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1486 results for: "ADHD"

  • ADHD and seasonal affective disorder

    Winter is an important time for kids and adults with ADHD to focus on their mental health. That’s because people with ADHD are more likely than people without ADHD to have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This type of depression gets triggered by a change in the seasons. As the days get shorter, people are exposed to less sunlight. Many people start to feel tired and moody in the fall. These feelings tend to last through the winter. That’s why SAD is often called seasonal depression or winter depression. Shorter days can affect sleep cycles. Many people with ADHD have trouble with sleep year-round. But seasonal changes can make their sleep problems even worse. Sleep affects our brain chemistry. Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep makes it harder to focus the next day. When we don’t get enough sleep, we have less energy and feel more depressed. But the good news is that there are many ways to help. Keep reading to learn why ADHD and seasonal depression are linked — and how better sleep can help manage “the winter blues.”

  • ADHD Aha!

    Hear stories about the single moment when it clicked that a person — or someone they know — has ADHD. Host Laura Key, who’s had her own ADHD “aha” moment, brings you unexpected, emotional, and even funny stories about how ADHD symptoms surface for kids and adults.Comments? Email us at ADHDAha@understood.org.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and the myth of laziness (Rebecca’s story)

    Rebecca is a high achiever who’s always pushed herself to work around and compensate for her ADHD challenges. And yet she still thought she was lazy. Rebecca Phillips Epstein has ADHD. But as with many high-achieving girls, her symptoms were missed early on. Then, during the pandemic, it finally clicked: She discovered a Twitter thread about people who beat themselves up for being lazy when clearly they’re not. Rebecca has always been aware of her challenges — procrastination, being late, and having a million great ideas that never get finished. As a screenplay writer and essayist, she’d overcompensate so no one would be the wiser. Hear how an ADHD diagnosis helped her rethink what she used to call “personality failures” or “laziness.” Also in this episode: How depression treatment before her ADHD diagnosis helped her tread water but never “surf.” Rebecca also talks about her decision to stop breastfeeding her second child in order to stay on her ADHD medication. Related resourcesADHD and the myth of lazinessADHD and the brain8 common myths about ADHDYou can also check out Rebecca's Washington Post article on ADHD medication and breastfeeding. Episode transcriptRebecca: I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a thread written by a woman who talks a lot about ADHD and writes a lot about ADHD. And she said that in her experience, the thing that causes her to pause and suggest to someone that they might want to talk to someone about this is when she hears people describe themselves as lazy when clearly they are not. She wrote, "If you're sitting around thinking that you're lazy, thinking that you're a failure, please allow me to suggest that maybe you're not." And it was like all those years of not understanding myself just suddenly made sense. All of the near-misses and the failures and the frustrations just clicked into place.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Rebecca Phillips Epstein. Rebecca is a screenwriter and essayist who lives in Los Angeles. She's worked on a bunch of shows, including "Roseanne" and "Emily in Paris." She's also written for a variety of publications, like the Washington Post's On Parenting blog. Hi, Rebecca. I'm so glad you're here today.Rebecca: Hi. Thanks for having me.Laura: So let's dive right in, Rebecca. I would love for you to start by telling me when you were diagnosed with ADHD and what was going on in your life at that time.Rebecca: I was diagnosed with ADHD in June of 2020. And what was going on in my life at that time? The majority was what was going on in a lot of people's lives, which was the pandemic had totally changed every aspect of my life and career and family life. I had two young children. One was in his last year of preschool and the other was 6 months old. And in May of 2020, I was on Twitter and stumbled across a thread by a woman named Erynn Brook, who writes a lot about ADHD and neurodivergent brains. And it had been retweeted by a friend of mine. And because I care about this friend and I'm always interested in what they post, I clicked through.And it was a thread talking about speaking to people and helping them realize that they have ADHD. It happens a lot. And that she says when people are talking to her, the things she listens for that makes her say "you might want to talk to somebody about this" is when they tell stories about things they want to do, that they know how to do, that they care a lot about, that they just can't do. And they write themselves off as lazy or terrible people.And she wrote that the thing about lazy people is they don't actually care that they're lazy. They don't care that they're letting people down. They're fine with that pattern, truly lazy people. So if you're sitting around calling yourself lazy because you can't understand why you can't get things done and you're beating yourself up about it, perhaps you're not lazy. Perhaps it's something else. And it was like 30 years of tiny "aha" moments all of a sudden just exploded.I often compare it to at the end of "A Beautiful Mind," when Jennifer Connelly walks into the murder shed and he has all those pictures with the strings connecting everything, and the room starts to spin. That's what it felt like for me, because I had two very close near-misses to getting diagnosed throughout my life. But it hadn't happened. And in this one moment, just this one Twitter thread, I realized, like, it made everything make sense.I immediately emailed my therapist and said, "When I see you in two days, I need to talk about this." And we talked about it and she said, "I think this is undeniable." So I called my psychiatrist. I was incredibly lucky that I had known my psychiatrist for years, because she had treated me for postpartum depression when my oldest was a baby. So we had a long relationship. So when I went in there, I had a shorter diagnostic evaluation because she had years of notes on me and knowledge about my life. And she just said, "Yes. You meet the entire diagnostic checklist. You are a textbook example of how this gets missed in high-achieving girls."And similar to your story, Laura, I was a perfectionist. I fell back on my AP classes, my top 10 university degrees, being 15 minutes early for everything, because if I wasn't 15 minutes early, I was going to be extremely late. I knew what my shortcomings were, and I overcompensated for every single one that I could so that no one would know. Because I knew I wasn't good enough. But there was no good reason why. So I just had to hide it.Laura: Yeah, so you were overcompensating all this time and — but yet feeling like you were lazy. And that's — it's so interesting because one person says one thing in one particular way, and it just clicks. And you had that "Beautiful Mind" moment. So what were you feeling lazy about?Rebecca: Oh, God. Procrastinating everything. Being late on everything. A million terrific ideas that never got finished. You know? And as a writer, writing is hard even for neurotypical writers. It's like the Dorothy Parker quote, "I hate writing, but I love having written." And with ADHD, you never get to the point where you have written. You have the ideas, you know how you want them to be. But getting them out — getting started — is a nightmare. And I came up with some tricks and some tips and deadlines, of course, pressure.But for me throughout my life, I was just always that kid whose paper was a day late. And so all through high school it was, "Oh, my printer didn't work." "I emailed it to you. Didn't you get it?" And things that every teacher knows what that is. And because I was good and smart and accomplished, they let me get away with it. And I never learned that lesson when I was young enough to learn it. And so instead the lesson I learned was that I could get away with it. And it had that effect of me thinking that if I did put in an effort, then it meant that I wasn't good at something. So I had this, like this double bind of I'm naturally gifted, so I shouldn't have to work that hard. But even when I do work as hard as I can, sometimes I can't even produce anything.Laura: Yeah. Yeah.Rebecca: And in graduate school, it just got worse and worse because there was less oversight. I wasn't living with my parents to provide that structure, and so I would just stay up all night and wait. And I would have a paper that really I should have spent two weeks working on, and I would do it in 8 hours. And I would do almost as well as I could. And at the time, of course, I chalked it up to imposter syndrome and fear of failure. And "Oh well, if I work as hard as I can and I don't do well, what does that say about me? So that must be why."You know, there was always another explanation. "Oh, I'm depressed. That's why my house is a mess." And I was treated for depression a couple of times throughout my life. And I remember saying to the psychiatrists who were treating me, "I feel like I'm not drowning anymore, but I don't feel like I'm surfing." Like I'm never ahead of it.Now, looking back, I recognize that that's because I wasn't dealing with a serotonin deficiency. I wasn't dealing with standard depression. I was dealing with a dopamine deficiency, which is different. I was dealing with ADHD and the depressive behaviors that sometimes come with ADHD. So it looked like depression, right?Laura: Yeah. ADHD and depression can kind of mimic each other. Hats off to you for going into a writing career. I know exactly the feeling that you're talking about when — there's a reason that I'm an editor and I'm not a writer. I love when I have produced something — to go back to your Dorothy Parker quote — but getting there is just impossible. But I'm really fast when I can edit something.Rebecca: I didn't start out as a writer. I sort of tried to do everything, but — and when I look back, it's like, I don't know how I missed it because in college I did improv. I didn't do sketch in graduate school. I went to theater school, but not for playwriting, for dramaturgy. And the job of a dramaturg is to basically read drafts and give notes. To sit next to a director and just say thoughts to them. The job was immediate. It was very in the moment. A lot of the job was sitting and bouncing thoughts around and bringing my sort of academic background into a rehearsal room, which could be done live in the moment.And I noticed that I always thrived in environments where the only prep was being really smart or being really competent, and where the actual work was something I could do live — where it wasn't about homework, it wasn't about preparing, it was about showing up prepared. And that the bulk of the work was happening in the immediate sense. So there was no way to procrastinate. You know, I instinctively chose this path that leaned into my skills as a person with ADHD and where I could be creative but be in the moment.But when I moved to Los Angeles, I started working at a talent agency as an assistant. And a lot of the job was making phone calls, managing calendars, sending materials. And my boss has had upwards of 50 clients who all had submissions going out, who all had meetings to attend that I had to schedule. And everything gets rescheduled a million times. So there were hundreds and hundreds of emails every day and dozens of packets that had to go out. And so much to keep track of. And I recognized very quickly — this is pre-diagnosis — that I was going to forget everything unless I figured out a way to not allow myself to. So I created this enormous tracking spreadsheet where every single step had its own — put the email together, send the email, get response to email, check with my boss about response. Follow up with the same.Laura: Reminder to check the spreadsheet.Rebecca: But it was like every single step of like receive email, reply to email, was its own step, right? Everything so that I would know what step I was at and what I needed to do. And then I structure my day of, in the morning and the afternoon, there were 45 minutes where I would go down and see what can be followed up on. Where am I at? What have I left hanging? And this spreadsheet was so useful to me during the busy times of year that I — people started asking me for it. Other assistants in the department. And I am told that years later it's still a thing that assistants use in staffing season so that they don't lose track of things. Now, I had a pile of six months of contracts to be filed that I kept under my desk that nobody knew about. And then when I left the agency, the person who took over for me just had to do it as part of her training.Laura: Oh, my gosh. Rebecca, that is like some intense coping mechanisms there, but I'm really glad that it worked out for you and that now it's helping other folks at the company.Rebecca: Everybody knows what that's like to lose track of things, to forget things, to be overwhelmed. And it's not like these systems wouldn't help someone who's neurotypical, you know. And I think that's part of — they know that's part of — what's so tricky with ADHD is that all of the symptoms taken on their own are common. Everybody forgets things. Everybody loses things. Everybody interrupts people. Says things they shouldn't. But it's how much of it are you doing? Can you stop it? And how much of an impact is it having on your ability to live your life the way you want to?Laura: Right. That's something I talk about with a lot of guests is the ubiquity of the signs and how that leads to so much like excuse-making. Sure, everybody struggles with it every once in a while, but like the severity and the frequency with which you struggle is huge. But because they're such common things, people tend to blame themselves. Again, going back to the laziness thing, I'm just being lazy. Or I should just — I just need to try harder. Or I didn't exercise today or whatever.Rebecca: And before I knew why, it was very difficult to make changes. Because if the only reason that I had for why I was doing these things was personality failures, then I couldn't solve it, right? Because if it's just, oh, this is just who I am and I am a failure. I'm lazy. I'm weird. I have a hard time making friends. I am obnoxious in group settings. You know, if it's just me, if I'm just terrible, then there's nothing to be done. And it was really not until after the diagnosis that I could give myself that grace of like, let's look at this a different way. Which I had not been able to do my whole life.And an example I talk about a lot is like vacuuming the floor. I, like many people, especially people with ADHD, housekeeping and cleaning is impossible. Because it's drudgery. It's not fun. There are so many steps, and I'd rather be doing other things. And for some reason, vacuuming was really the one that bothered me the most — that I could not make myself do. So I just would sit there after I put my kids to bed and watch the chunks of mac and cheese just drying on the carpet, going, "I have to vacuum. I have to do it. Just get up and do it." And I wouldn't. And I just wouldn't. And I would think, "Oh, I'm like, I'm a piece of shit. I'm a piece of shit. That's the only possible reason." And then after the diagnosis, it was OK. I have been spending years and years trying to force myself to vacuum because that was the only solution I could come up with to the problem of I don't vacuum. But the real problem is my floor is not clean, my carpets are not clean.So if I say like, let's just assume I'm never going to be a person who vacuums. Let's assume that my ADHD will never allow me to vacuum. Because what's really hard about it is the number of steps. The vacuum cleaner is like in a closet behind the garbage can in my small kitchen. So I have to move the garbage can, open the closet, take it out, unwind the cord, plug it in, move the table, move the chairs, push the thing around. It's like 15 steps and it's really annoying.So I said, "OK, so what if I'm never going to do this? Do I have to vacuum or do I have to have a clean floor?" And I bought a Dustbuster and it sits on a stand on the bookcase within arm's reach of my chair at the dining — I don't even have to get up. So now my floor is clean because I asked a different question. The fact that I couldn't even give myself permission to say "Maybe I should do this a different way" — that's one of the hardest parts of living with undiagnosed ADHD is, I think, the pressure you put on yourself to do things the same way everybody else does. Because you don't have, or I didn't have, a good enough reason to make those accommodations for myself.Laura: Exactly. The way that you described laziness was really important, because I don't like when people are critics of ADHD, say, OK, we're just making an excuse for laziness here. Because to your point earlier, it's not real laziness that we're talking about. We're not talking about we're not giving a damn about doing the things. Like there's a deep care — like you want your floor clean. You really genuinely care. You just could not get to it for whatever reason. I think that that's really interesting and important.Last time we chatted, you mentioned that when you were 7 you were almost diagnosed with ADHD. I would love to hear what was happening at that time.Rebecca: So I was in the second grade and I have no memory of this, so I'm kind of cobbling together what my parents told me. I have no memory of any of this, and I didn't find out about it till I was in my early 20s. But from what I understand, I was doing like a fine job in second grade grades-wise. And my teacher called my parents and said some version of "Rebecca is having more trouble in my class and she should given how smart she is. You might want to get her evaluated for ADHD." And so they took me to the pediatrician, who was like this old-school Manhattan pediatrician, who evaluated me and said unequivocally, "She does not have this. She is reading at a sixth-grade level. She can sit still and color for hours. Like that's not ADHD. Sounds like she's just bored and the teacher needs to work harder."Laura: Well, bored might have been true.Rebecca: For sure.Laura: Yeah, that's — again, ADHD is not related to intelligence.Rebecca: So I went back to school. And what I do remember is that I started meeting weekly with this teacher, and she created a chart for me. And every week there were check-ins of how I was doing on the different markers that would show up on the report card. From what I remember, it was more about just finishing everything, you know, and staying on task and not letting myself get distracted by other things. And so what she was doing was the kind of behavior modification that we know works now.And my grades improved. And it's funny, the reward. My parents said, if you get — I don't even remember what it was — you know, all satisfactory pluses, I was going to get a Game Boy. And I did it, and I got my Game Boy, and the game that was on it was Tetris. Which is kind of an amazing metaphor for what the 30 years that followed that were like. Because, you know, as you're playing Tetris, it starts out with the blocks are falling slowly, you have the whole screen to work with, and you turn them to make lines. And as the levels get higher and higher, they start to fall faster. And when you're not able to make straight lines, then you have less space to work with. Right?I was so smart at like the game of Tetris in life. But even though my pieces were falling so fast and I had so little space to work with, I was beating level after level. I did it! But I knew it was harder for me than other people. And if I'm supposed to be this smart, why is this hard for me? And what I didn't realize was that, like, my game was busted. Like other people had more space to work with. Their pieces were not falling as fast. And I was holding myself to the same standards that everybody else was. But I was working with a totally different system.Laura: Shout-out to that teacher, by the way. She sounds fantastic.Rebecca: Mrs. Bronsky, if you're listening, she really was my favorite. Mrs. Bronsky. She was just a sweet, gorgeous, funny. I loved her. But she saw it. She saw and she believed in me. And she built my confidence. She didn't punish me for these things. She found a way to reach me, which was really special, and it really made that year possible for me.Laura: So I really like this Tetris analogy. I love the way that your brain works. It's a very visual, creative image, and it's helping me understand, like, the pieces of your life, actually, as we listen to it. So at that point then, you're in your 20s, and they're like, "Well, it wasn't a thing." So you're like, "OK, bye. Bye, ADHD."But then you have your second child. It sounds like it just started storming Tetris pieces at that point. And not all of the "ADHD Aha!" listeners are going to maybe be as interested, but I would ask that they try to be interested in this aspect of it, because it's very interesting to me as a mom who breastfed. I believe you were breastfeeding your second child and you were at the same time like getting evaluated and diagnosed with ADHD — and potentially going on medication. So I would love for you to talk me through your thought process.Rebecca: You know, the recommendation that my obstetrician and my psychiatrist at the time made was to avoid it. Because the way that it is described is it should only be taken if the benefits to the parent outweigh the potential risks to the infant. And so for most people who are breastfeeding and have ADHD, it's like who would say that any potential risk to your baby is worth it? I mean, I went through that moment of like, well, I've suffered for 30 years without meds. Surely I can do six more months to get to a year.Laura: Get to a year of breastfeeding, you mean?Rebecca: Yeah, because with my oldest, I had done 14 months. It was not always easy, but it was easy-ish, you know? And it was because I had terrible postpartum depression with my oldest. Breastfeeding felt like a thing I could do. So I was like, I was going to do one thing well. And with my second, I did not have postpartum depression, like, at all. So for the first three months of his life, pre-pandemic, I was like, I love being a mom of two kids. Like, this is going well for me. I'm good at this. I am managing this in a way that I never could before. I had found a rhythm that works. I finally felt like I was getting the hang of it.And then the pandemic and everything shut down. And it was emotional overwhelm and a totally different schedule. And everybody was trapped in a thousand square foot apartment and all the things that have happened to so many people. So then when I got diagnosed and the question arose of what was I going to do? Sidebar: I would certainly recommend that any listeners speak to their doctors about the risks, about the benefits. And this conversation seems to be evolving. But at the time that I was diagnosed, it was presented to me as rather binary.And I will say that my psychiatrist was very flexible in that she said, you know, there might be a way to take short-acting medication and kind of pump and dump around it and minimize the risk as much as possible. But the amount of pumping I had to do before I took the 4 hours of medication, and then the pumping and dumping I had to do during to keep my supply up, and then after to get rid of any residual meds. And then I still had to feed him. Within a month of trying to do this, it became obvious that this was not going to work.First of all, I was miserable. And the whole time I was on the meds I was spending attached to a breast pump. And the difference for me, the first time I took the medication was so immediate and so obvious. You know, I compare it to like the first time you get on an airplane and put on noise-canceling headphones and all of a sudden you realize just how loud it was. You had no idea. And within 30 minutes of taking my very first dose of short-acting medication, I walked into the living room where my husband was sitting and I said, I'm going to have to quit breastfeeding. I am — there is no — I cannot not feel this way. I cannot — I feel normal. I feel quiet. I can't go back. This is — there's no way. I can't. No way.Laura: Clearly, you made a very informed decision. You did your research. You know, you did what was best for both you and for your baby. Like, if you're not in good shape, then how can you care for a child? And I'm curious about any feelings that came with that. Because we put so much pressure on moms to breastfeed. And then there's — you've got the shame feelings maybe around ADHD, and then the shame feelings around mom. I mean, did that just like concoct into like a cauldron of, like, crazy shame?Rebecca: At first, it was torturous getting him to take a bottle even of pumped milk at first. And there was this part of me that was going, "Why am I doing this to him? How can I be doing this to him just so that I can, like, have an easier time remembering where I put my keys down? That's not fair. It's not fair to him." But also because of what my constellation of symptoms are, my issues with emotional regulation and getting overwhelmed. I mean, all parents get overwhelmed, right? So when you already have an issue with getting overwhelmed and your go-to response is anger and freak-outs, which mine was, marriages suffer. Parent-child relationships suffer. And if it was me and a baby in a vacuum, that would be one thing. But it was me and a baby and a 5-year-old who had had everything taken from him. He was about to go to kindergarten. His fifth birthday was March 10th, 2020, and so his was the first birthday party that was canceled.So, OK, even if breastfeeding is what makes you a good mother, which it's not, but let's go with that for a second. Let's say breastfeeding makes you a good mother, OK? To a baby. But I had two kids. And I had to be a good mother to both of them. And on my meds, I am a better mother to both of them in the day-to-day activities of being a mother. Breastfeeding is a very passive, often, activity, which is wonderful when it works. But there is so much else that happens during the course of the day.And my oldest was old enough to remember. He knew what was going on and he needed me. And the bar for what I needed to do every day had gotten higher, because I needed to be able to shift between virtual schooling and infant care and dealing with our financial issues. Because my husband and I both work in TV and film and the whole industry was shut down. There was so much going on that required not just my active attention, but for me to be really at my best. And also I had already been breastfeeding for six months. That's a long time. I made it a long time.Laura: You did! Kudos to you.Rebecca: It just really wasn't a choice.Laura: I love when smart, strong women make thoughtful choices about what's best, not just for the people in their lives that they take care of, but also what's best for themselves. Because that ultimately makes us better mothers, better friends, better co-workers. So I think that it's really beautiful how you've navigated your diagnosis and motherhood. I mean, there's — you've got so much going on and you are, like, you're thriving. You're like a badass lady out there in L.A., let me say. So, I mean, cheesiest thing I've ever said.Rebecca: I mean, you know, I think so. And I think knowing that it's genetic and knowing that there is a high chance that one or both of my kids will have it, I've been able to lay that groundwork of — well, my youngest is young to understand. But my oldest, I told him about my diagnosis. I told him what it means. I told him how it shows up in my life.He knows I take medication. And I said, "It's kind of like how I wear glasses. I can't see as far as other people. I wear my glasses and I can. My brain can't organize itself the same way other people's can. I take my medication and it's easier." So that if and when the day comes, when that becomes his story, he will not see it as something being bad or wrong. He will see it as, oh, everybody has things about themselves that are harder for them than they are for other people. And maybe this is mine, and mine happens to have a name, but that doesn't mean it's worse or bad, it just is.And so it's been not just a gift to me in my parenting that I now know myself better and am more capable, you know, and mostly calmer. But it's been a gift to me that I get to consciously pass those things along to my children — however their brains are organized — and give them permission to do things in a way that works for them.Laura: That's beautiful. It really is. And I'm going to carry that with me when I go home and see my kids this afternoon. So. Rebecca, thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it.Rebecca: Thank you for having me. I loved talking to you. I mean, this type of conversation was life-changing for me in my own journey. So I'm so thrilled to be a part of it.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.Jessamine: Hi, everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. Margie DeSantis provides editorial support. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. And I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening. 

  • ADHD and oversharing

    At some point in their lives, most people accidentally share some information they probably shouldn’t have shared. It might be embarrassing small talk or something private about someone else. But for many people with ADHD, “oversharing” can be a more frequent problem. Oversharing is saying something personal or inappropriate in the wrong setting or to the wrong person. It’s usually not something people with ADHD do on purpose. Sometimes they may not realize they’re giving too much information or saying the wrong thing. Or they might not be able to stop and check themselves before they say it.Trouble with oversharing happens for different reasons. People may have trouble with executive function skills like impulse control. Or they may have trouble with social skills and low self-esteem. Kids might overshare to get attention or to look cool.There are ways to avoid oversharing and manage the symptoms that may cause it. 

  • The Opportunity Gap

    Kids of color who have ADHD and other common learning differences often face a double stigma. But there’s a lot that families can do to address the opportunity gap in our communities. Host Julian Saavedra is a father of two. He's also an assistant principal who has spent nearly 20 years working in public schools. Join Saavedra as he talks with parents and experts and offers tips to help you advocate for your child. Comments? Email us at opportunitygap@understood.org.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, loving intensely, and impulsivity (Ange’s story)

    An ADHD diagnosis helped Ange Nolan understand her intense romantic relationships and career hopping. Find out what led to her ADHD evaluation. Ange Nolan once suspected she had ADHD, but she was dismissed by her doctor. Years later, she saw an ADHD iceberg infographic and related to almost every ADHD symptom it listed — including forgetting to use the bathroom. That’s when she decided it was time to approach a different doctor about ADHD.After getting diagnosed with ADHD last year, Ange realized how it had been affecting her many romantic relationships. She’d crave the chaos of an intense connection and become a “chameleon” who fixated on her partner’s interests and happiness — until burning out. Hear how Ange’s ADHD diagnosis helped her notice her own patterns, including hopping impulsively from one career to another. And stay tuned for a mini “aha” moment from host Laura Key on why she likes to be alone so much.Related resourcesADHD and emotionsUnderstanding impulsivityADHD and marriage (Rachel and Jon’s story)Episode transcriptAnge: So the ADHD iceberg infographic that's floating around social media. I was reading it, and I was able to check off almost everything on there. But the one thing that really stood out to me was the line that says "forgets to eat and go to the bathroom." And I thought maybe somebody can relate to almost all of these at some point in their life. But there are not going to be a lot of people that can honestly say that they struggle with forgetting to go to the bathroom. Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. I'm here today with Ange Nolan. Ange is a listener who wrote in, and she's an account manager with a landscaping company in Southern Illinois. Ange got diagnosed with ADHD last year. Let's get started by talking about the visual that was the source of your ADHD "aha" moment. Tell our listeners what that visual is and where you saw it, what was happening, what did you think?Ange: Yeah. Laura: Go ahead. Ange: Sure. So my cousin's daughter had shared on Facebook this infographic of an iceberg of what ADHD looks like. And of course, it's the inattentive and the hyperactivity and the fidgeting. But then the whole underneath part of the iceberg that covers so many things that people don't really realize we struggle with with ADHD, and it's never really talked about in formal ADHD conversations. But I was reading through it and I was able to check off all of those things, and there were like maybe 20 to 25 things on there. Laura: So for people who are listening, you can look this up online. It's the ADHD iceberg. I'm not sure where it came from, but it's a really interesting graphic that shows — the top of the iceberg is basically the visible symptoms of ADHD. And as Ange mentioned, that's trouble focusing and fidgeting and hyperactivity, right? And then there are all these other signs and symptoms underneath the surface in like the bottom part of the iceberg under the water. And there was one in particular that really resonated with you. Ange: Yes, I was I was kind of connecting some of them, like, OK, well, maybe other people might experience some of these issues in their lives. But the one that really struck me was "forgets to go to the bathroom and eat." And I was like, no normal, quote unquote, normal person is going to be like, oh, yeah, I forget to go to the bathroom all the time. Whereas I'm like, I always forget to go to the bathroom until I cannot forget anymore. And then like, you know, so I was telling my husband about it and he said, "How do you forget to go to the bathroom?" OK, well. See? I have justified that no normal person is going to be like, "Oh, yeah, I forget to go to the bathroom." Laura: I'm sure it's led you to some, like, literally uncomfortable situations? Ange: Right. Yeah. Laura: That forgetfulness that sometimes comes with with ADHD and executive function challenges. So, you were seeing a therapist at that time, is that right? Ange: I have been seeing my therapist for probably four years. Five years maybe. And yeah, so I brought it up to her and she was like, "Oh yeah. Well, when we talked about how you collect hobbies but you don't do the hobbies, I kind of had an idea that you might be experiencing some ADHD issues." And so — and maybe she was trying to hint at it with me and I dismissed it very quickly in our relationship because I — I did approach my primary care doctor in my 20s and asked him if I could have ADHD, and it got dismissed relatively quickly. Laura: So just to clarify the timeline, you were diagnosed last year, in 2021. And that's around the time that you saw this iceberg graphic. Then you talked to your therapist about it. So before that, you had an inkling. Tell me about that. Ange: Yeah, and it's kind of embarrassing, but I was in a relationship and I was having a lot of issues focusing just on anything in general and kind of turning off all of those windows in my brain on command. And I was struggling at that time, where I was having intimacy issues with my partner in that I couldn't be in the moment with him. And all of these thoughts were constantly flooding my brain all the time. And so even whenever there should be nothing really going on in my mind, I was having those kinds of problems. And so I approached my doctor and I said, "Hey, you know, this is happening. It's affecting my life in general, in all aspects. But where I really find it hard to believe that this is acceptable is when I'm trying to be intimate with my partner and I can't turn off my brain." And so instead of going through, you know, the checklist and asking questions, he was like, "Well, here's a medication, try this and see if it helps." And I don't know what the medication was. I took it once and it made me feel kind of like I was on speed. And so I stopped taking it. And when I told him that, he was like, "Oh, well, then you don't have ADHD, if that was your reaction to this medication." And like, that was the end. Laura: That doesn't sound like a very thoughtful treatment plan. Ange: No. And I was like, well, that's a very risky game to play. Laura: Yeah. Yeah, that's concerning, because, sure, medication doesn't work for everybody, but there's trial and error. Ange: Yes. So obviously, I do not see the same primary care person that I saw in my 20s. So I approached my doctor about it, and so he did the evaluation. You know, we talked about the checklist and, you know, I checked all the boxes and so we started treatment with different stimulants. I noticed it was like a calm in my mind, to where I felt like I was finally in control of myself. But that whole journey has been a struggle because it's constant trial and error and dosages, and which kind of is going to be the better kind to interact, you know, and all those chemical imbalances. And so that's been a hard path to walk because it wasn't just a simple, easy fix. Laura: Let's talk about this iceberg. Some of the other symptoms are challenges that are listed underneath the surface. There are things like difficulty maintaining relationships, spending money irresponsibly, losing items all the time, and also, of course, poor impulse control. I'm curious if any of these are resonating with you. Ange: Oh, yeah, 100%. Like, and even looking back, I am just flabbergasted how nobody had picked up on this at any other time. Like, I went to school to be a teacher and I started working toward my master's degree in special education. And so even myself, like I studied special education, which ADHD was a chapter in that. And I worked with kids with learning disabilities and behavior disorders. Whenever I got out of college, that was my first teaching job. And so it just blows my mind how — how many scaffolded masks I've put on to where I didn't recognize some of the more obvious symptoms and how clueless it seems like everybody else was around me. Laura: I mean, that's partially why the show is called "ADHD Aha!" Sometimes it just hits you like a ton of bricks. And it's maybe been building under the surface for — yeah, no pun intended with the iceberg — but like these little moments of recognition kind of building under the surface and then it takes that conversation or, for you, that visual for it to come together. So let's start with career. You're no longer a teacher, is that right? Ange: Correct. Yeah. So now I work in landscaping, which — it's fun because I'm learning something completely new. It's a little bit of inside and outside. And I have different clients and the pace is constantly changing, so it's keeping my interest without overwhelming me. And so I feel like at this stage in my life, it's checking some of the boxes that I have not been able to with other jobs that I've had. I always used to think that I wish that I could live seven lives because there are so many different things that I want to do. Laura: I think the term you used when we chatted last was "career swapping." Have you had other jobs in between education and where you are now? Can you just maybe do a list of other jobs that you've had? Ange: Sure. So if I'm categorizing careers, it would be retail management and teaching and then this, you know, customer service oriented career, like what I'm doing now as an account manager — you know, working hand in hand with clients. Laura: In any of these cases, did you ever start a job before you were maybe ready to start that job? Ange: Yeah. Laura: No judgment. I'm just curious. Ange: I'm pretty sure that I do almost everything before I'm 100% ready. I think if I were ever 100% ready to do something, I'd probably back out before I hit 100%. Laura: Very well stated, Ange. You told me last time we chatted that you've been married multiple times and engaged multiple times as well. Ange: Yes. So when I was reflecting about this yesterday, I think that it's important also to add that I started dating — like a serious relationship — when I was 15, and that lasted about two years. And there is no amount of time that I can say that I've been single in my life longer than six months maybe. So from 15 to I'm now 40. That's a lot of time spent focusing on another person. And my relationship that I'm in now is the longest relationship I've had by far. And we're about to hit seven years. And that's one of the things that made me so angry. Whenever I saw that iceberg and realized that this is my life and this is what I've been struggling with, that was where my brain went first was how angry I was that it wasn't caught beforehand and I couldn't have been made aware of some of those under-the-iceberg issues that I would be dealing with. Because had I known, then I feel like those are things that I could have watched out for, for myself, and kept myself out of getting into some of those those situations. Because I would impulsively get into a relationship. You know, we — whenever we are attracted to something, we're attracted 100%. Just like when I collect hobbies. I want to do this now and I'm going to go out and buy all of this stuff. And so whenever there is a person that I feel connected to, then I'm all in and I'm going to focus 100% of my time on that person. And it almost becomes like an obsession or an addiction. Like we're very much focused on building that relationship with somebody to a deficit, because then we're not looking out for any warning signs. We're not really paying attention to what we want for ourselves. And my parents have always told me that I'm like a chameleon whenever I'm in a relationship with somebody, because I instantly am interested in their hobbies and I'm interested in what they have going on in their lives — to where I don't really know what I would want for myself. And one of my marriages was to somebody who deployed, and I lived out of state and I had no family and no friends. And that was the first time in my life I've ever been able to sit with myself and truly learn who I was. And that was a very freeing moment. I think that's probably one of the best years of my life. And it didn't really go so well for that relationship. Laura: Was that your first marriage? Ange: Yes. Yeah. And coincidentally, he was my first boyfriend. So we had broken up in high school and then got back together 10 years later. So at that point, it was kind of like, hey, society says that I need to be married and I should have kids. And he's my high school sweetheart. And I know a lot of people who have married their high school sweethearts. And so it was kind of like, oh, this is — this is it. I'm doing the Disney fairy tale for myself. And so we got married very quickly. And that's kind of the beginning of the end. Laura: And you're in your third marriage right now. Is that right? Ange: Yeah. Laura: And you mentioned you had been engaged a few times as well. Ange: Yes. Laura: So a lot of intense relationships. A lot of quick relationships. Ange: I don't necessarily regret the fact that I have loved people very intensely. It's bad for both parties whenever, you know, on the surface, everything seems great. And so you're following that like an adrenaline rush or that instant dopamine high. And so then it's something that you try to keep building on no matter what it is that we're doing. I keep thinking back to the whole hobbies thing. But also if I'm not good at something, then I don't have that drive to continue. And so if I feel like that compatibility isn't being matched by my partner, then it gets to a point where I'm like, OK, well, I'm wasting my time now. Because I don't foresee me continuing to give 100% in this when that return on investment isn't there at that same level. And my level obviously has been very intense. Laura: So it sounds like there was a hyperfixation on this other person, but also on the things that they were interested in. Is that accurate? Ange: Right. Like just changing music — the taste of music. And different movies. And I dated a guy that was into hockey. And so I wanted to immerse myself as much as I could. And in learning about hockey and going to his games — and I'm not a sports person. Like it has to be very intense for it to hold my attention. And so trying those things on and feeling like, OK, I can make this fit, but then after a while it's not fitting, right? And then I'm finally like, OK, I'm resigning myself to this isn't what I actually like. But at the same time, I've collected a lot of different things here and there that I find, had I not been in those situations, I would not have been exposed to. So while I may have been becoming a chameleon to that person, I still kept a little bit of that color for myself. Laura: How would the relationships typically end? I just wonder, was there an element of burnout from both parties, from you, from the other? Ange: A few of my relationships have ended mutually, where it was kind of either like a crash and burn on both of our parts. Or I remember one of my boyfriends told me that I was crazy and like he was out, and so I definitely remember the ending to that. But most of them have been where I've gotten to a point of burnout from being so hyperfixated on somebody else's happiness. And that wasn't being reciprocated. And I just I couldn't do it anymore. It got to a point where I thought, OK, I need to do what's healthy for me. And I spent so much time giving everything I have to this person. And one of my husbands was cheating on me in that relationship. We had a lot of like passion and it was like a hurricane all the time. And I feel like I live very comfortably in chaos. And so while the rest of the world around me was like, Angela, why are you continually putting yourself in a position where you're dealing with this stuff? And why are you sitting here talking about how you think that your husband's cheating on you when you've had this feeling since you guys started dating? Like, why? Why continue to put yourself in that position? And it was just like I was drawn to that. I was drawn to, you know, the chaos of all of it, until finally I was like, this is not going to be the rest of my life. Laura: I'm sorry. And it makes my blood boil when I hear about people calling people crazy. I mean, yes, in quotes, it really does, especially, you know, a man calling a woman crazy. But in all circumstances, it's really not OK. And you're clearly not crazy. And I also want to just say that I really empathize and relate to a lot of what you're saying. I mean, that hurricane that you describe is — it's intense and it has, like, there's fallout afterwards, right? There's damage that is left in its wake, but there's something so enticing and exciting about it. Ange: Yeah. And it's that you're creating that tornado for yourself, that hurricane, because that's where you are able to sit still finally, is in that kind of madness that you're building. And without understanding these concepts that lie under the surface of ADHD, I don't think that we're properly able to work through some of those issues and build the right techniques to deal with them effectively. Laura: So how are you doing now in your current relationship? Does your husband know that you have ADHD? Ange: Yes. Yeah, he does. Laura: Does that help that he has knowledge of it? Ange: I think so. I think that having some of the conversations with him, working through some of those under-the-iceberg things, being able to say, look, this is — this is what I'm dealing with. And I've had him listen to a couple of the podcast episodes. The episode where one of your guests was talking about how she and her wife are both ADHD and they both do things differently as far as organizing in the house. And like, she lives in clutter and her partner lives in extreme organization. And I'm like, this is me. This is why I can't ever feel like I'm getting things done as far as like chores or organizing things. Because I'm just zooming around doing stuff and nothing is done. I'm getting like a hundred things 10% done, but nothing is ever 100% done. And so I think having somebody that I can verbalize those issues with in real time and work through my thoughts on those has helped both of us to kind of be like, OK, well, this is really what's going on. But also he's very patient with me, and I feel like he's the first person that I've had in my life that I can truly be myself. Where before I've masked a lot of things with my partners, and I've been so focused on trying to be like them or be the things that they like, that I didn't let them see who I actually was. It's been a blessing to have somebody that I feel that comfortable with. Laura: I really relate to you in a lot of ways. We're the same age. I was diagnosed — you were diagnosed more recently than I was. But nonetheless, it is such a journey. I've done a lot of looking back on like, God, why didn't anybody stop me? I've had impulsivity in relationships. I've — I understand that hurricane, tornado, and the appeal of it and the damage that it can cause as well. I just — I think your story is really beautiful, and I'm just so grateful for your candor. Ange: Thank you. It's been like I've thought I'm just a terrible person and I have these weird, neurotic behaviors that make me very high maintenance. You know, I feel like I'm so extra all the time, and maybe I'm just a bitch and nobody can be around me because I'm so self-destructive — to coming to this place where I feel like, oh, my gosh, I'm at ground zero finally. And I get to see what this is. And it's made me mad. It's made me happy to finally figure it out. It's made me cry a lot. But I just wish that as we continue to bring more light to it, that more and more people will be able to say, "Oh, wait, me too." You know, have their own "aha" moment and not have to struggle 30 years to figure things out. Because there could have been so many things that would have happened differently and I wouldn't feel so behind or insufficient in otherwise. Laura: I hope that when this episode comes out that you'll listen to it and hear what I'm hearing. That's just how clear-headed and clearly not, quote unquote, crazy. And not a bitch. Just a kind, smart, thoughtful person who's had experiences and is now kind of coming out of some of the more intense experiences and able to look back at them. Kind of similar to how, I don't know, maybe listening to — Jeannie's story was the one that you were referencing. Sharing that with your husband. Maybe there's some imposter syndrome, because we've — as people with ADHD, kind of, we look back and we're like, "Oh, I did this this weird thing," or "I'm so neurotic" or "I'm so angry" or whatever. Ange: Yeah, that imposter syndrome. Laura: Yeah, that's a killer. Ange: Yeah. Especially if you're diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. And then you're like, "Oh my gosh, am I just pretending? Am I — do I really have ADHD?" I'm like, oh my God, it's working against me. Like, the imposter syndrome is making me feel like an imposter. And then the other thing I wanted to add, too, when we are talking about your other guests, you had a guest on and I don't know if he brought it up or if you brought it up. But it was the ICNU: interest, challenge, novelty, urgency. And I feel like that heavily applies in relationships as well, because if you're not checking those four boxes as a person with ADHD, I feel like you default to like, OK, I'm bored, I'm out. And that is a dangerous thing that puts us in some pretty careless and reckless positions if we're not careful. Laura: That's really insightful. That was Scott's story and yeah, I remember that acronym. I hadn't thought about how it might apply to relationships, but yeah, you're right. That's really true. Are there other things that you wanted to talk about that you feel like are really important? Ange: I like, have this whole — I have like five pages that are like look at all these things that are running through my head at 11:00 at night. Ange: There is one thing that, you know, has started coming to the surface, I feel pretty recently. And that's diagnosing ADHD and looking at that hyperactivity aspect. Because I feel like I have the inattentive and I have the hyperactivity. With my new career, I have spent a lot of time in cars with associates driving around to their properties and explaining things to me, and the amount of masking that I've noticed I've had to do being, quote unquote, normal, sitting still in someone else's car and not propping one foot up in my seat and drumming along with music or belting out tunes to try to hold my attention. By the end of the day, I would be wiped out when I got home, because I had to restrain that energy so much and put this mask on that it zapped. It was like draining my battery so fast. And looking at all of the stuff as it's coming at me, realizing how often have we been doing this our whole lives and we didn't notice. And it's crazy to me how fast it trains you to be so inauthentic in that manner where you have to wear a mask and do the proper thing instead of the thing that makes you comfortable, so that you can really be in the present moment. Laura: Yeah, totally. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. It's funny, I — you're making me realize why I like to be alone so much. I haven't thought about it that way. People always say, "Oh, do you want to walk over with me" if we're walking from one place? No, I want to walk by myself. I want to go at my pace, I'm going to do my things. "Oh, do you want to — do you want to get to ride with me?" No, no. I want to be on my own. And it's not a solitary thing. I enjoy being around other people, but I just don't — I just have all these little things that I want to do with my body all the time, that I don't want to have to not do them because I feel like I'll crawl out of my skin. And you're giving me an "aha" moment. This is why I like to be alone so much. Ange: Yeah. And we're very empathic people, I think. And I used to think that that was just it. Maybe I'm just empathic and I'm like, wait, that's it's synonymous with having ADHD because we are constantly observing and paying attention to what's going around us and like — so we are absorbing this energy from other people. We're picking up on their cues and all of that stimulation and that hyperfocus on your surrounding — it drains the batteries so fast. It's having all of those windows open and you don't realize that it's taking everything from you until you're at the end of the day. You're just like, I can't be around another person and, like, I have to refuel myself. Laura: Ange, really, you're so great. Thank you so much for being here with me and for taking the time. And thank you for listening and for writing in. Ange: Yeah, I love it. I love it. I feel like we could do maybe 10 of these episodes and be able to go through a good majority of the five pages of stuff that's surrounding me. There's so, there's so much to talk about. And I love it. You know, every day is a new self-discovery. Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDaha@Understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at Understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine! Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

