Understanding ADHD: 4 Ways to Support A Loved One

Millions of adults struggle with ADHD. Here's how to be a supportive friend, partner and family member.

Your loved one is scrambling to find their keys in their disorganized bag, and you’re already running late. Or, you’re in the middle of a conversation, and their eyes dart to a passing distraction, leaving you feeling frustrated that you don’t have their full attention.

Supporting a loved one with ADHD can seem difficult, and it’s easy to confuse symptoms of ADHD with laziness or lack of motivation. Patience and understanding are required to maintain peace and happiness in relationships where one person or both have ADHD.

Supporting a friend, spouse, or loved one with ADHD begins with an understanding of what ADHD is and what it is not; understanding is the key to patience. Education and communication will help with your understanding. Biological treatments, whether medication or natural, are available to support adults who are struggling with ADHD symptoms.

 

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Education

You can begin to understand your loved one’s ADHD by educating yourself on the medical definition of ADHD. ADHD is a neurophysiological disorder in which an imbalanced brain triggers erratic behavior. Symptoms of ADHD can be caused by genetics, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, or environmental factors.

The core symptoms of childhood ADHD, including inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, are not identical to adult ADHD symptoms. What is clear from the scientific literature is that the persistence of ADHD from adolescence into adulthood continues for the vast majority, leaving impairments in multiple domains, including occupation, relationships, financial difficulties, and even run-ins with the law.

One of the core symptoms of ADHD, besides inattention and impulsivity, is an internal sense of restlessness and overactivity. ADHD also means a tremendous variability in performance, so work—whether at home or a place of employment—can be inconsistent over time. In one moment, your loved one might be able to accomplish a task on time, and the next moment they may not be able to. The resulting behavioral impairments create tremendous emotional pain for those with ADHD. When we understand ADHD as a neurophysiological disorder, we will be better able to offer our loved ones support. The most important takeaway is that behaviors related to ADHD are not intentional.


Communication

While it may be difficult for loved ones with ADHD to describe exactly how it affects their lives, having a relaxed conversation with them will help your understanding. Pick a time and place where your loved one will be most comfortable talking—a coffee shop, or maybe, more likely, on a walk, or after exercising, and ask them questions about how their ADHD symptoms affect their life. Listen, and then listen some more.

Most ADHD adults are painfully aware of their inadequacies but feel helpless to do anything about them.

Your loved one may describe how their ADHD affects their ability to be on time, to focus on a conversation without interrupting, to keep track of important items, or even causes them to have outbursts of frustration.

If your loved one expresses that they need better ADHD symptom management, I believe the most important information you can share with them is that symptom relief is possible and that there are biological treatments available to support and aid them.


Believe in Biology

Biological treatments include either medications or nutritional interventions that affect the underlying imbalance which is creating some of the difficulty in functioning that many ADHD adults struggle with. Medications can be used and it is an individual’s decision whether to use that option. In addition to medications, there are nutritional and herbal approaches that can be helpful. Every person is unique—both in symptoms and effective treatment. An easy ADHD healing plan is available in my book Finally Focused.

One of the simplest nutritional alternatives I have found for the treatment of ADHD is a medicinal herb called Rhodiola Rosea. It grows in frigid environments in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada. Rhodiola has been used by athletes for many years. Rhodiola comes in 100 mg pills, and it works in the brain by supporting the neurotransmitters that are helpful for attention and mood. Research in this country and internationally prove that those taking Rhodiola have better work performance, improved grades, and less depression. Dosages of Rhodiola vary from 100 mg to 400 mg, and as with all nutritional herbal supplements, you want to have a one to two-month trial before judging efficacy. Rhodiola is not safe for those with bipolar illness.


Take Care of Yourself

Even with all of the education, communication, and understanding in the world, ADHD can still cause tension. I have found that many of the meditation exercises I “prescribe” to my ADHD patients and discuss in Finally Focused also help those around them! The most important first step to supporting someone you love is taking care of yourself.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JAMES GREENBLATT, M.D., is board-certified in both child and adult psychiatry, and has treated thousands of children and adults with ADHD over the past 30 years, using a unique, science-based approach that combines both natural and medical therapeutics. Dr. Greenblatt currently serves as chief medical officer and vice president of medical services at Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, Massachusetts. Dr. Greenblatt is also on the clinical faculty of Tufts Medical School and Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

For more information about Dr. Greenblatt and his book, Finally Focused, visit FinallyFocusedBook.com.

 

Photo Credit: Devonyu/iStock

 

 


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