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AD/HD and Adults

AD/HD and Adults

written by Bernadette Zoppetti, MA, PCC


Many times when people think of symptoms of  Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, children come to mind. The typical view might be that of a hyperactive, unruly child, running around as if motorized, not being able to sit still, blurting out answers in school, getting into trouble due to being impulsive.  These are symptoms of the hyperactive type of AD/HD.  Symptoms of the inattentive type include losing items for schoolwork, zoning out during conversations, lack of organization (i.e. messy desks). Sometimes children have symptoms in both categories, the hyperactive as well as the inattentive type.


Adults, too, have many of the same symptoms but these show up in some of the same ways and with some slight variations.  Adults may interrupt others when they are speaking, act in a very fidgety manner, lose things, forget appointments, and lash out with little restraint.  Attempts at household organization and getting kids to where they need to be turn out to be overwhelming.


Behaviorally, there is much that can be done to help with such symptoms.  Some require the help of loved ones.

Be aware that if a beloved adult family member has AD/HD, it is likely very challenging to sustain focus and attention in conversation, especially if the conversations take the form of a lengthy sort with little time for input from the other.  Track “the other” in conversation and check in from time to time, allowing for input instead of carrying on what may seem like a monologue.

A good way to help an adult with problems of organization has to do with a very old-fashioned method of having a “place for everything and everything in its place.”  Additionally, for instance, when an adult with AD/HD is losing everything from car keys to cell phones to shoes, here is a strategy.  As you are putting the car keys away or turning off the coffee pot, or locking the door, say aloud, “I am turning off the coffee pot, locking the door,”etc.  This provides for another modality to be present in the moment, using both action and the sound of one’s own voice.


A way to become more present and mindful in the moment can be further enhanced by taking some time to practice “mindfulness meditation” a few times a day, for a few minutes a day.  This does not entail trying to turn off the “monkey mind,” so common in human beings.  This simply consists of sitting calmly and bringing your attention to your breathing, breathing deeply and holding the breath for a few seconds and then exhaling completely.  When thoughts arise, as they so often do, just imagine that they are floating in a balloon and coming and going.  You may “pop” the balloon as the thoughts come and go.  Another way to help to be in the moment is to imagine breathing in a color and exhaling a different color.  This type of mindfulness meditation is not only calming but can help to make you feel centered throughout the day.


Regular exercise as well as healthy nutrition and sleep patterns are not only basic needs for all, but will help alleviate the symptoms of AD/HD. Vigorous exercise can help reduce restlessness and inattention from AD/HD and can relieve stress and boost your mood and calm your mind.

For better control of attention and impulses, relaxation exercises, in addition to meditation, are yoga or t’ai chi, for example.


Eating healthfully can reduce distractibility, hyperactivity and lower stress.  Eating small meals throughout the day, avoiding excessive sugar and eating fewer simple carbohydrates while at the same time increasing your protein intake will help decrease stress levels.


Another option, when behavioral interventions are not enough, and with the accurate diagnosis of a psychiatrist, is medication that can help with AD/HD.  You may discuss these options with your practitioner.  There are stimulant prescriptions as well as non-stimulant prescriptions available.


The books by Hallowell and Ratey, Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction are both helpful in providing good, solid information regarding the challenges of AD/HD in adults.