  • ADHD and diet

    For years, parents have had questions about diet plans for ADHD. Sometimes they ask whether kids with ADHD should avoid certain foods. And researchers have been looking into the topic for decades.But the picture of whether changes in diet, such as reducing sugar or adding supplements, can benefit kids with ADHD (also known as ADD) still isn’t clear. Here’s what we do and don’t know about ADHD and diet.Supplementing your child’s dietWhat you may hear: Some people claim kids with ADHD have lower levels of vitamins and minerals in their blood. So the theory is that giving kids certain vitamins may lessen their ADHD symptoms. There are also claims that herbal supplements are a safer, “natural” alternative to traditional ADHD medication.The reality: There’s no evidence that kids with ADHD are lacking in vitamins and minerals in their blood. If a child does have deficiencies, supplements may correct that issue. But research doesn’t show that this will impact ADHD symptoms. There’s also no solid research showing that herbal supplements can treat ADHD. The most effective treatment for ADHD is still prescription medication.At the same time, research has shown that some kids with ADHD have low levels of omega fatty acids. These fatty acids help with brain function. When study participants with ADHD were given omega supplements (like fish oil), a small improvement in symptoms was seen in them.What to keep in mind: A supplement may be “natural,” but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, and they can have side effects. Some may even make ADHD medications less effective. Omegas can also have side effects, like upset stomach and blood thinning. And not all kids with ADHD have omega deficiencies.If you suspect these deficiencies, talk to your child’s health care provider. A lab can test your child’s blood levels.Read more about supplements and ADHD.Eliminating sugar and other foodsWhat you may hear: Some people claim kids with ADHD should avoid certain foods. For instance, you may hear that chemical food dyes, additives, and sugar can make kids hyperactive. Or that gluten may make kids with ADHD less attentive. The idea is that cutting out foods that contain these ingredients can relieve ADHD symptoms.The reality: There’s no evidence to support the idea that eliminating certain foods has a direct impact on ADHD symptoms. But there is a connection between food reactions and kids with ADHD.Kids with ADHD are more likely to be sensitive or allergic to specific foods. When they eat those foods, they often have a negative reaction. They may feel tired, itchy, nauseated, or anxious. And that can make it harder than usual for them to focus or control their emotions.Cutting those foods may make kids feel physically better. That in turn may make their ADHD symptoms seem less severe. But it’s not that eliminating foods actually lessens ADHD symptoms.All kids benefit from reducing how much sugar they eat and drink. But limiting sugar is an especially good idea for kids with ADHD. That’s not because sugar makes them more hyperactive, however. It’s because kids with ADHD are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.Avoiding sugary foods and sodas can help them stay at a healthy weight and reduce their risk. It’s also wise for kids with ADHD to avoid caffeine. It may seem to increase their focus in the short term. But withdrawal from caffeine can make them particularly irritable.What to keep in mind: Food allergies are different from food sensitivities. Allergies trigger an immune reaction. This can lead to swelling, itching, trouble breathing and, in some cases, even death. Doctors have very reliable tests for food allergies.Food sensitivities are less severe. They may cause a wide range of symptoms, including stomachaches and headaches. If your child has negative reactions to certain foods, it’s important to tell the doctor.Read more about whether kids with ADHD should avoid sugar.Following special “ADHD diets”What you may hear: Some people say there are special ADHD diets that can lessen symptoms and even “cure” kids with ADHD.The reality: A number of diets claim to help kids with ADHD. But there’s little evidence to support them. One, the Feingold Diet, has been studied more than most. This diet cuts out specific foods and additives like artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners, and some preservatives.There’s limited evidence that following the diet may improve attention and behavior. But a recent study showed that the diet only made a difference in kids with ADHD who also had food allergies or sensitivities.What to keep in mind: Overall, the best diet for kids with ADHD is the diet that’s best for all kids. It’s well balanced and follows USDA dietary guidelines. A healthy diet includes high-quality proteins like lean meats and poultry, fish rich in omega fatty acids, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy unsaturated fats. It limits unhealthy saturated and trans fats, rapidly digested carbohydrates, and highly processed and fast food.Most experts agree that ADHD medication is the most effective treatment for the majority of kids with ADHD. But there are other things you can try that might help your child without posing a risk. Get more information on alternative treatments for ADHD, including exercise and mindfulness.Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    There’s a lot to learn about learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD. Understood Explains is a podcast that unpacks one important topic each season. Season 1 covers the ins and outs of the process school districts use to evaluate kids for special education services. Host Dr. Andrew Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for schools. He explains each step of the evaluation process and gives tips on how to talk with your child along the way.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, mental health stigma, and music (John’s story)

    John Hazelwood, who has ADHD, co-founded the Men’s ADHD Support Group, an organization aimed at helping men with ADHD find community and acceptance. John Hazelwood was diagnosed with ADHD shortly after he graduated from college. He was in therapy and had trouble with test anxiety. Music was the only thing that helped him study and actually remember what he read. Then he got curious about ADHD medication and talked about it with his doctor, who recommended an ADHD evaluation.John, a mechanical engineer in Virginia, co-founded the Men’s ADHD Support Group, an organization aimed at helping men with ADHD find community and acceptance. John talks about facing stigma around ADHD and mental health in the Black community, what songs sound like ADHD, and much more. Check out the Men’s ADHD Support Group.Related resourcesADHD as a “white boy problem” (from The Opportunity Gap podcast)What I tell Black parents who worry about labels like “ADHD” for their childHow ADHD medication worksEpisode transcript John: Was going to therapy towards the end of college because I was struggling. I was struggling with, you know, just my mental health and how I process things. I'm like, you know what? I'm going to go to my primary care physician and let her know, like, "Hey, I'm having problems with focusing. I'm having problems with emotional regulation, staying interested." And she was like, "Well, let's do a neuropsych evaluation." Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood, and as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. Laura: I'm here today with John Hazelwood. John is a mechanical engineer based in Richmond, Virginia. He's also the co-founder of the Men's ADHD Support Group. Welcome, John. John: It's a pleasure finally being able to do this with you. I'm absolutely ecstatic for this opportunity. Just, you know, to kind of spread the message from a different point of view, a different lens, and give everyone a different feel for how ADHD shows up amongst everyone. Laura: I'm thankful that you're here. You were diagnosed when you were 21, is that right? John: Yes. So, I'm 33 now. I was diagnosed at 21. It was shortly after I had graduated college. And when I learned everything about it, I'm just sitting here like, "Why didn't I have this information way ahead of time? Like, where was all of this when I was sitting here struggling?" Laura: Yeah. So, what were you struggling with? John: Oh, let's going ahead and talk about that one. Time management, you know, like time blindness, doing everything right at the last minute. Organization. I like to call, you know, my workspace, organized chaos sometimes, because it doesn't make sense to the normal person or the neurotypical mind. But when I see it, I'm like, "I know everything is." Repeating academic courses in college as well, and especially with engineering, some of these courses are really intensive with math. So, I took my calculus differential equations twice. Mechanical system design twice. Laura: Do you remember a specific moment that you were like, "No, I'm going to go get evaluated." John: Well, so, it was two things. It was going to therapy towards the end of college because I was struggling. I was struggling with, you know, just my mental health and how I process things. I used to think I had test-induced anxiety, where beforehand, I can sit down and recite any type of theorem or any concept I needed, but the second that that test comes up, the anxiety overwhelms me and everything goes out the door. So, I was never a really, really good test taker. So, that was one of them. And then it was how, believe it or not, how people would be in a library is like, "Hey, I got some Adderall if you need it," and this and that. I'm like, "What is this stuff?" And then, you know, learning that it's just like for people with ADHD. Now, I didn't partake in that, but it's just how loosely it was around. So, with those two things combined together, I'm like, you know what? I'm going to go to my primary care physician and let her know, like, "Hey, I'm having problems with focusing. I'm having problems with emotional regulation, staying interested. And, you know, I've heard of Adderall." She was like, "Well, instead of just putting you on this medication, let's do a neuropsych evaluation."Laura: And first of all, I want to just say out loud that we don't want people, you know, sharing ADHD medication or using it recreationally or using it without a diagnosis. It can be very dangerous. So we should just say that flat out. But it's interesting that the prevalence of ADHD stimulant medication on near campus was really a tip-off, like, "Hey, I need support." Is that what the thought process was? Like "Wait, why do they get to have support? I need support." Is that kind of what was going through your mind? John: Well, I was looking at it, so at the time I went to Virginia Commonwealth University, they were cracking down on a lot of that. I'm just sitting here like, "What are you all doing?" I'm like, "This does not sound right. It sounds like a transaction that should not be taking place." But it sparked my interest in understanding exactly what ADHD was because I was coming from a background where, you know, all you think it is, it's just you can't focus. You're a hyperactive child. You need to sit your butt down. You need to take this medication or else you can't function. And then in our community, the Black community, you know, things like that were so negative. There are so many negative stigmas attached to it and connotations that was associated with it, where it almost felt scary to even reveal the state of your own mental health status. And when I finally got ahold of it, it changed everything for me. Laura: What did that look like? Getting ahold of it. John: It was an "aha" moment. It was like, "OK, why didn't I think of this before?” I remember like it was yesterday. So, I was studying for my finals. It's my senior year. I was taking calculus differential equations for the second time. And one thing I noticed was that anything that dealt with music and rhythm, I can remember things. So, I would literally pick certain music, low frequency, and I'll just play it over and over and over, and I'll be studying. And what I noticed is, is that after two hours of going over the same things over and over, if I tapped or I hummed the song to myself, I could literally remember exactly what I was looking at. So, for me, it's like learning in a pattern. So let's say if I'm doing like all the flows transform, like we're looking at like an electrical nodal system and doing evaluation and I'm completely stuck. I'll literally hum the song in my head. It was a song about Wiz Khalifa at the time, it was called "Up." It's probably one of the most melodic songs that he did and it doesn't hardly have any words to it. And I would hum it, the page, the chapter, everything became vivid in my mind. And so, I was like "This is all clicking together. No wonder why I'm constantly around music all the time." Because it drowns out the internal noise that's in the inside of your mind. But it puts things together as well. It paints like a image that finally becomes clear to you when, you know, you don't have that stimulus nearby music and you're just sitting here like, yo, what the hell is going on? I'm like, OK, I'm looking at a Picasso painting, trying to organize it. So, it actually looks like an visible picture that everyone can see. But we're not all meant to see that way. Laura: When you were younger, when you were a kid in grade school or middle school or even high school, do you remember struggling with ADHD symptoms at that point? John: All the time. Well, the thing is, is that I went to predominantly white schools until, well, middle school, Providence was pretty integrated. But my elementary school, kids would tease you for being the slowest one in the class, or if he didn't understand this question that quick thing, you know something's wrong with you. You know, they throw out the R-word that, you know, we don't need to repeat, but we understand what it is. It's like you're sitting there and it's like, "I want to say something about it." But when you grow up not really knowing how to use your voice and you're used to your voice being silenced versus heard, you then suppress what you want to express, and then that starts to build up. And I feel like there's trauma that gets added on top of that that instigates a lot of that. And I think it starts bringing out a lot of those tendencies. Like it's hard for me to stay still. I had problems with getting bored very quick, so — and my mom, like she was always into our scholastic life. So she made sure that she stayed on top of us getting help for any type of mental health conditions that may come up. As a matter of fact, I learned from her within the recent years, she knew that basically we were suffering with it. But there wasn't too much that you can do about it. And it was one of those things where it didn't interrupt me so much in class as far as my performance, where, you know, we could have kind of just like swept it under the rug. And I was like, "Well, that's nice to know years later."Laura: Oh, wow. Wait, wait, I'm sorry. Your mom knew that, and you said we, you and a sibling?John: So, me and my middle brother struggled with it. Laura: So, your mom knew that you had ADHD symptoms but did things on her own to support you and your brother? I don't want you to speak on behalf of your mom, but do you have any inklings as to why she didn't pursue official diagnosis any further? John: I think it's just the readily available resources that was there and then putting extra pressure on your child — introducing something to them where your child already feels like their back is against the wall because, you know, going to a predominantly, you know, white elementary school, you had kids that would make fun of you. I remember a kid told me I wasn't Black because my dad lived with me. You know. Laura: What? I'm really sorry to hear that. John: I have a laundry list of just different, like, stereotypes. You know, if I was the last one to finish my test — and this went even into high school — it was, "Oh, well, why'd you take so long? We got this real quick. You must need extra time. If you need extra time, why don't you go in the hallway with the extra — you know, the other kids that were special." So, you know, you're trying to figure yourself out. You're trying to identify yourself, but you're starting to realize that your validation comes completely external and there's no sense of self. Laura: And what you were just speaking to, the way that you were treated, and the way that people misperceived you, did that have any impact on your desire to or to not go for an ADHD evaluation? John: Yeah, it definitely did. Because I remember just everyone's always having these jokes like, "Oh, you can never be on time" or "You don't remember anything. Why do you have to write everything down?" You know, "Why are you the last one to finish your exams?" Or "What, are you slow? Like, do you need, like, extracurricular help? Do we need to hold your hand?" And it'll be joking comments, and I was the type that I would laugh through my pain. You know, I was always joking, always making people laugh and smile. But I did that because I was really hurting in the inside. Like Jason Wilson says in his book, it's mental incarceration. Like you're a prisoner to your own mind, not because there's something wrong with you. It's because you don't understand it. And so, therefore society's labels, their ideals, get projected onto you, where you just feel like, "You know what, I'm not supposed to exist here." And that's not fair because everybody deserves a shot. We just need to learn how to understand. We need to be more open and more receptive of that understanding. And, you know, it got to the point where even after being diagnosed with ADHD and going into the workforce, I would get teased about the same things at my jobs working with the Navy and doing maintenance work. And some of the older engineers would have things to say, and I'd say, "You know what? Enough is enough." And I stopped taking my Adderall, because I hated what it did to me. And so I just went cold turkey and just had to fight and grind out until eventually I had enough of it. And that was years in the making. And it was because of the fact no one normalized that it was OK to go to therapy. No one normalized it's OK to get a neuropsych evaluation. No one, you know, normalized having neurodiversity. Because it was always seen as something that was beneath what society is. It's like you're an outcast. And then like, you started learning about it. My idol Marc Almodovar, who's the co-founder of the Men's ADHD Support Group, we love Pharrell Williams. And he talks about seeing sound: synesthesia. Then Kanye West had just came out in 2007 and he would talk about he paints his beats. He would paint them out. Like I remember listening to it. I think it was doing "Do or Die" as Pay the Price. And you're in the studio watching him. If a high had hit, you saw yellow. If it was a deep 808, you saw like deep, like oranges, red, something that's powerful. If it was something that was melodic, you saw your blue. And it started clicking after a while. And I'm like, you know what? It's not that something's wrong with me. It's maybe that I have an artistic way of seeing things. I have a different way of navigating through the world that everyone's not going to get. But it can totally benefit me if I take time to learn how to work with it, not against it. Laura: Is there a song that you feel like, I don't know, the beats or the rhythm or the words that best encapsulates what ADHD feels like to you? John: Oh man, I got so many of them. Laura: I want to know. John: Like, for instance, like Timbaland. I love how his beats never stay the same. So like, he has a song with Joyner Lucas, "10 Bands." So you have different bass lines and the bridge is way different. Any time you listen to a Pharrell song, his bridges completely throw you out of nowhere. You just like, where did you come up with this? And then, you know, I know Kanye 's not like the biggest person in the media as far as what people like, but it was the "Late Registration" album. That album, every single song, when you break it apart, it is so many samples of so many things. Like "Addiction." Etta James, "My Funny Valentine." That's playing, it's being pulled. And then I had this fascination with Amy Winehouse. Like I still listen her stuff till this day. "Frank" is the best album she ever came out with. And I remember she did stuff with Nas and I would watch like her BBC performances and I'm like, yo, she tries to be way different in what she does like on the album. And I love these different versions of it, and it just makes you super interested. Laura: Are you a musician? The way you talk about music makes me feel like you're a musician. John: So, what I did was during COVID, I had my brother's acoustic guitar. So I started, you know, YouTube University picking up a hobby and just teaching yourself. Laura: That's a very ADHD thing to do. John: Oh, master of so many different damn things, it's ridiculous. I remember as a kid that any time I heard music, I didn't always hear what everybody heard. Like for instance, Rex and Effects' "Rump Shaker." Everyone's listening to like the bass line to it, or you're looking at two girls in a video. I'm like, dude, that saxophone line is kind of sweet right now. Laura: I never noticed it in that song. I'm going to listen for it. John: That's the ultimate like one of the sample sets there, that saxophone.Laura: Wait, no, I can hear it in my head right now. It goes do-do-do-oo, right? Or something like that. John: And then you start in with Jay-Z "Show Me What You Got." That's the saxophone from there. Or like, what was it, Daryl Hall and somebody else? "I Can't Go for That." I would literally break down this stuff. Or Prince's Vanity 6 when they had Apollonia, "Nasty Girl." Like, I'm breaking down everything as a kid. And people are thinking I'm weird, but I'm like, "Maybe if the pitch goes up a little bit more here and he'd switch the key, that'd sound different." And I didn't start playing with it until COVID. Picked up an MPC beat machine and just started drumming and taught myself how to do that and met some really cool people with it. Laura: You're just lighting up talking about music. It's really — it's really lovely to see. And I'm glad that you've had that strong bond with music your whole life, especially during more difficult times. John: Yeah, I always look at it as in music is human expression. It's an art form. And so there are certain things that you can feel through like certain rhythms, certain pitches, or, you know, like your beats per minute. You can feel certain things like if I'm going to listen to Sia or Erykah Badu, how they harmonize and hit a high note. I'm hearing it to the point where a tear could come down my eye because I'm happy, because I flow with it. And you just get lost, and it's beautiful. Laura: Can you unpack for me a little bit more the perception in the Black community? When you mentioned what you just mentioned, were you talking about mental health and perceived weaknesses and/or relying on medication? John: So, just being human felt like it was more of a risk versus something that was rewarding. Saying that, you know, you're going through emotional struggles. You had the label of crazy. Or you had, you know what, you need to just pray about it. Or we don't need therapy. If you go to therapy, you're crazy. You see yourself as less than. A lot of the times — I remember one time I heard it's like, "Oh, you don't have ADHD. Your daddy just needs to be around." I've heard things like that. Or that house is hyper, they just need to sit their butt down and find something that's interesting to them. Any mental health diagnosis? There was never anything positive about it. So when you look at it, you kind of shun people by default because you're conditioned to do that. Or you don't want to be associated with it. Like if you hear the word Ritalin and all, you're just like, oh, that's those kids that came out of class. They had to take their medication because if they don't, they're going to be, you know, out of whack. But you start realizing like, you know what? It's even worse suppressing what you want to express. So one of the things that I started picking up on was the fact that no matter how much I wanted to be free in my mind, I was not going to be accepted by anybody in society. So it's better to wear a mask and just suffer in silence. And you don't want to be a casualty to your mind because it's like mental warfare. And the thing is, it's a war you can't see and people die from it every single day. And it shouldn't take a police brutality or someone acting out, harming others or harming themselves, just for people to want to sit down and say, hey, what's going on? Because the first thing people want to holler is, "What's wrong with you?" I'm not going to ask that question. I'm going to say "What happened? Talk to me about it." Because there needs to be more understanding. And when we get to that point, I think that's when we can be a little more comfortable having these conversations. Laura: Something that we have spoken about a few times on this show is the fact that a lot of women with ADHD were never diagnosed as kids because it was perceived as, and I'm quoting here, a "white boy problem." So I'm interested to hear from you, as a Black man, your perception. What's your take on that phrase, the "white boy problem" of ADHD? John: I think it was safe to label it that way because we didn't want to be associated with it because of the backlash that was from there. Because it's like, you know, being Black in America, especially in the school system, you already have your backs against the wall from the get-go. People don't even know you, but they already have something to judge about you based off of the history that's there. And then you're like, OK, well, let's get — let's get interested in it. Who's the face of it? And every time I saw it, it was a white male. Laura: Yeah. And I was just listening to — we have another podcast in our network at Understood. It's called "The Opportunity Gap," and the host is really wonderful. His name is Julian Saavedra. He is a teacher and school administrator around Philadelphia. The idea of the show is that they talk a lot about kids of color who have ADHD and other learning differences and how kids will face a double stigma as a result of that. And they recently had a guest on Dr. Tumaini Coker, who's like a superstar in pediatrics. She's amazing and she has twin boys with ADHD. I hope I'm getting that right. They were asking the question, "Is ADHD overlooked in Black children, or is it overdiagnosed?" And she was sharing some data that I had never heard about before that really showed that it is not a problem of overdiagnosis in Black kids. It's being overlooked is really the problem and being kind of mislabeled as discipline issues and whatnot. John: The biggest thing is just like what I was mentioning earlier. Like I remember when I got interested in learning more about my ADHD, like back in 2019, and I would look at resources. And a lot of the resources were not people that look like me. One of the only resources of someone that looked like me was René Brooks, who is like a big sister to me. "Black Girl, Lost Keys." And then you have Jessica McCabe, who I got to actually meet at the ADHD International Convention and share the panel with her. Those are the only two people that I had to learn anything about it. And then it made you start questioning, OK, so what is the diagnostic criteria? Where is like the science that's behind it? Like, what are they doing to evaluate, you know, children of color? And I think they should dig down a little deeper. Go into the actual Black societies, go into the Latino societies and test them. Because I know for me, speaking from a Black standpoint, there's trauma that's embedded inside of me that's been passed down for generations and generations. And it all comes from when we were brought over here. And basically you have this old stereotype that Black people are pretty much immune to mental health because we owned no status in society. We didn't know what it was like to own any property or to be economically sound. And when you take that and it gets conditioned into your mind for such a long time, no one wants to challenge it. There's more to lose challenging it versus to gain something from it that's actually going to help you. So a lot of people stay silent on it. And the biggest thing I want to see is people moving away from the focus factor because ADHD is not just focusing. It's so annoying when someone's like, "Oh, I think I have ADHD. I can't focus." I hate when people do that. Laura: Is that feeling something that drove you to launch your podcast? John: So the podcast. We started with Facebook and it's just a resource group. And then we started having like daily memes, little workshops within the actual group. And then we were like, you know what? We have a lot of things in common. And we kept talking on the phone a whole bunch and we're like, dude, let's just it turn into a podcast. And we're starting it back up now. We actually have started recording some more episodes that we're going to get ready to drop. But we had taken a while off just because of bandwidth. But it's like we do it because these are the conversations that need to happen and we don't want to have a conversation that's overly like educational or something that's like overly serious where like you're throwing out all these medical terms and it's just like it feels like it's a weighted vest on you. We want something like, if I'm sitting on the couch, you're sitting on the couch, we have a drink or water, whatever you want to have, and we're just relaxing. We're just appreciating each other's existence. And that's how it's always been. Laura: And you have a support group that you run, or is that the term that you use? John: It's the Men's ADHD Support Group. We're the largest right now. Over 13,000 men who either are ADHD, are getting tested for it, or they're just neurodiverse and they just want a place to belong. And there's literally somebody for somebody there. It's so great. We have biweekly meetings, we have workshops now, we have Zoom meetups. We're now having in-person meetups that we're starting. The website has dropped and we're going to be doing a lot more content as well, too, that's more organized and structured. And then Marc and I are going to be the main ones doing the public speaking. Laura: That's fantastic. What is the website? So we can make sure that it's included in this interview?John: So before I butcher it, I'm going to pull out this card because I am going to be fully transparent to make sure I don't say the wrong thing. Laura: That's OK. John: It is www.MensADHDSupportGroup.org. Laura: Did you hear that everybody? www.MensADHDSupportGroup.org. Nonprofit! John: And if I pronounced it wrong or I gave you the wrong title, every person that is listening to this, feel free to DM me in uppercut, straight-to-the-chin streetfighter style. Laura: Well, it's been really nice to talk with you today, John, and your journey is really interesting and I really appreciate your candor and what you're doing. It's a huge commitment, what you're doing in addition to your full time job. I just want to say thank you. John: Well, thank you for this opportunity. Again, it is a pleasure. It's truly an honor just to be a part of a space where men can truly just be fully, authentically themselves, be honest and transparent, without any type of shame or feeling as if, you know we exist as less than. You're creating a safe space. And with that safe space that you're creating, you're also educating, empowering, and motivating people at the same exact time, too. And that's what we really need. We need a sense of unity versus just division that's out here. We need to see that it's OK to show up exactly as you are right now, because you can only get better. And anything that's come in front of you, you know, in your past, any hardship, any experience, as long as you take heed to the lesson and you're fully accountable and you're just present, the opportunities are endless. So thank you for creating spaces like this to exist. Laura: That's so meaningful to hear you say that. I'm tearing up a little bit. So thank you so much. You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood as a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine. Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

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    ADHD and emotions, from anxiety to boredom (Dr. Sasha’s story)

    Dr. Sasha Hamdani didn’t know about her ADHD diagnosis for about a decade. She now specializes in ADHD, and battles the stigma that comes with it. Dr. Sasha Hamdani psychiatrist specializes ADHD anxiety. diagnosed ADHD fourth grade starting calls “riot” classroom. didn’t find ADHD much later, hit wall competitive medical school environment. discovering diagnosis, unplugged academics learn herself — ADHD. debunks ADHD myths one one social media.Dr. Sasha shares story, including thoughts parents’ decision tell ADHD adult. Stay tuned end hear Dr. Sasha talk connection ADHD anxiety. get advice ask kids ADHD symptoms. Related resourcesADHD anxietyADHD girlsADHD boredomPre-order Dr. Sasha’s bookDr. Sasha’s InstagramEpisode transcriptSasha: "aha" moment really would went home I'd struggling long time medical school able sit safe environment parents luxury actually learning symptoms learning ADHD learning "Is truly what's happening brain?" think able pull away drowning academic place trying function own, could actually relate symptoms see going on. that's things clicked. like, "OK, yes, definitely this. Now, do?"Laura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host. today Dr. Sasha Hamdani. Dr. Sasha psychiatrist specializes ADHD, anxiety disorders, among things, also busting stigma ADHD social media. highly recommend checking Dr. Sasha's Instagram. Dr. Sasha, welcome.Sasha: Hi. Thank much me.Laura: Thank here. think cats background well. So, people watching video...Sasha: They're going start fighting. Sorry.Laura: That's OK. We'll roll it. It's OK.Sasha: Yeah.Laura: Dr. Sasha, think need tell "ADHD Aha!" listeners, described riot. Tell happened.Sasha: OK. So, fourth grade, always knew rambunctious side, substitute teacher day, organized coup classroom got everybody stand desks start chanting. retrospect, don't know that. Like, horrible. Especially I've gotten point career recognize extremely essential teachers are. makes feel terrible. yes, point got everyone else behave badly me. shortly teachers talked parents getting evaluated ADHD. right like quick order, getting diagnosed, getting medicated, turning things around. that's coup.Laura: kind behaviors happening around that? Like say, bad behaviors behaving badly.Sasha: Yeah. don't necessarily mean bad, inappropriate environment, guess. symptoms experiencing typical combined type presentation ADHD. So, lot inattentiveness difficulty focusing engaging task hand, also hyperactivity impulsivity. So, generally, combination symptoms, kids capable work, they're getting bored they're entertaining themselves. that's much happening. entertaining moment time.Laura: time, remember feeling like struggling ADHD symptoms, really teacher said something that's started whole path?Sasha: remember feeling bored remember thinking like, "How people get day? long." Unless something hands-on actively interested in, seemed like agony. that's remember.Laura: Lots kids ADHD struggle boredom. Yeah. remember evaluation process? like? parents react thought needing evaluation?Sasha: So, wish better recollection details, I've talked parents since it. So, got confronted parents, like emergent. teacher like, "No, no. can't riots every day. Like, need something."Laura: almost spit water.Sasha: So, like kind like pushing parents, like "Something needs done. isolated event. need something." mom said "It didn't really seem like choice. seemed like needed go on." mom pediatrician. So, really lucky us opportunity get one peers get evaluated. also, went laborious, long educational panel formal ADHD testing educational counselor. I'm assuming he's psychologist, remember office five hours. "Oh, God, cannot answer another question. Let here." that's kind remember educational testing process, although tell noticing practicing difficult access care is, think really lucky respect.Laura: kind feelings bring fourth grader? afraid getting evaluated? worried different? excited?Sasha: So, preface "I'm telling story with, know, don't know point time would done things differently," parents made choice tell ADHD. tell words. tell kind happening. like, "This everyone's doing, teachers recommended " So, didn't really feel kind isolation difference things like that, didn't even know started medication, taking called vitamin. So, taking this. And, know, I've talked parents like, "Why make choice?" wasn't like, barely developed frontal lobe, I'm pass judgment. "But go there?" reason told ADHD really wasn't talked extensively time, felt like sensitive hard time already brown kid sea Caucasian, well-off, affluent people. already felt different. parents said, "We didn't want add one thing plate." Ideally, wish could handled differently, understand coming from. understand kid was, sensitive things different. didn't want different shoe, didn't want different lunchbox. wanted everything could fit seamlessly possible. So, sudden, things didn't seem terrible. Like, sudden, able sit class I'm like, "Oh, OK, haven't gotten trouble tapping foot desk. haven't gotten trouble talking. That's weird."Laura: OK, got diagnosed fourth grade, received treatment ADHD. Things got better. smooth sailing kind of...That it, right? stop conversation?Sasha: That's it. end story.Sasha: long time. smooth sailing. really well elementary school really like think found stride. Like really enjoyed learning became part identity, never before. started like engaging school. wanted run class office. wanted volunteer things. wanted speak class. stayed dose fourth grade 12th grade, think that's problems slide starting tail end 10th grade again, don't know like behavioral, like normal development like shocking difference parents like "What happening you." think experiencing boredom, hyperactivity, impulsivity. you're late high school years, also additional freedom. So, getting trouble more, anything bad, like stuff you're… within context family fabric like go. so, felt like impulsivity getting more. applied medical school high school, got in.Laura: That's typical, right?Sasha: So, early years high school, knew wanted medical school wanted pediatrics like mom. So, started looking programs combined undergrad graduate programs. started looking fastest, found two six-year programs didn't take MCAT get certain grade levels continue it, start med school right high school, start process right away. yeah, it's common don't necessarily think it's great idea.Laura: want go fast? attraction that?Sasha: don't know. knew wanted go. think typical ADHD, there's like sense urgency. like, "OK, know want

  • ADHD medication misuse, sharing, and abuse: What you need to know

    If your child is on ADHD medication, or if you’re considering it as a treatment option, you may worry about abuse. There’s reason to think about it. ADHD medication misuse, sharing, and abuse does happen. Especially among high school and college-age kids. But it’s important to know that most kids don’t abuse their medication.Stimulant medications are the drugs prescribed most often for ADHD, because they’re usually the most effective. They’re also the drugs most often abused. The U.S. government keeps tight controls on stimulant medications. The purpose of those controls is to reduce the potential for abuse and addiction. (States also have their own laws.) Doctors may only write prescriptions for one month at a time. And there can’t be refills without each one being authorized by the prescriber.Learning all you can about ADHD medication can help you reduce risks for your child. It can also help you talk to them about how to safely take the medication that’s been prescribed.How kids might misuse, share, or abuse ADHD medicationThe term “misuse” means using more than the dose that’s prescribed, or using the correct dose more often than is prescribed. That goes for kids who have a prescription and kids who don’t. You may also hear about kids sharing or selling prescribed pills to kids who don’t have prescriptions.The term “abuse” refers to behavior that’s even more serious than misuse. It’s actual substance abuse that affects daily life. And it can lead to addiction, which is an obsessive use of the substance in doses usually larger than have been prescribed.Experts report that some teens and young adults with ADHD use their medication for reasons other than controlling ADHD symptoms.When students get pills from kids with prescriptions, or misuse their own prescriptions, it’s usually to use during a crunch time. The extra boost in focus and energy may help when they’re cramming for exams or trying to catch up on long-overdue work. Using pills this way can be risky. That’s especially true if the doses are high or taken more frequently than has been prescribed.Another thing kids sometimes do is take ADHD medications before partying. They may do this to stay alert while drinking alcohol. But it can cause them to drink dangerously high amounts of alcohol without realizing how much it’s affecting them.How misusing stimulant medication can affect kidsThere’s a difference in how stimulant medication affects kids and young adults who have ADHD and those who don’t. For kids without ADHD, it can offer a quick, short-term boost in focus and alertness.Most kids with ADHD who take stimulant medication as prescribed have good results. These drugs can help reduce ADHD symptoms by improving the way parts of the brain communicate with each other. This can help improve executive function skills, such as working memory.But taking more medication than is prescribed, or taking it more often than is prescribed, can create unpleasant side effects. It can make kids feel jittery or cause their heart rate to increase temporarily.Those sensations can make it hard to concentrate on work. Too much medication can also keep kids awake much longer than they want to be at night. Then they’re exhausted the next day.For most kids, this experience is enough to keep them from taking high dosages in the future. But there are some kids who may actually like the sensation and continue to seek it out. These are the kids who may be at risk of becoming addicted.Getting ADHD medication without a proper diagnosisThere are cases where kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD, and then get medication without actually having ADHD. Some kids who know they don’t have ADHD may try to fake ADHD symptoms to get prescriptions.No person should be getting ADHD medication without having had a comprehensive evaluation from a medical or mental health professional with specific training in this kind of evaluation. Many (but not all) pediatricians, psychologists, and psychiatrists have this training. Private evaluations by a trained professional can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. But there are resources to help you find a free or low-cost private evaluation.How to help your child avoid ADHD medication risksMisuse, sharing, and abuse of ADHD medication are serious problems. But you can take steps to minimize the risks.Make sure your child has had a proper evaluation before considering any medication. Keep medication in a secure place at home. This can be any place where visitors can’t see it and where you can easily monitor that it’s only used as prescribed.If your child lives away from home, such as in a dorm, caution about keeping the medication safe. That includes not leaving it out where it can easily be stolen. Also, help your child understand the importance of not giving in to friends who may want to buy or “borrow” medication.Start talking early and often to your child about ADHD and the risks of sharing or selling medication. It’s never too late to start talking to your child about this. But ideally, it’s best to introduce the concept no later than middle school. Teach your child to never share their medication.Talk to your child about the law. Medications for ADHD are classified as Schedule II drugs by the federal government. That means they’re considered to have a “high potential for abuse.” Explain that giving a Schedule II drug to anyone is considered “dealing” under the law. If you suspect misuse, sharing, or abuse of stimulant medication, talk to your child’s health care provider. Share your concerns and discuss ways to help your child.It’s important to know about potential risks so you can help your child avoid them. But it also helps to remember that most kids don’t have these issues with ADHD medications.Learn about other things tweens and teens need to understand about ADHD medication. If your child is younger, get some topics to raise with grade-schoolers. Or listen to an In It podcast episode about common questions about ADHD medication.Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company. 

