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Learning You Have Adult ADHD Can Bring Sadness, Relief, and Other Emotions

Noor Pannu could not believe it. Her psychiatrist had just diagnosed her with ADHD. But he didn’t trust her. She read that people with the disorder did things like fight and get in trouble with the law, and she wasn’t at all.

“It took me a long time to accept it,” she says. “It was very confusing, honestly.”

Pannu is an energetic 30 year old woman who is full of ideas and enthusiasm. She leads digital strategy for an e-commerce company in Winnipeg, Canada. She had several promotions and good relations with her co-workers. Still, he has difficulty being productive, focused, and managing anxiety about deadlines. After years of those symptoms and some troubling memory loss, she decided to seek help at age 29.

“I went to my family doctor and I told him, ‘I think I’m going crazy. There’s something seriously wrong with me.'” He sent her to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with ADHD. .

“It took me about 6 months to deal with it and get on medication,” she says. She was horrified by the stigma surrounding both mental health problems and ADHD. “How people see it: ‘People with ADHD just aren’t productive. They’re not good to work with. They don’t deliver well. They can’t be trusted.’ And those are really bad things to say about other people.”

The disbelief and denial that Pannu felt are some of the feelings you might feel as an adult after learning that you have ADHD. First, there are all the emotions that come with receiving a diagnosis of a condition that you’ve dealt with your whole life. You may feel grief, relief, or both. Then, there’s the fact that people with ADHD often feel emotions more strongly than other people.

“The ADHD brain experiences emotions in a hyperbolic way,” says Amy Moore, PhD, a cognitive psychologist with Learning Rx in Colorado Springs, CO, and vice president of research at the Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research. “Every feeling gets bigger and bigger and magnified. That sadness can feel absolutely overwhelming. And that relief can almost be a feeling of euphoria.

An ADHD support group helped Pannu slowly accept the diagnosis. She met people with similar symptoms, asked them questions, and shared their experiences. “If it wasn’t for him,” she says, “I probably wouldn’t have started my medication and I probably would still be confused.”

Once he started taking stimulant drugs, he felt as though he had begun to use the full potential of his mind. She is now planning to pursue a master’s degree in business. She is studying for the GMAT business school entrance exam and aims for a high score.

Despite her high hopes for the future, Pannu is disappointed that she didn’t learn she had ADHD earlier. She grew up in India, where she says a lack of awareness of the disorder, as well as stigma about women’s mental health, kept her from being diagnosed early in life.

“I wish I had known about this diagnosis sooner. I would have done better in my studies and accomplished a lot more,” she says. “I feel like there was so much more I could have done in life. “

Psychologist Moore says grief is one of the main emotions you may feel when you learn you have ADHD in your late teens or adulthood.

“You grieve the realization that your life could have been so much easier if you had just known. You mourn the loss of the life you could have had all that time. And you mourn the loss of that ideal adulthood.” mourn what you have painted for yourself,” she says.

Some people feel anger along with sadness: “Anger that no one has recognized [your ADHD] No one did anything about it before, or before – and that you’ve suffered for so long without explanation or without help.

Pannu didn’t get the help she needed until she was in her late 30s. But now that she’s accepted her diagnosis, she feels better about herself. And he has a healthy sense of humor about who he is.

“I always thought I was weird. I didn’t know what kind of weird,” she laughs. “But now I know.”

When Melissa Carroll’s doctor diagnosed her with ADHD last year, the 34-year-old credit analyst in Nashville was grateful to learn the news. After years of struggling to make ends meet, pursue her education, and keep various relationships together, she felt at peace with the diagnosis.

“I’m a little bit all over the place, and not everyone can keep up with that,” says Carroll, describing what it might be like for others to interact with her. Her thoughts make sense in her head, she says, “but it’s sometimes difficult to hold that conversation or try to figure it out in a professional setting.” She also struggles with follow-through, she says. “It’s difficult to be sufficiently driven in one direction long enough to reach the next step.”

The treatment changed that. She began taking stimulant medications, which improved her ADHD symptoms. It also eased her severe depression, which she believes stemmed partly from decades of untreated ADHD. He had a difficult childhood without a stable home life. The adults dismiss her symptoms as “acting out” as Carol.

“You adapt so much to life that you get used to spinning your wheels, but at some point you burn out just spinning your wheels, and you give up,” she says.

Medication and therapy helped Carroll gain traction. It all started with an ADHD diagnosis that gave her hope that life could get better.

It’s common to feel some comfort when you learn adult ADHD is common, says cognitive psychologist Moore. “The initial sense of relief comes from the fact that there is finally an explanation for your deficits. A reason for your struggles in school and relationships. Relief is the reason why you struggle with time management and organization. It has a real name. .

After receiving her diagnosis, Carol took steps to become better-organized. “If I need lists or an app to remind me which rooms I need to clean, or in what order I need to do chores, that’s fine for me to do,” she says.

She told everyone she knew he had ADHD. Not many were surprised. “I drifted off. I didn’t know it was so obvious to some people — because it wasn’t to me,” she laughs. “I was excited to be able to say, ‘I found this out about myself, and it makes sense.’ I think what I’m missing is the key.

Moore can relate to Carroll’s enthusiasm. She felt the same way when she found out she had ADHD at age 20.

“I was so excited that I had a name for what was happening to me that I wanted everyone in the world to know,” she says. “I sang it from the rooftops.”

Moore learned he had ADHD during college in his late ’80s. “Before, most of the people who were diagnosed were hyperactive little boys. So for a girl with predominantly inattentive ADHD, I was one of those who fell through the cracks.

When she was a child, her parents gave her a highly structured home life. Once she moved off to college, however, she struggled to stay organized and manage her time. But his mother, a child development specialist, worked with children at an age when he was just starting to be diagnosed with ADHD. When she recognized the signs in her daughter, she urged Moore to see a doctor about it.

After Moore learned she had the disorder, she went on stimulant medication and proceeded to sail through college, graduate school, and a doctoral program.

“I didn’t feel as sad as I felt relieved,” she says. “It may be because in the ’80s, it wasn’t a diagnosis that was widespread. Perhaps if I’d been going through the same situation two decades later, I would have known they could have done something and didn’t.

Moore sees many people who receive a diagnosis later, go through a “tug of war” between grief and relief.

Treatments such as medication and cognitive behavioral therapy help many adults with ADHD take charge of their lives and their emotions. Moore says it’s also important to understand the underlying cause of these big feelings. ADHD affects a thinking skill called executive functions. These include organizational skills, working memory, focus, and the ability to control your emotions. A treatment called cognitive training, or brain training, can boost these skills, says Moore.

“Cognitive training is participation in intense repetitive mental tasks that directly target those skills. Once you strengthen them, you’ll get the benefit of emotional regulation, because it’s also an executive function skill.

She says it can also help to set boundaries in your life. If you work in an office, for example, you can stick a do not disturb sign on your door or cubicle when you need extra quiet to concentrate. Or you can talk frankly with your boss about your ADHD and ask them to move you to a less busy part of the office, so you can be as productive as possible.

Meeting other people with ADHD can also be a great pick-me-up. “Something wonderful happens in support groups,” says Moore. “Just the idea that you are not alone experiencing something has a powerfully therapeutic aspect to it.”

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with adult ADHD, consider talking to close family and friends about it. “If you educate your loved ones, and they are able to look at your reactions and say, ‘Hey, is it because they have ADHD that they’re responding to me like that?’ “They might show you a little more grace,” says Moore.

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