Learning about adult ADHD can bring sadness, relief, and other emotions

Noor Pannu couldn’t believe it. His psychiatrist just diagnosed him with ADHD. But he didn’t trust her. He read that people with the disease did things like get into fights and get in trouble with the law, and that wasn’t him at all.

“It took me a long time to accept it,” he says. “Honestly, it was a big embarrassment.”

Pannu is an energetic woman in her 30s, full of ideas and enthusiasm. Leads digital strategy for an e-commerce company in Winnipeg, Canada. He has had many promotions and maintains good relations with his colleagues. Despite this, he has trouble staying productive, concentrating, and dealing with anxiety about deadlines. After years of these symptoms and some troubling memory problems, she decided to seek help at the age of 29.

“I went to my GP and said, ‘I think I’m going crazy. Something is seriously wrong with me.” He referred her to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with ADHD.

“It took me almost 6 months to calm down and start taking medication,” she says. She feared the stigma surrounding mental health issues and ADHD. “People see it as, ‘People with ADHD are just not productive. They are not good to work with. They don’t ship well. They cannot be trusted. And those are very bad things about other people.”

The disbelief and denial that Pannu feels are just some of the overwhelming emotions that she may feel after learning that she has ADHD as an adult. First, there are all the feelings that come with being diagnosed with a condition you’ve struggled with all your life. You may feel grief, relief, or both. Then there’s the fact that people with ADHD often feel their emotions more strongly than others.

“The ADHD brain experiences emotions in a magnified way,” says Amy Moore, PhD, a cognitive psychologist at LearningRx in Colorado Springs and vice president of research at the Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research. “Every emotion is bigger, bigger and magnified. This grief can feel completely overwhelming. And that relief can almost be a feeling of exhilaration.”

An ADHD support group helped Pannu gradually accept her diagnosis. He met people with similar symptoms, asked them questions and shared his experiences. “If it wasn’t for them,” he says, “I might not have started the medication, and I’d probably still be confused.”

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When he began taking stimulant drugs, he felt he began to tap into his mind’s full potential. He is now planning a master’s degree in business. You are studying for the GMAT business school entrance exam and want to achieve a high score.

Despite her high hopes for the future, Pannu is disappointed that she didn’t learn she had ADHD earlier. She grew up in India, where she says a lack of awareness about the disease and the stigma surrounding women’s mental health prevented her from being diagnosed early in life.

“I wish I had known about this diagnosis sooner. I would have done a lot better in my academics and achieved a lot more,” she says. “I feel like there was so much in my life that I could have done.”

Grief is one of the main emotions you may feel when you find out you have late-onset ADHD teenagers or in adulthood, says psychologist Moore.

– The realization that your life could have been much easier if you had known is sad. He mourns the loss of the life he could have had all along. And he mourns the loss of the ideal adulthood he imagined for himself,” she says.

Some feel anger and sadness: “The anger that no one recognized [your ADHD] before, or that nobody did anything before – and you suffered for so long without explanation or help.

Pannu did not find the help she needed until she was almost 30 years old. But now that she’s accepted the diagnosis, she understands herself better. And he has a healthy sense of humor about who he is.

“I always thought I was weird. I didn’t know what kind of weirdness it was – he laughs. “But now I know.”

When Melissa Carroll’s doctor diagnosed her with ADHD last year, the 34-year-old loan analyst from Nashville was grateful for the news. After years of struggling to complete assignments, keep up with her studies, and maintain various relationships, she came to terms with the diagnosis.

“I’m a little bit all over the place, and not everyone can keep up with that,” Carroll says, describing what it’s like to have other people talk to him. He says his ideas make sense in his head, “but trying to have that conversation or make it make sense in a professional setting is sometimes difficult.” He also struggles with follow-through, he says. “It’s hard to drive in one direction long enough to get to the next stage.”

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The treatment changed him. He began taking stimulant medication, which improved his ADHD symptoms. It also eased his severe depression, which he says stems in part from decades of untreated ADHD. He had a difficult childhood without a very stable home life. Adults tended to ignore his symptoms as Carroll was just “playing”.

“You adapt to life so much that you get used to the spinning of the wheels, but at some point you just burn out of the spinning of the wheels and give up,” he says.

Medication and therapy helped Carroll catch it. It all started with the diagnosis of ADHD, which gave him hope that his life could get better.

Cognitive psychologist Moore says it’s common to feel relief when you learn you have adult-onset ADHD. “The initial sense of relief comes from finally having an explanation for his shortcomings. One reason he struggled in school and in relationships. It’s a relief to have a real name for what you struggle with time management and organization.”

After receiving the diagnosis, Carroll took steps to become better organized. “If I need lists or an app to remind me what rooms to clean or what order to do things, I do that,” she says.

He told everyone he had ADHD. Many were not surprised. “I was thrilled. I didn’t realize it was so obvious to some people – because it’s not to me,” he laughs. “I was excited to be able to say, ‘I learned this about myself and it makes sense.’ I think that’s the key to what he’s been missing.”

Moore can relate to Carroll’s excitement. She felt the same way when she found out she had ADHD at age 20.

“I was so excited to have a name for what was happening to me, and I wanted everyone in the world to know,” she says. “I sang from the rooftops.”

Moore learned he had ADHD in college in the late 1980s. “Before, only hyperactive boys were diagnosed. So for a predominantly inattentive girl with ADHD, I was one of those who fell through the cracks.”

As a child, his parents gave him a very structured home life. However, once she went to college, she struggled to stay organized and manage her time. But his mother, a child development specialist, worked with children during the era when ADHD was first diagnosed. When she recognized the signs in her own daughter, she urged Moore to see a doctor.

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After learning she had the disease, Moore was put on stimulant medication and continued through college, graduate school and a doctoral program.

“I wasn’t grieving as much as I was relieved,” she says. “This may be because it was not a widespread diagnosis in the 80s. Maybe if I was going through the same situation two decades later, I would have known that they could have done something, but they didn’t.

Moore sees many people who later receive a diagnosis going through a “tug of war” between grief and relief.

Treatments such as medication and cognitive behavioral therapy help many adults with ADHD take control of their lives and emotions. According to Moore, it is also important to understand the root cause of these big emotions. ADHD affects thinking skills called executive functions. These include organizational skills, working memory, focus, and the ability to manage emotions. A treatment called cognitive training or brain training can improve these skills, Moore says.

“Cognitive training is engaging in intense, repetitive mental tasks that directly target these skills. If you strengthen these, you will enjoy the benefits of emotional regulation, since this is also an executive function.

It can also help you set boundaries in your life, she says. For example, if you work in an office, stick a no-distractions sign on your door or cubicle when you need extra quiet to focus. Or you can be honest with your boss about your ADHD and ask them to move you to a less busy part of the office so you can be as productive as possible.

Meeting other people with ADHD can also be a great success. “Something amazing happens in support groups,” says Moore. “There’s a powerful therapeutic aspect to the idea that you’re not alone in experiencing something.”

If you’ve been newly diagnosed with adult ADHD, consider talking to your close family and friends. “If you educate your loved ones and they’re able to look at your reactions and say, ‘Hey, it’s because they have ADHD, is that how they react to me?’ maybe they’ll show you a little more grace, says Moore.

Source: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/features/adult-adhd-diagnosis-emotions?src=RSS_PUBLIC