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and shame (Dr. Kojo’s story)

    Dr. Kojo Sarfo had an unexpected ADHD “aha” moment. Now, he connects with millions of followers on social media about mental health. Dr. Kojo Sarfo played life hard mode ADHD getting diagnosed adult. ADHD treatment strategies helped Dr. Kojo cope daydreaming procrastination. wanted more. Today, connects millions followers TikTok social media, fighting shame around ADHD mental health, conversations build people up.Dr. Kojo unexpected ADHD “aha” moment. kid, watched Atlanta Braves baseball player Adam LaRoche make error routine ground ball. learned LaRoche ADHD. Join heartfelt conversation host Laura Key Dr. Kojo unearth daydreaming brainstorming disguise — seeking treatment road self-compassion.Related resourcesDr. Kojo TikTokADHD boysWhy kids struggle focusEpisode transcript Dr. Kojo: talking good friend mine who's medical student. like, "Has anybody ever told ADHD?" I'm like, "I know it," didn't think myself, ADHD go get treatment. knew treatment would be, I've maintaining I'm successful, don't really need help. kind get together, didn't know how. like, "You might want go and, know, see find doctor." said gave medication it. he, describing after, probably sent edge said, "All right, I'm going take plunge look it."Laura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!" — podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host.I excited today Dr. Kojo Sarfo. Kojo mental health nurse practitioner, psychotherapist, content creator 2 million followers social media channels, like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, Triller. He's also author book called "You Already Won," talks ADHD beautiful way. Dr. Kojo, welcome. Thank today.Dr. Kojo: Thank much me. appreciate it.Laura: Kojo, I'm excited talk today. There's many things want talk about. first thing want talk — mostly I'm big fan baseball, also know there's baseball story meaningful — is, want talk baseball. tell happened seventh grade baseball?Dr. Kojo: watching Atlanta Braves game, shout-out Braves — won World Series, know, exciting witness that. watching game Atlanta Braves Washington Nationals, I'll never forget, batter Nationals, name Nick Johnson, hit ground ball first base, first baseman, Adam LaRoche, know, routine play. scooped ball jogged first base. walked first base, would've got base runner got there. watching game live, kind froze paralyzed. kind lackadaisically, like, went first base bag. time got there, base runner beat bag, millions people watching shocked. lost game, Braves lost game, upset. game, Adam LaRoche, first baseman Braves, came said ADHD; something struggled with.And, know, went upset didn't make play connecting level. like, kind confirmation, big epiphany, moment realized thing too. 'Cause always suspected it, since second grade, third grade, saw story matched mine, started make sense first time.Laura: brutal Adam LaRoche. feel play. must pretty devastating go that. I'm glad led "aha" moment had. play baseball growing up?Dr. Kojo: never played baseball. good friend mine team high school took batting practice, awful it. I'm fan.Laura: OK. Got it. hot take think baseball might one hardest sports people ADHD play there's much downtime.Dr. Kojo: Oh, wow. OK, wow, never thought it.Laura: Yeah, unless you're, like, pitcher catcher you're, like, constantly action. you're, like, prone daydreaming whatever, must be, uh, feel like would tricky sport someone ADHD play.Dr. Kojo: completely agree. agree.Laura: Well, back you, though. OK, seventh grade happened. kinds things noticing made relate Adam LaRoche went through?Dr. Kojo: would, like any, know, child formative years, kind compare peers. you'll notice sometimes people finish assignments you, sometimes things take longer do, or, know, you'll spaced then, know, would get report card. teacher would say "he's daydreaming, he's paying attention." thought everybody sort things. know, thought everybody couldn't focus degree. didn't know like actual thing. kind attributed fact moved Norway Nashville, Tennessee, was, uh, 5½, 6. thought shifted countries adjusting new country. kind issue second grade, third grade, fourth grade, like, never went away. obviously adapted time, realized took little bit kids could like half time.You know, part would frustrating, would parent-teacher conferences teachers would say, "He's bright student. paid attention, could better." used dread teachers would talk parents they'd say, "Oh, would stay awake he'd pay attention, he'd better student, he, he's bright kid."So outside that, know, found ways adapt. Like would, know, class clown would goof off. found ways kind build self-esteem up, parent-teacher conferences frustrating.Laura: would clown around, kinds things would distract?Dr. Kojo: immigrant child different country, there's much connect to. So, obviously, came Nashville, Titans went Super Bowl, everybody talking football. making football jokes and, know, would try see girls would like laugh about. would copy whoever loudest kid class. would make jokes. then, know, while, would land, would make feel accepted. Anything could kind of, know, bring attention myself, kind distracted teachers and, know, classmates fact that, like, I'd little bit behind schoolwork. helped take emphasis away struggles every day.Laura: teachers noticing grades, talking parents. say moved Norway? family's from?Dr. Kojo: No, we're Ghana, West Africa.Laura: Got it. OK. So, West African family. teacher expressing concerns. parents react?Dr. Kojo: It's funny don't even think realized much struggled, they're learning now. moved from, know, West Africa Europe, six years later, moved Europe Nashville, Tennessee. endure much. worked janitors could put school.So came mentality — see lot foreign families — it's excuses. Like, tenacious, work hard, nobody's coming save — type thing. complain can't focus kind like silly thing family that's working butts try put food table.Laura: Yeah. Struggling focus hierarchy needs seem like lower-level thing, cumulatively, time, pain cause, difficulty cause continuously struggling. mean, you, clearly extremely intelligent, know, doesn't, maybe it's showing grades — that's painful thing, right? Would ever considered taking get evaluated ADHD time?Dr. Kojo: don't think would've. mom saying, "We'll pray you. None children type thing." would've really kind struggle, maybe fail grade verge failing another grade. would've intervention teachers counselors principals could maybe say, "Hey, like, know kids this." even that, would given like a, maybe like 30 percent chance.Laura: OK, evaluation — probably going happen seventh grader. point, Adam LaRoche moment. happen

  • ADHD and hyperfocus

    People with ADHD have difficulty focusing. But many can also hyperfocus on things they’re very interested in. The idea of hyperfocus can be confusing. How can a person who has trouble focusing on most things lose themselves in a video game, movie, or craft project for hours? It might look like that person doesn’t really struggle with attention. But having good focus requires two things. People need to be able to pay attention even if something isn’t that interesting. And they need to be able to not pay attention to something interesting — or something that’s bothering them — when they need to focus on doing what they’re doing because it’s more interesting than what they’re being asked to do.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD runs in the family (Michelle’s story)

    Michelle started to notice her own ADHD symptoms when her son got evaluated. And they’re bonded by their shared challenges and strengths. Like many parents, Michelle Lassiter started to notice her own ADHD symptoms during her son’s evaluation for ADHD. In this episode, Michelle, whose mom is from the Dominican Republic, looks back on how ADHD impacted her growing up in Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. And she connects this to her son’s experience with ADHD — confusing signs, feeling “stupid,” and the strengths they share.  Michelle also talks about parenting a child with ADHD when you have ADHD yourself: “When you’re also lacking those skills, it is very tough.”Related resourcesIs ADHD hereditary?8 things that go into an ADHD evaluation for a childWhat to do when your child says “I’m dumb”Episode transcriptMichelle: I was reading this book because I was trying to learn about ADHD for my son. And for me, it was just so emotional because I was realizing that was me. I had struggled with all these things in school, and that's why I didn't like being in school. The report cards where, you know, "She's a sweet girl. She needs to work harder."I always felt smart, but I always felt like something wasn't really working. So as I'm reading, realizing he has ADHD, I started realizing I was struggling with the very same thing as he was.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Michelle Lassiter. Michelle is a bilingual speech-language pathologist who's lived in many places, including Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Michelle has ADHD, and so does her son, Aidan. She also happens to be one of my colleagues here at Understood. I'm so grateful to work with her. And I'm so grateful that she's here today. Hi, Michelle. Michelle: Hi, Laura. Thank you so much for that sweet introduction. Laura: Can you tell me about Aidan? What was he like growing up? Michelle: Oh, so, Aidan has always had just a huge personality, a huge presence. I remember coming home from the hospital with him and my mom saying, "Oh my gosh, this child is a live wire," because he just — his presence filled the room from the moment he was born. And he was very smart. He was very sweet, very active, just very physically — he'd climb up me, or he just was never still. He wouldn't sleep. But he's always been just a joy to have. Laura: Did you ever notice any ADHD symptoms early on with him?Michelle: I have been a speech pathologist for over 25 years, and I was a brand-new speech pathologist when I had Aidan. He was always extremely active, but it wasn't until about 18 months — I just felt like something was not right. And he was talking, but he wasn't using language, putting words together. I noticed he didn't have any interest in sitting down with a book, learning little songs. He enjoyed singing them, but he wasn't learning the words. So, I want to say about 18 months, I went back to my pediatrician and I was like, "I'm really worried about this. I've seen this in some of the children that had been referred to me. Do you think he might be on the spectrum?" And I remember the pediatrician saying, back then, "Michelle, he's just very excitable. He's not on the spectrum." That is the very first time somebody alerted me to the fact that he might have ADHD. Laura: You weren't on board with that at first. You didn't believe it. He was young. Michelle: He was, and he definitely had all the signs and symptoms. I definitely knew something was off, but I wasn't ready to hear that yet. It's just a tough process, when you've got your beautiful baby, to think that it's not going to be everything that you hoped and planned for. As a new parent, it's definitely a daunting journey not to know. "I'm seeing some things; they're raising concerns. Is this typical?" I think that's really where I was still.Laura: And then later, in preschool, you started to notice more of what your doctor — it was Dr. Vasquez, no? — what Dr. Vasquez was noticing?Michelle: Yes. At that point in time, we had moved to Puerto Rico, and we put him in a bilingual school. His preschool teacher started telling us, "He really doesn't like to color within the lines, and he doesn't grasp his crayon well, and he can't sit still. You really need to have him evaluated by an OT." Laura: An OT being an occupational therapist. Michelle: That's absolutely right. And at that time, the occupational therapist had told us, "You know, his pencil grip isn't great. He'd much rather be outside riding a bike. I mean, he definitely just doesn't have the attention to sit down and dedicate to this."So she felt like a lot of his fine motor skills were being impacted because he preferred doing gross motor things outside. And for him, it was a chore to sit and try to do these small fine motor movements. So we moved forward to kindergarten at that school. And that's the first time a teacher had approached us and said, "I have 20 students in this classroom. And Aidan is probably the smartest in this class, but if I take him aside, I can teach him anything and he grasps it. When there's 19 other kids in the classroom, he just can't sit still enough to pay attention, you know, everything distracts him." So that was really the first time we had to sit, think about, OK, clearly intelligence isn't an issue, but he's definitely struggling to pay attention.Laura: And how are you feeling about all of that during that time? Michelle: It was clearly something he didn't have control over. As a parent, it was heartbreaking just because we knew how friendly and — sorry, he just wanted to be liked. You know, he just wanted to please. That's all he wanted. And you could tell, and it just wasn't working, and he couldn't figure out what he was doing wrong.So it was — as a parent, it — oof, I'm sorry, it is emotional just because you see your child struggling, and you know that his intentions are to be loved, but something was getting in the way of that. Laura: Do you think, Michelle, that he was aware that something was getting in the way of that? Could he express it at all?Michelle: He couldn't. And what we decided to do, Laura, was that was around the time that we moved back stateside, and we decided, "Well, let's hold him back a year. We know that he's very smart. Maybe if we give him a year to mature, maybe that will help." So what we did was, when we moved, we put him back in preschool for that half a year, and that made him very aware. So, he was very, very aware of, "Wait a minute. I was in kindergarten over there, and now I'm back in preschool." We explained to him that he had been learning in a different language, he had been learning in Spanish, and things were different stateside, you know, and at the time, that was a good enough explanation for him. But for us, we were just really wanting him to be successful. And it was clear that even though he was grasping concepts very quickly, he was definitely struggling with things that required him to sit and pay attention, like reading, or coloring, or writing. Laura: And then what happened? Did he get evaluated? Michelle: We still weren't there. We let him finish out preschool in Virginia, and then he went to kindergarten again and he had this sweet, sweet teacher, brand spanking new, and Mrs. Smith was, you know what, I mean it was everything we thought would be great for someone like Aidan, cause she was bubbly, and she was young, and we kept going to our parent-teacher conferences saying, "So, how's he doing?" And we kept hearing, "Oh, he's doing great." And we're like, "Hmm, maybe we were wrong. Maybe just giving him that year would help or helped him." And we'd keep going to our parent-teacher conferences asking, "Hey, tell us what's going on with Aidan." "Oh, no, he's doing great. He's so smart. He's the smartest one here in the classroom. He knows everything he needs to know." And I want to say, that spring, Aidan first said, and I get really emotional with this story. I apologize. Laura: But it's your child. You don't need to apologize. Michelle: For sure. It was the first time that we felt like, "Oh, we've got to do something about this," but we'll never — I'll never forget. He came home, and he said, "I'm stupid. I can never make it to recess." And that just broke my heart. So, I asked, "Well, hey, what's going on here? Why is he not making it to recess ever? I mean, he's definitely starting to feel like he's not smart. And that was the whole purpose of us holding him back for a year." And she said, "He's really smart, but he can't ever finish his work in time. And I have to be really strict in my class. And the other students need to see that if somebody doesn't complete their work, they can't go to recess." And that was it. I was like, "Yeah, if we need to get a diagnosis so that we can get some accommodations made for him, that's what we're going to do."Laura: I can't imagine how that must have felt, Michelle, to hear Aidan say to you, "I'm stupid," when you have been observing him being so smart, excelling in so many subjects. As the mother of two children myself, I mean, it is just — that had to be so difficult. How did you respond? Michelle: I went mama bear on the school. And that was probably when I started advocating for my son, and I advocated for him all through school, but that was probably the very first time. He did receive a diagnosis of ADHD at the time. And we sat down with the principal and said, "Listen, this is not OK. If he needs to complete work at home, he can send homework, but he cannot miss recess. Quite on the contrary. Somebody like Aidan absolutely needs recess, and he does better with recess." Laura: Right. That brain break, that release of energy. Michelle: Oh, absolutely.Laura: What did you learn through Aidan's evaluation process? Michelle: That time was very tumultuous for me. I think that was the very first time I decided, "OK, I need to start researching and looking into this." And I think the very first book I got was "Driven to Distraction" by Ned Hallowell. And for me it was very emotional, because as I was reading it, I could clearly see that Aidan definitely fit the profile, but I could see that I had lots of those struggles throughout my own life. I had never done well in school. I was a mediocre student at best. The report cards starting in first grade were, you know, "She's a sweet girl. She needs to work harder. She needs to complete her homework. She needs to pay more attention." Or, "She needs to dedicate herself a little bit more to class." I always felt smart, but I always felt like something wasn't really working. So as I'm reading this book, realizing he has ADHD, I started realizing I was struggling with the very same thing as he was. I wasn't hyper. I do remember my mom saying that I wouldn't sleep, like him. But I was very reserved. I was very quiet, so I didn't stick out that much in class. But, yeah, that was definitely my "aha" moment. I realized there was a name for what I had felt in school and that's why I had always been successfully unsuccessful. It just had never clicked. I mean, learning disabilities and ADHD, back when I was growing up, was just never spoken about, especially in Latin communities.There's very little awareness. So, for me, it was extra emotional going through this process because I was going through it as a parent, but I was also mourning, myself, and realizing that I could have had support. And at the same time, realizing that, you know, I had done something just out of pure resilience. I knew something wasn't right, and I just figured I couldn't give up. So it was a tough time for sure. Laura: Growing up, did your parents notice you struggling like this? Michelle: My mom was in education, so when I was going through this, I went back and I chatted with her. And I did ask her, "Hey, did you not notice that this was going on?" She basically just said, "I just didn't have very high expectations. I just didn't think that you were the smartest child in your class," kind of something to that effect. And I — Mom, forgive me — but, I mean, she just thought that I wasn't that smart, I guess. And I think that's what opened my eyes to the cultural lack of awareness for learning and attention differences, and just how we handle it. We just attribute it to, "Well, they're not that smart, or maybe they are lazy." There's a lot of stigma involved with it, and there's a lot of shame. And it's just not something that is spoken about, Laura, in the Hispanic culture. It's just not the awareness that we have. Laura: And this is not about judgment of people noticing or not noticing. That's actually why we're here, talking about the things that you notice both in yourself and in Aidan. It took me 30 years. Right? It took — everyone I talked to on this podcast, there was a long period of time during which they were confused or the people around them were confused. And I think you're right, because there is a lot of shame and it can be baffling sometimes. I'm hearing this thread in your story about Aidan, who obviously is extremely intelligent but thought he was stupid. And he's not stupid. You worrying about being perceived that way and even potentially being perceived that way in your own family, for better or worse. Now, you were diagnosed five years ago. Is that right? Michelle: That's correct. Laura: So, we know that ADHD tends to run in families. A child with ADHD has a one-in-four chance of having at least one parent who has it. Do you ever notice signs of ADHD in your mom, for instance? Have you? Michelle: For sure, in both of my parents. So, my mom, she was always a very high achiever.She definitely struggled to keep things organized. And even though she was definitely never diagnosed with anything, I do find she gets easily distracted and is forgetful. I didn't realize the symptoms until I started researching them in myself. My dad, on the other hand, was very much like Aidan. Just brilliant. He knew five languages, and he studied business because he felt like he had to support a family, but he hated it. And he was just very much — if there had been anyone that would have for sure received a diagnosis, I think it would have been him.Laura: I work with you, Michelle. You are not stupid in any way. And I hate — that's a gross word. I want to flip it. You are extremely intelligent. I see that every day, working with you, and you accommodate for your challenges, and it just makes you stronger. Michelle: It has been a learning process, Laura. And I've always felt very smart, but in an intuitive sense, not so much in a book-smart way. And I have to say that even as I realized going through Aidan's diagnosis, "Hey, this is what I have," it took almost 20 years for me to go and get myself diagnosed. Because even though I had the awareness of, yeah, he clearly got this from me, and I could talk about it, and I was advocating for him, I just never felt like, "Well, this is about me and my disability." I always felt, "Well, this is about him." I'll never forget having those conversations of, "Well, you need to organize his backpack and you need to organize his schedule and you need to keep him on a routine." And I finally told our pediatrician, I was like, "I can't do that. So you're expecting me to do with him something that I don't have the skills to do." And I think that is what eventually led me to getting a diagnosis and getting the support that I needed, because it was very hard. I know that, as a parent, you want to do what those caregivers are telling you to do with your child. But when you're also lacking those skills, it is really tough.If you don't look for the support that you need, it's very tough to support your child. So, yeah, that was pivotal in me seeking out my own diagnosis. Laura: How are you coping? What did that ADHD diagnosis, like, how did that help you get the support and accommodations that you needed? Michelle: I think in my case it was more relief. Because even though I knew it, just somebody telling me, "It's OK, this is just the way you think," allowed me to be forgiving with myself. It allowed me to be a better therapist. You know, I was working in the preschool by the time I did get a diagnosis, and a lot of parents were coming to see me with concerns about their own children. And it was so much easier to say, "Hey, listen, it's going to be OK. I was in your shoes with my own son, and I was in your shoes as an adult with ADHD." Let's find a village, but allow yourself to realize that we all have strengths, and we all have things that we're not so good at. Let's support those things we're not so good at while we are highlighting those strengths. I think that helped my conversation with those parents of children that I was treating. But it also helped with my healing process. Laura: I was thinking earlier about, you know, everything you were saying about what Aidan was going through. And I was just wondering, did your relationship with Aidan change when you found out that you had ADHD, or even when you suspected it? Michelle: For sure. So, the joke in our family is that Aidan and I understand each other, that we speak the same language, even though sometimes it's hard to come up with the words or the right language that we want to use. We are really good at other things. And we could definitely talk to each other about, "OK, yeah, so we can't keep our sock drawer clean, but we're very intuitive, and looking at other people and seeing what they're feeling, perhaps." Laura: I love that, Michelle. It sounds like there's just a lot of electricity in the air between you and Aidan. Michelle: For sure. It helps that when he was little, when we first went to get that diagnosis, I said his pediatrician at that time was very good and I'll never forget. Her name was Dr. Sprinkle. And she told us — it was amazing. And of course, I'm in tears because I know this is what's coming, and I'll never forget. She said, "Michelle, in an agrarian society, ADHD — it's not that it didn't exist, but we were out, and we were in the field. So, we weren't having to sit for hours on end and we weren't having to pay attention for hours on end. So, it wasn't a thing. But your child lives in this world, and he is being judged by others in this world.And I remember her saying, "The side effects of medication are short-term; the side effects of a low self-esteem because others don't understand your child are for life." And that's when I was able to have that conversation with Aidan and say, "You know, our brains are just different." We think in different ways; we have other gifts. So letting people judge us by the things that we can't do is just short-sighted by other people. And as long as we know that, it's OK. Laura: Aidan is so lucky to have you. You are so lucky to have Aidan. The two of you together sound like two peas in a pod and are just really lifting each other up. I mean, that gives me chills, Michelle. I think it's fantastic. Michelle: He's definitely a great kid. Laura: How's he doing lately? What's he up to? Michelle: Oh, my goodness. So he's made me go gray, and it has been a journey of highs and lows with a child with ADHD. We continued on, and there was definitely other things going on. So, he eventually got diagnosed with learning disabilities and stealth dyslexia. He graduated high school, and he got a scholarship to play lacrosse at the university. And it was a very exciting time. With COVID, he definitely struggled big time. And he was injured. He couldn't play lacrosse, and he was not doing well in school. And he was definitely not thriving with online instruction. And last December, we had to pull him out of school. I mean, he was probably the lowest point I've ever seen him. Just very depressed. We were very worried about him. But we put him in a community college near us, and we were rehabbing him as far as his physical injuries. And he's really good at things outdoors. He's always good with wilderness. And so we signed him up for a wilderness school. He was accepted. When it came time for him to go, he was, like, "I really think I would love this, but I need to go back to school and finish what I started." And both my husband and I were, like, "That might not be the right environment for you; we're not a hundred percent sure." But he worked his behind off, and he got back to the university where he was initially accepted to. And he's been working with the lacrosse coach and getting himself back on track. And he texted me last night, he got a 91 on his accounting midterm. So he is definitely grown up, and he has worked really hard to get where he is.Laura: Wow, Michelle, I mean, if that's not a story of resilience, I don't know what is. Michelle: It's amazing to watch. He's definitely my hero. He's not the perfect child, but he's definitely perfect for us.Laura: Michelle, thank you so, so much for being here. I know you from working with you. I see you in action. You do such great work for Understood. But talking with you, hearing your story, hearing about Aidan, I just feel even more deeply connected to you now. So, thank you so much for being here. Michelle: The pleasure's all mine. Thank you so much for having me, Laura.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha," from the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "ADHD Aha" on Apple, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about the show. We rely on listeners like you to reach and support more people. And if you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. You can go to u.org/ADHDAha to find details on each episode and related resources. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G, slash ADHD Aha.Understood is a nonprofit and social impact organization. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine. Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Justin D. Wright created our music. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And I'm your host, Laura Key, editorial director at Understood. Thanks so much for listening.

  • ADHD medication rebound

    ADHD medication lessens symptoms for most people with ADHD. So why would symptoms suddenly flare up — at the same time each day? If it happens around the time the medication is wearing off, it’s probably a “medication rebound.”Medication rebound can happen to both kids and adults. It doesn’t mean that ADHD symptoms are getting worse, or that the medication isn’t working. But it might mean the medication needs fine-tuning.Here’s what you need to know about ADHD medication rebound, and how you can stop it.What rebound isRebound is the brain’s reaction when a stimulant medication is wearing off. When the medication leaves the system too quickly, it causes ADHD symptoms to return. And the symptoms may be especially intense.The good news is that for some people, this reaction usually lasts for only about an hour. Sometimes an adjustment in medication can help reduce rebound.Why rebound occursRebound is directly linked to how fast a person’s body processes a medicine. The rate at which the medication wears off isn’t the same for everyone.Stimulant medication starts working within 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the drug. For some people, a long-acting (“all day”) stimulant medicine may work for 10 hours. For others, it may last only for six. The medication is filtered through the kidneys or liver as it’s released. Then it’s gradually eliminated from the body. Usually, most of it is cleared out by later in the same day.These medications are designed to wear off evenly. But in some people, they move through the filtering process very quickly. And that causes a steep drop-off in medicine level as it wears off.That’s when a rebound usually happens. ADHD symptoms flare up suddenly as the medication is wearing off. And for a brief time, they’re more intense than they usually are without medication.Rebound typically lasts for about an hour — until the medicine has completely worn off. Then you’re likely to see a return to the usual level of symptoms.How to tell if it’s reboundMany people experience some side effects when they first start taking stimulant medication. They may have stomach pain or headaches. Or a decrease in appetite. Those side effects usually clear up within a few weeks as the body adjusts to the medicine.But sometimes people will show a different set of symptoms. They may become:Extremely wiredVery irritableTired, sad, and subduedIn some cases, the symptoms appear during the time the medication is supposed to be active. They begin soon after the first dose and last for a few hours. And they decrease only as the medication wears off.That may be a sign that the dose is too high and needs fine-tuning. It may also be a sign that the medicine isn’t right for that person.In other cases, the person is fine and the medicine is working for most of the time. But then symptoms suddenly appear toward the end of when the drugs are active. That’s a sign that the medication is dropping off too fast. This causes a rebound effect and means the medication needs to be adjusted.Watch as an expert explains how to figure out the timing of ADHD stimulant medication:How to stop and prevent medication reboundWhen rebound symptoms appear repeatedly over a number of days, it’s a good idea to speak with the doctor or prescriber. They may prescribe a “booster” to eliminate them.A booster is usually a small dose of the same medicine. But it’s a version of the drug that acts immediately and then wears off quickly. People take it shortly before their regular medication is set to wear off.The addition of a small amount of medication usually makes the drop-off more gradual. And that keeps the rebound reaction from happening. When it’s not reboundA sudden return of ADHD symptoms isn’t always about rebound, especially in kids. Symptoms may flare up when kids get home from school. This could be because kids feel like they can be themselves at home. They know they’ll have the support of a loved one, regardless of their behavior. But if they act out at school, they’ll get in trouble or risk harming social relationships.They may also just be worn out. The ADHD brain gets tired during the day from having to monitor itself. Stimulant medication greatly reduces symptoms. But it never fully makes them go away.Learn more about ADHD in the brain. Listen to an expert explain ADHD on our ADHD Aha! podcast. And find out how one family wrestled with the decision to put their child on ADHD medication.Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

  • Understood Explains Season 2

    ADHD treatment without medication: What are my options?

    There are many ways to treat ADHD without medication or in addition to medication. Learn about options ranging from behavior therapy to free apps. There are many ways to treat ADHD without medication — or in addition to medication. Learn about a wide range of ADHD treatments, from therapy to free apps and tools. Host Dr. Roberto Olivardia also talks about social and workplace supports. Listen as he answers common questions, like whether diet or supplements can help with ADHD.Can ADHD be treated without medication? [00:51] What is cognitive behavior therapy? [01:54] What are some common coping mechanisms for treating ADHD? [04:19] How can social supports help with ADHD? [05:53] How can assistive technology help with ADHD? [07:53] Should I change my diet or take supplements to help with ADHD? [08:43] What about workplace accommodations for ADHD? [09:41] Key takeaways, next episode, and credits [10:31] Related resourcesWhat is cognitive behavioral therapy?8 common ADHD myths5 oddly specific ADHD strategies that help me at workHow to ask for a workplace accommodationCan “color sound” help us get things done?Episode transcriptYou’re listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains: ADHD Diagnosis in Adults.Today’s episode answers the question “How can I treat ADHD without medication?”My name is Dr. Roberto Olivardia, and I’m a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience evaluating people for things like ADHD. I’m also one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. I’ll be your host.My goal here is to answer the most common questions about ADHD diagnosis. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about ADHD in general. We’re going to do this quickly — in the next 10 or so minutes. So, let’s get to it.Can ADHD be treated without medication? [00:51] The answer to this first question is…ABSOLUTELY! While it’s true that many people benefit from ADHD meds, it’s very common for people to learn to manage their symptoms without medication. It’s also not unusual for someone newly diagnosed with ADHD to start out taking medication and eventually stop using it once they’ve got other helpful supports in place.There’s an incredible range of non-medication supports, and this includes everything from working with a therapist to setting calendar reminders on your phone. But for today’s episode, I’m going to group non-medication supports into four big categories:Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBTCoping mechanismsSocial supports, andAssistive technologyNow, these are all pretty fancy-sounding terms for what are actually fairly simple ideas. I’m going to spend the next few minutes telling you a bit about each one and how they can help you thrive — with or without ADHD medication.What is cognitive behavioral therapy? [01:54]CBT’s a common form of talk therapy:It gets you to look at your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.It shows you how to replace negative thoughts with more realistic, positive ones.And it helps you change behaviors that are causing problems in everyday life.As a psychologist, I spend a lot of time doing CBT.Here’s a recent example: One of my patients, who is a college student, said to me, “There is no way I can write a 40-page thesis, so why try?” He was doing what psychologists call catastrophizing. This is a common kind of thinking trap — or cognitive distortion — where people assume the worst will happen. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is especially common among folks like me who have ADHD.But the good news is that CBT can help us catch ourselves having these kinds of distorted thoughts and reframe the way we’re thinking or responding.So in the case of this college student, I helped him stop and think about the accuracy of what he was saying. Instead of “There’s no way I can write this super-long paper,” he realized what he was actually thinking was “I am overwhelmed at the thought of writing this paper,” which is totally valid. Reframing his thinking helped him start taking steps to get parts of the project done, like outlining the paper, scheduling time to write each section, getting support from his professor. And you know what? He ended up writing a great 40-page paper!I use CBT all the time to help my patients. I also use it to help myself. In fact, this past weekend I ran a 5K, my first since the pandemic started. I was a bit out of practice, and right around the first mile-marker, I was having a lot of negative, unhelpful thoughts, like “You used to run 5K’s with ease. You ran a half-marathon. But now you’re totally sucking wind and you’re barely a full mile in.” Not helpful. But I noticed those thoughts and replaced them with more positive ones, like “I’ve done this before and I can do it again. I’m grateful that I’m healthy enough to even try to run a 5K.” So these are just a couple examples of how CBT can be such an incredibly powerful tool for treating ADHD — because it helps reframe thinking in ways that can positively impact our behavior. And, just so you know, I did indeed finish that 5K last weekend. I was a hot, sweaty mess, but I was a hot, sweaty mess who made it to the finish line!What are some common coping mechanisms for treating ADHD? [04:18] There are so many strategies or mechanisms that can help you cope with ADHD. It’s really a matter of finding the ones that work best for you. Many people find that exercising daily helps “burn off” the excess energy that often comes with ADHD.Making to-do lists is another common coping mechanism, although you have to watch out and make sure your list doesn’t get too long. Using color-coding can also help you prioritize what’s on the list.And when you’re working on something, it’s often helpful to take short breaks every hour or so. Even if it’s just a minute or two of breathing exercises, that can help clear your mind so you can focus on whatever needs to get done.The key is to develop coping strategies that are healthy and effective. For example, you may think that drinking a few beers every night helps you relax so you can fall asleep. But the alcohol may be affecting the quality of your sleep in ways that make you feel even more tired the next day. And drinking too much can be harmful to your health in other ways too.A more effective strategy to help you unwind at night might be to avoid caffeine late in the day, do some light stretching before bed, and then maybe listen to a boring podcast — although hopefully not this one. 😄When it comes to developing coping strategies, I always tell my patients: As long as it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, go with it. Also, keep track of the strategies you’re trying. Sometimes it can take multiple tries before something sticks — or before you decide you need to move on to a different strategy.How can social supports help with ADHD? [05:53] Social supports can come in many different forms. At home, it can be telling your spouse or roommate how ADHD affects your brain — not as an excuse, but to help them understand what’s challenging for you. At work, a social support might be asking a co-worker for help getting started on a new or confusing task.My social skills have always been a big asset for me, especially when I was growing up with undiagnosed ADHD. Connecting to other people was a powerful source of stimulation for me. Building relationships with my classmates and teachers helped me be more present, which helped me pay attention. But after I was diagnosed with ADHD, and I understood some of my behaviors better, I was able to explain to family and friends why I struggled with certain things — like procrastinating in school or hyperfocusing on things I like.I wasn’t using ADHD to make excuses. I was enlisting the support of others to help me figure out what I needed to succeed. One big point I want to emphasize here is that leaning on social supports doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone you have ADHD. It just means you’re reaching out, engaging with the world, and asking for help if needed — instead of isolating yourself and letting your problems snowball. When it comes to social supports, I often tell my patients two things…First, there is no shame in having ADHD. Never let shame keep you from asking for what you need and using any supports that are available to you.Second, don’t apologize for having ADHD. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there, so you may need to educate people when you’re enlisting their support. No, ADHD isn’t about being lazy or unmotivated. No, it’s not something kids grow out of as they get older.And if you want help debunking these and other common ADHD myths, check out the Understood.org resources we link to in the show notes for this episode. How can assistive technology help with ADHD? [07:52] There are lots and lots of apps and other tools that can help people with ADHD get organized. Some of this technology may come built into your phone. For example:Use a timer to help you focus on a task for a set time period like, say, 30 minutes, and then take a one- or two-minute break. Set up auto-pay for expenses you know you have the funds to cover every month.Use a “brown noise” app or a “pink noise” app to help you concentrate. These apps play sounds that can drown out distractions and keep you focused.Once you have the right technology supports in place, they can be super helpful. But be patient and keep reminding yourself that technology gets easier once you learn how to use it. Should I change my diet or take supplements to help with ADHD? [08:43]There are definitely some changes you can make to your diet to help with ADHD, like avoiding caffeine late in the day so you don’t make it harder to wind down at night. There’s also some pretty good research that suggests consuming more omega-3’s — like the kind found in salmon and sardines — can also help manage some ADHD symptoms. But there’s not as much research to support taking supplements like zinc or ginkgo biloba or St. John’s wort. The big cautionary note here is to talk with your doctor before you start taking any supplements. I’m urging this for two reasons:First, because supplements could affect any prescription medications you might be taking.Second, I want to mention, just in general, that too much of anything — even if it’s a good thing — could have unintended effects.So be sure to talk with your health care provider.What about workplace accommodations for ADHD? [09:40]So this is a huge topic that we could do an entire podcast on, but I want to at least mention here that you can ask your boss for workplace supports to help with your ADHD. One example might be wearing noise-canceling headphones at work. Or asking to have important meetings earlier in the day rather than late in the afternoon when it might be harder for you to focus. There are laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, and there are a lot of free or low-cost things that can help improve your productivity with ADHD. So think about talking with your manager. And be sure to check out the show notes for this episode, where we’ll include resources on how to ask for workplace accommodations.Key takeaway, next episode, and credit [10:30]OK, listeners, that’s it for Episode 6. The key takeaway I’m hoping sticks with you from this episode is that there are lots of non-medication treatments and strategies for ADHD that can help make your life easier. Be your biggest supporter, and don’t be afraid to advocate for what you need to succeed.Thanks for listening. I hope you’ll join me for Episode 7, which explains how to prepare emotionally for an ADHD diagnosis.You’ve been listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we’ve mentioned in the episode. One important note: I don’t prescribe ADHD medication and I don’t have any affiliation with pharmaceutical companies — and neither does Understood. This podcast is intended solely for informational purposes and is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis or for medical advice or treatment. Talk with your health care provider before making any medical decisions.Understood Explains is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also edited the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show.For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission.

  • ADHD and caffeine: What parents need to know

    If you have ADHD, the promised benefits of caffeine — feeling more alert, staying focused — can sound like a miracle. But the truth is that for kids with ADHD, caffeine can be more harmful than helpful.1. Caffeine can be harmful for kids. Kids may love the rush they get from the sugar and caffeine in soda. But according to FDA guidelines, there is no known safe amount of caffeine for children. 2. The “buzz” can lead to a crash. Like adults, kids get a buzz from caffeine. But it isn’t a reliable or sustainable way to manage ADHD symptoms like inattention. Too much caffeine can make kids feel jittery. And it can lead to a “crash” in the afternoon when the caffeine wears off.3. The effects of caffeine can linger, making it harder to sleep. Many people with ADHD have trouble sleeping — even if they avoid caffeine. The boost that makes caffeine feel helpful during the day can make it even harder for kids to sleep at night. And not getting enough sleep makes ADHD symptoms worse, not better.4. Too much caffeine can be dangerous.Using too much caffeine — or using it too often — can be bad for a child’s health. Caffeine can contribute to dehydration, and it can cause headaches for some kids. Too much caffeine can lead to an upset stomach. It can also cause serious issues like high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Kids with ADHD often struggle with self-regulation, and both the sugary taste and the “boost” they get from caffeinated drinks make it easy for them to drink far too much. This is especially an issue with “energy drinks” and “energy shots,” which are often used excessively by teens and young adults. 5. Caffeine is a stimulant. When kids are already taking a stimulant medication for ADHD, caffeine can heighten the effects and suppress appetite, leaving them feeling jittery or sweaty. And it can make it even harder for them to wind down at night.6. Caffeine can be addictive. Caffeine is a drug, and like all drugs it can be addictive. If your teen has trouble setting limits or is prone to self-medicating, it may be safer to cut out caffeine altogether.7. Caffeine doesn’t help with ADHD symptoms. Caffeine is not a good way to manage ADHD symptoms. It should never be used as a substitute for proven treatments like medication and behavioral therapy.The bottom line: Caffeine won’t help with the symptoms of ADHD. And, though an occasional soda probably isn’t a big deal, caffeine can cause sleep disruptions and unpleasant (or even dangerous) health impacts for many kids. If your child is looking for something to help improve concentration and give them an energy boost, a healthy snack or a glass of water would be more effective. See how lack of sleep can affect how kids learn. Learn more about trouble with self-regulation. And find out how to help college students with ADHD create a time management system that can help them avoid pulling all-nighters.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD or a “bad personality”? (Kai’s story)

    Kai thought she was doing a good job masking her ADHD symptoms, like distractibility. Then her friend called her out. Kai Liu thought she was doing a good job masking her distractibility and overall frazzled-ness. It wasn’t until a friend checked in with her that she realized she wasn’t masking her ADHD symptoms as well as she’d thought. After some reflection about her trouble with focus, she knew it was time to ask a doctor about ADHD.Kai grew up thinking she just had a “bad personality.” But this conversation with host Laura Key shows that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Through her ADHD diagnosis, and some self-kindness, she’s turning that way of thinking around. Listen to hear about symptoms of ADHD in adult women — and as Laura and Kai, who’s a comedian, play an impromptu ADHD game show!Related resourcesADHD in women and girlsAll about trouble focusingADHD and shame (Dr. Kojo’s story)Episode transcriptKai: I went to a bar with a bunch of my friends. And I continuously became distracted by all the different things happening around me, especially by all the cute dogs passing by outside the bar. And one of my friends, she was telling me a story. And I couldn't focus on her story. And she gently placed her hand on my hand and said, "Kai, are you OK? You seem very frazzled."And I thought that was one, the rudest thing anyone has ever said to me, but two, what a nice thing to say to me, because I didn't know that anyone could see this but me. I thought I was masking it very well. And that's when I realized that I might have ADHD.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Kai Liu. Kai is an actor and comedian who lives near San Francisco. Kai has ADHD, and she's a very funny lady. Hi, thanks for being here with me today. Kai: Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here.Laura: Tell me a little bit about yourself, Kai.Kai: I am an actor and I am also a writer and an artist, and I am a serial dog rescuer. But funny enough, I only rescue pugs, apparently. So I have three very special little guys running around. They have their own Instagram, which I am not ashamed to plug: Peanut and Butters The Pugs, if you would like to follow.Laura: What do you love so much about pugs? Kai: When I was a kid, I had a pug — also a rescue pug. And he was my best friend because I was an only child. You know, when people say that dogs listen to you, regardless of whether or not you're a good or bad person? I'm not saying I was a bad person or a bad kid. But he was just there. He was just my best bud. And you listened to me and that really stuck with me. And as soon as I became an adult, I did an application on my own, did the home check. And now I'm just stuck with a bunch of pugs forever.Laura: As a dog lover myself who grew up with dogs, I can relate to that. I have a sheltie and she's noisy and not in the room right now, because that would be very distracting. Kai: It's weird. Once you get attached to a breed, you're attached to a breed.Laura: Always been shelties for me, for my dad, for my grandparents, always, always and forever. Sheltie love.Kai: That's your bumper sticker.Laura: That's my bumper — wait, how did you know?Kai: I have a bumper sticker that says "pug life" and it's in the shape of a pug. Laura: That's great. Kai, I want to go back to something you just said. You used the term "bad person," right? And I know you were saying it like in jest a little bit, you talking about growing up with dogs, but it is like this whole idea of like being a bad person, having a bad personality, quote unquote, it's a thread for you in your story, isn't it?Kai: It is kind of a thread for me and my story. I don't consider myself a bad person whatsoever. I'm just gonna lay that out there. However, I was raised in kind of an abusive household and environment where I was told that I was a bad person if I didn't do certain things around the house like chores, or if I didn't get straight A's — and I never got straight A's. I got three A's one time. And that summer, I felt like a little angel the whole summer.But I think for me, my whole adulthood has been a redemption story almost, where I am constantly proving to myself and trying to prove to others that I am, in fact, a decent human being. It's a constant struggle to remind myself that the words of my childhood and the things ingrained in me from a very early age are incorrect and not true.Laura: This idea of like being bad, like bad person or bad personality, it's related to your "aha" moment, isn't it?Kai: It is. It really is. So I grew up not really knowing if there was something inherently wrong with me. You know, as my upbringing told me that there was something inherently wrong with me. I was always kind of a space cadet kid. I daydreamed a lot and I wouldn't pay attention. And growing up, I really thought that it was because of the trauma that I had. And maybe a lot of it was part due to the trauma that I experienced. However, got to a point when I was in my early 20s, where at work, I just couldn't pay attention. And every little change in light or noise or sudden movements really just threw me off.I could be really extremely focused on a task, and something would happen and I would just be gone. And it would be a struggle to come back to that task. I would just be frazzled for the rest of the day. And I use that word "frazzled" kind of lightly, but it felt like thousands of tiny explosions were happening in front of my face at all times.And when I was maybe 25, I went to a bar with my friends, a bunch of actor buddies of mine. And the bar, you know, it was a bar. It was noisy, it was dark, but light, you know, really bright in some corners. And there was a window wall to the outside street and it was in San Francisco. So a lot of traffic and dogs. And you know how much I love dogs. Every single dog I saw, I was like, "Oh my God, it's a new dog. I love that dog. I have to go pet that dog." And one of my good friends, Joanna, she saw me getting distracted by all of these different things. And she just put her hand on my shoulder and was like, "Kai, are you OK? You seem just really frazzled." And I looked at her and I went, "That is the rudest thing anyone has ever said to me. But also, I didn't know anyone else could notice how frazzled I was. I thought I was masking it really well." And that really got me thinking, because I was an educator also before, and I worked with special needs kids. And so I had read up on all of these different learning disabilities and disorders, but I had never really applied them to myself.And so on the drive home, I kind of went through all of the different symptoms that I was going through in my life. And I realized I might actually have ADHD. So that night I went on my Kaiser app, made an appointment. The next day, went to my doctor and said, "Hey doc, I don't know if I just have a terrible personality because I'm not paying attention to anything anyone's telling me. And not that they bore me, but I just can't focus. Or I have ADHD." And she went, "I don't think you have a bad personality, first of all, but let's do the test. Let's check." And lo and behold, I couldn't even focus enough during the tests to take the tests. I had ADHD.Laura: Whoa, couldn't even focus enough during the test to take the test. That's some serious trouble with focus, Kai.Kai: It was. And honestly, it was just an absolute relief to learn that I had ADHD, because then — it wasn't an excuse to be everywhere all at once. But it was —it was a reason. It was a good reason that I could hold on to, you know, it was kind of like a relief, a weight off my shoulders.Laura: I can imagine. I mean, I've been there. I know that feeling. And for you, you know, obviously you have a wonderful personality. But for you, it was this relief of no, I just, I don't just have a bad personality, right? Which I actually think that that's probably a pretty common feeling in the ADHD world.Kai: Absolutely. I think when you get diagnosed as a kid, it's a lot different than when you've grown up your whole life not knowing that you had something like that. And then discovering that, oh, there are reasons for why I overcompensate for certain things or why I need to mask other things. So it's definitely a different feeling when you are diagnosed with it in adulthood.Laura: A lot of people don't realize, like when you have ADHD again, it's not just about hyperactivity. It can be for some people, but for a lot of people, it can really affect social skills. Other than distraction, like what other ways does ADHD affect you socially?Kai: It makes me very, uh, flustered and gives me a lot of anxiety when I go outside. Before I started taking medication, I had a lot of social anxiety. I couldn't even go to Costco without having a full-on panic attack, just because there was so many things going on, you know. The ladies yelling "Free sample!" And of course I want that sample, but I want the other sample across the aisle. There are a lot of ladies giving out samples at Costco. And I love free samples.But I would just dread going to parties — going to really just any social event. Not that I didn't want to. I absolutely wanted to see people and see friends. I like going to parties. But when I'd get there, I would always just be so overwhelmed and, you know, the sweat would just start dripping down, and I would just become so agitated that I realized not only was I not having fun, but I don't think anyone who is talking to me was having fun. And that's something that makes me sad, when someone's talking to me and they're not having fun. So I just, I avoided going outside. I avoided seeing people for brunch or outside of work obligations. I just kind of stayed at home. Laura: Did anybody ever tell you that it seemed like they weren't having fun, or do you think that was your own narrative?Kai: I have a very poor narrative internally, but I don't think anyone has outrightly told me other than my parents. Laura: Sticks with you, huh? Kai: It really does, yeah. I think I've used my whole life to run away from a few times where my dad said that I was a very boring person.Laura: Boring?!Kai: Yes. Yes. Laura: Why boring, do you think?Kai: I was a very depressed kid. I was a very dissociated kid, mainly because of all the traumas that they have put me through. But I daydreamed a lot and oftentimes when they would talk to me, I would get very distracted. And so he would just say, "You're kind of a boring kid."Which, you know, if you have kids, don't, don't say that to your kids. It really haunts them. And then they spend their whole lives trying to do comedy. And that does not pay.Laura: Yeah. We've been talking for a few minutes. You're anything but boring, number one.Kai: Why thank you. Laura: Secondly, I'm so sorry. That's an awful thing to be told and it's not fair, and you've carried it with you. With a lot of my guests, I talk about relationships with family and stigma around ADHD or like disbelief even. And with some people, they're like, "Yeah, I'm starting to talk to my parents about it. I'm going to talk about my ADHD and what's going on with me, with my family and try to squash some myths with them." And like for others, it's like, "You know what, let's move on. And let me work on myself." Which camp would you say that you're in? Kai: Oh, the second camp, absolutely. It's been a struggle explaining, you know, how to send an email attachment to them. I'm not gonna sit down and tell them how my brain works. That's way more complicated than an email attachment.Laura: Yes it is — way more complicated.Kai: It has been a struggle to mask it in front of my family, or just at least put it aside when I'm with them and then deal with it in my own time. Laura: What does the masking look like at family gatherings? Kai: The masking looks like just smiling all the time, nodding your head when they're talking to you. And, uh, also just if they ask you any questions, just stuff food in your mouth and just say, "This is really good. Did you make this? Wow, you're such a good cook." And then they'll be so flattered by that, that they'll totally forget that question that they asked you. Laura: I'm sorry that you have to do that. And yet you tell these stories with so much humor, I can't help but chuckle a little bit. Some of what you were describing about being at parties or being at a bar, is there any sensory stuff going on too?Kai: Absolutely. I smell all the smells, unfortunately. And I don't have bad eyesight, so I can see distracting things from really far away. And, uh, I don't have the best hearing, but I can also hear just all of the dogs. I can hear their little feet. I can hear their little sniffles. There's just a lot of different things happening all at once. And something that I've learned after discovering that I have ADHD is that I need to learn how to really just block out a lot of sensory overload. You know, I need to really pick and choose which ones I zero in on.Laura: I'm not a diagnostician. I don't know why for you in particular there's sensory stuff going on. But I know one thing that can lead to that from an ADHD perspective is exactly what you're talking about, which is like, a lot of people think, oh, it's just trouble paying attention. Sometimes it's also trouble figuring out what not to pay attention to.Kai: Absolutely. When people picture someone with ADHD, they always picture someone running around, usually a little boy. And it's not usually grown women who struggle to focus on their daily lives with a lot of sensory overload. Laura: And it's interesting. I mean, I don't remember exactly how many of these interviews I've done at this point, but almost none of the interviews have focused around hyperactivity. And it's not that hyperactivity is uncommon, you know, it's just, it's not everyone with ADHD.And like the one or two people who I did talk to about hyperactivity were both women. So there's just so many misconceptions, I think, is what I'm trying to say. Kai: Oh yeah. I think part of the reason could be is that people who have hyperactivity in their ADHD get diagnosed a lot earlier because it's so noticeable. And so they have less of an "aha" moment because someone else will have "aha"-ed for them.Laura: I want to try something. I don't know if this is going to work or not, but I pulled up, before our interview, a piece of content on our website, on Understood.org, that listed basically like ADHD symptoms that can cause trouble with social skills. And I want to try something. I want to, I want to say the symptom. And since you're such a creative person, if you're open to it, I want you to respond by saying like how that translates into like —Kai: I always wanted to be on a game show, so yes.Laura: Here we go. Yeah. I just, I've never done this before, Kai. I feel like you're the perfect candidate for this. I'm going to give you the symptom or the ADHD-difficulty related difficulty, and you find a way to spin it. This is actually anti-therapeutic. I shouldn't do this. You find a way to spin it into a negative thing that's related to a bad personality.Kai: Oh no. OK. A negative thing.Laura: Spin it into a negative thing and then we're going to bring it back around.Kai: OK, OK. Dig in real deep here.Laura: Dig deep. OK. So someone with ADHD might be distractible. That may manifest as…Kai: That might manifest as… when someone's telling you about a really tragic thing that happened, like something, like someone dying. And you realize that you're really thirsty. And so you get up mid-conversation and then you get a drink of water and come back, and going, "Oh, you're crying. But I was thirsty." Laura: I'm sorry. I'm laughing 'cause that was a very sad example, but it's so good. You're good at this. OK. So distractible, you gave a great example of what that could look like. Another example I had listed could be like, just going off topic, right? And people are like —Kai: Oh yeah, much easier one. Less sad. So much less death.Laura: There are no wrong answers here.Kai: He has the right answer except for the one that you just did. Yes. Laura: You want to do another one? Kai: Yeah. I'm here for all the games. Laura: OK. Trouble with planning.Kai: Oh man. So like when your significant other plans a full day when you're on vacation, and they give you this itinerary. And they're like, well, at first we're going to go see this bridge and then we're going to go to a museum and then we have reservations here. And then you blow it up immediately because you saw that there was some kind of exhibit somewhere else, and you really needed to see that gummy bear. Imagine if your significant other plans out a full day, and you see that there is a traveling world's largest gummy bear exhibit. You want to go to that exhibit and you want to touch all the gummy bears. Laura: This happened, didn't it, Kai? Kai: It didn't, but I'm imagining it in my head. Laura: I love it. Yep. Exactly. Trouble with planning could be mistaken for being unreliable or being flaky. All right, let's do one more: impulsivity.Kai: OK. So when you get a gift card, and you need to use this gift card for something that your house needs — kind of like toilet paper. But then you realize that this gift card, even though it has exactly the right amount of money for toilet paper that you're going to need to use throughout the week, you see something really shiny in the store. And instead you pick up that really shiny thing. And then you don't have toilet paper for the week. Laura: That would be impulsive. Kai: And that may have happened in my life.Laura: Right. Impulsivity can show up in lots of other ways too, but like that is a great example. So the purpose of this exercise, I think — that my producer Jessamine is probably like, "What is Laura doing?" — what I'm trying to say is that ADHD behaviors translate into these like super ubiquitous quote, unquote, bad behaviors. People brush them off and they're just like, oh, bad person, bad personality, whatever, bad at life. I don't know. But really it is something that is related to the symptoms that they can manage, but don't have full control over.Kai: Yeah, absolutely. That's why, you know, everyone should do what I do. Just surround yourself with people — others who have ADHD and you're all distracted together.Laura: Do you do that? Do a lot of your friends have ADHD or loved ones?Kai: You know, it's funny. I discovered that I have ADHD. And then because I'm so vocal about my problems and I'm just an overall oversharer — which is good and very, very bad — they have actually picked up on a lot of the symptoms that I complain about. And then they realized that they might also have ADHD. And so I've actually helped a lot of my friends go to their therapist or their primary physician and get tested themselves and get help. So, "You're welcome" to my friends. You know who you are.Laura: What are the next steps for you, then? You're on this path to not just acceptance, but like, not to sound cheesy, but self-love, and like embracing the ADHD-ness of it all. And kind of flipping the script on the bad personality and into being like, oh, "I'm creative."Kai: Yeah. Something that I've really enjoyed about having ADHD is that it has forced me to become more creative. It has forced me to learn a lot of different skills. And that's just because if I get really bored, I'll just try a new skill that I see on Pinterest. If someone made something out of wood, I could just be like, "I can do that." And then I'll go out and I'll buy a bunch of materials to do things with wood. But then I'll get really mediocre at this one skill. And then I'll get bored again. And then I'll move on to a new skill that I saw somewhere on the internet, especially at 3:00 in the morning. That's when the juices really get flowing. 3 a.m. is when I decide I'm going to learn a new skill and I'm going to do it mediocre.Laura: And you will crush that skill. I bet you're crushing it. Kai: I will absolutely crush that skill and then move on to the next skill and then maybe crush that skill. Laura: Your mediocre, I'm sure, is crushing all the skills. Kai: Thank you for believing in me.Laura: I believe in you so much. And it's nice to hear you in your own, like, very funny way say what sounds like something really nice about yourself. Like you're acquiring so much knowledge and like you're able to do so many cool, fun things. Kai, this has been so much fun to talk to you. Seriously, I mean, thank you for, for coming on and chatting with me.Kai: Thank you so much for having me. I was genuinely extremely excited to talk to you. Well, I love talking about my problems. So having an avenue where everyone can listen to my problems, that's the dream.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDaha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.Jessamine: Hi, everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I’m your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening. 

