for Girls). We now also recognized that ADHD is not necessarily something that a person outgrows, rather learns how to develop their own tools and strategies through coaching and other means.
Is ADHD over-diagnosed?
My answer is yes.
I also believe it is underdiagnosed.
Unfortunately, there is still not one agreed-upon cohesive and comprehensive protocol for diagnosing ADHD. Many practitioners do not include an ADHD screening in their assessments when discussing mental health issues. I believe, and evidence supports, there are enormous lifelong risks to mental health, physical health, employment, and healthy marriages/relationships if ADHD is NOT accurately assessed and diagnosed in both children and adults).
Here's what we have known for long enough but still don't address well when it comes to ADHD...
Self-Concept and ADHD
Perhaps you have grown up believing that your life's challenges are due to having anxiety (diagnosed or self-assessed). You get overwhelmed very easily, so you avoid trying new things or certain situations or settings for fear that you may become too upset or angry. You will end up either embarrassing yourself or others.
Or perhaps you struggle with depression (again, diagnosed or self-assessed). Often you feel too reluctant to join in social situations, can't concentrate enough to succeed, or become paralyzed when faced with certain obligations or opportunities. So, you struggle to get off the couch or start your day in any meaningful way, further digging a hole and stalling your life.
Or maybe you have always struggled to learn, regardless of how "bright" everyone said you were. Maybe you considered that you must have some underlying learning disabilities which held you back from pursuing specific interests or passions. All you knew was that keeping up in class was hard at best, and the process of studying for and taking tests seemed an insurmountable task.
The reality is that all of these things may be true regardless of whether these factors are at clinically diagnosable levels or not. I have found something interesting in my practice working with parents and speaking with many people in all areas of life....
I have said for years that, Autism aside, we are ALL on a spectrum. We all have strengths and weaknesses in...
how we process information (regarding speed, preferred method of access, etc.)
how we can hold on to information as we use it (working memory)
how well we can attend in different settings
Sometimes our strengths and weaknesses are within a "typical" range and don't significantly impact our functioning. But sometimes, people consistently struggle to function at a peak or reliable manner, and it holds them back from feeling confident, or even comfortable, in various settings.
I contend that how we view ourselves in those settings guides us in how we approach our lives.
How does our explanation guide our intervention?
If you believe that you struggle to keep up at work or in class is because you are depressed or anxious, you may look toward a particular type of therapy or medication to alleviate your challenges.
But what if you learn that you are struggling because you have the neurobiological condition called ADHD?
Maybe you have a slower processing speed than those around you?
Or do you have trouble keeping up because your working memory is weak?
Without visual aids or having the material broken down into smaller parts, you get lost, frustrated, and overwhelmed. So let's suppose you knew and accepted that you had ADHD. In that case, you might be open to getting appropriate education about the condition and be open to learning specific tools and strategies to make life easier. You might consider coaching or medication to support you in your journey. Rather than just therapy aimed at helping you deal from the perspective of anxiety or depression, you might have newfound hope that you can improve your situation by following the path many others with ADHD have been following for years.
Is there a substantial overlap between ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression?
The statistics range regarding the percentage of people who have ADHD along with anxiety (approximately 33%) and/or depression (approximately 17%). Still, the data makes it clear that ADHD must be considered when one of these conditions is present
I do not suggest using Google or your friends for the diagnosis even though that may appear to be what I did for Beth when we first met. I have years of training and experience and did not suggest it without clear evidence to substantiate my claim. Many things may also be at play that might impact behavior (ex. Chrohn's disease, severe sleep apnea, PTSD, food allergies).
Please... go to a qualified professional who makes it part of their protocol to assess for ADHD.
If you suspect you, or your child, may have ADHD, you must start with the diagnosis, knowing what factors create your unique brain. Then you get the opportunity to shape how you use your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.
If you would like to learn more about ADHD and see the types of supports available, please visit my website at PTSCoaching.com .
Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ADHD-CCSP, is a mental health professional, certified ADHD Coach, and teacher trainer. Founder of PTS Coaching, LLC, and a leading authority on parenting and teaching children with ADHD, Executive Function, and Learning Disabilities. She coaches parents, provides professional development for school districts and trains professionals to become ADHD/EF/LD Parent Coaches.
She is also the author of:
8 Keys to Parenting Children with ADHD, a concise, easy-to-read "crash course" for parents of children with ADHD based on her CalmConnected coaching model. Co- ADHD, Executive Function & Behavioral Challenges in the Classroom, an invaluable resource for all classroom teachers full of real, practical, and powerful insights, tools, and activities.
Cindy has established a reputation as a gifted and compassionate Coach and Trainer. She approaches ADHD as a neurobiological difference with challenges rather than a deficit or disorder. She established PTS Coaching, LLC to provide parents and educators with tools and support to address issues such as enabling vs. supporting behaviors, creating motivation, reducing defiance and non-compliance, improving time management, organization, and emotional regulation.
Her highly acclaimed CALM and CONNECTED© parenting workshop series is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese. It provides a comprehensive, sequential approach to reducing the conflict and chaos often present in families. With compassion and targeted insights, parents learn to help their children build resilience, flexibility, grit, and perseverance to help their children reach their full potential.