ADHD in Adults: How to Cope, Work With and Live With Someone Who Isn’t Neurotypical

ADHD in Adults: How to Cope, Work With and Live With Someone Who Isn’t Neurotypical

Conversations about ADHD and treatment for those with ADHD are common, but they often center on children. We consider support programs in school, medication dosages for young people and behavioral therapy. The glaring gap in these conversations is how to deal with ADHD in adults.

Coping with Adult ADHD

Though versions of ADHD first appeared in psychiatry in the early 1900s, the American Psychological Association (APA) only recognized what we now call ADHD in 1980. Why does that matter? Most adults over the age of 30 were not diagnosed with ADHD as children, meaning that many have had to cope with ADHD without medication, and sometimes without a diagnosis at all.

If you’re an adult with ADHD, one of your first priorities is a predictable schedule. The ADHD brain works best when it has time to shift from one task to another. Keeping to a schedule helps you remember daily tasks and complete projects, because you can anticipate the next thing on the agenda.

Image courtesy of Bich Tran from Pexels.

Interestingly, some studies have also suggested that caffeine is a non-prescriptive way to treat ADHD. Coffee and black tea, for example, are low-dose stimulants that help focus the ADHD brain. This trend may explain why you nurse coffee or diet soda while you work, or why you have such a hard time when you forget to grab a chai on the way to work.

Working with Someone Who Has Adult ADHD

Learning how to deal with ADHD in adults isn’t just about coping, though. It’s also important to understand how to work with, or live with, adults who have ADHD. We expect adults to act a certain way. The reality is that adults with ADHD can’t always respond the way neurotypical people can.

In my house, one of the most common things we deal with is emotional reactions. The impulsive nature of ADHD means that even adults with ADHD sometimes react emotionally first. We’ve learned to make space for these reactions, to talk about them and to move on from them quickly. These reactions are hard for those without ADHD but, in most cases, they aren’t personal.

Accepting the spontaneous nature of adults with ADHD can also make it easier to work with them. When you go with the flow, you won’t stress about the chaotic directions their thinking might lead. Sometimes, though, you do need to finish something on a deadline. When that’s the case, preview the task at hand and set a specific time to begin. Trying to immediately redirect adults with ADHD is very difficult. Usually, they’re perfectly willing to focus. They just need a little advance warning.

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Resources for Adults with ADHD

If you or someone close to you struggles with ADHD, or you just want to learn more about managing ADHD, resources are easy to come by. Community Care of North Carolina has put together resource guides for both adults and children. There are also several support groups in North Carolina to help you manage ADHD.

Want to learn more about how to identify ADHD in children? Check out our ADHD tag. And also — find more information about coping with stress under our health tips tag!