  • ADHD and falling in love

    Falling in love can be an emotional roller coaster for most teens. But for teenagers with ADHD, symptoms like impulsivity or trouble managing emotions can make falling in love or starting a relationship an even bumpier ride.That said, not all kids with ADHD struggle in the same way, or to the same degree. But for some, ADHD can make things more difficult. There are things parents can do to help. Understanding how ADHD can impact love and relationships for your teen can make it easier to offer support.The role of brain developmentKids with ADHD have delays in the development of executive function skills. The areas of the brain responsible for executive function take around one to three years longer to fully develop in kids with ADHD. This can impact kids’ social lives. For example, a 17-year-old with ADHD might be a little less emotionally mature than their peers, or be more likely to act impulsively. This might leave kids feeling embarrassed, or like they’re not ready for a romantic relationship. And that’s OK. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever be ready to get involved with someone or start dating. It might just take longer, and that’s perfectly normal.Intense emotions and hyperfocusKids with ADHD often feel emotions more deeply than other kids do, and love is no exception. When teens with ADHD fall in love, the good — and bad — feelings that come with it can be even more intense and more disruptive.New relationships or crushes are exciting and (mostly) enjoyable. But for kids with ADHD, that excitement and enjoyment can sometimes go too far. Your child might hyperfocus on the relationship, while schoolwork, sports, family, and friends take a backseat. Helping your teen set priorities and stick to their normal routine can help. For example, encourage them to keep plans with friends instead of canceling to hang out with their new partner. Or make a house rule that all homework has to be finished before they can text or call anyone. ADHD often translates to big emotions. When a crush isn’t returned or a relationship ends, kids with ADHD often experience it more intensely. This is true even if they’re the one who ended it. Feelings of loss, sadness, and hurt can become overwhelming. Let your child know you’re there if they need you. It’s important to validate your child’s feelings, even if they seem over-the-top to you. But try not to dwell on it. Instead, help your child focus on other things that bring them joy. If your child seems extremely down or doesn’t seem to be bouncing back after a reasonable amount of time, it might be time to get some help from a professional. Kids with ADHD are at higher risk for depression.Watch as ADHD expert Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, PhD, discusses ADHD, emotions, and falling in love.Impulsivity and risky behaviorTeens with ADHD often have trouble with impulse control and resisting temptation. They may be so excited that they come on too strong. Or rush into a relationship without considering whether it’s likely to be a good and healthy one. And they may be more likely to take unnecessary risks to gain the attention of someone they really like.Sexual activity is one area where teens with impulsivity often get into trouble. Many teens with ADHD have trouble putting on the brakes — or considering the consequences before acting. Teens with ADHD are more likely to become sexually active at a younger age than their peers. They’re also less likely to use protection and more likely to have unplanned pregnancies. Once again, executive function challenges are the cause. Having frank, thoughtful conversations with your child can help. Be clear (not sensational or vague) about the potential consequences of risky sexual behavior. Give your child the chance to ask questions. If you’re not comfortable talking to your child about sex, consider asking your family doctor, a guidance counselor, or a trusted adult who understands the challenges of ADHD to step in.How you can be there for your teenLet’s be real. Most teenagers don’t jump at the chance to share their private lives with their parents. You might only get glimpses into what they’re going through. Or you may offer advice without knowing if it’s taken. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for your child. Make sure your child knows you’re available if they need to talk. And have clear rules around dating. Talking them through with your child can help set the guardrails and boundaries that kids need to stay safe.Falling in love and having good first relationships is a powerful experience for all teens. Helping kids with ADHD navigate it safely can build confidence and lay the groundwork for happy, healthy relationships both now and as they grow.Help your teen with ADHD avoid dating trouble spots and make smart choices when it comes to romance.Use these quick tips to help your teen avoid risky behaviors.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    ADHD hyperfocus brings this journalist’s research to the next level

    Omar Mouallem is a journalist and filmmaker with ADHD. His ability to hyperfocus on projects wins him awards. Omar Mouallem is a journalist and filmmaker with ADHD. Omar has worn many hats — journalist, documentary filmmaker, “fake dean” of his self-made school Pandemic University School of Writing, and real professor — all without a college degree. When he began writing Praying to the West, he struggled to focus on one topic for an entire book. That led Omar to his ADHD diagnosis.A freelance writer for many years, Omar flourished as his busy mind moved from project to project. He’s won awards for his investigative journalism, where hyperfocusing down research rabbit holes is a strength. When the pandemic hit, and work dried up overnight, he had a lot to reconsider. Listen to this week’s episode of How’d You Get THAT Job?! to hear how he got his start from a Craigslist ad — and how impulsivity can actually work in your favor. Related resourcesPraying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas, by Omar MouallemAmazing Cats, by Omar MouallemDigging in the Dirt documentaryADHD and hyperfocusWhat is self-awareness?Episode transcriptOmar: If I feel like there's this one little detail in a story, it's kind of tangential, but I want it. I feel like I need it. I'll put an hour into it just so that I can complete that sentence. That's just kind of the way my mind works. And I guess I try to play to my mind's strengths. Eleni: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is " How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a podcast that explores the unique and often unexpected career paths of people with learning and thinking differences. My name is Eleni Matheou, and I'm a user researcher here at Understood. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how we find jobs we love that reflect how we learn and who we are. I'll be your host. My next guest is Omar Mouallem. He's a Canadian journalist who digs deep into topics from food to religion. He's written award-winning books and worked on documentary films. He even started an online school for writing. It's called Pandemic University or "PanU," where he's now the dean. Even though he never received a college degree. He was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. That information helped him understand some of the challenges he's faced in his career, and it also helped him harness his strengths. Welcome to the show, Omar. Omar: Thanks. It's a pleasure to be on the show. Eleni: While I was preparing for this interview, I googled you, of course, and I noticed you have two books. The most recent is "Praying to the West: How Muslims Shaped the Americas." It's won a bunch of awards, sounds super interesting. It's now on my reading list, and…Omar: I know where this is going. Eleni: …the other one might also be on my reading list, but it's from 13 years ago, and it's a very different genre. Omar: A little bit. Eleni: It's called "Amazing Cats." Omar: Yes. You want to know how that happened? Eleni: Yeah. Like, how did you go from cats to examining Islam? Omar: The, honestly, the cat stories, I think probably a lot easier to tell than the book that examines Islam. The cat story is very simple. In 2007 — I would have been maybe 21 or 22 — I'd just dropped out of college, and this is my third college in three years because I thought that I didn't need a degree to become a writer or a journalist, and I could just find the work myself. And I did what I thought you do when you're looking for writing jobs, which is you go on Craigslist, and let me tell you what a terrible place to try to become a writer. Eleni: Is that what people think that we do?Omar: This is what stupid people think they do. And I am very comfortable admitting to being a stupid person. And so, yeah, most of the listings there were obviously pretty scammy, but there was one but from a local publisher that said something along the lines of looking for an author/writer to write true stories about cats, specifically true stories about cats. And I don't know, I thought it was like an anthology or something, a collection of essays about cats. I had a cat. I've had cats all my life. I really love cats. And so, I applied. And then months later, I got invited for an interview. And that's where I found out that it was an entire book about cats by one person they were looking to publish. And I got that book deal. The fact that it was on Craigslist gives you an idea of how little it paid. But at that time, $5,000 was the most that I could actually maybe imagine a writer being paid for a job. So, I said yes. Eleni: Wow. So, perhaps not so stupid after all. Omar: Well, you know, it's, I love the fact that my first book was and will always be "Amazing Cats." It is probably the best, like, cocktail party story I could ever tell. Does it sometimes get in the way of, like, trying to present myself as a serious person? Sometimes. But I also don't mind being underestimated. I also do some hard investigative journalism as well, and sometimes I'll go into those interviews that are going to be tough. I’m gonna ask a lot of tough questions. It's going to get uncomfortable and you know, the subject or their handler or their companies PR person will try to grease me up and they'll bring up "Amazing Cats." They'll say, "Hey, I googled you and this came up, " and I know what's going on, right? So, I love being underestimated in those situations because then they don't really see it coming. Eleni: How did you end up doing investigating work? Omar: I mean, it's just part of being a freelancer. I have a reputation, I guess, for being a pretty thorough researcher going down rabbit holes. And so, that reputation, I think, just kind of, it just kind of snowballed into, "Well, if you can do this about a story, you know, if you can do this for a story about, say, like the cannabis industry or for a story about the HPV vaccine, then you could probably do this for a investigative piece about a sexual predator." And I hope that's true. I am specifically working on a story about that right now. I like a great story. And it doesn't matter if it makes you laugh, and it doesn't matter if it makes you cry. If it's a great story, it's a great story. And I don't really feel like I need to be a one-note writer. Eleni: Totally. You mentioned going down rabbit holes. We have spoken to other writers on this show that talk about getting into really deep, hyperfocus when they're working. Omar: Oh yes. Eleni: Yeah. I wondered if, you know, that's come up for you and if you feel like it relates to ADHD in any way?Omar: I think it does. Yeah. It's like a really, low-key euphoria or mania when it hits you. Eleni: Low-key mania. I like that. Omar: Kind of, right? I'll just lose sense of time and I will certainly lose sense of priority. I mean, there's a couple of ways to look at it. It's not really something I can control very well because I, you know, I'm not great at prioritizing what maybe should be prioritized sometimes. So, if I feel like there's this one little detail in a story, it's kind of tangential, but I want it. I feel like I need it. I'll put an hour into it just so that I can complete that sentence. That's just kind of the way my mind works. And I guess I try to play to my mind's strengths. Eleni: I know that, you know, you got your ADHD diagnosis in the last five years, which is recent, you know, based on the limited knowledge I have of your book. It sounds like you were able to address, you know, some of your Muslim identity, and how that made you feel othered. Like, have you ever felt the same way in terms of like how your brain works and your neurodiversity in terms of feeling othered? Omar: That's a really good question that no one's ever asked me that I've never asked myself. Thankfully, everyone around me growing up and throughout my adolescence and young adulthood has kind of supported me in just my, I guess, my random pursuits or in my neurodiversity, I guess. I'm the black sheep in my family. But my parents were really supportive in encouraging me to pursue my creative pursuits. It's definitely a revelatory experience to have the language to describe your neurodiversity at this late in your life. Yeah, late mid-thirties, mid-thirties, whatever euphemism you'd like to. I'm OK with saying I'm pretty close to middle age. And so, to suddenly have a descriptor for the way that you act or think very differently, for why I can be so impulsive, or why I have a hard time prioritizing the right things, why I get hyperfocused on things that don't matter to anyone else? I guess there's something kind of liberating about that. Maybe it relates to reconnecting with the Muslim heritage that I grew up with and kind of having a better understanding for some of the ethics values, culture, that I grew up with. But I don't know. I don't know. That one was, that's much more challenging for me. I was sort of in opposition to it for, you know, most of my life, almost all of my life, whereas this one was just kind of humming in the background, and I wasn't really aware of it until a few years ago. The thing that made me aware of it was shifting from being a freelance journalist, working on multiple and many articles every week and every month to being an author. You know, cat book notwithstanding, that's, you know, that's a book about a hundred different little cat stories. Whereas writing a single narrative over the course of 300 pages is a very different skill set, and it requires a different kind of focus. In the case of "Praying to the West," that was over four years. And that challenge for me is when I realized that "OK, I am mentally having a very difficult time with this." I had a sense that I was probably ADHD for a few years, but at the same time, I didn't want to tamper with the strengths of being a bit of an unfocused freelancer who is multitasking and has one novelty project that I can sort of chase down, be a little tiny master of this one topic, package it up, sent it, send it along, and then go become a tiny master of something else, and then something else. And so, I kind of thrived in that environment. Where I'm at now, I only have a few projects that I'm working on at once. And so, it's a different skill set and requires a different temperament, I think, as well. Eleni: Earlier you mentioned, I think you said dropping out of three degrees or not completing three degrees. Is that what you said? Omar: Kind of. Three colleges in three years. Eleni: Three colleges. OK, three colleges in three years.Omar: Yeah, the first two were, I did complete them. They were just like, you know, I got the certificate. Eleni: OK. Omar: I got the piece of paper. Eleni: So, two certificates and one degree dropout. Omar: One abandoned degree. Yes. Eleni: One abandoned degree. I like that better. OK. Despite that, I know that you've launched a university,Omar: Yes. Eleni: and you've taught some classes. Omar: Yes. Eleni: Do you want to talk a little bit about, I guess, perhaps, why that form of education wasn't right for you and how, I guess, that experience led to this origin story of founding your own...Omar: I would love to. Eleni: ...own university. Omar: So, yeah, I don't have a degree. I don't have a journalism degree. I don't have an English degree. I have, I have a certificate that says I completed two programs, one in screenwriting and the other one in film production. And I didn't make use of those until just a few years ago. Eleni: Mm hmm. I want to come back to that. Omar: Sure. Omar: So, in the early days of the pandemic, I very quickly saw my work as my freelance work dry up. I was also at the tail end of writing Praying to the West, so I had this master plan that after four years of writing this thing, I was going to start pitching stories again and lining up some articles. And I was kind of itching for it, honestly, like after holding this giant idea, this one idea in my head for so long, I mean, I felt like I was going to ball over for most of those years. I was excited to kind of slay deadlines, you know, chop, chop, chop. Like week after week again. And the pandemic was bubbling in the background, and I didn't really think anything of it because I'm an idiot. And then the pandemic touched down in Canada and Alberta. Everything went into lockdown. And then all these magazines and newspapers and venues just canceled the contracts. And just like that, I think it was about $6,000 of work, just kind of evaporated pretty much overnight. And I had no idea what I was going to do next because that was my plan. And so, I had actually applied for some jobs in communications, which is something I did not think I was going to do until my forties, at least. Nothing against that, but, you know, I was not really, I'm not someone who really desires an office job, as you can imagine. But I thought, "OK, well, this is a good safety net." And I didn't even get an invitation for a job interview. And I'm pretty sure the reason was that I didn't have a degree. You know, I had no formal education. So, whoever is at the end, the other side of that, and is filtering out candidates just filtered me out because I didn't meet that very basic threshold. So, I was speaking to my wife and I said, you know, and she knows that I've always been a little bit kind of insecure about not having a degree and that I've mulled the idea of going back to school. And so, I asked her if she would support me in going back to school, and she thought it was a decent idea. And that was my plan. And then the next day I was out for a run, and I had a better idea, which is what if I started my own school online? Because we've all moved our lives online. We're all using Zoom. I saw a lot of people who were taking workshops and seminars online. I have workshops and seminars. I've taught a couple of webinars. I can do that. I know a lot of writer friends who can do that. What if we all just packaged these together, gave it a funny name like Pandemic University School of Writing, and ran it as an experiment until, you know, basically until we can meet in person again and we can all those assignments magically reappear, which I genuinely thought would take about two months. And so, I, you know, I came back from my jog all sweaty and panting, and I was, you know, I was like, "Honey, how would you feel if I started an online school for writers? I think I can make us some money. It's going to cost about $2,000." I'd already calculated it in my head. Eleni: Wow, wow, wow .Then to math while running.Omar: Yeah, and so she was like, "OK," because she's always very supportive, you know, skeptical but supportive. But, you know, generally, like I do execute on my ideas, and you know, they're not colossal failures. So, yeah. And so, by the end of that day, I had a web designer, a pending registered company, I had a bunch of writers who were like, "Yes, I'll do it," a spreadsheet. Eleni: That is amazing.Omar: I had a spreadsheet ready. And then in ten days, it launched. And two and a half years later, Pandemic University is still a company. We are going into our, I think 85th class or course, over close to 4,000 people have taken our classes across the world from over 60 countries. I have two employees, so I like to call myself... Eleni: Super cool.Omar: ...the fake dean of Pandemic University. Here's the really funny thing. Eleni: No degree but now a dean.Omar: Well, here's the really funny thing. Since then, because I've gained a reputation as like, an online educator for journalism and creative writing, I've had multiple opportunities to, you know, invitations to apply for professor positions at actual universities. But some of them I had to just say, no, it's in another part of the country. I'm not interested. Some of them I was like, you know, I don't have a degree and I think I'm ineligible. And they're like, yes, you're right. But some of them actually did hire me. And so, now I teach at two real universities. I teach at the University of British Columbia and at the University of King's College in Dalhousie. Eleni: I love that. Omar: There you go. Eleni: What do you teach? Omar: I teach creative nonfiction at both of them. Eleni: Yeah. Eleni: Very cool. I love that it went from, like… Omar: Let's go back to school.Eleni: …zero to, like, you know, I have a spreadsheet and, like, ten writers lined up in, like, 12 hours, so. Back to that conversation we were going to have about the documentaries, I know that you did study film that you didn't necessarily love it in practice when you first started out. So, I'm wondering, like, how you kind of ended up circling back to it and like, you know, whether it felt different the second time around. Omar: Very different. Eleni: Yeah. And I'm like, OK, I would love to hear, too, like, did it feel different because you had since had that ADHD diagnosis, or would it be different for different reason? Omar: Different reasons. Reasons, reasons of lived experience, confidence and some expertise, I guess. So, the backstory to that is that I wanted to be a screenwriter and auteur. I mean, you know, however, how many kids also have that dream? But, you know, I grew up in a small town in northern Alberta. I really maybe was the only like, you know, movie cinephile that I knew and that I ever met. I got a job at a video store at like 15, I was managing it at like 17, and I just wanted to make movies. That was my dream. But, you know, I want to make scripted movies. I had no interest in documentaries. So, I went off to school and in Vancouver and very, very, very quickly learned that like, "Oh, there are innumerable people just like me and most of them are older than 17 years old and have much more interesting things to say about the human experience. And also, if I want to do this, I have to like really start at the bottom rung." So, I kind of, I very quickly felt like I'm not sure I want to start as like a production assistant and do this for five years. And I had, you know, I did have some film work. I was, just maybe this relates to "Amazing Cats," I worked as a camera trainee on "Air Bud 5." Do you know the movie "Air Bud"? About the super athlete dog, plays basketball, and then I think... Eleni: Oh, I think, yeah.Omar: …he plays volleyball maybe or baseball. I was a camera trainee on that. I got fired after three days. Like I was really bad at the job, really bad at it. And that was the moment where I was like, yeah, no, I need to find something else to do here. At that time, I had started freelancing some articles, music reviews and interviews, maybe some film reviews at that time for free, basically, for a local Vancouver magazine and doing it for clout, doing it for CDs and concert tickets at first. And then I realized, "Oh, I really actually enjoy this. I enjoy writing these stories, I enjoy the interview process," and maybe a lot of it has to do with like the quick returns on that. A film can take years and years and possibly have no returns, whereas an article you can work on it for a week, a month. And so, the, you know, the satisfaction of having a job well done, I guess, comes a lot faster. So, maybe this comes back to this seeking of novelty. But then, about four years ago or so, after having been a journalist at that point for 13 years and establish a pretty good reputation specifically as a narrative journalist, I had written an article about men's mental health and suicides in the oilsands and work camps here in northern Alberta. A lot of it actually based on research in Australia about suicides that are happening in relation to the isolated mining camps in Western Australia. And so, I'd written... Eleni: You call them FIFO workers.Omar: Yes, we call them that too. FIFO workers. Fly in, fly out, right? It's a really great way to make money and a terrible way to live. So, I'd written the story for BuzzFeed and my friend Dylan Rhys Howard, who's a filmmaker, unbeknownst to me, was working on a scripted short about a very similar theme, almost an identical theme. But, you know, it was a dramatic, scripted, short film that sort of imagined what that life was like for a man struggling to keep his marriage and himself together. And after reading my BuzzFeed feature, he reached out to me and was like, I think we should make a documentary about this subject. And we put together a proposal. I certainly didn't know anything about making a documentary, but I figured that it's pretty close to the same as writing a narrative feature only with a camera and more planning. It kind of was. And so that was my first documentary, "Digging in the Dirt." And then a couple of years later, Dylan came to me and said, I'd like you to make your own documentary now. So, I had a story, a personal story that I've wanted to turn into a film for quite some years. And that became "The Last Baron," which is also being repackaged as a feature film called "The Lebanese Burger Mafia." Eleni: That's so cool. Omar: Yeah. Eleni: I think it'd be interesting to hear if you have any advice, particularly for ADHD folks, about, you know, pursuing writing or filmmaking. Any big life lessons you want to share? Omar: Sure. I think the tendency to procrastinate, which is, you know, very, you know, very real for people with ADHD, I think it often comes from procrastinating work that isn't very meaningful to us. My advice is to forgive yourself for that and to try to find some aspect of that same work or new work that does challenge you or more importantly, is meaningful to you. And that kind of sparks that hyperfocus. And then when that focus strikes, don't waste that opportunity. Set aside the time you need. Make space for yourself. Whether that's asking your roommate or your partners to maybe vacate the house for an afternoon or to vacate it yourself, go down to a library or café or wherever you need to go and just start writing it or drawing it or planning it. If it's a collaborative project, send off those invitations and emails as quickly as they come to you. I think about the longer you put off an idea, the less likely it is to ever be realized. Sometimes planning and preparedness is just low-key procrastination. It's just an excuse to not actually do something. Eleni: Well, thank you for sharing that. And thank you for being here. Omar: Thanks so much for having me. Eleni: You've been listening to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" from the Understood Podcast Network. This show is for you, so we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Email us at thatjob@understood.org with your thoughts about the show or maybe you'd like to tell us how you got that job. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today check out our show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Also, one of our goals at Understood is to help change the workplace so everyone can thrive. Check out what we're up to at U.org/workplace. That's the letter U dot O-R-G slash workplace. Understood.org is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission. "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is produced by Grace Tatter. Briana Berry is a production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. Margie DeSantis provides editorial support. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. And I'm your host, Eleni Matheou. Thanks again for listening.

  • ADHD and depression

    ADHD doesn’t cause depression, but the two conditions often occur together. Kids with ADHD are much more likely to be depressed than kids who don’t have ADHD. That’s especially true as they hit the teen years.Why do these conditions often co-occur? One reason is that ADHD can create a lot of challenges for kids, and those challenges can lead to depression. School and behavior problems can wear down their self-esteem. Trouble with social skills can make them feel isolated.Some people with ADHD may also be “pre-wired” for depression. ADHD involves differences in brain chemistry. And some of these differences may make people more likely to feel depressed. ADHD also often co-occurs with anxiety and substance abuse. Both of these can increase the risk of depression. Researchers are looking into other things that may make kids and teens with ADHD more likely to be depressed. These include gender, family history, and age of ADHD diagnosis.It’s important to take signs of depression or talk of hopelessness seriously. Young people who have both ADHD and depression also have a higher risk of suicide than young people who only have one of these conditions. 

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD inertia...and troublemaking (Nabil’s story)

    Nabil Abdulrashid was diagnosed with ADHD in Nigeria when he was 6 years old. Now, his ADHD brain gives him an advantage in his comedy career. Nabil Abdulrashid diagnosed ADHD child growing Nigeria. London-based comedian, Nabil credits ADHD brain advantage comedy career. He’s quick-witted, driven stifled inertia, tumbling funny thoughts scenarios speaks. doesn’t even write material — it’s stuck head flows.Nabil’s teachers Nigeria thought wouldn’t amount much. didn’t even want classes. got fights turned sports channel energy. moved U.K. teen, got trouble there, too. immigrant, othered, rigid school structure didn’t work ADHD. fell wrong crowd eventually ended jail, discovered comedic talents.Listen hear Nabil’s “aha” moment channeled ADHD successful comedy career.Related resourcesUnderstanding hyperactivityADHD boysWhy kids clown around classEpisode transcriptNabil: always say "aha" moment probably came, mean, it's gradual, talking another comic discussing creative process stand-up realizing thing thought disadvantage actually helps chosen field. mean, evidently it's helped many creative people chosen fields. people similar me. look Lothario art find strange aspects life. It's sign maybe like me. Laura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host. Laura: I'm excited today Nabil Abdulrashid, English comedian spent half life Nigeria. That's born raised. Nabil, welcome show. Nabil: Hey. Actually, born London, moved back Nigeria younger. So, classic, you're bit naughty, send back home. No, parents moved back still quite little, spent half life Nigeria, spent far, second half life U.K., means I'm equally unwelcome countries. It's amazing. Laura: got wrong right bat. It's great way start. around here. Nabil: That's best way. know, put worst foot forward. Laura: Put worst food forward. OK, born London spent large chunk life Nigeria. Nigeria diagnosed ADHD. right? Nabil: Yeah. Amazingly, got diagnosed ADHD age 6 northern Nigeria, Kaduna, went school, which, know, lot frustration comes topic comedian ADHD, got diagnosed ADHD long became cool. different climate kind neurodiversity. Yeah, wasn't pleasant experience when, first anyway, told brain stuff wrong. Laura: told time you'd diagnosed with? Nabil: Yeah, mean, Nigeria doesn't really political correctness. So, literally said mom, "Let’s test see he's stupid there's another problem," took ages finish work class. it's weird, right? Because, like, diagnosing kid 6 progressive sense, U.K. takes forever get diagnosis. time, way done, abrupt nature it. would take ages finish stuff certain classes school. really struggled attention span like nonexistent, especially mundane tasks. then, teachers said spoke me, clever kid. sharp kid, stuff enjoyed. came more, less interesting stuff me, like hell focus. hyperactive kid. mean, wish could hyperactive lose pounds, hyperactive kid. constantly like crazy stuff amuse myself. would disrupt class, would things imagination impulses like, it's like nuclear reactor brain. So, gave bunch tests, oral tests, IQ tests, motor skills tests, pattern recognition stuff. thought, "Oh, really fun," didn't even know test. said, "Well, far IQ goes, he's way smarter kids. attention span short." they're like, "Yeah, textbook ADHD." yeah, school time good school. did — like certain tests, would take test orally, one one teacher, would given extra time certain exams well. lots afterschool activities. One thing mum thought "You know what? get reading, doesn't matter reads..." Laura: Yeah. Nabil: "...as long he's reading," right? He's still practicing skills. So, like first novel ever read 8, Stephen King's "It." Laura: can't believe read 8 9. sounds terrifying.Nabil: Yeah. people wonder I'm screwed now. Well, yeah, first, first ever book read Stephen King's "It," enjoyed it, Stephen King writes way think. Laura: how's that? Nabil: Stephen King talk guy walking room wearing ring, ring reminds person narrating something happened 5 particular day particular time. know, times summer the, know, could smell popcorn, kind popcorn, kind popcorn, salted caramel popcorn. popcorn, we've gone discussion caramel come way back guy walking room. So, it's thing somebody walks in, notice them, notice small thing them, triggers memory head day, time, triggers song know period song made feel, triggers memory something dad said one time driving car, song, triggers thought kind car driving year come triggers...and ended coming back am. loop jumping topic topic whatnot something constantly. Like watching documentary last night Michael Jordan, Bulls, "The Last Dance." Laura: Oh, it's good. Nabil: Basketball. Yeah, loved it. basketball favorite sport growing up. Laura: Same. Same, Nabil.Nabil: We're literally same. Laura: Oh, God. It's like we're person. Nabil: know. BFFs forever. But, like, watching "The Last Dance," ended remembering random stuff things linked Bulls. it's weird. It's weird. Laura: said something your, mom dad said, "We need find you're stupid" if...?Nabil: teacher said it. Laura: teacher. Nabil: teacher said mom. Laura: found evaluation process, sounds like, smart are. even that, "We've got figure out, he's stupid." carry you? Nabil: Yeah, course. mean, something always back mind, wasn't normal. I'm going lie, upset sometimes wanted able certain things. example, like I've worked retail like, folding jeans, I'll fold first four pairs brilliantly next three bit avant-garde. that, yeah, I'm fairies. Like, thrive anywhere allows create produce ideas discuss things. many former colonial territories, many places colonized British, there's hyperfocus over-personalizing certain jobs like medicine, law, this, that, other. almost no, least growing up, almost respect possibility career arts creativity. told parents wanted art student, might well tell you're drug addict. That's way...Laura: difference diagnosis perceived Nigeria versus London? go back London? London, Nigeria, got diagnosed, point, went back London? Nabil: moved teens. like 17, 18. time, people cared lot first half life things, unfortunately. Laura: even podcasts it, Nabil.Nabil: Yeah, podcasts invented, wasn't even like Google look up. didn't resources. I've told, like, read, mom got like printout showed like, books talked people suspected ADHD ages. So, Galileo, Da Vinci, Einstein, Rock.Laura: put Rock company Einstein? Nabil: Yeah.... Laura: Galileo, Da Vinci, Einstein, Rock. No, love Rock, I'm just, missed centuries there.Nabil: earliest memory stand-up comedy, right? earliest memory adult watching stand-up 4-year-old. Laura: watching? remember?Nabil: was, VHS. don't know you're old enough remembe

  • ADHD treatment options

    There are many ways to treat ADHD and help manage symptoms. They range from medication and therapy to lifestyle changes like getting more sleep. But experts agree that medication for ADHD is the most effective treatment for most people.Studies have shown that medication works well for around 80 percent of people with ADHD. (As long as they’re getting the type and dosage that’s right for them.) Still, some people have questions or concerns about the medications. There are other types of treatment that can help people manage ADHD. They include talk therapy to deal with emotional issues that often occur. Some people can also benefit from social skills groups.Behavior therapy can be helpful to some kids — especially in combination with medication. This therapy is designed to replace negative behaviors with positive ones using a rewards system.These treatments and therapies are key to managing ADHD symptoms and challenges. There are also strategies people can use to help keep those challenges from getting in the way at school, at work, and in everyday life.Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

