Struggles of Being a Newly Diagnosed ADHD Adult

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If you are an adult and have recently been diagnosed with ADHD, you might be feeling overwhelmed about what to do next. There is a lot of information to gather, decisions to be made, emotions to process, and other people to consider. That is a lot to navigate!

Here are usually four areas that newly diagnosed adults with ADHD struggle with, and all of them have specific actions you can take to make the struggle less taxing.

The Emotional Roller Coaster

Many people are surprised by the strong emotions they feel when they are diagnosed with ADHD. 

Common Emotions Include:

  • Elation. When you first get an ADHD diagnosis you might feel a sense of elation and happiness. It is very validating to know that you are not crazy and that you have a medical condition. Now you understand why you are the way you are, and, it is a huge relief. 
  • Anger. After the elation has faded you may feel angry. Perhaps this is because you have ADHD and don’t want it, or you may feel anger towards your parents or teachers because they didn’t notice you had symptoms of ADHD while you were growing up. Or maybe everything makes you angry at the moment.
  • Depression and sadness. Feeling sad and depressed can happen as you grieve for what might have been. You feel sad for your younger self who struggled with school and life with undiagnosed ADHD. You might compare yourself to people who do not have ADHD and feel that their lives seem much easier.
  • Acceptance. When you reach acceptance, you have reached a calm place. Having ADHD is now part of your identity, and you feel hopeful for the future.

    What You Can Do: 

    • Reassure yourself that all these emotions are normal, even if they are painful at the time. Do not struggle alone, and reach out for help.
    • Find an ADHD support group in your area. Meeting other people who have been through a similar experience is very helpful.
    • Consider working with a therapist who is knowledgeable about adult ADHD. 
    • Consult your family doctor or a mental health professional if you feel depressed.

    Communicating With the Family

    Getting diagnosed with ADHD is a big life event, and turning to your partner and family for support seems like the natural thing to do. However, sometimes family members find it hard to be supportive as they are processing their own emotions.

    For example, your partner might worry that you will use ADHD as an excuse to get out of day-to-day responsibilities, or your parents could feel guilty that they didn’t realize you had ADHD. While they are addressing their emotions, it can be hard for them to provide support to you. 

    What You Can Do: 

    • Spend time with people who are supportive of your new diagnosis instead. These might be members of an ADHD support group or an understanding friend.

    Deciding Who to Tell

    Some people in the elation phase of being diagnosed tell everyone that they have ADHD. Then, on reflection, they wished that had been a little more cautious.

    ADHD is a condition that people have very strong opinions about, and they can say hurtful things. For example, they might say that ADHD is not real, or that smart people don’t have ADHD. These things are not true. When you have had time, research more about ADHD and feel comfortable with your ADHD diagnosis—these comments will not have the power to hurt you. 

    What You Can Do: 

    • Carefully select the people that you tell about your ADHD diagnosis. While you don’t have to tell anyone, it can be helpful to share your diagnosis with some people in your life. Pick open-minded, non-judgmental people. If you have already told many people, do not worry. However, moving forward, select new people with care.

    Deciding on a Treatment Option

    ADHD treatment is very varied. Most people know about ADHD medication as a form of treatment. However, there are other treatment options too, including learning ADHD friendly life skills, therapy, and possibly accommodations either at work or at school. Since the treatment options are so varied, it can feel overwhelming to know which will work for you and which to try first.

    What You Can Do: 

    • Educating yourself about the different treatment options is a great first step. Knowledge is power. Research the different treatment options so you can make an informed decision.
    • Keep an open mind. If you find one treatment isn’t working, speak with your doctor and adjust your treatment plan until you find the combination that’s right for you.
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