Twenty years ago, we hardly heard of ADHD, an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Today, the term ADHD is so loosely used that anytime anyone feels they are unfocused, overly scheduled or mentally cluttered they may say “I’m so ADHD.”
But, are they?
When is it just a simple lack of focus due to stress or bad habits and when might it be ADHD?
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a NYC based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services specializes in ADHD and other learning disorders.
She offers some characteristics that when chronic tendencies could mean ADHD and is worth getting screened for it.
1) You have NO filter and are highly impulsive.
Being candid, bold, and opinionated is one thing, and many people with strong personalities possess these traits. If you find you are getting into frequent arguments with family, friends and co-workers who accuse you of not thinking before speaking or acting, then there could be more going on.
“You have to look at how certain behaviors impact the general well-being of your life, explains, Dr. Hafeez. If you are unable to keep a job, and 50% of people with ADHD struggle to do so, then it would be wise to get an assessment for ADHD,” she says. "People who find they consistently miss deadlines and simply forget or rush through them without a careful eye on quality of the output are red flags.”
Of course, there are other psychological considerations and implications but having an ADHD assessment is a good idea.
2) You’re constantly putting out fires.
People with adult ADHD frequently lose important papers, documents on their computers or their personal belongings like cell phone, credit cards, keys etc. They find they consistently miss appointments, arrive to work late, and feel disorganized and scattered.
This inattention to the details of life leads to being in crisis mode cleaning up your own messes.
According to Dr. Hafeez, this is a recipe for high stress, poor confidence, second guessing oneself, and low self-esteem. "When you are constantly cleaning up mistakes or apologizing for lateness you start to question your abilities and judgment. This is the uneasiness that may even lead to depression if adult ADHD isn’t properly diagnosed and treated with the help of a trained licensed therapist who specializes in ADHD,” cautions Dr. Hafeez.
3) You are either easily distracted or off in your own world.
ADHD often has people focusing in two different ways. First, they may have such trouble focusing that they can’t sit through meetings at work, dinners with family or friends, can’t remain engaged in conversations and just feel antsy and always onto the next thing.
The second way ADHD impacts focus is when they are so immersed and deeply focused in something that everything else around them is non-existent. “Someone who is in this hyper-focused state can easily lose track of time, their kids, and other commitments because when you have ADHD, nothing is more important than what you are on hyper-focused on,” explains Dr. Hafeez.
She goes on to say that people with ADHD feel they “lost time” because they were focused on one thing for so long and didn't realize where the time went.
4) You feel like there’s never enough time for anything.
This is because people with ADHD typically overschedule themselves and under-estimate the time it takes for certain tasks. Time management is a big challenge for people with adult ADHD. They often add to their anxiety by creating unrealistic to-do lists, then struggle to get things accomplished because they’re distracted.
Anxiety is often an overlapping condition, as are obsessive compulsive traits. “There’s a self-defeating cycle going on where they take on too much, then feel inadequate when things aren’t completed. They frequently say that there aren’t enough hours in the day,” says Dr. Hafeez.
It is important to really do your research and be honest with your overall quality of life. Then, seek out a professional who can offer a detailed assessment which is the first step to diagnosing and effectively treating ADHD.
“It is never just one thing. When I offer a thorough assessment, using not just a very comprehensive interview, but a complex battery of standardized tests that measures brain functioning, I discover loads of information the patient never saw coming. The treatment I design is accurate, long-lasting, and can bring about lasting change,” says Dr. Hafeez.