  • The Opportunity Gap

    ADHD and race: What Black families need to know

    Is ADHD more likely to be overlooked in Black kids? Or overdiagnosed? Get tips from pediatrician and health-equity researcher Dr. Tumaini Coker. Is ADHD more likely to be overlooked in Black kids? Or overdiagnosed? In this episode, pediatrician Dr. Tumaini Coker shares insights on ADHD and race. Learn about Dr. Coker’s research into health equity and how clinics can help reduce the racial disparities in diagnosing and treating ADHD in children of color. And get practical tips for parents from an expert who also has a personal connection to ADHD. Listen as Dr. Coker talks about stigma and other challenges her family faced when her twin boys showed signs of ADHD in grade school.  Research cited in this podcastDiagnostic and Medication Treatment Disparities in African American Children with ADHD: A Literature ReviewRacial and Ethnic Disparities in ADHD Diagnosis and TreatmentRelated resources for familiesCommon signs of ADHD at different agesWhat an in-depth ADHD evaluation should look likeHow can I find out if my child was misdiagnosed with ADHD?Episode transcriptTumaini: And the second-grade teacher stopped me and she said, "Aren't you a pediatrician?" And I said, "Yes, I am." And she said, "OK, so you have to know that your son is the most inattentive child I have had in 20 years in my classroom." She wasn't saying it in like a negative way. She was just being honest. And honestly, she was saying something that I knew. It was devastating.Julian: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "The Opportunity Gap." Kids of color who have ADHD and other common learning differences often face a double stigma. But there's a lot that families can do to address the opportunity gap in our communities. This podcast explains key issues and offers tips to help you advocate for your child.My name is Julian Saavedra. I'm a father of two and an assistant principal in Philadelphia, where I've spent nearly 20 years working in public schools. I'll be your host.Today's episode is all about ADHD. I know from talking to parents and teachers in my community that there's a lot of confusion about ADHD, especially among families of color. A lot of folks are wondering things like: How can I tell if my child has ADHD? Is ADHD getting overlooked? Or the opposite: Is ADHD getting overdiagnosed? We're going to answer all these questions about attention-deficit disorder, ADD, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. And we're also going to share practical tips for parents.To help me unpack all of this, I'm so excited to introduce today's guest. Dr. Tumaini Coker is a superstar in the world of pediatrics. She's the head of general pediatrics at Seattle Children's Hospital and a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She's also a big researcher in the field of health equity. In particular, she has researched how racism and privilege affect ADHD treatment and diagnosis in Black and Latinx children.And Tumaini also has a personal connection to ADHD. We're going to hear from her about how challenging it was for her own family to recognize and accept that her twin boys have ADHD. Welcome, Tumaini.Tumaini: Thank you, Julian. It's great to be here with you.Julian: Before we dive in, I try to ask this question to anybody that comes on. What's giving you life right now? What's really just helping you keep it going?Tumaini: Well, when things feel stressful to me — and right now they do — but anyway, when things get stressful for me, I like to have something to look forward to, like a vacation or like a little bit of time off. And so for me, that's I have a few trips coming up. This weekend I'm going to take my kids to a family friend's quinceanera.Julian: Whew. That sounds awesome. And a quince — a lot of dancing, a lot of delicious food, some pretty elaborate outfits.Tumaini: Yeah, we get to dress up.Julian: I know, right. I hear you, and having something to look forward to always keeps us going. So I appreciate that. So I really want to start talking about your personal connection to ADHD, because it really encapsulates some pretty effective and big themes impacting kids of color. Can you tell us about your son's diagnosis story?Tumaini: Yeah, absolutely. So when when my twins were born, pretty soon after, I would say like definitely preschool time, I could see that particular one of them had symptoms of ADHD in terms of mostly the hyperactivity. And so it was just kind of me just observing, making that observation internally almost.And then by the time second grade came around, the second-grade teacher stopped me and she said, "Aren't you a pediatrician?" And I said, "Yes, I am." And she said, "OK, so you have to know that your son is the most inattentive child I have had in 20 years in my classroom." She wasn't saying it in like a negative way. She was just being honest. And honestly, she was saying something that I knew. I knew that inattention was an issue for him. I knew that hyperactivity was an issue for him.It was devastating. Until I got home and I was like, OK, I need to talk to my husband about this. You know, we had discussed it before. And his experience is very different because he's not a pediatrician. He doesn't have a background in child health or medicine. And so his background as a Black man is that as a child and his mother told him that the teachers tried to label him — this is her words, from him, at least — try to label him with ADHD, and try to hold him back. She was very happy that she didn't let that happen. And move forward, and I mean, he's a successful writer today. So I'm up against that a little bit.Julian: Did he agree with what his mother's assessment was?Tumaini: Yeah. 100%. Yeah. "Teachers tried to give me a diagnosis of ADHD, and I don't want that to happen to my sons." You know, I think in my generation and his generation, our parents dealt with — their biggest thing was just trying to protect particularly their Black sons from being held back because of racism. Because that happened in the school system. And I'm not saying that doesn't happen now. And, you know, you know this well way more than I do.Julian: I appreciate that you brought that up. There's been so many conversations we've had on this podcast with different people and they've expressed the same thing. This stigma around ADHD and around learning and thinking differences in general in the Black and brown community, but especially with our Black boys. It's not something new. It's deeply embedded.And so I'm interested to know. So, you know, your husband's coming to the table with that background. You go home and you explain this is what the teacher says. I'm assuming that you went through and you got the diagnosis. So what happens next?Tumaini: So we did get the diagnosis, and his twin actually was diagnosed as well. He's much more mild, particularly in terms of his functional impairments from ADHD. But then the next kind of struggle, I think, or challenge that we had as parents was, OK, now what do we do with this diagnosis, and how do we treat the boys? And so from my background as a pediatrician, I know the data shows that medication is one of the most effective treatments for ADHD. I probably don't have to tell you the stigma that medication has to treat behavior in the Black community.So then we tried, you know, medication for my son, the one that had more severe symptoms. And that first medication did not, you know — it had some side effects right away that we saw. And that, I think, delayed a lot because my husband wasn't prepared for that. And so — and that happens sometimes. Kids have to try, and I know this from my clinical experience, some do well on the very first medication. Some have to try a couple before we find the right one. And so that was a big learning lesson.But I think the idea that, you know, telling both my husband and my parents, like, I think this is going to be best, let's try it and see what happens. And then I'll say the other really interesting part I noticed with my father, you know, I think at first he was kind of in the camp of "Is ADHD kind of a real thing?" as many folks are.Julian: So that that's a perfect transition point to being crystal clear about what is ADHD. Can you explain what are the three types of ADHD? And specifically why the medical world stopped using "attention-deficit disorder" or "ADD"? And now they only use attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, even if you as a person don't have the hyperactive kind of ADHD.Tumaini: So I think what's important, Julian, is not for parents to get hung up in the types and the ADHD versus the ADD. What's important is what symptoms children have. And the symptoms are going to be around hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Inattention is just not really paying attention, sometimes staring into space, not being able to focus on things. The hyperactivity symptoms are always on the go, have to move all the time. And then the impulsivity is really acting before thinking, which even adults — and children — have problems with. But you'll see that in terms of all these symptoms affect the child's ability to function at home and at school.Julian: Gotcha. And, you know, just making sure that everybody knows: To be somebody who has ADHD, you don't necessarily have to display all three symptoms. You can maybe display one or two or three. But hyperactivity is not necessarily a definitive symptom of ADHD for everybody who has it. Am I correct in saying that?Tumaini: That's right. And so you may have some kids that are mostly inattentive and not hyperactive. And in some cases, we found that children who are more inattentive and not hyperactive and don't have as much impulsivity or impulse control problems, those kids are harder to pick up in schools because they're just quietly not doing stuff, versus the ones who are speaking out of turn and running around the classroom, maybe causing more distraction for the teacher.Julian: Now, I know you describe your sons back in second grade, starting to display some of these symptoms. And typical classroom — many of these symptoms are very typical, right? Like it happens for many students, especially second graders. Thinking about our students of color, in your opinion, you know, how often do you think ADHD itself gets overlooked?Tumaini: So the nice thing is that you don't have to take my opinion on this. This is what we have a lot of data and studies on. There was a recent review of multiple studies, including a study that I did, looking at data. So what we know is that for Black children and for Latino children, but more so Black children compared with white children, they are less likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD. And among those who have a diagnosis, they are less likely to receive medication.And I will say there are — this particular review looked at about 40 studies, might have been 41, if I'm exact. And while not every study showed that direction of a disparity, most did. So the majority of studies that looked at the difference in diagnosis for Black compared with white children showed they were less likely to be diagnosed. And the majority of studies that looked at medication also showed they were less likely to take medication.Julian: Interesting, because my next question was going to be the flip side. Do you think that it sometimes is overdiagnosed? But it seems like the studies and the data shares, it's not.Tumaini: Well, what we know from research is that the biggest problem is an underdiagnosis and undertreatment, and not the other way around. So that's clear from the studies that have been done. Now, are there kids that received an ADHD diagnosis that maybe would be explained by other things? So the symptoms that we talked about earlier, hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention. Those are just symptoms, right? And so they could be caused by other things, maybe lack of sleep, or stressful or traumatic events at home that are causing those types of symptoms.But when we look at the, you know, national data on diagnosis and treatment and compare Black versus white children, we're mostly seeing an underdiagnosis problem, not an overdiagnosis problem. And I think one other thing to think about is when there are symptoms of ADHD, it opens up a conversation that's important even if that child doesn't receive a diagnosis. It's that conversation with a family and OK, things aren't going as well as we want them to at school. Why is that?But those are important conversations to have. And a lot of times they start in the pediatrician's office. But if parents don't know to bring those education-related problems that a child may be having to their pediatrician or other health care provider for their child, then that conversation can never happen.Julian: That's a really good tip. And Tumaini's going to share some more later on, but making sure that the partnership between you and the pediatrician, and bringing up anything happening in school, is a really important step that needs to be taken.So for all the listeners out there, I do want you to know that Tumaini is a leader in the field of health equity. Her research is funded by NIH, the National Institutes of Health. Really big deal in the world of research. So, flowers, hats off to you for that one. If I had a hat on, I would take it off.Tumaini: Thank you, Julian.Julian: But you were the lead author on a study called "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment." Let's talk about the word "disparity." Your study was entitled "Racial and Ethnic Disparities." I wonder, did you ever think about using the word "racism" instead of "disparities"? And if so, why would you potentially use that instead of using "disparities"?Tumaini: So I think racism is the cause of the disparities. So I don't know that instead of — it's really to describe the reason for. My work has really always focused on disparities, right? And so these are unfair differences that our patients and families endure. That at its core is because of racism.You know, my experience in publishing is that early on in my career, the reasoning behind these racial disparities, you know, things like access to health care, trust with your relationship with the physician or primary care provider, things like preferences have been described as why there's a disparity in medication use, particularly for ADHD. But if you take all those things, right, we can bring that root back to racism.So why is it that families don't have a primary care provider for their children? Why is it that they don't have a trusting relationship with that PCP? That goes back to a core of racism. And so I think particularly in this last few years where we have had this the wider world, right. And so in the Black community, we didn't need a racial reckoning because we've been living through the racism. But the wider world has had this reckoning with racism and acknowledgment that it is there in a way that was not before. And so that is also reflected in our journals, in science. And I think it's a very positive movement.Julian: Do you see it continuing to illuminate how institutional racism is at the core of this, or do you see things remaining the same?Tumaini: Well, I try to be an optimist, so I would say yes, although I think movement can be slow. As many good examples that I could provide you with as moving forward in understanding that structural racism is at the core of our health inequities for families of color, I can list a number of things that are inequitable because of racism at the same time.So, yes, I think we are moving in the right direction. I think we have a long way to go. And it's not just — it can't just live within the health care system, although we have a lot of work in the health care system. Right? Because it's called structural racism. You know, there are things that impact our family's health that go well beyond health care. And I think that's important for ADHD, too.You know this in working in schools and being a leader in schools, Black boys have behavioral problems in school. They are a number of times more likely to receive harsh punishment for those same behaviors that a white child will have. And those are some of the consequences, I think, this juxtaposition of the pediatrician's office and school, that if we're not being able to have those conversations with families about behavioral issues — so impulsivity and hyperactivity, and particularly the impulsivity pieces of ADHD.If I can make a diagnosis and then that school knows that this child has a diagnosis and they have these impulse control behaviors, maybe they can have — maybe they have a 504 plan at school that allows them to get accommodations for things that help them reduce those impulsivities, or at least recognize this is what's happening. But if that's not recognized and they're just seen as being bad, then they get suspended. And then as they get older, then they don't have as much confidence in school and they're not in school, get into trouble.Julian: Right. When I think about the power of Black doctors and I think about the power of how that juxtaposition and intersection of race and socioeconomics comes into play, I'm interested to hear more about your experience. It's like you're a doctor. I'm an assistant principal at a school. We both have access to incredible health care for our kids. Right. We can take time off from our jobs if we need to. I took my daughter to the doctor today. Didn't think anything of it. Not every family has time to do that. They don't have access to health care.So I'm interested to know, given that we have privilege ourselves based on our socioeconomic status, I know that you do work with community clinics and other areas of help in low-income communities. What kind of things are actually helping? What changes are happening that you see that are helping in those community clinics and in those situations?Tumaini: One of the things that I've seen that helps is expanding who's providing the care. So we know that most Black families, because of our workforce, are not going to have a Black pediatrician. Right? We can look at the numbers of Black doctors, right? We need — it's not there. And so some of the work that I am most passionate about is we've done work to include community health workers into the primary care team and community clinics that serve primarily a Medicaid population or a publicly insured population of children and families.And so that person is, as a community health worker, has a community connection, right? They're a community member, but they receive training to work in the clinic space with the pediatrician. They can provide education and guidance to the families. They can identify social needs and help connect those families to resources in their community to help. And so how this relates back to ADHD and even school is sometimes parents may not have that relationship with their pediatrician, right? Where they want to talk about all of the concerns.But if they can bring it up to someone else on the team that they've built a relationship with, and then that person can help? You know what? Let me help walk you through the process of getting that IEP at school. Let's go together. Here's what you need to do. Those types of things. So that child that's having problems, you know, academically at school can get a 504 plan or the IEP that can allow them to have the support they need to be most successful.So that's I think one of the things that we can do is expand the team of providers — the team that provides primary care. And that can include things like community health workers, health educators, even crossing sectors, bringing in folks that have more expertise in education and development. So there's so many ways to build that team. Yeah, that's I think, one of the critical things that we can do just on the clinic side.Julian: Tumaini is going to give us a few tips just to close us out about if I'm a parent or I'm a parenting adult, I'm a guardian — somebody in a child's life that needs to be advocated for. Tumaini, can you give us just a few clear and specific actionable tips parents can do, or parenting adults can do, to ensure that our students of color are getting accurately diagnosed and are getting the treatment they need.Tumaini: So I would start by know what's happening at school with your child. Right. And so that is asking the questions to the teacher, finding out the details even before grades are provided or even if grades are provided. What are the details? Have a set of questions so that you know what's happening at school. And then take that information, when it's of concern, to your pediatrician or to the pediatric health care provider that you're seeing for your child. That should be a part of that well-child care visit, that checkup that you have once a year before school starts so that you can have sports or whatever it is.Make sure you talk about academics and school function and homework. And even if the provider's not bringing it up, you say, "I want to make sure to talk about school. Here are the problems that I'm seeing at school. Let's talk about that." And when you do talk about that, if you're concerned about ADHD, make sure to talk about other things that can impact those symptoms.So your pediatrician should know about sleep. Is sleep an issue? Are there any household stressors that could be impacting your child? Those are the kind of things to just write down before you get to that child care visit, to make sure that you talk about with your pediatrician.And then if you get a diagnosis of ADHD, I think it's important to talk about both medication and behavioral treatment. And so one thing that can be really helpful to parents is something that is sometimes called parenting training, but it's really about what are the skills and strategies that the parent can have to help their child succeed. And so those are a couple of things to make sure to talk about at your pediatrician visits.And I think some other things to think about are just regardless of whether that's a diagnosis of ADHD or not, these elements of that kind of parenting, behavioral therapy, or treatment is really about spending time with the child, even if it's a few minutes a day. We are all really busy parents, especially — there are stressors from work and other kids. That's really a big piece of it.And then when there is — particularly the child with ADHD, they're going to have a lot of negative feedback on things. And so part of that is just finding those small moments. "I really like the way that you focused on that one math problem the whole time and finished it." Right? Finding a way to focus on the small things and give them kind of that in-the-moment little boost.Julian: Positive reinforcement. Got it. I wish we could talk more. I absolutely loved our conversation. This is such an important topic to bring up. You have so much experience, whether it's from the parenting lens or from your research. So I cannot thank you enough. I really appreciate it.But I also just want the listeners to know that our show notes include links to three really helpful articles. First article is "Common Signs of ADHD at Different Ages." The second article is "What an In-Depth ADHD Evaluation Should Look Like." And the last article, "How Can I Find Out If My Child Was Misdiagnosed With ADHD?" So be sure to check these out and keep asking questions. Keep asking questions to help you figure out what your child needs to thrive. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Tumaini Coker.Tumaini: Thank you, Julian. It was really great to be with you.Julian: You've been listening to "The Opportunity Gap" from the Understood Podcast Network. This show is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Is there a topic you'd like us to cover? We want to hear from you. Email us at OpportunityGap@Understood.org.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood.org is a resource dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission."The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Julie Rawe and edited by Cin Pim. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening and see you next time. 

  • ADHD and lying: Why kids with ADHD might lie a lot

    Most kids lie or avoid telling the truth from time to time. But with kids who have ADHD, you might find yourself often asking, “Why are you lying again?”Not all kids with ADHD tell frequent lies. In fact, some are impulsively honest, which can create its own problems. But for those who do lie, it can quickly become a habit. Usually, these lies are about everyday things like chores and work. Kids with ADHD struggle with starting and planning out tasks. So, they might not do them, and then lie and say they did.Or they might lie about a minor mistake, like dropping and breaking a dish. Even when it’s clear they did it, they insist they didn’t.Why would they say something that’s so obviously false? To avoid having to face difficulties and ask for help. It’s a way of coping with the challenges caused by ADHD.Lying takes away the pressure of having to figure out how to do tasks. And for many kids with ADHD, that’s worth getting in trouble for, especially if they’re used to it.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, irritability, and friendship (Jake’s story)

    Jake always wondered why he had trouble managing emotions and why he struggled to keep friends. Then his mom got diagnosed with ADHD.Jake Lambert watched his mother thrive once she was diagnosed with ADHD and getting ADHD treatment. That pushed him to look for answers about his own struggles to pay attention. He wondered why he was so irritable, why he had trouble managing emotions, and why he struggled to keep friends. He figured they were just “bad” traits of his — but in reality, it was ADHD. Growing up, Jake did well enough in school that no one caught his ADHD symptoms. He’d have to re-read a page three times because he’d get distracted. And he constantly procrastinated on homework assignments. Jake and host Laura Key also talk about how ADHD can make you feel “crackly,” and coping strategies that help them.Take our listener surveyHelp us make our podcasts better. Take our listener survey.Related resourcesADHD and angerADHD and emotions5 ways ADHD can affect social skillsEpisode transcriptJake: So actually my mom had been diagnosed about a year or so before me, and she started a treatment plan with her therapist and her psychiatrist. And she works in insurance for a living. So she has to read these 60-page policies on the daily. And I could never understand how she could do it. And once she felt like the treatment was really helping her, I asked her about it. And she said that she could just sit there and finish the task to completion. And if she got an email or she got a text, it didn't bother her because she was focusing on the current task. And that was a mind-blowing way of hearing that experience, because I realized that I had never been able to focus on a task unless it was either due in an hour or something that was really exciting for me.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. I'm here today with Jake Lambert. Jake is a comedian and an actor who lives in West Hollywood. And Jake has ADHD. Welcome, Jake.Jake: Thanks so much for having me. I'm so excited.Laura: Can you tell me how old were you when you got diagnosed with ADHD?Jake: I believe I just turned 21. I'm 23 now.Laura: So in the heart of the pandemic.Jake: Yes. Yeah.Laura: What was happening during that time that was making you start to wonder if you had ADHD?Jake: Well, my mom had actually gotten diagnosed, and that was like a breakthrough diagnosis for her. And she felt like that once she started getting the proper treatment for it, that her whole life turned around. And I saw that. And as she was describing the sensation of the things in her life that were so much easier, I started to realize that I struggled with a lot of the same things. I'm a person that always has to be doing something. So like when we were just at home and there wasn't much to do and there wasn't many places to run and get stimulation, I started realizing that I have this burning desire within me to need to be getting constant stimulation all the time. And that's when I actually switched therapists, switched providers, because my previous one didn't believe in diagnoses. And that was a huge game-changer for me.Laura: It's really interesting to hear about a parent getting diagnosed and then it kind of trickles down to the child. I think that's really cool. Good on your mom. First of all, are you and your mom close?Jake: Oh, we're really close. We've always been so close. And looking back on it now and realizing that we both have ADHD, it just it makes so much more sense because we've had the kind of relationship that we're either like so on the same page with each other and it's amazing or we're too similar and you know, we're butting heads because of it and it just totally makes sense.Laura: Give me some examples.Jake: She's definitely more of the inattentive type, whereas I'm definitely hyperactive. And I know that as a kid that was something that always caused us to clash as the weekend would come and I would be like, "What are we doing? Where are we going? I want to get out of the house and do something." And she would kind of be a bit — what's the word for it? Like scatterbrained or not really wanting to like make plans and go do something. And like if she would bring up like, oh, you know, we could go to the zoo sometime or whatever, I'd be like, OK, can we go right now? And she'd be like, Whoa!Laura: Yeah. So hyperactive. Maybe a little impulsive, too.Jake: Yeah. Oh, very impulsive. Yeah.Laura: So what would happen in those situations when you would kind of butt heads like that, like your symptoms would kind of meet at odds with each other?Jake: Someone would end up probably crying, maybe me. I think I would either pester her enough until we went or it would just be like, OK, it's absolutely not happening. And I would have to make my own fun for the day.Laura: Are you an only child?Jake: I have a sister. She's five years younger than me.Laura: And how is she interacting in these situations?Jake: She definitely did not experience things the same way. And even as we were coming to terms with getting our diagnosis, she was like, "Yeah, that's a you guys thing. I don't think that applies to me at all." And it did make sense, because my mom and I always had that unspoken thing that like, just, we were able to get it.Laura: Did that strengthen for you and your mom after you got the diagnosis?Jake: Oh, yeah. 100%. Once we had that intangible thing that could never really be described, then I feel like with my relationship with my mom and my relationship to life in general, it all kind of pieced together pretty quickly.Laura: That's really nice. Do you think your sister felt left out? I have her on the phone, by the way. We're going to — I'm just kidding. Do you think that she ever felt left out?Jake: I don't know if she felt left out as much as like there were some things and like some feelings about things that my mom and I were kind of like, I don't know, like how she couldn't feel this way. Like, this is the only way to feel things. And she just completely did not experience that and maybe experience our anxieties and the impulsivity in the same way. But I think definitely like post us getting the diagnosis, it actually made her feel even less left out.Laura: I really like what you just said. Like, how can you not feel it this way? That really resonated with me. Like that kind of like, attachment to a feeling.Jake: Yeah.Laura: Tell me what you were like as a kid. How did you do in school?Jake: So I think part of the reason that I didn't suspect that I had ADHD and that other mental health providers didn't suspect it for so long was because I did pretty well in school, always made A's all the time. But looking back at it, I still see the ADHD very clearly. I was never much of a studier, which, you know, my friends would think was crazy. I was like, "Yeah, I just — I don't know how." And they're like, "What do you mean you don't know how? You just sit down and read." But that was so impossible for me. So I was definitely the type that was scribbling my homework during homeroom and like, you know, at lunch, looking over my notes for the test and like memorizing them very temporarily, then going to the test, word-vomiting all out on the test, and somehow doing well at the end of the day. But in terms of how much knowledge I actually retained, it's dwindled over the years.Laura: So a lot of procrastination is what I'm hearing.Jake: Oh, lots, lots and lots of procrastination. Math was something — that was maybe the one subject that I didn't procrastinate so much, I think because it was so hands-on and solving problems, and required so much brain effort that it was enough to keep me really engaged. But subjects like history or English or anything that required a lot of reading, I was never good at.Laura: Did any of this reflection come up in your conversations with your mom after she got diagnosed?Jake: Oh yeah, because even before I knew I had ADHD, before she knew as well, she works in insurance and she has to read, you know, 60-page policies. And I would ask her, but like, "How — how can you do that? I don't understand. How can you do it?" And she's like, "Well, I just have to. It takes forever, but I have to." That was actually the biggest thing that changed after she herself started getting treatment, because I asked her the same thing and she said it took her much quicker. And I was like, "Well, I don't understand. Are you enjoying reading it?" You know, historically for me, the only way that I could read is if I was so invested in whatever the material was. It was like I could read a book in a day, or it would take me three years and I would never finish the book. And no, she wasn't interested, but she was just able to stay focused. And if a text popped up on her phone, it didn't bother her anymore. She was able to finish the task to its completion. And that to me was a mind-blowing concept. And that's really when I started to decide to investigate this a little bit further for myself.Laura: That sounds like a pretty big "aha" moment.Jake: Yeah. Oh, that was a huge "aha" moment. I have wondered do I have problems with my eyesight? Am I just a slow reader? Like why does everyone else like books? And I don't like books, and why does it take me three times as long to finish? And that's when I start to put the pieces together and realized it's because I have to re-read the same page three times in a row, because I was thinking about dinner or I was thinking about the next task and I wasn't able to comprehend any of the information. And my former English teacher would probably scream, but I honestly made it through all of high school without reading a single book to completion, which is — it's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I've restarted my reading journey in the past year or so, knowing this about myself. And I just started picking out like novels that really, really interest me, or memoirs of people that really excited me. And even going back to like some TYA novels, like starting from the basics and just these like very short, sweet, you know, satiable books that I could just plow through. And I've started to realize I do like reading. It is fun. I get it now. It was just harder for me than everyone else.Laura: So last time we chatted, Jake, you used the word that really spoke to me. And it's one that we haven't really talked about on this show before. You described yourself as "irritable," or like you thought you were just irritable. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?Jake: So growing up, I kind of had, you know, my ups and downs during childhood. There were definitely times that I didn't fit in very well in school or times that I felt pretty misunderstood by the adults and my peers in life. And I just felt like there would be times that little things like noises or people's behavior, or when something is mentioned or taunted in front of my face that it would just — I don't know, it would get under my skin so much. And I grew up kind of developing a little bit of resentment toward myself, because I just thought that I was so difficult and that I had to do things so different than everybody else. And why can't I just get it like everyone else? Or why can't I just let things go? That was a common theme. Just to let things go, just move on. And I would say up until the diagnosis at 21, that I still continued to feel that way. And since getting it, it's been a journey over these past two years to kind of unlearn all of the things that I felt about myself and kind of re-approach my life and how I viewed myself with more compassion and understanding. And that's why I feel like getting a diagnosis, while it may not be important to everyone, was so important to me and just really allowed me to be kinder to myself.Laura: So some self-kindness kind of reduced that feeling of irritability, so to speak. And the word itself hasn't come up, but it's something that kind of comes up thematically. And a lot of conversations that I have, like the negative stereotype of people with ADHD, whether or not, you know, that person has ADHD, it's like this person who's like "crackly" is the word that keeps coming to mind for me, like, kind of restless and like reactive and crackly. Like, has that interfered with anything in the past? Like as a kid, did it ever get you in tough situations or situations that you regret for one reason or another?Jake: Oh yeah, I think so for sure. I think crackly is a great word because one thing that pops to mind is I lived in apartments a lot as a kid, poorly insulated apartments. And we'd have really loud upstairs neighbors or a loud barking dog next door, whatever it is. And those sounds, especially if they were like infrequent and sporadic and I had no control over them, they would literally cause this bubbling rage inside me, which was like part of what was so confusing. And I think why I viewed myself as irritable is because I didn't understand where this rage was coming from. I never considered myself to be an angry person. But during those moments I could lash out and say things that 10 minutes later I would completely never imagine that I had said. And that definitely hurt in terms of making friendships, especially friendships with neurotypical people who couldn't understand, even though I didn't understand at the time.Laura: Jake, our listeners can't see me, but I've been like nodding ferociously. Speaking of rage, you said a lot of things there that are really poignant. And I also want to say I'm sorry to hear that it affected friendships for you. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?Jake: One thing would be, you know, if I was having a conversation with someone, it could be something as simple as they're tapping their leg or they're tapping their pen or they're like making a noise. Then like as soon as that's happening, my brain, it shuts off. It's only focusing on that. I can't even hear what they're saying, and even in my responses could kind of like, you know, lash out at someone in that moment or quickly dismiss what they said. Honestly, I think a lot of my friendships during youth came to an end for that reason, not necessarily directly because they were making some kind of noise and I lashed out and that was it, but just in the sense of they couldn't fully understand me. And I feel like part of my ADHD is I'm very ruled by my emotions, and I'm like hyper in tune to little subtleties or difference that I notice from friends, and can maybe expect too much from people or read into things too much sometimes. And that would get me into some trouble.Laura: Some of what you just said, though, Jake, also sounds like qualities that make a great friend, like being able to notice, to be really perceptive, that kind of being very in tune to feeling. Is that accurate of you?Jake: Yeah, I think so, 100%. Like, it's definitely been a trial and error to find the people in my life. I'm definitely someone that likes to keep a really small circle of very close friends. I absolutely can't stand small talk or relationships where the conversation never really goes to a deeper level. So the people that I have found over the years, some of them with ADHD and some of them without, I think that they kind of view me as a kind of source of wisdom or advice, or the person that's always going to be there, which can be a good and bad thing for myself as well. Being someone that likes to overexert myself to burn out and, you know, be ready and willing for anyone at the drop of a hat. I've never been someone who's had a group of friends. More so I make very strong connections with people from a whole bunch of different groups and walks of life. Something about that group setting makes me really shrink up.Laura: What do you think it is?Jake: I think it's a lot of social anxiety. I get extremely in my head and I hear my inner monologue more than ever, and I'm like constantly like looking for little tidbits of the conversation, like, oh, could I contribute to that? Do I have the perfect thing to say to be liked by the group? Whereas it's funny to think about when you're removed from the situation and it's like, well, everyone in the group says things without making sure it's the perfect thing to say. So why do I have this pressure on myself to have everything come out so perfectly or not be cringy? Will they think I'm normal? Will they like me? And I also think there's an aspect of having to mask my symptoms when I'm in a group, as opposed to with a strong individual connection.Laura: For example, I'm speaking from my own experience here. You're in a group. A bunch of people are talking. You're obviously very intelligent, but because of the way your brain is wired, it might be harder to, like, keep up and, like, you have something to say, and then you're afraid you're going to lose it because of the working memory. And so you're like, when they say this, I will say this kind of thing.Jake: Yeah.Laura: Well, I'm sorry to hear that you may be struggling with some social anxiety, but it is really common for people with ADHD to also struggle with anxiety. When you would leave like a group setting or a party, do you ever replay everything you said?Jake: All the time. All the time, and not even just that night. For years to come. I think about this one thing that I said, this thing that didn't land or, God forbid, I finally said that thing and something else happened and nobody heard what I said. And I have to decide, am I going to repeat that? Was it even that good? 100%. That's been something as well. I have to like look back and be like, OK, you know what? It's time to forgive yourself for this. You would forgive another friend if they said this. You need to move on to.Laura: I'm actually looking up something that we wrote on our website, Understood.org, about ADHD and feelings of remorse, like feeling guilty. As someone with ADHD, you're aware of what's happening, what things you're struggling with, but then it doesn't make those things go away. So you're like hyperaware of what you did and like, you can, like, ruminate on it and feel anxious about it. Tell me and our listeners about what it is that you do.Jake: So I'm a comedian. I do improv, sketch comedy. Standup is something that I'm just starting to get back into as well. And then I also act and sing. So I've been out here for about six months. And it's been so awesome because since then I've been able to make my living doing what I love and being an actor. And, you know, I feel like above fame and riches and anything else that like just getting to survive and live in a place that I love, getting to do what I love and meeting people that are interested in the same has been like the greatest gift that I've had in my adult life thus far.Laura: Do you ever bring ADHD into your improv? Do you ever talk about it?Jake: Not talk about it, but I think that ADHD is my superpower there because I have always been quick and clever. All of those years of listening in on group conversations and figuring out the perfect thing to say have definitely helped. And because improv, everyone is saying something stupid, so you don't have to worry about that. It's just the practice of, OK, I'm thinking this, get it out.Laura: Oh, that's great. I'm glad you found something that you feel passionate about and you seem really happy.Jake: Oh, yeah. Even the nature of just, I mean, I did work a 9 to 5 for a couple of months in sales, and that felt so wrong for me. So, so very wrong. And even the nature of now, I'll start off the week on Sunday and I'll have no idea what my week is going to look like until it happens. And I might wear four different hats that week. And just the fact that it's always different and exciting and changing and last-minute, I just feel like I found the lifestyle that, like, really fills that need inside of me.Laura: Oh, my God. Well, people can't see you right now, but Jake's smile is so big. I just have to say that. Right now, as you're saying that, you're beaming.You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@Understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood as a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.Jessamine: Hi everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening. 

  • ADHD success stories

    Having ADHD can create challenges for kids. But seeing how others with ADHD have succeeded can be a source of inspiration. Share these ADHD success stories with your child.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    ADHD, invisible disabilities, and making the digital world accessible

    Albert Kim is passionate about digital accessibility because of his ADHD, dyslexia, and invisible disabilities. He wants you to join him. Albert Kim first got interested in digital accessibility because of his ADHD, dyslexia, and invisible disabilities. He wanted to make websites and apps usable for everyone, including himself. After all, he uses a screen reader and text-to-speech to read text online. But when Albert started to explore a career in digital accessibility, friends discouraged him. They said it wasn’t a good career path. Albert decided to try anyway. Within a few years, demand for his expertise exploded. People who had discouraged him before were now asking about jobs. In this episode, Albert shares how to start a career in digital accessibility, and why he wants others with learning differences to join the field. He also talks about the challenges of being a first-generation college student and immigrant from South Korea. Related resourcesConnect with Albert on LinkedIn or Twitter to learn more about digital accessibility.Read about our commitment to accessibility.Check out free assistive technology tools online. Episode transcriptAlbert: So I started talking to different people around me who are working in tech industry, but then most people were discouraging. Most people actually didn't even know about this field. Most people didn't really recommend it. But growing up in such a hardship raised by a single mom and everything, yeah, it is challenging. I get it. But I went through a lot of challenges already.Eleni: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a podcast that explores the unique and often unexpected career paths of people with learning and thinking differences. My name is Eleni Matheou, and I'm a user researcher here at Understood. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how we find jobs we love that reflect how we learn and who we are. I'll be your host.If you have a learning or thinking difference or a disability, you might've heard of the word "accessibility." This means making things as usable as possible by as many people as possible. Well, our next guest, Albert Kim, is an accessibility expert. He also has ADHD, dyslexia, and other invisible disabilities, which is part of the reason he feels like he found his calling.Hi, Albert, welcome to the show.Albert: Yeah, thank you for having me.Eleni: So, I thought a nice place to start would be just like, kind of explain it, what it means to be an accessibility expert. I'm on the product team at Understood. And so I work really closely with the experience and design team, and I've actually worked on a few accessibility projects, so I'm pretty familiar. But for our listeners, I thought it might be valuable for you to explain what it might mean to be an accessibility expert and just describe it to them as simple as possible.Albert: Basically, the work that I'm doing, accessibility specialist role, it actually focuses on digital accessibility. So just like buildings, there's a law to make it accessible for people with disabilities or anyone to be able to access for wheelchair users and things like that. Digital space, same thing for digital products, whether that is like an app or a website, it needs to be accessible for everyone. So I basically help companies make these digital products accessible to everyone. And it's not just people with disabilities, because disability has three different categories, like permanent, temporary, situational. For example, my mother, as she gets older, her vision is lower, and so her text size has to be bigger, and things like that. So it's a really interdisciplinary subject. It involves human/computer interaction, design, computer science, and psychology. So yeah, it's a very fascinating subject area.Eleni: I think one thing that we talk about UX is really I'm trying to understand the state of the person using the technology, whether that's like an emotional state or a physical state, and designing with that in mind.Albert: Yeah, of course, mm-hm.Eleni: I would love to hear why accessibility is so important to you and why you chose to dedicate your career to accessibility.Albert: For me, accessibility is really important because I deeply empathize with the struggles. I myself have disabilities. I was born with some disabilities and also attained some growing up. And so for me, the representation and advocacy for people with disabilities is really important.Growing up, I was born in a South Korean family. And South Korea has a lot of stigma toward disability, especially invisible disabilities, like mental health and things like that. And my parents have never gone to any school. They never got any formal education. So, for me, growing up, I've never really seeked out for any medical help or any diagnosis for my disabilities. And even when I became adult and tried to seek for medical help by myself, my parents were against it. Because they just simply didn't want their child having a diagnosis of a certain disability and things like that.So having gone through such a struggle, even within my family, in my environment, in my society, wanting to be accepted as who I am, I deeply empathize with such struggle for anyone, honestly, not just people with disabilities. When I came across this subject, this field, for me, it was like a calling. It was like a life mission. And especially, even within digital accessibility, these invisible disabilities that cognitive and learning disabilities, as well as mental health, have not been traditionally covered much. Which it was very absurd to me because if not accessibility area talks about these issues, then where else can we talk about it, right?Eleni: Definitely.Albert: So, kind of felt like a calling, and I feel like I had to jump in and really bring more representation of people with disabilities, similar disabilities that I have, in this field.Eleni: That's definitely something that I've heard in my research too. When we talk more broadly about diversity and inclusion, often disability is left out. And then even within the disability spaces, invisible disabilities are left out of that conversation too. So there's, like, a number of layers. And as you said, learning disabilities in particular are often, you know, not considered. I would love to hear some examples of where you've noticed perhaps digital platforms not being as accessible as they could be for learning disabilities and, like, a common mistake or gap that you see on these platforms.Albert: I think one of the challenges I have is the reading comprehension difficulty due to my dyslexia. And because of that, I use screen readers a lot. And a lot of websites, actually majority of websites, are inaccessible. And one of the most common thing is these screen readers are assistive technology that requires specific technical compatibility.But many websites are not designed and developed with these assistive technologies in mind. So for example, if I'm trying to use a screen reader to read the content, sometimes it might skip, like there is no, for example, alt text for images, or there is no coherent orders, and it's just really not the pleasant experience.So those are one of the biggest challenges. And also in terms of, from the mental health aspect, a lot of contents that might trigger mental health traumas, there is no trigger warning or the contents might be just dangerous subjects, right? Dangerous things. And being able to write contents in plain language rather than overcomplicating things. And a lot of it is design content. Those are the biggest parts that I find a lot of issues.Eleni: And I know you mentioned that you didn't necessarily see some of your diagnoses considered, so I thought it might be helpful for the audience, if you feel comfortable, to share the learning differences that you have.Albert: Yeah, thank you for asking, because I know there's a lot of stigma toward disabilities, and I know many times people tend to not to disclose. And I was advised not to disclose if I don't feel comfortable to, but I try to disclose as much information as possible, because I want to break that stigma a lot. And I have cognitive and learning disabilities, such as ADHD, dyslexia, OCD. I also have anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD. So, it's quite a lot, but these are the diagnoses that I got and been on medication for them. And I'm really fortunate to be able to find a good medical team who was able to help me out in this journey.Eleni: Yeah. I'm happy to hear that for you too. And thank you for being vulnerable and sharing all of those diagnoses. It is really important sometimes to be more open because that's setting an example for other people that might feel a little bit more shame, and it really reduces stigma around it, just talking about it.So you mentioned that when you discovered the accessibility space, you felt like it was truly your calling. I want to hear more about how you discovered it, you know, set you on that path.Albert: Actually, to share that story, I do need to share a little bit about my background because I think it's all connected.I was born in a family with domestic violence. So my mother, my sister, and I all escaped from my father. So, I was mostly raised by a single mom. I'm a first-generation college student, and we couldn't afford the cost. So I had to take a pause in my college. And at that point, I was trying to find out what can I do in terms of my career?And while I was going to college, I actually tried three different startups. I thought business success to be my fastest route to become financially independent and free so that I can support my family. So I tried different startups.And then I went to South Korean military because of the compulsory military service. And in the military, I served as a telecommunications specialist. And that was, like, the first time I kind of interacted with these more of a computer and technical things. And then after I came out, I was doing more of a digital consultant work. But then because of my startup experience previously, I got recruited by my friend and I was brought in as a business development manager. And while I was working for this tech startup, I realized, oh, like, in order for me to really get into this field, I do really need to understand more about computer science and coding and web development. So I started doing a UCLA Extension certificate in web development applications programming.And while I was studying that subject, I came across digital accessibility. At first, I was very fascinated by the subject because I never, ever imagined there is an existing field for this specific digital accessibility. And when I came across, I felt like, like, this is super cool. To me, it was kind of like looking at robots or AI, so I automatically got drawn to it and I started looking up, oh, so what are the digital accessibility guidelines for people with invisible disabilities or people like me? And I couldn't really find much resources. Oh, that's strange. Maybe I did a poor research. So I started reaching out to different people on LinkedIn and also attending different events and conferences to see maybe if I attend these professional events, I'll be able to hear more about that subject. But I still couldn't find much information. And then I realized, oh, wow, so most of the digital accessibility conversations were focused on physical disabilities, blind, deaf, and motor. But invisible disabilities have not been covered much. So, that's when I felt like, oh, it's my calling. And I need to really get into this field and try to bring more representation.Eleni: Yeah. And that's something that we also hear a lot, where people identify, like, an opportunity or a gap and for people that are more risk-averse, it's like, oh, but like that's uncharted territory. Whereas for others, it's like, well, that's actually really exciting. You can be the pioneer in that space if no one is doing it. And as you said, there's definitely a need for it. Like, you identified a personal need for it. So, there must be others feeling the same way, right?Albert: First, I didn't know how to start. So I started talking to different people around me who are working in tech industry. But then most people were giving me advice that was discouraging. Then most people actually didn't even know about this field existing. And second, most people didn't really recommend it. Like, it's an unclear career path, and the companies that have accessibility teams are only the large companies. So, I heard a lot of discouragement. But growing up in such a hardship, raised by a single mom and everything, yeah, it is challenging. I get it. But I went through a lot of challenges already, but I still overcame. So why not try? And what an interesting life because after I got into this field, shortly after, the demand has soared extremely a lot. So compared to two years ago, there was an article talking about the job increase in this field was 70 percent in one year.And because of the COVID and how the digital transformation is occurring, and a lot of government services and public services are also transitioning to digital, there is this soaring demand for making websites and apps accessible for everyone so that public services are available for everyone. So now the people who were discouraged at me before are now coming to me and saying —Eleni: Congratulating you.Albert: Congratulating me and also asking for help. They want to learn more about it.Eleni: Yeah. And I think that takes a lot of courage to block out societal pressure and other people's opinions. And just really look inward in terms of what you want and being guided by that.Albert: And I think that neurodiverse people are actually very strong at that because we've overcome that kind of stigma, always resisting.Eleni: Definitely. Yeah. We talk about that a lot. You know, if you already feel othered in whatever way, then it's actually a lot easier to go against the status quo and go against the grain because you already are. And I think it's really important to point out some of the strengths and positivity around neurodiversity.Albert: Yeah, thank you. I really hope that more and more neurodiverse people pursue this field because there's a huge demand for neurodiversity representation in this field. And it's a really, really fascinating subject that I think a lot of people will find very meaningful because you get all the benefits of working in the tech industry, like flexible location. And most companies are nowadays remote and flexible hours. But at the same time, you do work that actually benefits people with disabilities and humanity. So, it just gives me a lot of life fulfillment and meaning in my work and everything.Eleni: Oh, that's so beautiful to hear. You know, you mentioned flexibility in the tech industry and how perhaps working in tech could be a little bit more inclusive or more accessible. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that and why that's important to you?Albert: If I were to work at a traditional company where the business practice and work environment is very traditional, it would be very challenging. Because of my disability, sometimes I need to have flexible work hours. Also being able to work remotely at my home where I feel comfortable gives me a lot of room for accommodating my disabilities. And another thing is I feel like the tech industry, the culture and the community itself, is very supportive. It's all about, like, supporting each other, open-source projects, and we're all trying to help each other, so that is a huge plus for people like me, who is a foreigner, in a foreign country, without a college degree. And then being a first-generation college student with a lack of guidance, it means so much to have that kind of support, especially digital accessibility community. Because a lot of people in digital accessibility resonate and empathize with people with disabilities and actually having disability is a huge, huge strength, because you have a deep insight and understanding of users with disabilities. And that is very precious and highly appreciated skill and experience in this field. So I think that was one of the biggest part was the people in this field were just very welcoming, loving, and supportive, and that is really hard to find in other fields, I feel like.Eleni: And you also mentioned not finishing college and some of the challenges that you had from a financial perspective. But I would love to hear perhaps some other challenges that might've been related to, like, your learning and thinking differences or your other mental health challenges.Albert: A lot of challenges are so subtle and embedded in my life that I don't even know it exists. For example, I have a hard time with estimating time. So my doctor was telling me because of my low executive functioning in my brain, if I'm estimating a time for a certain work or certain task, I can pretty much assume that it is going to be wrong. And another thing is balancing my focus. It's very hard to balance my focus.For example, I have ADHD and I get distracted to a lot of environmental stimuli. So when I'm working, I turn off a lot of other noises in my room and try to be able to focus so that I don't get distracted. But at the same time, I have OCD as well. So for me, there's no middle ground. And it's, like, either I'm very distracted or I'm very, very, very focused, maybe too focused, to the point that I'm not prioritizing certain tasks and moving forward. It's kind of like a bicycle when you're riding a bicycle on a downhill, it's hard to stop for me. It's very hard to stop when I'm going down already into the path of ADHD. So learning coping mechanism to help me balance that has been very challenging.Also another thing is, because of my anxiety, new environment, where it's my first-time experience, for example, let's say that I'm trying to go to medical school. I've never been to medical school before. Then there's lots of new information out there that I don't know. To me, that is a huge uncertainty, and that overwhelms me a lot. So it gives me anxiety and it triggers my OCD a lot. So I get obsessed about like reading things and learning things because I'm so anxious that I feel like if I miss one word, I might miss a huge chunk of information.So it took me a long time to really learn the coping mechanism that it's OK to fail. It's OK to try. And whether or not you fail, you will learn something, and it'll be good for you. So, just there was constant struggle but definitely I think as first step was getting medical help, and it helped me tremendously.Eleni: That was super interesting to hear how your different diagnoses interact and how they show up for you, and how one can actually then trigger the other. And since you started talking about advice, I thought that would be a really good segue to ask you about other advice you have for young people with thinking and learning differences, particularly those that might be interested in getting into the accessibility space.Albert: The main thing that I really want to convey to people who are going through a similar struggle as I am is that you are not alone. I'm here, there are ton of other friends around me who have similar struggles. We are here. And you are heard, you are accepted, you are loved. So I think finding community is really powerful.I started this community called Accessibility NextGen, because I wanted to build a supportive community for anyone who wants to learn about digital accessibility, to be able to help each other and make more friends, literally, like, that was the main reason why. Because when I was trying to get into this field, it was so challenging, and there are people, a ton of people, who are more than happy to help you.I and tons of my friends want to help people with disabilities and especially neurodiversity to get into this field. So please let me, let us, help you by reaching out to us, or connecting with us, or just shooting a DM anytime. The name of the community is Accessibility NextGen, and it's on Meetup.Also, you can find me on LinkedIn, Albert Kim, or my Twitter handle is djkalbert, but the Slack channel is actually invitation-only, so once you actually message me, I can send the invitation and then go from there.Eleni: Thank you so much for joining, Albert. And thank you for all of the work that you do in the accessibility space.Albert: Well, thank you so much, Eleni, for having me today. And I hope that my story will at least help someone feel that they are not alone. So, thank you.Eleni: I hope so too.This has been "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a part of the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about it."How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Go to u.org/thatjob to share your thoughts and to find resources from every episode. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G, slash that job.Do you have a learning difference and a job you're passionate about? Email us at thatjob@understood.org. If you'd like to tell us how you got THAT job, we'd love to hear from you. As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one, to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference, and we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" was created by Andrew Lee and is produced by Gretchen Vierstra and Justin D. Wright, who also wrote our theme song. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Thanks again for listening.

