Strategies for Living Well With ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is marked by difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity/impulsiveness, disorganization, low frustration tolerance, and other symptoms that impair normal functioning. Treatment and lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms so you can live well with ADHD.

coping with ADHD diagnosis
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

How People With ADHD May Be Perceived

People with ADHD often lack focus, wander off task, talk excessively, fidget, and act impulsively.

Children often present with hyperactivity most often, and as they age, they may struggle more with attention, leading to academic difficulties.

The disorder is often misunderstood by others. People who don't understand the symptoms may label children with ADHD as unmotivated, lazy, or problem children. Adults with ADHD may be seen as irresponsible or flighty because they struggle to remember important details or obligations and they have a hard time staying on task.

How It Feels to Be Newly Diagnosed

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

Common emotions include:

  • Relief: When you first get an ADHD diagnosis, you may feel happy to have a name that describes what you're experiencing. It may feel validating to know that your symptoms stem from a diagnosed condition. 
  • Anger: After the relief has faded, you may feel angry. Perhaps you don't want ADHD or maybe you're feeling frustration toward parents or teachers who blamed you for your symptoms.
  • Sadness: You may feel sad that you didn't get diagnosed earlier or you may grieve for what your life might have been like if you didn't have ADHD. You may also feel sad for your younger self who struggled with school and life with undiagnosed ADHD.

What You Can Do 

  • Reassure yourself that all these emotions are normal, even if they are painful at the time.
  • Talk to other people about how you're feeling and be willing to ask 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 ADHD

How to Decide Who to Tell

You don't need to tell everyone in your life that you've been diagnosed with ADHD, but sharing your diagnosis with some people could be helpful in moving forward.

It's not always easy to explain ADHD to friends and family members. In fact, those who don't understand the condition may think you're using as an excuse to get out of your day-to-day responsibilities.

People who don't understand may offer unsolicited advice like, "Stop watching so much TV, and you'll feel better." Those things can be tough to hear.

When people in your life want to support you and develop a better understanding of ADHD, provide them with information about the condition and let them know how they can best support you.

You may also want to consider telling your employer or professor. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, you'll want to share that information with the school.

Employers and school administration can assist with special accommodations. Placing your desk away from distractions or allowing you to wear noise-canceling headphones, for example, may greatly increase your productivity.

It's important to tell all of your medical providers about your diagnosis. Don't depend on your medical records to speak for themselves.

Managing Your Symptoms

Work closely with medical professionals to find the best treatment options for you. Don't hesitate to speak up when something isn't working and be willing to ask questions about what you can expect to experience with treatment.

It's important to continue managing and monitoring your symptoms even when you feel as though treatment is working well. Your symptoms may shift with changes in your environment or your ADHD may change as you grow older.

Continue to communicate with your treatment providers about any changes you experience or any difficulties you notice.

If you're taking medication, there may be times when you need to change your dose or change medications altogether. Or, you may find it's helpful to start therapy when you undergo a change in employment.

You may also experiment with a variety of lifestyle changes. For example, close monitoring of your symptoms might help you recognize that you need more structure in your life so you can spend less time searching for misplaced items. Adding more structure and getting organized, might be key to helping you manage your symptoms best.

A Word From Verywell

Living well with ADHD is about monitoring your symptoms and actively working toward finding what works best for you. With the right support and treatment, you can create a life that allows you to reach your greatest potential.

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Article Sources

  • National Institute of Mental Health. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.