  • ADHD and anger

    People with ADHD tend to feel emotions more intensely than other people do. At the same time, they often have a hard time managing those emotions. They may also have trouble keeping things in perspective. It’s all part of ADHD.Even small problems can spark an angry outburst. Kids might lash out at siblings for taking a toy. Adults might yell at a co-worker who misplaced something. And the anger may last a while.People with ADHD don’t want to overreact and lose their cool. In fact, they often feel terrible about it afterward. They need to develop the skills to keep a lid on their anger. Self-control is part of a group of skills called executive functions. People with ADHD often struggle with these skills. Many kids with ADHD develop more self-control as they get older. But some struggle with anger into adulthood. With practice, people can learn these skills.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, doom bags, and squirrels in the head (Shaun’s story)

    Didn’t organize; only moved: Shaun’s doom bags tipped him off to his trouble with organization and other ADHD symptoms. When Shaun saw a clip of someone describing ADHD as “squirrels running on a conveyor belt in your brain,” his ears perked up. Then his wife discovered his doom bags. (“Doom” stands for “didn’t organize; only moved.”) He started thinking about his trouble with organization and other signs of ADHD, and he decided to get evaluated.Now just three months after his ADHD diagnosis, Shaun, a listener who wrote in, is reflecting on how ADHD impacted him as a kid. He remembers feeling bored all the time and being labeled a slacker. Also in this conversation: Shaun’s love for graphic design and how he’s coping with ADHD at work. Related resources ADHD and messinessADHD and the myth of lazinessADHD and boredomEpisode transcriptShaun: I had learned through watching TikToks that I thought maybe I had ADHD and my wife was a little bit skeptical, not that she didn't believe me, but she went down into the garage to clean the garage and she found all of my tote bags, which had items that had been making its way from one bag to another bag every time I had a project. So, that was just bags of random stuff. And she came back upstairs and was like, "Yeah, it was much worse than I thought it was. I think you should probably go talk to somebody."Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host. I'm here today with Shaun Noon. Shaun is a creative manager for a grocery chain in Pittsburgh. He's also an "ADHD Aha!" listener who wrote in. Thanks for being here, Shaun.Shaun: Yeah, thanks for having me.Laura: So, you were diagnosed two months ago, is that right?Shaun: About three now, Yeah. Three months.Laura: Three months ago now. So, that's fresh?Shaun: Yeah. At the ripe age of 49 years old.Laura: Let's get right into your "aha" moment, then. Tell me what was going on. Three months ago, four months ago, prior to your decision to get evaluated. What took you there?Shaun: So, my wife likes to watch TikToks and, you know, I always thought it was a bunch of kids on there showing their food or dancing or doing something silly. But I decided to get on there just to check it out, just because it's kind of part of my job is to know social media. And for some reason, I got kicked this ADHD clip of this guy talking about his symptoms and described it as squirrels running a conveyor belt in your brain.Laura: Squirrels running on a conveyor belt in your brain.Shaun: Like passing information on the conveyor belt. And like they don't realize something's important until it passes through several times on the conveyor belt. And I was like, "That sounds kind of familiar to me." And then I went and watched a few more of his things, and I was like, "This is really weird. Everything he's talking about is something that I've experienced in my life."Laura: Why did the squirrel thing resonate? Can you give me an example of when you felt that way?Shaun: Just because, you know, if there's too many things on the conveyer belt I shut down. I can't, you know, function. So, it's more about like people will give you information it'll be on the conveyor belt, and you won't necessarily notice it until it passes through several times and you're like, "Oh, that's important. I should probably remember that or write it down or do something with it," that information.Laura: Do you experience that at work or at home or both?Shaun: Yeah, I mean, all through school I was a terrible student. It was always the same thing, teachers saying, "Hey, he's a great kid, you know, he's bright. He just needs to apply himself." It was like, every single teacher would say that.At work, it's like, you know, being at meetings, like, I can't concentrate on fully unless I am the person that's presenting or giving the information. Unless it was something, a project that I was really interested in. I could say like thankfully now that I education, it's a lot better. I don't want to get fired from my job because I don't pay attention in meetings. But it's not that I wouldn't pay attention, you know, my mind would wander and then I'd have to come back into what I was doing. Details, all that kind of stuff was really difficult.Laura: So, the TikTok story that you mentioned, that's not the end of your "aha" moment. Your wife noticed something.Shaun: Yeah. So, I had said to her, you know, "I got these TikToks that were thrown my way, that talk about ADHD." And I was like, "I think I might have it." She's like, "Oh, everybody kind of gets distracted." And, you know, I was like, "I don't, I think this is, you know, I think I should get this checked out."And I'm usually the one to like, handles the garage because, you know, I handle the tools and I do a lot of the construction stuff or whatever. And we have income property, a duplex, and every time I would go over there, I'd put stuff in the bag and get home and be like, "I'll deal with that later," and set it down. And then I would have to go out again and then take some stuff from one bag and take stuff from another bag and put it in another bag.So, she went down to the garage to organize because she was like, "Oh, I'm going to do it this time." She went down and she came back up like maybe an hour and a half later and said, "Wow, I had no idea it was that bad. There are doom bags everywhere," which is "don't organize, only move" or something like that.Laura: Didn't organize, only moved. Yeah.Shaun: Yeah. And she was like, "Yeah, I think you should probably talk to somebody." So, that was her "aha" moment, I guess.Laura: Yeah. And also, an "aha" moment for you. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I had never heard the term "doom bags" or "doom piles" until you wrote in to me. So, I'm grateful for that. We work with a lot of experts that Understood. I haven't spoken to any of them about whether or not this is an official sign of ADHD. I know a lot of people on TikTok and other platforms are talking about doom piles and doom bags as an ADHD symptom, but it definitely tipped your wife off, and then maybe you off a little bit more about maybe some trouble with organization?Shaun: Yeah, it's definitely an organizational thing. You know, it's like any time you're in class and, you know, they're teaching something, my brain would just shut down like, I like I can't even focus like, I want to. I want to do well in school, and I want to, you know, get good grades, but like, my brain just wouldn't allow me to do it. Same thing, it's like I get done with the project and everything's in the bag. I don't want to spend the time putting the stuff back in its place.Laura: That term Doom pile or Doom bag, that's an acronym that stands for Didn't organize, only moved, but the word doom...Shaun: Seemed very gloomy.Laura: Yeah. Did these feel gloomy to you? The bags?Shaun: Yeah. Because I've had doom whatever in my life forever. You know, my room was my doom room. You know, my office is kind of my doom room now. And, you know, I have drawers that are doom drawers and I'm getting better. And actually, the first time that I was on medication, which was probably two months ago, a month and a half ago, the first day I looked at my art table and paints and markers and all that stuff, and I was like, "I'm going to do something about this." And then literally an hour and a half later, I had a chest organized. All the markers were together, all the paints were together, all the brushes, pencils, everything was organized. And I was like, "Oh my God, who is this? How did this happen?" And I did a video and I sent it to my wife, and I said, "Who is this person? Is this how people normally feel? Is this like what the typical person is? Because I can't believe I just accomplished this."Laura: Holy shit, I have chills. I don't think, I don't. We don't usually, because I don't usually say, Jessamine, holy shit, on the show, but we can keep it this time because that...Shaun: You can bleep it out.Laura:...I mean, you know, we're family-friendly, but still, this is it is kind of a holy ass moment.Shaun: Yeah, it gave me chills doing it. And like, when I was finished, I was like, "I can't believe I went through my whole life without help like this." So, it was very emotional. It gave me a sense of vindication that it wasn't me that was the issue this whole time. You know, like with my grades and people telling me, "You got to try harder," you know, "Pay attention more," whatever, it was, that vindication.And, you know, obviously, there was a part of it that was "What would have happened if I was on this since I was 16," or whatever. But that was fleeting because I'm still pretty successful. I have a family and I have a home and I have a job. And so, I didn't dwell too much on what could have been.Laura: And it's all really new to you as well.Shaun: Yeah, I'm still digging, still digging a lot.Laura: I'm not trying to imply that it's going to get worse or anything. I actually don't think so. I think it's going to just get better and better. But I think that people who haven't gone through this may scoff at the idea of like a grieving process when you get an ADHD diagnosis, but it's so real. Every single person I talk to on this show talks about it.Shaun: It's kind of frustrating. I mean, when I was in school, ADHD was just on the verge of being talked about really, I guess, like late eighties, early nineties. But you would think that somebody would have been like, "Yeah, he's a good kid. He's not like, he's not a troublemaker, anything. So maybe we should look into this." But you can't go around and blame people for something I couldn't even recognize, and it was me like, why couldn't I see the signs? you know.Laura: After the spotting of the doom piles and bags. What did you do next? Did you and your wife have a conversation? Did you go straight to your doctor? What happened?Shaun: I found the therapist. And since things are so crazy with COVID and so many people needing mental health help, she would take information and go back to the psychiatrist and then they would give recommendations. So, after a few sessions with her and talking to her just like, you know, she did the short questionnaire —it was like 10 minutes — and she was like, "Yeah, I think you might have it. And here's some pamphlets, and a book and you can read this."And I was like, "No, no, no, no. I'm like 49 years old, going to be 50 soon, and I don't think that I'm going to be able to crack these masks that I've been wearing for most of my life." I was like, I think I want a medication or at least try it and see if it helps me. And she said, "OK, well, let's do it over a couple of sessions."And I did the long test and after the two and a half sessions or whatever, she came back and was like, "Yeah, you hit every mark on this, except for the hyperactivity, although it's probably in your brain, not, you know, physical hyperactivity." And she's like, "Yeah, we're going to put you on something."And it was like, wow. Like it was, you know, a revelation. It was like, it's real, you know because I've talked to people, friends, and family members and they're like, "Well, I don't know, You don't seem like you would be ADD, like I've known you your whole life, you don't have to like..." and the thing for me, it's like "You're not in my brain, you don't know what's going on."Laura: Looking back, what were some of your ADHD signs growing up?Shaun: Just not being able to concentrate on school is the huge one. And even just conversations with people, like daily conversations, like typical stuff, like "How's the weather" kind of things, like, I'd just, I would blank out and I'd be in my own brain thinking about something else.And it was frustrating for me because, you know, I'm a pretty empathetic person. I would say, "Why can't I give these people the proper attention that I want to give them?" Because I do care about these people, and it would make sense that I would want to listen to what they have to say. But at the end of the day, my brain was just like, "Nope, we got better things than, you know, doop doop doop doop do do," my brain is like running in a circle.Laura: The squirrels.Shaun: Yeah, the squirrels that are going like on a carousel with like five different things going at once.Laura: Do you think that that dialog was only in your head the like, "I want to listen. I care about what people are saying," or do you think that other people also noticed and did anyone ever say anything to you?Shaun: Yeah, I mean, I think for sure my wife, I mean, she's had to deal with my distraction and incapability of remembering things. So, for sure her. But I masked really well, I really put on a face and made it seem as if I was listening if I wasn't. It's just something I've, you know, I learned to do as I went along in life. But I don't think there is anything where people are like, "Hey, are you not paying attention to me?" like, you know.Laura: Did you ever get bored?Shaun: All the time, like school like the boringest, like I was like, "Why am I here? What am I doing? This is crazy." So, my outlets were art and skateboarding and, you know, that's where I was getting my dopamine, you know, the thrills. And, you know, I would just do it all day long at school.Laura: Did you study art in college?Shaun: Yeah. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I went into college and it took me forever to get there. Like, I went through community college, I fell out of one school, and then I finally got to a school that I got into after three years of community and I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't want to be a starving artist, you know, I didn't want to sit in a one-room studio and eat, you know, canned beans or something.So, I stumbled on a graphic design class, and it really resonated with me because when I was a skateboarder, you know, the advertisements really spoke to me just because they were so crazy and different, like from what you would typically see in magazines. So, it really intrigued me to kind of do that and be creative and still get paid to be able to eat.Laura: Our listeners can't see your background, but I get to soak it in and...Shaun: Yeah.Laura: ...just, I want to kind of describe it to folks who are listening. I see a guitar on the wall, I see more, I see an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar. I see paintings, I see sculpture, I see a ton of records, music. I see a skull, which I think is kind of rad. It's just, music and art, I mean, it's just permeating your space. I can just feel like kind of the artistic energy.Shaun: Yeah, this is like the organized chaos, I guess. Like my wife has all the other rooms that she decorates, and this is the one room I have. It's my office and art space.Laura: It looks neat.Shaun: You can't see my desk.Laura: Like like neato, but it looks neato and it also looks neat, so.Shaun: It's funny because when people come in here, like in our house, there are always, gravitate to this room and they're like, "What is going on?" Because there's so much to look at. And that's why I like it. It's all inspiration and things that I like.Laura: What art speaks most to your ADHD symptoms and feels the best to create or to look at based on the way that your brain works? Or to listen to, anything.Shaun: Yeah, I don't know. It's like I am all over the place with music and art. Like I love all kinds of art, you know, tattoos. I have tattoos, all kinds of tattoos. I like anything that's new and trying to create something that's intriguing, that captures somebody's attention. I think that's why I like graphic design so much, because in a sea of ads that are fed all the time, like trying to penetrate that is a challenge.And I think any time that I can get somebody to stop scrolling and go, "Wow, that's different," or "That's interesting" or whatever, then I think that's what I'm kind of going for. Even in my own personal art, it's like if I create something, I want somebody to stop and go, "That's different. That's cool. I like that."Laura: When we chatted prior to this interview, you mentioned something about being labeled a slacker. Can you talk to me about that?Shaun: Yeah, it's a lot about like finishing things or I'll get excited about doing something and I'll get started and I'll get into the meat of it, and either I'll get too frustrated, or I'll just get too bored with wanting to finish it.So like, details are an issue, and all through school it was like really difficult for me because I know I'm not a dumb person, but when you're a senior and you're sitting in a freshman class, you know, it's really humiliating for somebody. And the people looking at you are like, "Oh my God, this guy's got to be a dunce. He's a senior and he's in a freshman class."And then I, you know, seventh grade, I went to summer school, and eighth grade I failed completely and had to do it over. So, there was a lot there that from an outside perspective would show somebody, "Hey, this guy doesn't have his crap together, you know, like he's probably a slacker."So, I, part of it was like, I think I just said, "You know what? You want me to be a slacker? I'm going to be a slacker." And I would skip school and I would go skateboarding all day long instead of going to school or whatever it was, like I just skipped out on it.Laura: That makes a lot of sense. I can tell that's a painful thing to talk about. And so, thank you for your candor.Shaun: Yeah, I think, you know, I like being open about this, especially because I went through my life and I didn't get the chance to try to mediate this at all. And, you know, if this opens up some people's eyes, then, you know, that's positive for me.You know, I'm obviously going to share this whenever it goes live, and I'm going to put it on my social media. I'm not ashamed of, you know, my diagnosis. If anything, like I said earlier, it's a vindication of who I was in the past or how I was seen. That's not who I am.Laura: Thank you for spreading the word. You want to workshop some titles of this episode with me, since you're a content creator as well? I've got one in mind. Maybe we can talk about it later.Shaun: 50-year-old slacker.Laura: 50-year-old slacker...Shaun: gets diagnosed.Laura:...and his insurmountable doom bags.Shaun: Yeah.Laura: We love to laugh about it, but it's real.Shaun: The number one thing to get me through a lot of stuff.Laura: I mean, you're clearly not a slacker, though. I mean, I hope you know that, right?Shaun: Yeah, I take on probably more than I should.Laura: And you have, sounds like you have a great job. And you have a family, so that's already too much for most people, frankly.Shaun: And the job has been amazing. Like, you know, because, you know, I started off in graphic design and I saw, say, six, seven years ago the opportunity that we should probably be doing like video in-house instead of paying agencies, especially for social media and stuff. So, I kept chirping and saying, "Hey, we should do this...", just like "Nah, we don't have a budget," or whatever.But finally, years later, we're getting a studio and we've been filming stuff. And so, it's coming along. And it was nice for me because, you know, ADHD people get bored, and they need to switch it up. And, you know, it was a good turn in my career to keep me engaged and do something different.Laura: How has work been going for you? Have you felt a change? Did this, what you're just talking about, did that happen before or after your diagnosis?Shaun: Yeah. When I started talking about changing and doing this, it was before my diagnosis. So, yeah, it's been going good like with the medication for sure, because I feel like I am, you know, a much more present not just at work but in my family's life, my wife's, my kids'. Like, not that I wasn't present, but it's like I'm more engaged, I guess you could say, just in conversations and all that stuff. I think a lot of depression anxiety was bound to my inability to be mentally present in a lot of stuff.Laura: Interesting. So, like feeling depressed, feeling anxious as a result of ADHD. I mean, it goes so many different ways. It can become comorbid, one can lead to, you know.Shaun: Yeah. And like even coming home after a stressful day and just lay on the couch like, I can't do anything, I'm done. Like, I'm tapping it out, you know, when you still have dinner to make and talk to your family about how was your day? And I'm like, I can't do it, you know, which is, really frustrating.Laura: I've had many nights when I've cried coming home and just melting down or just like, kind of breaking down at the thought of having to focus on one more thing and like dinner and like the stress of the bedtime routine.Everyone who listens to the show is probably so sick of hearing me talk about this. This is like my number one complaint. They probably think that I don't enjoy being with my children or...Shaun: Spends no time with her kids and she orders pizza all the time.Laura: This woman just completely opts out of parenting and complains about her children. No, I think the world of my children, just for the record, I love being with them.Shaun: But you do order pizza all the time.Laura: But we do, yeah. Yeah, we do, chicken nuggets. What about with your wife since you've been getting ADHD treatment? I think you mentioned before that you would interrupt her sometimes. Are you still doing that or...?Shaun: Yeah, I've gotten better. Like, I definitely don't feel the need that I, I'd be able to keep the thought that I have in my head to respond whenever she's finished. Or people at work even like, you know, there's some people at work that they'll talk, and I can't wait for them to finish because I feel like they're taking too long and like, "I got to get this out or I'm going to forget."Laura: Totally. Oh my gosh, I get so impatient, John. Even with my medication...Shaun: And I feel bad.Laura: ...it's hard.Laura: I feel bad, too, But I'm just like, "Shut up, shut up, shut up. I already know what you're about to say. I already know what you're about to say. Stop."Shaun: Right, like you're like two sentences into the conversation before they're even thinking about it. Like, "I know how this is going to go."Laura: And it's not because I'm smarter than they are. It's just because, like, the conveyor belt, to your point, it's just like going, going, going, going. And I'm like, "I already mapped out this entire conversation before it even started, and I know I'm going to miss something important and rushing you and interrupting you, but I just I can't help it."Shaun: That's just the way that we have coped to, like, figure out how we're going to stay in the conversation. Because if we don't think ahead, then we won't be able to answer or whatever.Laura: Totally. Do you ever talk about it, I don't know what your work structure is like or what your relationship is like with your boss, and I imagine you're not super keen on talking about all of that on the show, but have you told your boss that you have ADHD?Shaun: Yeah, I did. You know, it's funny, he's a great guy and he's actually new. And the first time that I met him in person at the office, because we're from a lot, and we just started talking, and like he and I just kind of unloaded everything. Like I was like, "Oh yeah, I have anxiety and depression and ADHD and I'm on this medication," and he was like, "Wow," you know?But it was good. It was like the conversation kind of just flowed. At the end, I was like, "I am so sorry, I just dumped all on you." But he was like, "No, that's really good. Thank you so much for being honest and open with me." So, it's been good.Shaun: I think any time we can be honest about our mistakes or our flaws or whatever, then I think the more that people will appreciate it and not look past it, but, you know, understand your scenario and your personality and your situation more.Laura: Yeah, I totally agree. I ask because Understood.org, where I work, we're interested in, you know, talking more with adults about self-advocacy in the workplace, once they know that they're struggling with something with or without a diagnosis. And I'm just curious of what that has maybe look like for you when it comes to your ADHD.Shaun: The company I work for is really big on inclusion and diversity and the care of their employees. I have not delved too much into everything that they offer. I know they have groups that help with some things that people may be going through or whatever, but I think it would be good to talk to somebody about people that have ADHD or maybe on the spectrum or whatever. Having a group for them, support group, because it would probably be pretty beneficial and that would probably give the company some insight into the employees that are dealing with it.Laura: Shaun, it's been so great to talk with you. Is there anything else that you want to chat about?Shaun: I think the big thing for me is, for doing this, is just for advocacy and trying to kill the stigma of mental health issues. I know a lot of people that have mental health issues that I love dearly, and I think it's important for people to have empathy, which our society is lacking a lot right now. And the more we can speak to these issues and tell our stories, the better it's going to be for the rest of them.Laura: Thank you so much, Shaun. It's been so nice to talk with you today.Shaun: Thank you. I really appreciate it.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at Understood.org/mission."ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine!Jessamine: Hi everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

  • ADHD: Ways to help your child at home

    When your child has ADHD, what can you do at home to help? The ADHD tips and strategies below are a good start. Think about the skills your child needs to work on and what’s manageable for your family. Then dive in.

  • The Opportunity Gap

    ADHD parenting tips from a Black clinical psychologist

    Kristin Carothers, PhD, joins the show to explain what families of color should know about ADHD, and shares her experiences as a Black doctor.What should families of color know about ADHD? The hosts welcome Kristin Carothers, PhD, a Black clinical psychologist who specializes in working with families of kids who have ADHD and learning differences. “Dr. Kristin” shares why ADHD — and ADHD medication — often weigh heavy on the hearts of Black families. She gives practical tips on what to do if you think your child might have ADHD. And she offers strategies for families who don’t have resources or health insurance to get professional help. Dr. Kristin and the hosts also reflect on Black Lives Matter and her personal experience of being a Black doctor.Websites and approaches discussed by Dr. Kristin in this episode:Child Mind InstituteAmerican Academy of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryParent Child Interaction TherapyThe Incredible YearsAlan Kazdin Parenting ApproachRelated resourcesADHD fact sheetWhat I tell Black parents who worry about labels like ADHD for their child How to get a free or low-cost evaluation for your childEpisode transcriptJulian: Welcome to "The Opportunity Gap," a podcast for families of kids of color who learn and think differently. We explore issues of privilege, race, and identity. And our goal is to help you advocate for your child. I'm Julian Saavedra.Marissa: And I'm Marissa Wallace. Julian and I worked together for years as teachers in a public charter school in Philadelphia, where we saw opportunity gaps firsthand.Julian: And we're both parents of kids of color. So this is personal to us.Welcome back to the show. Hey, Marissa.Marissa: Hey, Julian.Julian: We're really hyped today because we have a very special guest here: Dr. Kristin Carothers, PhD. She's a graduate of Howard University and DePaul University. She's a clinical psychologist. That means she works directly with families of kids with learning and thinking differences, like dyslexia and ADHD. And in addition to working with families, she's also a professor of psychiatry at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. And she's worked with Understood on many different projects, including our Wunder app, which we're really proud of. So let's welcome Dr. Kristin to the show.Marissa: Thank you. That's awesome. Dr. Kristin, welcome. It's so great to have you. Thank you for joining us.Kristin: Thank you for having me. I'm really happy to be here today.Marissa: Everyone has this idea of what ADHD is, but for those who are new to this, or maybe not new, but maybe just unsure and unclear of what it is, how do you explain that to families? How do you unpack what ADHD is for families?Kristin: First thing I try to do when I'm explaining to families what ADHD is, is to let them know that it's a thinking difference that has a brain basis. So if we think about our brains and how they work and how we in a given day have to manage like multiple demands, right, so we've got a plan. We've got to organize. We have to respond to some things. We have to filter out information that we don't need to respond to.And what happens with ADHD is that you can have difficulty meeting those demands for a number of different reasons. And so we call it a neurodevelopmental disorder. And so what that means is that there's a brain basis for it, but it also has many environmental components that play a role in symptoms and presentation. But when you go to see a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist, or even a pediatrician, and they tell you, oh, your child may have ADHD, what they're talking about is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.And in the past there was ADD or attention-deficit disorder. And there was thought there's a difference between ADD and ADHD, but now we only use the one umbrella, ADHD. And then there are three presentations under that umbrella. Sometimes parents will say, "The brother is ADHD. He can't be." And so what they might be talking about is differences in symptoms that they noticed, but that's because there are different presentations.So the first presentation is the hyperactive impulsive presentation. Those are the kids who are talking all the time, jumping when they should be sitting, running, climbing in situations where it might be dangerous. We would say those are Energizer Bunnies. So that's the hyperactive impulsive type.The next presentation is the inattentive presentation. And these are our kids who are maybe forgetful. They're losing things all the time. It's almost as if you tell them to do something, goes in one ear and out the other. If the hyperactive kids are like Energizer Bunnies, the inattentive kids are like my space cadets. So it was like, "Hey, come back to Earth. Bring it back. Where were you?"Then we've got the third presentation, which is a combination, where kids present with symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity and also symptoms of inattention. So they've got like this gumbo going on, where they have a mix of the symptoms at any given time.Marissa: That's super clear and really helpful. I've heard it before. I've never heard it explained so well, so thank you very much for that explanation. And I can like envision and see the students that I've worked with and the family members and people that I know and love. That is them.Julian: So from your perspective, what is unique about ADHD specifically for people of color? And then, even more specifically, for Black families?Kristin: I think a perfectly timed question. So I'm also Black, in predominantly Black settings, and wasn't even really introduced to the concept of ADHD until my high school years, when the setting that I was educated in was predominantly Black, but it became integrated with more white students. And at the time, what had happened was some students had been put out of their Catholic school and they were sent by their parents to their neighborhood school.So it was an interesting community because it's a white community, but the school in the community was all Black and the community didn't send their kids. But once they came, we learned about, oh, people take medication during the day to help them focus. Well, we had never heard of that.And so I'll disclose I was in high school in the late '90s, early 2000s. I didn't really know anybody who was on medication for ADHD or who had been diagnosed with ADHD. But I started to become aware that some of the kids who came to my school, that they were either diagnosed, that they had been on medication, that people would say things to them: "Did you take your meds today?" And I was like, "What is this?"Why am I saying all that? I think from the perspective of Black people, if a kid was evaluated or diagnosed, it was sometimes parents might say, oh, you're letting the system label them. OK, so there's already this like cultural mistrust for us and especially parents of Black boys. So that if a school system or a teacher wanted to evaluate a kid who was a Black kid and they presented with symptoms, parents would become mistrustful, because we don't know — you can't trust what the government does.You can't trust that label won't be applied to your kid and that label won't follow them through their life. And then they won't be able to get a good job and they might be fast-tracked for the prison system. So we have all of this like healthy cultural paranoia that I think impacts Black people historically and currently, when we think about ADHD and diagnosis.I was talking with my mom today about a friend that I grew up with and, or a couple friends I grew up with, where in retrospect probably did have ADHD, but we were so afraid. Even family members were so afraid of the intervention, due to the labels, that the intervention did not happen.And in hindsight, yes, maybe they did, but at the time it was not safe to be evaluated, get the label. Or we felt it was unsafe to medicate. So that's kind of my perspective when it comes to like how we're moving through this cultural acceptance of can ADHD be a disorder that doesn't necessarily mean we've got a label that's gonna follow us for life. We can get help, treatment for it.Julian: I didn't hear about this until I went to college and it had been something that I just was floored by. I didn't realize that medication was a thing. I didn't realize that these symptoms were actually scientifically proven to be a disorder. I just thought it was kids couldn't sit still. And so it was a really eye-opening experience for me, specifically because I went to a primarily white institution for my college. And I had grown up in primarily Black settings, too. So going to that situation, it just, it opened my head up.Given that this is both of our experiences, right, and I think people in our age group probably experienced similar things, do you see it changing? Do you see some of that being altered now?Kristin: I definitely see a little bit more acceptance in the Black community for the fact that a kid's symptoms can be tied to this like brain basis. That is not because the kid is just bad or acting now. But I think where we're still on the border and on the fences around medication and mistrust around like institutions and medical doctors. I think that some of that is mistrust. And some of it is like lack of knowledge. So if a kid is diagnosed and prescribed medication, parents may think, "Well, I gave it to him that one day, but his stomach hurt. I didn't give it to him again." Or "We gave it to him one day or four week and it didn't work. So we didn't do it again." Or "Medication doesn't work" or "Therapy doesn't work." And so I think what's happening for us is there's a lack of education about what the evidence-based treatments are — the fact that there are different classes of medication for ADHD.So because one medication doesn't work, it could be that the dose was too low. It could be that it's the wrong class of medication. It could be that the kid will respond better to a different medication. Or it could be that it's an environmental thing and that there needs to be an environmental intervention.Not every child diagnosed with ADHD is going to take medication. Most of the work is going to be parent and teacher training to modify the environment. And so that's the biggest thing that I find that people don't know.Julian: As a clinician specifically with what you do day to day, how do you go about treating and providing treatment? Is it a combination of advising the behavioral modifications? Is it subscribing medication like the parent side? Like what is it that you typically do?Kristin: So I'm a clinical psychologist. And so I do not prescribe, I'm not an MD. So across the states, in most states, the only people who can prescribe medication are psychiatrists. So psychiatrists have gone to medical school. They are medical doctors. Or pediatricians, depending on the state, you, which you live. Some pediatricians are more comfortable with diagnosing and medicating, but most pediatricians will refer parents to a child and adolescent — a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist for medication management if that's something they should decide to do.Evidence-based suggests that the fastest response is going to be to medication. Long-term, though, the longest-term effects are going to be with behavioral parent management training and school consultation. So what I do is behavioral parent management training and school consultation.And so there are a couple of different models that, um, clinicians can be trained in. There are some individual, there are some group models, there's some individual models, parent intervention, that are all based on the same premise that the coercive cycle of interaction between parents and kids can drive or increase these impulsive behaviors. And that the environment has to be modified or shaped so that the kid receives lots of positive attention for on-task behaviors, thus increasing those behaviors.And we try to actively ignore negative, attention-seeking behaviors as much as possible, and also set the kid up for an environment that's successful. So what I do is behavioral parent management training and school consultation.Julian: Focusing on the positive reinforcement aspect of it. Gotcha.Kristin: And you know what I'll say about that positive reinforcement thing is sometimes people are like, "Oh, well you want me to just praise my kid?Just praise my kid? What about what they do something wrong?" It's not just about praising your kid. It's about getting them to understand that there are certain behaviors that you're going to be really specific about that you're going to help them to be aware of that they need to increase. And when they increase those behaviors, you're acknowledging it.I also want to remind parents that we enjoy praise and we enjoy reinforcement when we do something well. So none of us shows up to our jobs for free. We enjoy getting a paycheck. We want that compensation. So there's nothing wrong with giving people feedback about positive behavior. That's how we work as human beings.Marissa: Yeah, it's so necessary. It's just ingrained, right? And I'm listening and I'm thinking to myself, how do you start to get the buy-in?Kristin: When I'm trying to like join with a family or a parent that might be resistant to the idea that their kid is presenting with these problems, is that I try to keep in mind that parents are the experts on their children. And so even though I may see this kid in a number of settings and notice things, at the end of the day, the parent really is the expert on their kid.And so as much as I can find out from them: What do you notice at home when you tell them to do X, Y, or Z? How many times do you have to call before the person comes or addresses? Have you noticed that the kid is having difficulty breaking away from this, but then they're really super focused on this. You can’t get them to do homework, but you can get them to do this for hours. That actually has a name, and this is what it's called.And so sometimes it's like parents have that "aha" moment because there are things that they thought of as maybe being a personality thing that might really be a symptom of ADHD. And I'm validating that they are having this experience at home. And it's likely a similar experience that teachers are having at school.Julian: Parents, do y'all hear that? Do y'all hear Dr. Kristin talk about how you all are the experts with your own children? Just want to lift that up and that everybody out there listening, Dr. Kristin is validating the fact that you all are the ones that know your kids. And that's something that we've been talking about a lot with our podcasts since the beginning.Marissa: And that is something that we need to continue to remind our families, because I think that is a key part that's missing a lot of times. And that's why students are often struggling in school, because they're — that parent piece is always, or there's assumptions that are made. And I think it's important that our parents know how valuable and important they are.So then with that being said, Dr. Kristin, I'm curious, for some families who are trying to get help, however, they might not have access to some of the resources or they might not have the financial ability or the insurance. Or even just like you said, there might be a knowledge gap or something missing there. What tips or advice can you give to those families?Kristin: This, this is a big issue, right? There aren't enough clinicians to do the work. Even if there are enough clinicians, some of them don't accept insurance. Even if they do accept insurance, they don't have any space. So what do you do as a parent?I often refer family members, friends, potential clients to sources of evidence-based information that are online. So for instance, I had a family member who reached out a couple of weeks ago about a child who has ADHD. They had medication from a pediatrician, weren't able to follow through. I say first, step one, you're going to go to this website, Understood.org. And you're going to look at what are learning differences. Childmind.org. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. These are websites that have evidence-based, accurate information that parents can access, right? It's not treatment, but at least it's information, so you know you're not alone.The other thing that I recommend is that parents reach out to the academic medical centers in their community or the closest big city to where you are.The reason I say this is because academic medical centers typically train child and adolescent psychiatrists. And if they also train clinical psychologists who are doctoral level or pre-doctoral level. If you don't have an academic medical center, do you have a university, a college where there's a doctoral program in clinical psychology, where there are programs for licensed clinical social workers.Those universities, schools, often have community-based clinics where they provide services at a free or very reduced fee. And so the other thing I think is you check in with that pediatrician. You say to the pediatrician, "Hey, I need help. I need referrals."And then the final thing I would say is you gotta be careful with what you watch and consume because you don't necessarily know how truthful it is. But often there are YouTube videos that are by like organizations like Understood and AACAP — American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — that provide information about symptoms and what you might see. So the web, I think, while you're waiting to get treatment, use that as a resource.Julian: You know, I guess the takeaway is that you don't have to feel like you're alone. You don't have to feel like nobody has not gone through this before. And you have to remember that as families with children, you have a right to the services that are needed, you have a legal right to get what is needed. And so don't ever feel like you have to take this on by yourself.Marissa: And I think one thing that stood out that you were talking about, Dr.Kristin, and I think is important for families and for educators to know too, is the piece of it that is so much the changing the environment. Because I know I've worked in schools with families where a lot of times there is a holdup with their pediatrician. There is a holdup in getting their medication refilled. And so that can't be the only answer. Yes, I understand that it's part of their management piece and part of what they need. However, it is also up to what we're doing. How are we developing our environment? How are we supporting them with what they need in so many other ways that are non-medication related?Kristin: Yeah, I agree. The other thing that I was going to say in terms of resources that are like, based on that environmental piece, some of the evidence though, the websites for evidence-based interventions that we do that really do impact that environment or that parent child interaction. They'll have resources on their website about, OK, what can you say to your kid? How do you structure the environment? So one model is called parent child interaction therapy, PCIT. And if you Google PCIT and international, you can go to their website and they'll have a list this just for parents.There's another model that's a group-based intervention called the Incredible Years. If go Google the Incredible Years program, you'll get to their page. And it'll say for parents, right?Or the Alan Kazdin behavioral parent management approach, Google it. And there'll be books that come up for really good information that can help you to start it if you need tips about, OK, what do I do at home to get them on task for getting ready for school. What do I do at home to motivate them for getting through homework?Julian: I would love to know, Dr. Kristin, um, and you know, I think about even my own children, just the experience of interacting with a Black doctor. What's that like for you and formulating that, that relationship and just what's it feel like to move into a family's home, and regardless of the race of the patient, just being a Black doctor, what is it like for you?Kristin: Depending on the context in which I was in and the time, things have changed. So if I think back to graduate school, when I was coming from the South Side to work with families on like the near North Side who were in public housing and I clearly was not in public housing, it was I'm Black, I'm from Chicago. But economically I've had a very different experience. And so working with a Black parent, I remember the parent was talking about being in public housing. And I say, my family came from public housing too. And she said, but you all were fortunate enough to get out.Then I go to New York and I'm in Washington Heights, and I'm working with parents who are undocumented. I'm working with parents whose children have to interpret for them. That I'm able to still build a really strong relationship because we have this consistency, but they had to teach me so much about the culture because I know nothing. And so I'm in a position where I have to learn about not just like that, there's a language difference, but there is a cultural difference.And so, can I connect with them when I can't speak their language and I'm Black and I'm not Dominican? So there's that. Then I go to Child Mind, and the families that I worked with that were Black were like me, middle-class. But there were very few of them. And so almost exclusively, my clients, the clients that I worked with were white and affluent and almost, for the most part, I was always respected.There were a couple of times where it was like, I knew that because I was Black, things were different. So there might be client that was supposed to come to me and then they didn't come to me. And I don't know why they didn't come or they didn't stick. And it's like, am I bad therapist? Or did I not stick because I was Black? Or is my rate of getting clients and keeping clients different? Because when you're on Park Avenue, people are looking at your diplomas, where you went to school, and they're looking at what you look like. We gotta be, we real about that. Just like they looking at that when they're in Atlanta and they say, I want a Black therapist.And so with the whole Black Lives Matter movement and everything, it's been as a Black doctor who's around other doctors who aren't Black, it was like really important for me to let people know, like I am Black, like Black-Black. And so this movement is like my life. And so I need you to know that if you work with me, or if you're in spaces with me, and then I guess where it breaks down for families and kids is now, there will be some times where I'm working with Black families and there will be some things, and they're like, "I don't have to explain this to you cause you know what I'm talking about." And it might be like a, a family, like a, some family-level issue. It might even be something about a sorority or a fraternity. And they're like, but on the flip side, when I'm talking to my white patients about it, I'm like, you got to explain that to me. I don't know.Julian: And I think that's the point of asking it, is that for our listeners, regardless of who they are in hearing the complexity of your experience and what it means to be a Black professional in this work, is important to hear. And it's also important to hear that it's not a uniform experience, but we all have different things that happen to us and different things that shape who we are. But it doesn't change our devotion to the work and our devotion to what we do and how we're uplifting people.So I just, I love everything that you've shared with us today. I love everything that you've chosen to talk about in terms of the recommendations and, you know, your life story is inspirational on so many different levels. You you've hit the gamut.Marissa: And just to piggyback off of what Julian saying, I think it's a breath of fresh air too, for us to listen and to hear. Because a lot of the conversations we have, sometimes we don't always have easy answers and not, and not that you gave easy answers, right? I do think though, that you gave a lot of applicable and a lot of tangible things for our listeners to connect with. And because of just the diversity within your experiences, that in itself makes you relatable. So thank you seriously, so much gratitude, Dr. Kristin.Kristin: Thank you. And I just want to let families know, and parents. Like, this is hard work when you get this information. They're like, "Oh, my kid has ADHD. What now?" And even sometimes I feel like when my family comes to me, I'm like, oh, I'm failing my family. How am I sharing all this information with all these different resources and my family doesn't even know?It's because it's like really hard work and it can be exhausting. And so you are not alone. And if you feel like you're tired or you just don't know where to start and it's overwhelmed, totally get it. But places like Understood — and I was going to Understood before I was even like any way affiliated with Understood.Marissa: I remember in graduate school, right in graduate school. I was like, especially as a special educator. And it just was like, again, like, I felt like there wasn't often a lot of times besides like your textbooks, right? They were like, here's where you get the information. I was like, well, no, I need things that are a little more up-to-date websites.Kristin: Yeah. The IEP Toolkit, like the Understood — the number of times that I've sent emails to parents, like just go to this website and read what it says. And here's the letter to request that like, here's a template, like this will walk you through it.Julian: I, again, I just want to reiterate the pleasure that we have of having you join us, and we really appreciate everything you had to say, your time. But also for our listeners out there, let's help encourage more of our young people to be like Dr. Kristin. We need more of you out there. We need more of you to be out there doing this work from a place of authenticity.Everything that you said comes from a place of realness and authenticity. Our families out there, really encourage people in your lives and community to find ways to do this type of work, because we need it, but find people that you can trust. That's really what it comes down to.This has been "The Opportunity Gap," a part of the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "The Opportunity Gap" on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.Marissa: If you found what you hear today valuable, please share the podcast. "The Opportunity Gap" is for you. We want to hear your voice. Go to u.org/opportunity gap to find resources from every episode. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G slash opportunity gap.Julian: Do you have something you'd like to say about the issues we discussed on this podcast? Email us at opportunitygap@understood.org. We'd love to share and react to your thoughts about "The Opportunity Gap."Marissa: As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference, and we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at understood.org/mission."The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Andrew Lee and Justin D. Wright, who also wrote our theme song. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood.Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors.Julian: Thanks again for listening.       

  • ADHD and behavior therapy

    If your child has ADHD, you might be looking into treatment options. One non-medication approach that can be helpful for some kids is behavior therapy for ADHD. The goal of behavior therapy is to replace a child’s negative actions and habits with positive ones. And parents are the ones who lead the process.Learn more about behavior therapy and how it can help kids with ADHD.How behavior therapy worksWhen some people hear the term therapy, they may think of clients sitting with a therapist to talk about emotions and work through problems. Behavior therapy is very different from this, however. It focuses on a person’s actions, not on thoughts and emotions.Therapists — typically clinical psychologists — work with clients to create a plan to help change behavior. The plan is designed to replace negative habits and actions with positive ones.Behavior therapy for kids is as much about changing the parents’ behavior as the child’s. Parents can get into the habit of nagging and yelling, which can reinforce their child’s negative actions. A big piece of behavior therapy is coaching parents on how to replace their negative actions with positive ones, too.What to expect from behavior therapySo what can you expect from behavior therapy for ADHD? It starts with you, your child and the therapist having a meeting.Together, you’ll talk about the behaviors that are most challenging at school or at home. Those might be things like talking out of turn, not finishing homework, or having angry outbursts.The therapist will help you come up with a plan for you and your child to follow that addresses the most troublesome behaviors. The plans are based on a system of rewards and consequences. (That’s why it’s important for your child to be there. You’ll need your child’s help to come up with rewards that are really motivating!)Next, you’ll create a chart listing the specific actions your child needs to take. These should be clear, concrete, and measurable, so your child knows exactly what the expectations are.The chart can use pictures or words — or both. It should be posted at home where your child can easily see and use it. The plan is that when kids do what they’re supposed to do, you’ll check it off. Then they earn points toward a reward.Once you start using the chart, you’ll meet with the psychologist on a weekly basis — without your child. The purpose of those sessions is to talk about how things are going, troubleshoot problems, and adjust the plan as needed. In essence, the therapist will be training you to be the “therapist” at home. Once a month, your child will join you at those sessions.How behavior therapy can help kids with ADHDBehavior therapy can be helpful for lots of kids, and for adults, too. But it can be especially helpful for kids with ADHD. Kids with ADHD can struggle with self-control and anger, which can lead to problem behaviors. It’s also not uncommon for kids with ADHD to lie frequently about everyday tasks like chores. Behavior therapy takes a very businesslike approach to helping kids with ADHD change how they act and respond to situations. One of the goals is to eliminate arguing at home and give kids the motivation to change without parents being so involved.The point of behavior therapy is to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. So the system of rewards and consequences is very specific. But whatever the reward is, it’s always coupled with praise to reinforce good behavior. (It’s important that your child’s teachers be aware of this plan. Then they can reinforce the behavior at school, too.)Let’s say one of the behaviors you want to change is putting off starting homework. On the chart, you’ll put the desired behavior: “Start my homework when I’m supposed to.”You’ll also decide on a reward. It might be: “For every five times I start on time, I’ll get an extra hour of screen time.” So each time your child does homework with only one cue from you, you’ll mark it off and your child will earn points.Equally important are verbal recognition and praise from you. For instance, you might say, “You did a great job remembering to raise your hand in class. I’m really pleased with how hard you’re trying.”If kids don’t remember to raise their hand, they simply don’t get a point. But they don’t get in trouble or lose any points. The point is to reward positive behavior and ignore negative behavior.If this approach isn’t successful, however, you might need to switch to negative consequences like losing points. And if the negative behavior you’re trying to change is aggression, you might have to use negative consequences in that situation, too.Behavior therapy and schoolSometimes therapy targets in-school behavior. In those cases, teachers have to be part of the process. You’ll need to get your child’s teacher to agree to help enforce the behavior plan. You’ll also need to make sure the plan is simple enough that it won’t eat up too much of the teacher’s time and attention.It’s important to know that therapy isn’t always enough to help with ADHD symptoms. If your child is still struggling, talk to your child’s health care provider. Together you can discuss whether to consider ADHD medication in addition to or instead of behavior therapy. You may also want to read about different professionals who help kids with ADHD.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and depression (Josh’s story)

    Josh Maxwell is a pediatrician with ADHD. An experience with a patient, and his own experience with depression, paved the way for his ADHD diagnosis. Pediatrician Josh Maxwell had two “aha” moments that led to his ADHD diagnosis. One came from talking with a teenage patient whose ADHD symptoms were different from what he’d seen in other patients. It wasn’t that the teen couldn’t pay attention, but rather that they were paying attention to everything all at once. Josh related to that feeling. Josh’s other ADHD “aha” came from his experience with depression. After starting antidepressants, he could more clearly see his own ADHD symptoms. Now, the coping strategies he’d put in place for himself, the masking, and even the childhood poem he wrote about fidgeting made perfect sense. Listen to this episode of ADHD Aha! to learn what Josh would rename ADHD, and why pediatrics is the only specialty for him.Related resourcesADHD and depressionHow attention worksShould I get tested for ADHD as an adult?Episode transcriptDr. Joshua Maxwell: My first big "aha" moment was with one of my patients when he came in for an evaluation of ADHD and did not meet the classic criteria, saying "It's not that I can't focus, it's that I focus on a million things at once," and realized that I do the exact same thing.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood, and as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment. I'll be your host.I'm here today with Dr. Joshua Maxwell. Josh is a pediatrician based in Utah who's also a listener who wrote in. Welcome, Josh. Thanks for being here today.Josh: Thanks for having me.Laura: And for our listeners who obviously can't see us, I have to say that Josh is in his scrubs, this all feels very legit. Thank you so much. Thank you for listening. Thank you for writing in to tell us about your "aha" moments. And I think to get started, let our listeners know, when did you get diagnosed with ADHD?Josh: So, it's been very recently, actually just a couple of months ago, back in February of this year. So, I guess it came more of like a surprise diagnosis, but it all makes sense now.Laura: When you wrote in, you mentioned that you had two "aha" moments and I kind of want to take those one by one. So, would you mind starting with the first ADHD "aha" moment that you had?Josh: Yeah. So, I would say my first "aha" moment was more in a professional setting as a pediatrician. I diagnose patients all the time from, you know, young kids to teenagers. But for some reason, I felt like I could recognize ADHD pretty well. In our training, we're not well taught in ADHD, I guess. I mean, it comes up as like, "Here's the diagnosis, here's how you treat it," all of those things. But we're not taught how to, like, actually recognize it and then diagnose it.So, it's something that I felt very comfortable with that as I've seen more and more patients, it's just kind of come along. And so my "aha" moment came when I was talking with a patient and he wasn't meeting the classic criteria of ADHD. He wasn't the hyperactive kid bouncing off the walls. He was more of the kid that was just had a really hard time paying attention in school and said, "I don't know what's going on. Let's figure this out." So, we were going down that road.The biggest thing that stood out to me was when he said, "It's not that I can't pay attention. I'm paying attention to literally everything." And I was like, "Wait a minute, I do that to that. Doesn't everyone do that?" And so, when he was saying that, I'm like, "Oh, well, that's him. I guess I handle it fine myself. But since he can't pay attention, great. We'll start. We'll go down that line. And he did meet other criteria for ADHD. We started him on treatment and then it was like a night and day difference for him. He was like, "Wow, I can focus. I don't have to just be distracted by everything going on."So, yes, that was my first "aha" moment as a pediatrician, realizing that there's more to ADHD than just the classic DSM-5 criteria.Laura: So, would you say that in patients who you diagnosed prior to that, they were always showing up with these classic symptoms and you didn't recognize the symptoms in yourself?Josh: Yes, I think it was very easy to recognize the classic ADHD symptoms because that's just what we were taught. And I don't think I personally meet those classic symptoms myself either based on the official DSM-5 criteria.Laura: What are those classic criteria? Can you rattle them off?Josh: Based on my training, the classical criteria shows up as the hyperactive kid who can't sit still in class, who can't pay attention, who can't organize themselves, and is just seen as the kid who's always off daydreaming.And when you really get down into the weeds outside of the official DSM-5, you realize that a lot of those classic criteria come up because of the other things that are actually going on.It's not that you can't pay attention. You're paying attention to a million things at once. It's not that you are hyperactive per se. It's you're distracted by something that you just want to pursue. Those kinds of things, I feel like are just lost in the weeds or not like on the surface of the DSM-5 criteria.Laura: In particular, what that patient said to you, a teenager, you said that teenager said to you, why did it resonate so much with you? Can you give me an example of how you feel like you're paying attention to everything all at the same time?Josh: Yeah, I feel like it's the first time that anyone had ever described ADHD that way. Again, not the fact that you can't pay attention to anything. It's that you're trying to pay attention to a million things at once.So, for me, that's been my whole life. As soon as I walk into a restaurant, I can see everything that's going on. I can hear everybody's conversations, the lighting, whatever it might be. And then just because of that, I can't even have a conversation with the people right in front of me. I thought that was just a personality thing.Laura: Let's move on to your second "aha" moment. What? Because after you had this "aha" moment, you didn't get diagnosed, correct? You didn't go get evaluated or even self-evaluated. Sounds like something else happened.Josh: Right. I would say that's probably because I just checked that office. I don't meet all of the other criteria necessarily. That's just a personality thing, like I said before. But the second "aha" moment was a very personal one and it's still kind of ongoing and I want to just kind of approach the way I say this very carefully. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings that I'm close to.It came with relationship struggles, which I know is common for people with ADHD. In my own relationship, I thought everything was fine. We were going good, like we were progressing in our careers, all of these things. But there's always been a piece where it's like, I'm not doing the right thing in the relationship. I'd sit down and have a conversation with my wife, and it would be like, "Well, here's the things I need from you." I'm like, "OK, got it, let's do it."And then I would go work super hard and try and do all those things, realizing that I wasn't actually doing what she wanted me to do. But I was really good at doing like the dishes or something, you know, or really good at keeping certain parts of the room clean when it was really something else that she wanted. So, I feel like I was always failing in that regard.But it got to the point where just our relationship struggles were too much and to call it what it is, I was depressed. Like I was diagnosed with depression. I had thoughts of ending my life and it all culminated in her saying that she wanted to separate. And it all kind of came crashing down at that moment when I approached my own doctor and said, "Hey, here's what's going on. I'm feeling very depressed. I don't feel like doing anything that I usually like doing." And usually, I'm a very active person and I had no interest in doing anything.She diagnosed me with depression. We started medication for depression. And then that, it's almost like that's when my like I was able to actually see myself for the first time. And that was like my real "aha" moment where, yes, like I was definitely depressed, like I had depression and treatment was appropriate in that setting, but it wasn't the depression that was the ultimate cause.So, then after I was able to actually see myself and what was going on, I could see what was actually happening with regards to ADHD, started going down that path and then it led me to my ADHD diagnosis.Laura: Thank you, first of all, for sharing all of that, for being so candid. Number one, I imagine that can't be easy to share. And number two, I think that it just speaks volumes about you, your openness about mental health. I imagine that that seeps out in your practice as a pediatrician. I said it's a great thing for your patients.Josh: Yeah. Thank you.Laura: So, what was it about receiving depression treatment and taking antidepressants? What were you able to start noticing more? What specifically in relation to ADHD?Josh: I mean, I hear a lot from people who get a late diagnosis of ADHD that I've heard on podcasts or read in books or whatever, that they were wrongly diagnosed with depression or anxiety or something else. I don't think that's always the case. I don't think it's the wrong diagnosis. I think it's just that ADHD was the underlying factor, and the treatment and approach in that setting was probably appropriate, like it was in my case, like treating my depression was totally appropriate.But then I had more self-esteem, more positive outlook on myself, which then allowed me to see that, you know, all these personality traits or what I call them, that it was OK to have them. It's almost like I could take my mask off. I think that's really what it comes down to, that it was OK that this was me, that I was doing those things, but the treatment allowed me to see that for the first time.Laura: Do you still have a depression diagnosis, or was it determined that you had been misdiagnosed and it's instead ADHD? Or is it both?Josh: It's definitely both. And there's a lot of crossover. But the initial treatment that I was on for my depression, we've brought that dose down significantly. And in my personal experience, like keeping that treatment for now is helpful just because of what's still actively going on with my relationship, that things do come up and it does trigger me, and it helps kind of keep my overall mood stable, so to speak.But the main driver in my case is the ADHD and treating that has been what's been most effective.Laura: It kind of reminds me of my own experience getting diagnosed with anxiety and then I reluctantly looking back, I wish I hadn't been so reluctant, but I reluctantly agreed to go on anti-anxiety medication that kind of cleared the air and it helped me discover my baseline.Josh: Yes.Laura: Once you were getting treated for depression, what were the ADHD symptoms that you were noticing the most?Josh: It's kind of funny because, I mean, I grew up kind of in a family where it was more just like, "Be happy. There's no reason to be sad, there's nothing wrong, everything's fine." And so, I put on that mask from a young age that like, "Oh yeah, I'm happy, I'm good." And so compensated and masked for almost my whole life. And I didn't realize that I was doing that until my depression diagnosis. So, it's really interesting.Like my baseline, I would say I make connections with things that seem pretty random. I like to move a lot. Again, like I said, I'm not the classic bouncing-off-the-wall person, but it might have been because of I've always been active, played sports, keep an active lifestyle, so that doesn't necessarily come out. I feel it's more my mask came off and I could see myself for who I truly was, and I could see that it was OK not to mask who I really am.Laura: You have coped with some fidgeting, so it might not be like classic hyperactivity of the roughhousing and bouncing off the walls, but maybe some restlessness and itchiness.Josh: Yeah, like a funny story that, I don't know why no one picked up on this, but in junior high we had to write a book about something or do a comic book. I don't even know why, but I wrote a book about clicking a pen.Laura: No way. Whoa, whoa, whoa.Josh: It was my poem. I think it was seventh or eighth grade. My teacher would always tell me to stop clicking my pen. And then because of that, I wrote a book. I think it's like "Tom clicks with his finger, Tom clicks with his thumb, whatever he clicks with, he always has fun." And I wrote a whole poem about fidgeting.Laura: Are you joking with me?Josh: No, no.Laura: I love when these little nuggets are unearthed of like, it was just sitting there all the time. I keep referencing my own story — I'm sorry for everyone who's heard this a million times; they must be so bored — but I remember going back to my journals from when I was a kid and seeing the word focus scribbled everywhere and I'm like, "My God, it's right there." You wrote a poem about fidgeting.Laura: I'm always interested to hear about how people who diagnose other people with ADHD, about how they get diagnosed with ADHD. So, I don't think we've talked about that yet. Can you tell me what you did and how it became official?Josh: As a physician, I have access to all the screener's questionnaires. I know where to go to find all of the answers. And it's something that we hear all the time as doctors from each other, like be careful not to diagnose yourself, like have your own physician. All these things just so that you can take the bias out of it. But I still started that process myself, of course.So, starting with depression, like, I recognized that those symptoms were happening. And so, I did the questionnaires that I would give my patients. I did the questionnaires that are available for adults. And I took that to my doctor and said, "Look, this is where I'm at. Do you agree with this?" Which I think was very helpful and it's the right thing to do. And she said, yes, absolutely. Like you meet all the criteria. She rescreened me with her own things and it all matched up. So, that was good.And then after that diagnosis, in the months between the depression diagnosis and following up with her, just to make sure that the medication was OK, in that process, I started to think about ADHD because things were popping up, you know, on my feeds, on social media and stuff. And I was like, "Wait a minute, hold up. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense." And took that to her, and I said, "Well, what do you think about ADHD?" And I had done some of my own screeners just to see and I checked the boxes and like, "Well, I don't really do that. No, I don't do that." But then I realized it's like, "I don't do that because I have a system. I don't do that, but I compensate really well in this way."And then when we took that away, she's like, "You meet all the criteria." But she didn't officially diagnose me. She wanted me to then go to a psychiatrist or someone like more trained than her in diagnosing mental health like ADHD. And so, I set up an appointment with a psychiatrist.And then between my primary care doctor appointment and the psychiatrist appointment, which was about a month, I totally went down the rabbit hole of ADHD. I found every single questionnaire out there. I hyperfocused on how to diagnose ADHD properly. I had every single questionnaire that I took to that appointment and said, "Look, this is ADHD. I totally have it. What do you think? Here you go." And then she's like, "Yeah, it's pretty obvious.".Laura: Wow. OK, first of all, shameless promotion. We just had the second season of Understood Explains podcast, which is all about ADHD diagnosis in adults. So, people check that out.Josh: I listened to it. It was good.Laura: Oh, you did?Josh: Yes. I agree with those recommendations.Laura: All right, we're done Josh. No, I'm just kidding. I'm so, so interested in this notion of symptoms getting missed because you have a system in place that must be so common for adults. And probably the reason a lot of adults don't get diagnosed is the systems in place. Is that what you meant by masking?Josh: I think it's both. It's both masking and compensating really well. So, I would say like, do you lose things like keys or your wallet? It's like, No, I don't lose those. Like, I put them in the same place every single time. When I get home, they're always there. So, that's my system. Like I don't ever lose my keys, but I also have a locator app. If I do lose them, I can find them. It's like I don't lose my keys. I have two or three systems in place, so I don't because when I can't find my keys, then the whole world collapses.Laura: And because you were losing them in the past?Josh: Yeah. And thinking back on my younger life in college, I left a laptop on top of my car and drove away.Laura: I'm sorry I'm laughing.Josh: So, yes, these things have happened. I just didn't realize that because I had created systems around it.Laura: You chose pediatrics because it better suited your ADHD. Is that true?Josh: Yes. It's different for everyone. Some doctors with ADHD work in like a high-intensity situation, like an emergency room. That wasn't for me. It's not only ADHD, I think in general, I'm a sensitive person, which is very common with ADHD as well. But that high-intensity setting, especially emergencies, ICU settings like I could not handle those, those were the most difficult times of my training was when I was working in those high-intensity emergency hospital-based situations where it was literally life or death and seeing plenty of death in my training.Like I was very sensitive to that but had to mask so hard the fact that like I was about to lose it, you know, but just had to go to the next patient, pretend like nothing happened, like I couldn't do that. But in a less intense setting, like hospitals, everyone talks about like hospital rounds, like you go around with the team to each patient. I might know everything about my patients that I was taking care of, but as soon as someone asked me a question about them like that, it was gone. My working memory was, it just left.So, that plus, like if you were working on a task or writing your notes, documenting about a patient and you get interrupted by a nurse or someone from the team about another task for another patient that needed to get done, it was that task transition, that task switch that I just couldn't do. I couldn't go bouncing back and forth from one thing to another to another and try and keep organized everything else that I needed to accomplish for the day for the patients I was taking care of.That setting was awful for me, and it was even worse in an ICU setting where there's alarms going off constantly. There's one patient in one room where something's happening and everyone has to go there or there's I mean, there's always something going on. And if you're trying to get work done, then it's really hard to focus and tune out those distractions to be able to do anything.And even in those intense moments where it's like, you need to be focused, you need to be able to pay attention to what's happening. It was very difficult because of how much was going on to focus on one thing at a time.Laura: Right, right. And like you said, it all depends on what your unique symptoms are and how they manifest, because I imagine for some people with ADHD, working in an intensive care emergency room and the constant urgency might be a great driver for them.Josh: Right. And the worst part about all of that wasn't the fact, — like I think I took very good care of my patients; I always tried to do that — it was the fact that the other members of my team, especially those in charge of me. Comparing me to others potentially. Like I got a lot of negative feedback about not being able to do a million things at once in the hospital setting.And I like that was really, really hard for me. I felt like a failure throughout my entire training, except in clinic setting where I could actually like organize myself. I could take time with my patients, I could look ahead to the schedule, and I thrived in that setting. And so, everyone knew that I hated hospital work, but I was known as like the clinic guy.Laura: How long have you been a pediatrician?Josh: I've been out of residency for about two and a half years now.Laura: Now that you've been diagnosed, do you ever look back to patients who you saw even earlier in your career like, "Hmm, now that I have more context, I wonder if that could be ADHD."Josh: Not as much like in my training, but even with my patients now, who I see for follow-up regularly where it's like we did diagnose them with something else and then realizing, "Wait a minute, let's take a step back. Are you feeling this way? Are you experiencing these symptoms?", and looking more down a potential ADHD route, seeing that they're presenting symptoms were, yes, depression, anxiety, whatever else.But again, the driver was actually ADHD. And now that we've with them, even now that we've kind of calmed the waters a bit, We can see that there's something else going on. Or as we're treating for one of those other things, it's this treatment isn't working. It's doing something, but it's not taking care of everything.And it's like revisiting that diagnosis and almost like re-diagnosing some of my patients, which has been very helpful. And we're all having "aha" moments together. Like this was actually what was going on the whole time.Laura: Do you ever share with your patients or their families that you have ADHD?Josh: Sometimes it's more just kind of feeling it out right now since this diagnosis is fairly recent for me.Laura: Now, that's true. It's been two months. Yeah. Let me give you a minute, Josh. Sorry.Josh: Yeah. So, with some families, like I'm thinking about one or two patients in particular where they've been looking for this kind of diagnosis, didn't know what it was. There were all sorts of other things going on that people were telling them were actually happening, and then we landed on ADHD together and then realizing that that was actually it. That patient and that parent both had a very emotional experience together and realizing the ADHD was actually what was happening then. It's like their world changed.Laura: Right.Josh: And so, in that particular setting I did share that I also have ADHD. It was more of just like, this is why we can all see it and understand it now, partly because I have this, and I can recognize what's actually going on and these are all the driving factors to this diagnosis rather than the surface presentation.Laura: I ask too, because I imagine that for a lot of parents, there's a fear that comes with any sort of diagnosis and a worry or even a shame. There's a lot of emotions that come with it. And just to know that here you are, you are a success story. I mean, and for them to hear that, "Oh yeah, my child's pediatrician has ADHD." It's something to be less worried about, needs to be treated, but less, you know, scared of.Josh: Yeah, I think those are the patient families that I do tend to share my diagnosis with. If they're not sure how this is going to impact their child moving forward or there is fear or even just a lack of understanding. And it's like, "Look, these are the steps that we need to take together to do this, then yeah, I feel comfortable sharing it with them.For others who are maybe more reluctant to accept that is actually the diagnosis, then I'm also a little bit more hesitant to be certainly open and vulnerable with them. But you know, like I think the more comfortable I get with my own diagnosis, I think it will come out more and more with my patients. And I don't know if this is the universe speaking to me or something, but since my diagnosis, I have had my schedule just like full of ADHD evaluations.Laura: Wow.Josh: Before it was just kind of hit-and-miss. But now it's every single day I'm having like two or three patients that I've never seen before coming in for ADHD evaluation. So, maybe this is word of mouth or whatever else, or just, you know, random chance, or maybe I'm just, you know, selection bias. I'm just seeing it now. But, it has been interesting.Laura: Just curious because, it is such a journey and you're so fresh on it. And frankly, I mean, you're already far more open than I was two months after I was diagnosed with ADHD. It took me ten years to even start saying it out loud. And I remember right after I started this podcast, I met a mom who was at a party and one of her kids has ADHD, and she mentioned that she's like, "Sorry, he has ADHD." And I remember I was like, "I have ADHD." It's the first time in a setting like that, but I just said it and I just saw the shame, like wash away from her face.Josh: That totally makes me think of just how in general mental health is so stigmatized and me seeing that directly, how it impacts my patients and trying to just bring more mental health awareness to everybody.As a society, emotional and mental health is not well recognized, which I think that's one of the frustrations I have as a doctor. Nothing emotional related is on the DSM-5 criteria for ADHD. Every single person that has ADHD has some degree of emotional dysregulation, and I wish that were a part of the criteria. It says, like many people, may experience other mental health or emotional issues, but it's not one of the checkbox criteria for it.So, it's like, "Can we just include that on there?" Like it's not something visible. If it's not visible, you can't diagnose it. And that frustrates me to no end. It's like if I were to rename ADHD, it's not attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it's more of an attention and emotional dysregulation disorder.Laura: For banking on DSM-6. Is that the next one to come out?Josh: Yeah. If anyone has anyone on the DSM-6 panel, let me know. I'd be happy to share my thoughts.Laura: Josh, thank you so much for being here with me today. It's just been really lovely to talk with you and thanks for listening to the show.Josh: Yes, thank you.Laura:You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org, I'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently, discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at Understood.org/mission."ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine!Jessamine: Hi, everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.

  • ADHD and messiness

    Some people are naturally neat. They keep their things fairly organized and try to avoid making a mess. But many kids and adults with ADHD are the opposite — they’re messy most of the time. And it can cause problems at home, school, and work. For example, kids might miss a field trip because the permission slip got lost in their overflowing backpack. Adults may misplace their keys on a messy dresser and end up being late for an appointment. You may wonder: Why don’t they just keep things neat to avoid consequences? People with ADHD who have a hard time keeping things tidy usually aren’t being lazy or thoughtless. They have trouble with a group of skills needed to tackle cleanup tasks and stay organized. These skills are known as executive function.The constant messiness can be annoying for others and embarrassing for the mess maker. But knowing what’s causing this behavior can help you approach the situation with empathy — whether you’re the one who’s messy, or if it’s someone else — and find ways to stay neater.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and distraction in the military and at home (Justen’s story)

    Justen Scott has had trouble focusing since high school. When others in the military started to notice, he knew it was time to get evaluated for ADHD. Justen Scott got diagnosed with ADHD this year at age 27. His ADHD “aha” moment happened while he was stationed in Qatar for military service, and work just kept piling up. Trouble with focus and time management had been a problem for Justen since high school. But when others in the military started to notice his challenges, he knew it was time to get evaluated for ADHD.Host Laura Key and Justen talk about trying to seem “cool” on the outside — even as thoughts race a mile a minute on the inside — and how one small noise can be a huge distraction. Hear Justen’s take on how the military handles ADHD. And pick up a few tips on managing ADHD along the way.Related resources9 tips to help military families navigate the systemLearning and thinking differences that cause trouble with time managementHow ADHD is diagnosed in young adult and adultsEpisode transcriptJusten: I was over in Qatar, you know, I'm the deputy for my office. And at this time I had a lot of meetings to go to. And I went to my first meeting, and when I got back, my boss was like, "What are you doing?" I'm like, "What are you talking about, sir?" He was like, "You know, you have another meeting." And I'm like, "Oh, man." So I had to rush to that meeting, and I'm already late, so, you know, I'm kind of already feeling bad. So when I get back to the office, the phone rings. I'm on the phone, and I'm supposed to be doing some more work, fixing some Excel sheets. So after that phone call, I tell my boss, "Hey, I'm gone for the day, see you tomorrow."And he's like, "Did you finish the Excel sheets?" And I'm like, "Oh, those Excel sheets." So I had to stay a little later to finish the Excel sheets. And that's kind of like the time I was like, "Wow, what's going on, like, why am I always distracted? Why can't I remember stuff?" Then I realized that, well, you really got a problem, dude.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!" — a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Justen Scott. Justen is a student in New York City who is currently in the Army Reserve. Welcome, Justen. Thanks for being here today. Justen: Thank you for having me. Laura: I'm excited to talk with you today. And I guess I want to start, I want to say thank you for your service in the military.Justen: Thank you for your support, ma'am.Laura: Tell our listeners what you do or what you have done in the service.Justen: So I went to Bethune-Cookman University. I was in the ROTC program there. Got a commission and I went into the reserves. For like three years, I went to drill and stuff every month, then I eventually got on active duty orders. I was in Kentucky, went to Fort Bragg, and then I recently, last year, came back from Qatar. And I'm a medical service officer, but when I was in Qatar, I was doing more, uh, operation contract work.Laura: What led you to military service?Justen: Well, when I was in college, I'm a physical education/recreation major, and I wasn't doing no extracurricular activities. So somebody put a little bug in my ear, said, "Hey, you should try ROTC." Tried it, got a scholarship, and then that was it.Laura: You're in the New York area. Is that right?Justen: Yes, ma'am.Laura: Where did you grow up?Justen: Fayetteville, North Carolina. Yeah, I'm an Army brat. My dad was in the Army.Laura: OK, so was that part of your motivation for joining the military as well? No? Interesting.Justen: The whole military thing was my ex's parents' idea.Laura: Got it.Justen: That's why I said a little birdie put it in my ear.Laura: Got it. Tell me about what happened in Qatar related to ADHD.Justen: My favorite boss that I ever had, his name was Major Jonathan Ward. He's one of those people who's like very detailed, like by the book, like, "Hey, after this thing, you do this. After this thing, you do this." So at the time, I was kind of transitioning to take his position before a new person came in. So I had to go to more meetings. And there was a meeting one time, I went to it, but we had other meetings scheduled after that. And me, my ADHD, I forgot. So I got back to the office and I'm just like relaxing. And he's like, "What are you doing?" And I'm looking at him like, "What do you mean?" "You have another meeting." I'm like, "Oh, my goodness." So I have to rush to that meeting, and, you know, and the Army don't like you being late. So now I'm kinda like looking all ashamed, like, "Sorry for being late," you know, it was my fault. And then I also had work to do previously before the meetings. So when I got back from that meeting, I got a phone call, got distracted, forgot to do my work. I'm about to leave, like, "Hey, sir, have a nice day." He's looking at me like, "Did you finish your other work?" And I'm like, "Oh." And that happened a lot, but luckily I had a master sergeant who was like my partner in crime. He would kind of remind me like, "Hey LT, you have a meeting. Hey, we got to go here." My mind would just be all over the place.Laura: What's LT?Justen: Uh, lieutenant. I don't like to be calling "sir," because it just feels weird to me. I feel older. I just say "LT" or "Lieutenant."Laura: This was an "aha" moment for you. This sounds like it was some kind of breakthrough. Like it, it really stuck with you, this incident or incidents that happened in Qatar. You were struggling with focus it sounds like, distraction, time management.Justen: It's one of those things, like when it keeps happening, other people will start noticing it too. So they're kind of like trying to help out. My girlfriend, she was over there at the time, and she wasn't even in my section, but she would remind me of stuff, too, as well. Like, "Don't you have to be here? Don't you have to do this?" And I'm like, "Oh, you're right. I do have to do that." So it was just like one of the things like when people, other people start noticing, then you start thinking a little more about it.Laura: So what did you do from there?Justen: So when I was in Qatar, they couldn't really do nothing there because COVID, and where I was at, they weren't letting us go off base or get a real evaluation from an actual doctor. So when I came back, that's when I went to the actual doctor, and they did like the evaluation.Laura: You went to your primary care doctor?Justen: Well, now it's my Veteran Affairs doctor.Laura: Yeah. You're going to have to school me a little bit on the terminology around the military. I'm not as familiar as I should be.Justen: It's all good. It's like the VA, you know, that's kinda like a separate entity. They deal with the veterans and everything. Then they actually had the, like the military providers.Laura: Is ADHD something that's openly talked about in the military, just based on your experience?Justen: From my experience, no. To me personally, like military stuff, when it comes to anybody that's different or has a problem, depending on your leadership, of course, they don't like to really talk about it or help, in a way. But there's some leaders that actually help out, like my favorite boss, I told him my problems I'm having. I also have a sleep problem too. So they think it's narcolepsy type 2. They diagnose, they diagnosed it, but I already took my sleep study test and everything. Like I can go to deep sleep in less than three minutes.Laura: Wow.Justen: And so I told him that, and he didn't need no diagnosis or nothing. He understood. So if I'm in the office — and that's what's messing me up, too, I might forget, I might go to sleep. And he'd be like, "Wake up, sunshine!" And "Oh, my fault, sir." Like, I can't help it. I just go to sleep. Depending on who your leader is, they'll either really help you out or understand. But some, they just don't care.Laura: You got evaluated.Justen: Yes.Laura: You got diagnosed? How old were you at that time?Justen: Twenty-seven.Laura: Twenty-seven? So that was this year. OK. Welcome, Justen. Welcome to our club.Justen: Welcome to the club.Laura: How was school for you? Did you ever experience any ADHD symptoms that you can remember growing up?Justen: Elementary school, like K through five, I used to get in trouble a lot because I finished my work before everybody. I ain't gonna lie, like I was, to me, I feel like I was really like a little genius-type thing. Like when I was younger, stuff was just so easy to me. Like, I'll finish my work and everybody else's still doing their work. So I'd talk a lot. And I'm like, "Hey, why are you still doing your work?" So then I'd get in trouble for that. And they always put me like in advanced classes in elementary and middle school.But when I got to high school, that's when I was like, I really don't, school's really not doing it for me. Like, I never did homework. If I did do homework, it was in the morning time, five minutes before class. But I could score high on the quizzes and tests. So keep my grade at like a C or something. If I would've did homework, probably could have been making all A's, but I wanted to go home and do what I wanted to do. I didn't want to come home to do homework.Laura: That sounds like you were procrastinating a lot in high school.Justen: Yes. And it could have been from, dang, I didn't want to do it and get distracted, while you think about it.Laura: I mean, that's a, that's pretty common with ADHD, and I'm not surprised to say that this started a pop up for you in high school because in high school, there were so many more demands on our executive functioning skills, our time management, our organization, our prioritization. So obviously you're super bright, super smart, and lots of people with ADHD are. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence, right? You are in advanced classes. You're doing well. And then it sounds like maybe you hit a wall in high school.Justen: Yeah. And it was like learning wasn't fun for me then. In high school, I don't know, it's like a switch came. Like, in elementary school and middle school, I actually liked reading books and stuff. Like now I have to listen to Audible books because at least I could still move and listen. And I know people make fun of people for doing it, but I had to read with my finger because I literally get lost so quick. And then boom, page 10 come, and I'm asleep.Laura: That's actually a good tactic for people with ADHD. It sounds like maybe you were distracted looking at all that stuff on the page.Justen: Yeah. It's like the two lines above and two lines below it. Like they start smushing that line and I'm like, "Oh no." So either like you use the ruler or you use your finger.Laura: So they also have apps for on your phone where you can just like, you're only looking at the one thing you're supposed to be looking at. I'm not surprised to hear you say that was a way that you coped, just like you came to that on your own. So what were you interested in, in high school?Justen: Video games, sports. And hanging out with my friends. I played football and baseball, never made basketball. 'Cause they cut me, you know. They weren't really that good.Laura: What position did you play in baseball? I have a theory going in my head right now. I want to test it out.Justen: I was center field and left field. I wanted to pitch, but Coach didn't let me.Laura: Did you ever get distracted out in the outfield? You're laughing.Justen: Baseball, like when I'm in an outfield, I dance. Even in Little League. Like when I was a pitcher, I dance on a mound when I used to throw it. And when I'm in the outfield, I dance. Yeah. Especially if the pitcher's just having an off game and you see him just walk everybody. And you just like, "Come on, dude, like, I'm out here bored." So I just have to do something, so I just start dancing. And you just hear Coach, "J. Scott, stop dancing!" And I'm like, "My fault, Coach."Laura: You're kind of confirming my theory here. I talked to someone recently about baseball on the show and I was asking, "Is baseball one of the hardest sports for people with ADHD to play, unless they're the pitcher or the catcher?" Because there's so much downtime. Outfield's gotta be tough when you struggle with focus. I'm glad to hear you danced your way through that.So it sounds like you weren't as interested in like typical school subjects.Justen: Oh, no. It's like, oh, I was already thinking in my head, why am I even taking this subject? What is this going to do for me? So if I really thought about it like that, then I really wasn't doing nothing for that class. Like chemistry. I was like, what am I going to do with chemistry. Like, what am I ever going to need pre-calculus? Never.Laura: It's not like people with ADHD are all interested in math or all interested in sports. It's really just like any other human, you have your interests, but you have to have that interest to focus. Whereas people without ADHD, it's much easier for them to focus on something that they are less interested in.When I talk to you, you are very calm. I get a very calming presence from you, relaxed, in like the best possible way. Like, aware, but chill. Is your brain that way too?Justen: No, not at all.Laura: What's it like in your brain?Justen: Well, I was explaining to somebody yesterday that there's so much stuff that'd be going on, sometimes I could cry. I wouldn't say it's like a painful cry. It's like a cry like, "Why can't you just focus on one thing, Justen?" Like, cause it, plus my brain is so creative. I like making skits, and I like doing music, and I'm doing acting now. So I think of like short films. And then I think about one of my bros, he makes beats. So I think about songs and stuff.And just all this stuff that like coming at once and I want to like focus on it, but then something else comes in, I'll be like, "Oh, let me do this way." I'm like, "Oh no, this is a better idea." And I did, I had like three things back, I haven't even finished that. And that's just like the creative part in wanting to do something. But the actual just, even, I got a lot of dishes in the sink. I have to wash the dishes. I'm supposed to wash a couple of dishes because she cooked. But I see it and I literally have a fight. I'm like, "Justen, do you want to do the dishes right now? I mean, we could leave them to the morning, but what is she going to say? I mean, we could worry about it in the morning. It really ain't going to matter." And then if I, my room I go in to play the game. I just leave my headphones on the bed, controller on the bed, and whatever else I had in here and she'll come in and be like, "You don't know how to put the controller back and the headphones back where it was supposed to be?I'm like, I thought at the time, that's what the headphones and the controller and stuff supposed to be. And then, on top of that, I'm supposed to wash the dishes right after that, then I'm like, "Well, I need to go listen to music in the shower and go jam out." So I forgot about all these things because I'm focusing on going to take my shower and go to bed. So it just that'd be like the Flash is, and just like, slow down.Laura: The woman you're talking about and all that, that's your girlfriend?Justen: She doesn't have ADHD at all. Trust me, I know.Laura: Does she know that you have ADHD?Justen: Yes. Even before I got diagnosed, she was thinking it already too. She was like, "Do you have, like" — that's why I say when people start noticing, like, "Why are you always forgetting to do this? Why you can't never sit down nowhere? Like you always want to do something different. Focus on this, focus on that." I'm like, oh —Laura: Yeah. We have a lot of resources on our website, for all kinds of people. But one of the tips that we give parents who have kids with ADHD is try to avoid saying, "Just focus, just try harder to focus." 'Cause it's not like you can just flick a switch.Justen: I try to tell people, I am, like, I wish I could just be like, "Hey, let me just go wash the dishes real quick." And somebody would be like, "That should be easy." It's literally not easy. Like I had to fight my brain to say, "Hey, we're not about to do this right now. 'Cause is that important right now? Let's go do what we want to go."Laura: I hate that "should" word.Justen: "You should focus." You should leave me alone.Laura: You should leave me alone. So, your brain, your brain moves, what? A hundred miles an hour, a thousand miles an hour, 5,000 miles an hour?Justen: I'd say about almost a million, just about.Laura: But your actions aren't catching up to what your brain is doing.Justen: No, they don't. I try to be more chill. So you don't see me like expressing all that, because then you're really going to be like, "Dang, what the heck's wrong with him?" 'Cause I literally be bouncing around if I'm not like relaxed.Laura: You just reminded me of something growing up. I remember like before I realized that I had ADHD, like in high school and college, I always wanted to seem really like cool and relaxed, but it was such a hoax. 'Cause I just, I'm like the opposite of that.Justen: Oh, my goodness. Like I used to hate, like, if I was chill and relaxed, "What's wrong with you?" And I'd just be like, "What do you mean what's wrong with me?" I said, I can't be chill? And if I'm really relaxed, my voice goes to like, "Yeah. OK."Laura: You just dropped like a full octave.Justen: I was like, I can't just relax and chill? This is how I feel right now. And then that makes you get back into your mold again, like the whole like hyper-type thing.Laura: But then also a lot of energy goes into that. And then like, when you need to step away, it's like, "I need to step away, leave me alone. I need to be alone."Justen: Then on top of that, with me, I have like anger problems too. Like I get irritated real quick, and that's why my psychiatrist is trying to tell me that's kind of one of those things, too, with it, your irritability 'cause it is crazy how I get mad that quick.Laura: Mm-hm. I really relate to that, too, Justen. Listen, a lot of people don't know, and maybe you do know, but trouble managing emotions is a common sign of ADHD. It's related to your executive functioning skills, which is kind of like the CEO of the brain pulling the strings. And it's like, you can go from zero to 50 really fast. That irritability, I mean, I know that feeling, too, like sometimes I'll catch a sound from across the room and I'll just start to get irritated. And then I can't shake it for like 20 minutes.Justen: Yo! Oh, my goodness. That'd be me! I don't, like, I've loved being like petty, like once, like you get me upset or something, I like harp on to it. And I just like zone in and it's like, I feel bad for my girlfriend, 'cause she just, like, "I just say one simple thing and you can just get mad." I'm like, "You might not have thought it was something big, but my brain thought it was something out of this world. Like, you got me angry like that, so." They didn't put me in anger management yet. I'm still waiting to go.Laura: Justen, it has been so nice to talk with you today. Thank you so much for coming on.Justen: Thank you for having me.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "ADHD Aha!" on Apple, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about the show. We rely on listeners like you to reach and support more people. And if you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. You can go to u.org/ADHDAha to find details on each episode and related resources. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G slash ADHDAha. Understood is a nonprofit and social impact organization. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine. Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Justin D. Wright created our music. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And I'm your host, Laura Key, editorial director at Understood. Thanks so much for listening.

  • ADHD: Questions from families answered

    If your child has ADHD — or if you’re concerned your child might have it — it can bring up lots of questions. There are many myths about ADHD. And that can make it hard to know what’s true and what’s not. Here ADHD experts share answers to common questions from families.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, bad grades, and self-awareness (Eric’s story)

    Eric Tivers, host of ADHD reWired, struggled with grades as a kid and young adult. Then came his ADHD “aha” moment while on a dinner date in college. Eric Tivers had always struggled with reading. Then someone told Eric her own story about how ADHD made it hard for her to read. Then it clicked with Eric that he could have ADHD, too. Before his “aha” moment, Eric had trouble studying and keeping his GPA up in college. He’d been evaluated as a child, and he’d had an IEP in school. But they hadn’t picked up on his ADHD. Reading his old report cards now, it’s obvious to Eric that he was struggling with ADHD all along.Eric, a licensed clinical social worker, is the founder and CEO of the ADHD reWired network. Getting diagnosed with and understanding ADHD has been pivotal in his self-awareness journey. On his show and in all his work, he’s candid about his struggles. “When we can get vulnerable … that’s where real growth happens.” This isn’t the first time host Laura Key and Eric have chatted. Laura was recently on an episode of Eric’s podcast, ADHD reWired. Related resourcesADHD reWired: Anxiety and ADHD Aha! with Laura KeyWhat is growth mindset?ADHD and co-occuring conditionsADHD tips from my college yearsEpisode transcriptEric: I had a dinner date with a friend, and she was sharing with me that she was recently diagnosed with ADHD. And she was describing her sort of experience of having ADHD, particularly around difficulties she had with reading. All the light bulbs were going off. And it was someone describing an internal experience that I thought only I had. I went for an evaluation. I got that diagnosis. I was prescribed a stimulant medication. And it was the very first time in my life that I read a chapter of a book. And I knew what I had read. And it was after that moment that I knew that I actually really could be successful.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Eric Tivers. Eric is a licensed clinical social worker, and he's also the founder and CEO of "ADHD reWired." Thanks so much for being here today, Eric. It was such a pleasure to be on your podcast, and I'm thrilled to have you here on "ADHD Aha!"Eric: Thanks so much.Laura: I usually like to get started, Eric, by asking people right off the bat when you were officially diagnosed with ADHD. And what was happening at that time in your life?Eric: Yeah, so I was officially diagnosed at the very start of my sophomore year of college, so I was 19. And what was happening in my life then was my freshman year of undergrad, first semester I got a 2.2 GPA and had — I was at risk of losing a bunch of grant and scholarship money. And so I decided it would probably be wise to open up more books than beers for the second semester. So I did that and was rewarded with a 1.8 GPA.Laura: How did that happen? How did it go down? Was it that when you were getting the 2.2, you were winging it and kind of leaning into your ADHD workarounds and that was working? And then when you were trying hard, it was so hard to focus that it actually was more hurtful than helpful?Eric: I think so. And, you know, I'm sure that my sleep was awful, and my self-care wasn't great. And, yeah, I really — I didn't know how to study. My approach was just work as hard as possible for as many hours as possible, and that was frustrating. I even remember taking a study skills class and just being really frustrated by like, I'm putting in all this effort and I'm not getting the results. And I really was like working hard. I just didn't really have the skills, and I wasn't sure why I was doing so poorly.So my parents were threatening to pull me out of school if I didn't get it up that second semester. And obviously, I went the wrong way. And that summer I had a dinner date with this girl. I actually don't even remember who she was. And I wish I could so I can actually thank her, because it was because of her that I ended up getting diagnosed. 'Cause she was sharing with me that she had gotten diagnosed. And it was when she was describing the difficulties she used to have with reading where I was like, oh my God, that's exactly what I experience.And it was that experience of reading something and within, you know, probably the first paragraph, something that I read that triggered a thought. And so now I'm thinking about the other thing while I'm continuing to read, not realizing I'm not processing a single word that I'm actually reading. So I would get to the end of a chapter and be like, I read what I was supposed to read. I have no idea what I just read though. So I was able to convince my parents for one more shot at school.That first week back, I made an appointment at the University Health Center with a psychiatrist, and he did an evaluation. And I think one of his first questions to me was, wait, so you were not identified as having ADHD? And to that I said, "Well, I did have an IEP, but it was not for ADHD." So I got my diagnosis early on in my sophomore year of college and I was prescribed a stimulant medication. First semester I got a 3.75. I had never gotten grades like that ever. And I remember it was my first time taking ADHD meds — it's one of the sort of life-changing moments where — I remember I was sitting in, I got this really awful squeaky leather, fake leather chair from Goodwill for about $2. And I was sitting in this chair reading this book, and for the very first time in my life, I could say I've read this chapter of a book, and I actually knew what I had just read.And I've told the story probably hundreds of times, and I still get kind of choked up telling it because it was — to me, I look at life as there is before that moment and then there is after that moment.Laura: That is so powerful. I have a million questions following that, but I just want to take a moment and bask in the power of that moment and the power of feeling like yourself.Eric: Yeah. You know, it's one of these things where it's like you don't notice. It's almost like our messes. We don't notice how much it's bothering us until it's cleaned up. And then we're like, oh, this feels nice. I didn't realize that my brain was sort of so busy and foggy sort of at the same time that that moment of when those meds first kicked in and I started reading, that was like the only thing I was thinking about. It was this weird sensation. And I had like, wait, is this how neurotypical brains kind of operate? Because I always sort of knew that I, you know, I was smart, but like my grades never really showed it because I had what they call the "FAFA syndrome." I would get an F and I would work really hard, pull it up to, you know, an A. So my grades like FAAFA, you know, so it's like it was feast or famine, right?Laura: I've never heard that before, FAFA. I like that.Eric: It's not mine — I don't remember where I heard it from, but yeah. So it was almost like that moment in the opening credits of "The Simpsons" when the clouds clear. Kind of like what that moment was like.Laura: Yeah, that's perfect. I'm really glad — and we need to, if anyone listening may know who Eric was out to dinner with, if we could send some flowers to her.Eric: Seriously? I think it was like maybe first episode of my podcast that I shared the story and basically said, like, if you happen to be listening to this or you know who this person is, please reach out to me because I want to buy you dinner.Laura: You've mentioned reading struggles. I know you had an IEP growing up. That's — for folks who don't know, that's an Individualized Education Program, which lays out the supports and services that kids need to have equal access in school. What did your IEP say? Like you weren't diagnosed with ADHD, but they must have seen something.Eric: I think it was, if I recall, the nonspecific learning disability. I think there was a math learning disability in there. But, you know, I go back through, you know, dig up my old school records and it's, you know, it's kind of a classic story. It's all right there in all the teacher's comments, like, there was enough to diagnose me in every report card I ever got. Right? It was like "disorganized." "Doesn't apply himself." Like "is capable of doing so much more." "Is bright, but is not showing what he knows." "Doesn't use his time well." So it was — sorry. I totally forgot the question.Laura: We're going to leave that in. You already answered it. You did it. I was asking about what was in the IEP. I asked because there's so much comorbidity, co-occurrence between learning disabilities and ADHD and in particular something you mentioned — struggling with reading comprehension. It could come from either of those, right? Like you're too distracted and you keep, you know, losing the thread.Eric: And I think that's probably the bigger part of it. There probably is, like, some LD stuff, especially with, like, writing. Like, I always had a hard time of, like, retelling, like, and synthesizing a story. Or like when I used to read fiction that, like, keeping track of the characters. Like, one of the things I had learned to do was I get, like, sticky notes in the back of my book, and for every character I would like, have a sticky note for that character to add key things to it.Laura: Did you feel like you had the support that you needed growing up? I'm interested in this because you had the IEP, so obviously you were getting some supports and services. But it wasn't known, at least to you and your teachers, that you had ADHD.Eric: Yeah, it's a great question. No. I mean, even when you just asked that question, I sort of feel like myself getting the goose bumps. And, you know, it's like, well, I think part of that is because so much of what drives what I do is to help people who have felt misunderstood their whole lives, feel understood and understand themselves. And because, you know, to me, that feeling of not understanding yourself and being misunderstood by others is one of the most painful, lonely feelings that there is. So I don't think that I was understood growing up.So the supports I had, you know, were the kind of those typical IEP things like extended time. I had a resource room that I went to once a day that just kind of helped with getting myself organized. But, you know, like homework was always a battle. And my diagnosis up until that point was that I was lazy. Right? I mean, that's — I still remember my mom saying things like, "You'd rather stare at a wall for an hour than just do your homework that would take you 10 minutes." So it's working through and understanding those things. It just made all the difference.Self-awareness is a huge sort of both core value and I think a personal kind of work value. Partially because when I switched majors my sophomore year from advertising and marketing to social work. And I remember in one of my intro social work courses learning about this concept of a Johari's window, which is it's a self-awareness framework.So if you imagine a two-by-two grid of four squares and in one box you have your call — your public self or your arena self-worth. There are things about you that you are aware of and other people are aware of. And then you have your private self, the things that you know about yourself but other people don't know about you. And then have your blind spots, which is the thing that other people see but you don't see yourself, which is where a lot of the work in coaching and therapy happens. And then you have that sort of unknown to self or others. And so this is — I learned this concept right around the time I got the ADHD diagnosis. So it was a really like kind of, you know, kind of mind blowing framework. It's like, oh, this is why I struggled so much.And then learning about self-awareness is also understanding your strengths and how to use them. It's understanding your challenges and how to sort of work around them. And also the importance of self-advocacy. Being successful when you have ADHD absolutely requires fierce self-advocacy skills. After my freshman year of college, I did well in my classes, partially because I think I negotiated just about every assignment I was ever given with my professors to bend it toward something I was a little bit more interested in. Because I had realized if I was interested in the thing, my brain turns on and I could focus. If I didn't understand why I ever wanted to use this and if it didn't seem relevant to me, it was like reading a foreign language.Laura: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I mean, kudos to you. I'm curious. I really am interested. What's the name of that quadrant? The two-by-two?Eric: Johari's window. J-O-H-A-R-I.Laura: What was something in that quadrant of not having self-awareness of that you learned about yourself?Eric: Well I mean, just the big one, just having ADHD and kind of understanding what that means. But you know, it's been from 19 to — I'm 41 now. Like I've taken the sort of the idea of breaking through a pain like a window pane. It's this double meaning. Because when we uncover a blind spot, it hurts. It absolutely hurts. It's kind of crushes the ego. It's like, here's this thing, like how other people knew about you, but you didn't see it until now, right? It's the extreme of you've been walking around spinach in your teeth and nobody's told you. And you look in the mirror, you're like, oh, crap.Laura: Now I'm the one with goose bumps when you talk about that, really.Eric: And so for me, it was looking at what sort of came out of every time I uncovered a blind spot. And so when I realized while the initial sort of shock of uncovering a blind spot can be painful, the growth and strength that came from that exponentially grew tenfold. So I say I'm always looking for blind spots because the moment we think we have uncovered all of our blind spots is where our ego's setting itself up to get crushed.We all have blind spots. And there's two ways to uncover our blind spots. One is to seek them out. You know, asking for feedback, being sort of mindful and self-aware. The other, which often doesn't come at in a kind regard, and so when we get all this feedback from people, then it's often more critical. And it could be things like getting fired, losing friends, relationships ending, inadvertently pissing someone off, doing something wrong. It's those sort of negative feedback loops that if you're open to growing, you can be open to it. If you're not, you tend to look at those kind of scenarios and point the finger outwards.Laura: So I mentioned earlier I was on Eric's show, "ADHD reWired." He interviewed me. It was an amazing experience. We both approach podcasting in slightly different ways, but I think also in ways that suit our ADHD brain. And the way that you host your show, it was — you were so streamlined. We're getting a little bit meta here, but I do like to talk about the process of it all and how it suits your ADHD brain. What do you love about podcasting, and how does it suit your brain?Eric: I think part of it, it's sort of real-time curiosity unfolding. You know, I get to help people tell their story. And even when I do have clinicians, coaches, or experts on, I'm still interested in their story. Because I want people to be able to hear themselves in other people. Because I know how powerful that really is. You know, most of your listeners, I'm guessing, probably have had that experience of maybe reading their first book on ADHD, and — or listening or watching, maybe like "How to ADHD" on YouTube and just feeling so seen.And so that feeling of I'm drawing not only my guest into this conversation and really staying curious about their experience, sort of thinking about it through the lens of all of my listeners — to me is something I find really fun. And knowing how much feedback I've gotten from my listening community and just how appreciative they've been of the style that I use, because, you know, it's — I don't try to make it a perfect show. Like, we leave in mistakes. We, you know, we joke about it. We go on tangents. We sometimes come back to them.It's even in that piece of — I asked the question, the person didn't really respond to the question. Now we're talking about something. Like that also shows ADHD. And so I'm not trying to be super polished, and I don't try to even let people think that I have all my shit together because I don't. One of my other coaches, Kat Hoyer, has a phrase that she uses that I love, and it's "We can be thriving and be a hot mess all at the same time."Laura: I love that.Eric: I'm very influenced by Brené Brown's work and vulnerability, and it really is — it's like when we can get vulnerable and be OK with areas that we're struggling with and talk about them and not sort of hide in shame, that's where real growth happens. So when we can just acknowledge it, we can share it with someone else who gets it, who isn't judging you, who can, you know, respond "Me too." That — we can really actually work on the things we're trying to work on.Laura: Yeah. And not just for the listeners, but for ourselves as the host. I mean, I've never been as open about my ADHD as I am on this show, which is a little bit nerve-racking in some ways.Eric: Well, I know my first year of podcasting was definitely more nerve-racking than subsequent years. I remember — I think it was the first like month or two I had a listener email me. The first part of the email was, "Thank you so much for putting out what you're doing." The second part was, "It takes a lot of balls to share what you're doing." And then I immediately had like this huge vulnerability hangover. And I was like, "Oh God, what did I share? Is it too much?"And one of the episodes I talk a lot about on my podcast is episode 47. So I was like, you know, gearing up for launch, my second season of coaching groups. I was starting a lot of these marketing strategies and you know, they work. They're a lot of work, though. And I was looking ahead on my calendar, and I was hired to give a presentation to this parent group in the school district. And I knew like the timing of this wasn't going to be great cause I knew I was going to be in that launch week, but I said yes. And so I'm coming in. I think the presentation was on a Thursday and I had to have my episode to my editor by Friday so they had the time to get it out.And so I'm driving to this presentation and it's about 45 minutes away. I had no episode in the can, nothing even scheduled. I had been going off only a couple hours of sleep like several nights in a row because I was like in my office until like, you know, 12, 1, 2:00 in the morning creating content. So I just I brought my little personal recorder with me in the car and just kind of went stream of consciousness. And I was very close to not really seeing it because it's like, whoa, if you can have a, an auditory MRI of ADHD, that would be it. Because it was like, I don't think I finish a single thought or sentence the entire time. I mean, it was — I was going to have a hot mess at that point. And I did release it.And I got so many listeners who emailed me, like really just truly expressing real gratitude for me releasing that. There was one listener that emailed me that brought me to tears. It was — they were starting to wonder if I actually had ADHD because I seemed so together. And that — this is like eight years ago and I'm getting choked out talking about that now. So that really encouraged me to continue doing what I do. I know I wouldn't have been doing this for, you know, eight years now if I didn't love what I was doing.Laura: Tell me a little bit about your coaching groups.Eric: So right now we're in registration for our 30th season of coaching groups. I launched these coaching groups. Literally, I was an impulsive idea that I had while recording, and then I just left it in the podcast, like "I'm thinking about doing these groups." The origin of that was I was in therapy at the time, and my therapist was giving me homework. And I would go to my therapy appointment about 20 minutes early, so I had time to actually do the homework that I was supposed to be doing all week. And I'm a therapist by training and I'm like, OK, this is ridiculous. Like, I need more short-term check-ins, because a week seem like forever away. Like, what would I want?And so what has evolved since then is — so this is a online group that meets three times a week on Zoom. Small groups, 12 people in a group. And then in the groups we have four-person accountability teams and they meet twice a week in addition to the three times a week and check in daily a couple of times a day over like a group chat. So it's really intense. And then we have a membership community that supports our members after they finish, because we know one of the guarantees that I'll make to people is, you know, after the 10 weeks of coaching, you will still have ADHD.It's always sad when someone's really new to ADHD and they maybe had this belief that this is going to be the thing that cures them. Right? And when I say that and you just see like them get so deflated. And I'm like, I know if this is an OK thing, it's like we're going to learn how to actually better live with ADHD.Laura: I remember going to therapy for the first time, like, "So how long do I need to be in therapy?" And my therapist was like, "Eh, we'll see."Eric: They never understood the whole, like, traditional therapy/coaching sort of idea of the best thing you can do is get yourself fired by your clients. But when you're dealing with something that's a lifelong disorder, like, I don't think that that makes sense. The reason I only do group and I don't do one-on-one is because I like positive reinforcement. Because you hear other people talking about the things that maybe only you thought. And when we hear other people say sort of negative things about themselves, and we see these people who also seem to have a lot of success going on in their lives but yet they're expressing this feeling like a fraud and feeling like a failure. And then we realize, oh, I'm kind of doing the same thing. It's so powerful to have these sort of 12 mirrors basically looking back at you, but except now, there's no judgment in reflecting back.Laura: That's beautiful.Eric: So when we can be in — I guess it's sort of in commune with other people who get it and they're doing the stuff — we're able to sort of see ourselves in others in a way that for a lot of people actually allows them to really start the real deep work of acceptance. So it's really — it's been an incredible sort of life-changing journey for myself and for members of my community.About a year ago in the middle of COVID, with the need for more sort of co-working, I launched AdultStudyHall.com. It's a virtual co-working community. And so we have a drop-in room that's always open on Zoom. We also have a handful of facilitated sessions to give people a little bit more structure. But it's just basically like, all right, here's what we're going to be doing. What are you going to work on? All right, let's go. And we do it. Like once a month we'll do a pomodoro dance party. Or we do two work cycles that are 50 minutes long. And then after each 50-minute work cycle, we'll do a 10-minute dance break. And it's fun. And it's one of those things where it's like, it's so simple and yet so helpful.Laura: That's what I was just going to say. Such helpful, impactful, but also fun work that you're doing, Eric. And so much of it. I don't know how you are making time for all of this, but I'm very impressed. It's just been such a pleasure to get to speak with you again. I'm so grateful for you coming on my show. Your show is "ADHD reWired." It's great. I recommend folks check it out and all of the other cool stuff that Eric mentioned during this interview.Eric: Thanks, Laura.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDaha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you.If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at Understood.org/mission."ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine.Jessamine: Hi, everyone.Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnick is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening. 

  • ADHD in high school: 4 signs you might see

    In high school the signs of ADHD can show up in new ways. Things like hyperactivity can look different in teens than it does in younger kids. So teens with ADHD might struggle in ways you don’t expect. Here are four ADHD signs you might see in high school.1. Constantly running late Kids with ADHD often have trouble planning and keeping track of time. Your child may miss family events and get home too late. Your child may have trouble getting to school on time and may often be late for class.2. Being rude for no reason Kids with ADHD often have trouble putting on the brakes. They might say things without thinking about the consequences of what they say. Your child may make mean comments to you and to siblings for no reason. At school, your child may get into trouble for correcting teachers and challenging authority. (Kids might feel really bad about it after the fact, and have trouble getting over it.)3. Flaking on important things Kids with ADHD often struggle with organization and follow-through. Your child may forget important things like picking up younger siblings from school. Your child may forget to turn in homework or start a project and not finish it.4. Losing track of belongings Kids with ADHD often lose or forget things. Your child may never put the car keys in the same place, so nobody can find them. At school, your child may forget to bring a pencil or notebook and have to scramble to borrow someone else’s.See more signs of ADHD in kids, and learn how ADHD can affect emotions. And find out what to do if you think your child has ADHD.

  • How’d You Get THAT Job?!

    ADHD hyperfocusing on a career in visual effects

    Jo Shaffer, who has ADHD, learned a technical skill through hyperfocus and obsession. Listen to Jo’s career advice and unique claim to fame.Sometimes, people with ADHD can thrive in jobs that require hyperfocus. That’s true of Jo Shaffer, a self-taught visual effects artist who says working on motion graphics is a perfect fit for how their mind works. Learn how Jo gets paid to come up with fun, computer-generated graphics for companies and advertisers.Jo also shares their thoughts on the connection between having ADHD and being nonbinary. The answer might surprise you.Listen in. Then:Watch a video of one of Jo’s computer-generated effects. Check out ADHD memes created by Jo.Take a quiz to find your career superstar.Episode transcript Eleni: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a podcast that explores the unique and often unexpected career paths of people with learning and thinking differences. My name is Eleni Matheou, and I'm a user researcher here at Understood. That means I spend a lot of time thinking about how we find jobs we love that reflect how we learn and who we are. I'll be your host.Our next guest creates the motion graphics you may see in videos, visual ads, and GIFs. Jo Shaffer is a visual effects artist from Madison, Wisconsin. Jo: Yes.Eleni: Jo identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. Jo also has ADHD. Welcome to the show, Jo. Jo: Thanks for having me. Eleni: I don't know why I struggled saying Wisconsin.Jo: Yeah. People are mystified in New York. People think that it's like, I don't know. It's some truly, some faraway planet. People have laughed at it before. So I've got a thick skin about it. Eleni: Is that the best way to describe your job?Jo: Yeah. I work as a visual effects artist, and mostly I have been working on commercials. So that would be anything from, if there's a logo on a billboard that someone isn't cleared to show in their commercial, I will take that out. Or if they just want, like, to add a whole billboard in, or if they want an explosion, blood, smoke, rain, all the stuff that you can't do in real life essentially, or didn't have the money to do.Eleni: So would I have seen any of your stuff anywhere out in the world?Jo: Yeah. So I would say my current claim to fame is that Tina Fey show "Girls5Eva." I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right, but I, uh, did some object removal on the opening credits. So it's not like I even added something you'd recognize, but I cut everybody out of the background so that stuff could go in behind them.Eleni: Nice. Well, I love Tina Fey's and that is a great claim to fame. Jo: Yes. Yeah, it was very exciting. And I was shocked that they hired me. Like, why me, isn't there somebody else for this?Eleni: When I heard "motion graphics" or like "visual effects," I really associate that with drawing. Is that a fair assumption? Like what is it really about? How would you describe it? Jo: Yeah, it's interesting because I actually got into visual effects or just — I would say maybe "computer-generated imagery" is maybe the best umbrella term — but I got into it because I wanted to be able to paint hyper realistically or draw hyper realistically, but I just felt like I couldn't do it. I felt like I was not able to, I guess, put the time in and the idea of getting to automate visuals without getting into all the weeds of the technical stuff, being able to have a means of computing lighting scientifically rather than approximating it, was really interesting to me. And I still think drawing has been extremely valuable and I definitely use it and just enjoy it. But I view it almost as an alternative to sort of classic visual arts.Eleni: So when you said you really wanted to be able to do hyper real things, but you felt like you couldn't really do it, do you mean through like more manual drawing?Jo: Yeah. Yeah, totally, like the classic stuff that you need to do, like rendering the human form, really understanding value. And obviously all those things still come into play. But with drawing or painting, it's all kind of channeled through your hand, which I found that difficult at the time. This was also before I started taking meds for ADHD. So I think since then I have kind of come back around and come to appreciate the discipline of that a little bit more. But it just took so much repetition, which is silly because I have now spent years and countless hours practicing this other thing.Eleni: What is it about visual effects or computer-generated graphics that you think is less repetitive or more appealing than drawing?Jo: Being able to just press a button and get a result felt like alchemy, honestly. Like you would mess with all these settings, get all these ratios, right? And then press a button and something would come out and you could be surprised by it. And I like that it incorporated some randomness and some chance, and I like that it felt more interactive and frankly more like a video game. Eleni: It's interesting. Yeah. Cause I never really thought of it like that. It gives you more of like that instant satisfaction. Or even just like more of an instant feedback. It's like you do a thing and then you see the output more quickly.Jo: And it's more surprising too, I think, which I appreciate.Eleni: Yeah. So it sounded like you had an interest in like creating those types of effects. But how or when did you decide to pursue it as a career? Jo: Yeah, it was a very slow process because I didn't think that I could actually do it or get paid for it, but I really just couldn't stop doing it. I guess, hyper fixation. I just would spend like every night, till 4 a.m., just messing around with it. And that honestly took like two or three years until I was finally like, oh my God, I think I could maybe get paid for this. And I'm still, frankly — I mean, it's the type of thing where once you are in, you can really make a good living. And there's a lot of work because it's a pretty specialized field, yada yada, but in my experience, It took a long time to really like, get to the point where I could be paid for it. Eleni: Yeah. So you said you were just messing around in your own time. So would you say that you were self-taught?Jo: Yeah. I took one class in this program called Maya, then everything from there is self-taught. I really wish I had watched more tutorials at the beginning. Cause I think I could have cut about a year down from how long it took me to learn everything. Again, chalk that up to ADD. But I have a very specific self-directed learning process that is not always the most efficient, but it's the way I live my life, I guess.Eleni: How did you go about learning?Jo: Very haphazardly, I would say. I mean, I think the way people traditionally recommend it is to just really focus on function, which is to say, you know, pick something that you need to do and then learn how to do everything specific to that. Part of what took me a long time to learn about these programs is that they are so open-ended that even the people making them don't really have a great idea of like everything you could do in it.So I was looking, I think, a lot of the time for just like a really ironclad way to do something. And I found it really liberating when I heard somebody compare these effects more to recipes. Like, you know, you have all these techniques and ingredients that will probably ultimately create this kind of a fact.And so I think that's something that suits me, is just the fact that no task is ever quite identical. It's always informed by just what's in the image. Eleni: Yeah. That's pretty cool. So there's an element of experimentation. And as you said earlier, like surprises and you know, the ability to be creative with it and kind of figure it out each time on your own. That's really cool. Now, I believe you went to film school before deciding to focus more on visual effects. Tell me about that.Jo: I went to film school and I thought I would be an editor just because it was the trade, I guess, that I thought I could do, what I had been doing. Film was always kind of my main thing that I really wanted to do. The first, like real visual effects I did was I wrote and directed a feature film, which is sort of making the rounds through festivals and stuff now, and we just couldn't afford visual effects. So the first shot I ever started working on was a gigantic storm cloud. And I was surprised, I think, by how much it still kind of plays by the rules of traditional filmmaking stuff. It's just applied through a very specific kind of process. And I think this is part of what I enjoy about visual effects, is it doesn't really matter how you did it, if it looks right. It's all about perception, I guess, and about understanding how much people perceive and what they're more likely to miss, or what their eye's going to gravitate towards and knowing how to lead an eye or disguise something from someone's eye, which is all stuff that a filmmaker's doing.Eleni: Yeah. So you talked a little bit about hyper fixation. Do you want to talk about any other ways ADHD shows up in your work? And also perhaps like how it makes you good at what you do?Jo: I mean, I think it's a tricky combination because on one hand, I think it makes it very easy for me to jump into something and to feel comfortable with a little bit of chaos — just because there's so much technical stuff, but it's never quite gonna work right. So I don't know if this is true for all people with ADHD, but for me, definitely, having a little bit of chaos going on, I've found that it's like ADHD, it makes it helpful for me to just really like be able to switch between things quickly and keep adjusting my plan. Because in visual effects, like the person you're working for almost never knows how visual effects work. So like there's always going to be so much miscommunication and it's so much on you to be able to adapt because they don't know what they want, but they know what they don't want. And they'll fire you if they get what they don't want. So, yeah, I think that flexibility is really useful. I think obviously time management is maybe the negative end of that or the thing that I've really had to be militant about, because if you hyper fixate too much, you can literally spend infinity on this stuff. And there's just a point of diminishing returns, I suppose, which you have to know when that point comes.Eleni: Those are both themes that we've heard a lot from people. So this idea of being comfortable with chaos has come up quite a bit, actually. And this idea of being comfortable with a lot of like change and ambiguity and having a flexible plan, you know, all of those things come up a lot. And maybe this doesn't apply to everyone, but it applies to me. Like that's what I love about this podcast, that everyone can really share their unique experience and how it applies to them. Because of course not everything applies to everyone. But it's also really fun when we hear these commonalities too.So what about when you were growing up? Like how did some of the challenges with ADHD come up for you?Jo: I think the biggest thing with regard to that, that I find myself just like ruminating on the most maybe, is what I thought math was like as a kid. The way that I think — at least I was taught math and I would venture to guess most people — it almost reminds me of learning Latin from like a strict German school in the late 1800 or something. Like it's just purely about memory.And I don't know, I had such a narrow idea of what math was. And my dad sent me a picture of like a math notebook I had the other day and it had all these spirals in it. Which at the time was doodling, but I just found it funny because now I view something like a repeating spiral pattern as math. Procedural geometry is a huge part of what I do.Eleni: So interesting.Jo: Yeah. Like manipulating patterns and understanding how layers of shapes can create different things and sort of what mathematical formulas, you know, are good for different things. Like noise functions, for example, which I don't even fully understand, but it's basically just a way of creating, like static would be one example of noise. But there are all these different types of noise functions, which are used to create smoke and atmospheric effects and stuff. And I just didn't know that math is just life and that it works so well with art. I thought it was like calculators. Eleni: I love that because I think so many people have that assumption that math has like no real-world application. Even though you didn't like it at school, you found a real-world application for it that you actually really enjoy.Jo: Yeah, and I wish I'd paid more attention. Like trig, for example. If I had paid more attention to trig, I could do all this crazy stuff. I mean, I'm in the process of relearning it now, but that would be so helpful in like creating a mountainside and figuring out where to place the rocks, because I could tell where to place the rock based on the angle of, you know, stuff like that.Eleni: Yeah. I feel like you blew my mind a little bit there and I hope other people have been able to make that connection, too, because I love thinking about how math and science and art can actually be really intertwined a lot of the time. Jo: Yeah, totally. Eleni: I know that you said you spent a lot of your time, like really hyper focused and sometimes that means that you can kind of spend infinity time on things. Are there other ways that you also express yourself?Jo: Yeah, my partner makes fun of me because I mostly only do this stuff, but I'm trying to think of what I do outside. Part of what I like about this job is I can listen to audiobooks during it. I have trouble reading, but for whatever reason, my brain absorbs audiobooks really well. I'm very interested in Cold War history. And state crimes, I guess like crimes against humanity committed by the United States government and the NATO bloc of countries. So it sounds like I'm joking, but I swear to God, this is a huge part of my life. Most of my life is spent listening to audiobooks about state crimes and state terror perpetrated by the United States — while doing visual effects.Eleni: Oh my God. I love hearing about people's obscure interests. But also like you kind of just breezed over that, but how cool that you can listen to audiobooks and be doing something while working, like simultaneously.Jo: Yeah, it's like the best part of my job, you know.Eleni: It's so cool, you know. Jo: It's so good.Eleni: I love that. Well, in terms of other interests, I know you're also in a band. Do you want to talk a little bit about that? Jo: Yeah. I play bass in a band called the Ophelias. We just put a record out called "Crocus." I just really enjoy it being the thing that is just pure instinct in my life. There's not a lot of thought involved and like on tour, I mean, I'm in the process of trying to figure out a good way to be able to be on tour and do visual effects stuff, which is kind of tricky because you need so much processing power.But for the most part, I would say it's a really nice counterbalance, just because you really can't think too hard about it all the time. I mean, some people would probably disagree, but for me, I really love that it just comes and you don't have to be analytical.Eleni: Interesting. Yeah. It sounds like you can be really in the moment with it.Jo: Yeah. Definitely. Visual effects is so laborious. Everything has 10 steps associated with it. So it's nice to just be able to pluck a string and a note comes out.Eleni: So at the start of the interview, I introduced you as nonbinary in terms of gender. Do you think there's any connection between your gender identity and your ADHD?Jo: I don't know if there's a direct connection I could draw. I mean, I think it all comes together to feed into like a world view. I'd say, mostly it just makes me angry more than anything. Just rage. Honestly. I wish I had a better, happier answer, but yeah, I just mostly feel angry about it, just at the world.Eleni: Do you want to say a little bit more about where the anger is directed or what you're angry about? Jo: Yeah. No, it's a good question. It's hard to unpack and I mean, clearly I'm still figuring it out. I keep forgetting how old I am. I'm 25. I mean, I think it's so easy if with ADD stuff you're just very often put in a position where people think that you're less competent than you are. I mean, that's part of why I like visual effects is because I know I'm competent. And I know that I even know what I'm doing. So it feels like a place where I feel in control. I mean, I think people get upset when they feel like they don't have control, right? And with gender stuff, it's more just like fear of getting killed on the street. And that just transmuting itself back into rage. I don't think that's going to happen to me. I think that's probably a little out there, but it could. If I'm wearing feminine clothing, I definitely am bracing to get hit over the head. So yeah, it's hard to know where to put that stuff.Eleni: And it's definitely not an unfounded fear. We know gender violence is rampant in this country.Jo: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. It's funny. I thought that would be more of a big deal traveling around on tour. But I found that people who work at gas stations are generally very friendly and understanding, or that's probably the person you see most on tour. They've always been very nice to me. The only time it was weird was somebody told us not to stop at a town in Utah because they said we wouldn't be safe. But other than that, it's been good. Eleni: Well, in that instance, that might've been a helpful advice. Jo: Yeah, no, I'm glad. I would definitely rather hear that than not hear that.Eleni: Well, thank you for sharing all of that. And the reason that I asked too is, you know, we talk a lot about layered identities and they often do connect in some way if people feel like othered or different.Jo: Yeah, totally. Everybody has like a mound of stuff they have to figure out about themselves to feel like they can live in the world without exploding. And it's like one more thing to figure out. Eleni: I think I just have one more question. And given we had that whole conversation about being self-taught, do you have any advice for people that may be not interested in pursuing like a more traditional or structured education and have like some sort of interest that they would like to build on or pursue?Jo: Definitely. There is obviously like a class element to this stuff, because you need time. And time it takes money. So I feel maybe a little bit sheepish offering blanket advice, because I know that different people have different amounts of time. I would say specific to visual effects: Don't pay for anything unless you're positive you have to. You can do it for free, at least for starters. It truly is essential because you cannot do this without the software, and the software is way too expensive. So you got to figure out how to scam it a little bit, a few free trials in a row or whatever. If you were pursuing the self-taught route, you're probably an obsessive type and that's good. It's good to be obsessive about the right things, but definitely just have a little part of your brain that's like, what's the broad plan here? What am I trying to learn this month? What would be good to learn next month? If you even just pay a little bit of attention to the structure of how you're learning stuff, then you just let your obsession fuel the day-to-day stuff, you will be surprised how fast you learn in my experience.Eleni: Thank you so much for joining me today, Jo. Jo: Yeah. Thank you for having me.Eleni: This has been "How'd You Get THAT Job?!," a part of the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about it. "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is for you. So we want to make sure you're getting what you need. Go to u.org/thatjob to share your thoughts and to find resources from every episode. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G, slash that job.Do you have a learning difference and a job you're passionate about? Email us at thatjob@understood.org. If you'd like to tell us how you got THAT job, we'd love to hear from you. As a nonprofit and social impact organization, Understood relies on the help of listeners like you to create podcasts like this one, to reach and support more people in more places. We have an ambitious mission to shape the world for difference, and we welcome you to join us in achieving our goals. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "How'd You Get THAT Job?!" is produced by Andrew Lee and Justin D. Wright, who also wrote our theme song. Laura Key is our editorial director at Understood. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Thanks again for listening.

  • ADHD stimulant medication side effects in kids

    For many kids, ADHD stimulant medications are an effective way to reduce symptoms of ADHD. But they can sometimes cause side effects. Side effects can occur while the medication is working. Or they may happen after the medication has worn off. Some side effects typically go away after a child’s body has a few days to get used to the medication. These include upset stomach or headaches. But others, like decreased appetite, might not go away.Side effects don’t show up in the same way in all kids with ADHD. First, side effects can range from mild to significant. And kids may react differently to different drugs. For example, a child might have sleep problems with one medication, but not with another — even though that side effect is known to happen with both drugs.In some cases, kids find the side effects so uncomfortable that the prescriber will make changes. The change might be to fine-tune the timing or the dosage. Or it could be to switch to a different medication.Side effects of ADHD stimulant medicationThere are two types of stimulant medication: Methylphenidates (like Ritalin, Focalin, Metadate, and Concerta) and amphetamines (like Dexedrine, Adderall, and Vyvanse). They all have the same side effects. Common ones include:Sleep problemsDecreased appetiteWeight lossHeadaches and stomachachesRebound (irritability when the medication wears off)Moodiness and irritabilityNervousnessLess common side effects include:Tics (sudden, repetitive movements or sounds)Personality changes, like appearing way too serious and not being as enthusiastic as usualHow to help with ADHD medication side effectsIt’s important to tell your child’s prescriber about any side effects. You can use an ADHD medication log to take notes on what you’re seeing. The prescriber may want to adjust the medication or switch to a different one. That might include switching to a non-stimulant drug. There are also things you can try at home to reduce side effects.Sleep problems: This side effect usually gets better over time. It could take four to six weeks. But ADHD itself can make it hard for kids to fall asleep at night. It can help to adjust your child’s bedtime routine to make it easier to wind down. Decreased appetite: Stimulant medications can cause kids to eat less when the medicine is active. So if kids take the medication right after breakfast, they may not be hungry at lunchtime. Their appetite will likely return as the medication wears off. That means they may be extra hungry in the evening. Keeping healthy snacks around can help kids get enough nutrition throughout the day.Nausea and headaches: These tend to go away within a few weeks of starting medication. In the meantime, try having your child take the medication with food.Mood changes: Let your child’s doctor or prescriber know about changes in your child’s mood or personality. It’s important to report if your child is more anxious, irritable, or unhappy for long periods. Describe when this happens and how intense it is.Learn more about ADHD medication. Find out:How ADHD medication worksWhy and how prescribers change from stimulant to non-stimulant medicationsWhat ADHD medication rebound is and how to avoid it Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and eating disorders

    In this bonus episode, Dr. Roberto Olivardia talks about the link between ADHD and eating disorders, and where people can turn for support. Dr. Roberto Olivardia returns show talk ADHD eating disorders bonus episode. explains different types eating disorders — ADHD eating disorders, like binge-eating disorder (BED), often co-occur. Dr. Olivardia shares ADHD symptoms like impulsivity play role eating disorders. also talks treatment options someone know struggling eating disorder needs support.Related resourcesFind support National Eating Disorders Association.And learn about:ADHD eating disordersADHD depressionEpisode transcriptLaura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha!," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood, someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host.I'm today Dr. Roberto Olivardia. Dr. Olivardia clinical psychologist who's based Massachusetts. He's also Understood expert host Season 2 "Understood Explains" podcast, ADHD diagnosis adults. voice sounds familiar you, that's guest recent episode show, we're thrilled us today talk ADHD eating disorders. Welcome.Dr. Roberto: Thank again.Laura: pleasure. much fun talk personal story talk something probably difficult listeners hear also important share information about. talk ADHD eating disorders, want get started asking, someone struggling eating disorder someone know struggling eating disorder, recommend turn to? do?Dr. Roberto: So, definitely seek professional help eating disorders obviously, mean, it's psychiatric psychological illness, it's also medical condition affects body lot physical ways lot mental ways. it's type condition very, difficult somebody navigate without professional help.And sad statistics 10% women eating disorders get help get treatment them. men, it's even far less. So, vastly undertreated. So, recommend could starting talk primary care physician referral. National Eating Disorders Association phenomenal organization treatment providers database, referrals helpful, local experts community specialize eating disorders. condition need working someone experience expertise working eating disorders.Laura: Thank much. we'll talk treatment little bit go on. felt important start that. Don't cope alone. Get support need. basic definition eating disorder?Dr. Roberto: So, terms clinical diagnoses eating disorders, three four main ones. So, one anorexia nervosa, characterized severe restriction caloric intake, often results weight loss undernourishment, someone less nutrition body really needs, result whole host different adverse consequences body. It's often coupled distortion body image number people might see looking larger actually are.You bulimia nervosa, characterized binge eating episodes somebody consuming large amount calories one would typically consume short period time, sometimes point feeling sick sometimes even passing eating much. bulimia, it's coupled compensating behaviors like self-induced vomiting, laxative use, fasting, overexercise too, attempt neutralize calories, although doesn't actually that, talk that.And binge eating disorder, binge episodes, without compensating behaviors.And eating disorder conditions. One avoidant, restrictive food intake disorder ARFID, refers to, could similar characteristics symptoms anorexia, perhaps body image component.So, eating disorders don't always body image component people distortion dissatisfaction weight. could dysregulation food food intake. So, DSM would see disorders.But there's would call disordered eating. could come whole host different fashions dysregulated eating, poor relationship food, people might eat healthily per se, self-talk around eating negative damaging. So, somebody who, let's say, particularly underweight overweight, every time eat cookie, call pig. That's good psyche. So, although medically might issue, psychologically there's issue terms they're relating food bodies lot ways.So, see sort whole host. So, think it's really important one reasons actually people often likely get treatment think, "Oh, eating disorder somebody 80 pounds somebody 500 pounds somebody vomiting eat." come whole host different flavors.At end day, you're somebody dysregulated, negative relationship food, eating, body image, fit umbrella warrants treatment.Laura: people ADHD likely eating disorder? so, why?Dr. Roberto: always start by, it's important understand ADHD affects every life domain. So, think core ADHD terms executive functioning issues impulsivity, things actually every day kind things likely impacted ADHD.So, episode previously sleep ADHD. People ADHD often issues sleep. Eating another one. higher prevalence now, particularly binge eating disorder bulimia nervosa, ARFID, category sort dysregulated relationship, less anorexia. don't see strong correlation anorexia ADHD. often find co-morbidity anorexia likely people OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder.Having said that, worked patients ADHD anorexia. primarily would call impulsive eating disorders like bulimia, binge eating disorder, ARFID category might rely people ADHD either drawn defensive certain tastes textures.So, people ADHD? Well, studies show know ADHD brain there's dopamine deficit, basically, dopamine neurochemical that's implicated reward. food stimulating, highly rewarding mechanism ADHD brain. mind you, people binge eat, people impulsively eat, they're kale carrots. time, foods people ADHD drawn, people eating disorders, general, drawn to, high sugar, high simple carb type foods. particularly rewarding ADHD brain. So, it's accessible, it's easy, it's legal.So, things people ADHD could use reward, soothe, self-medicate, distract negative emotions, also impulsivity alone. study done kids ADHD ages 10 14 food lab. group kids ADHD, kids without, screen beforehand level hunger, preferences food, basically let kind be. food available them. observed much ate, eat that.And afterwards, study showed that, even controlling bunch variables, kids ADHD ate kids without ADHD. interesting eating nothing level hunger, so, pre-level hunger nothing volume much kids ADHD ate. Kids without ADHD, level hunger correlated much ate. also kids ADHD even eat foods didn't even really like. asked said there. simply there.And sort joke, it's joke. mean, ADHD myself, could see-food diet see it, eat it. so, sometimes it's simple that. Sometimes, mean, patients work with, ADHD, don't hate bodies. might deep, dark things they're self-medicating. issue simply food there. It's available them.Laura: Right. remember interviewed personal story mentioned Chuck E. Cheese incident baffled how — friend relative? — able say, "I’m hungry anymore, I'm going piece pizza."Dr. Roberto: Absolutely. eat too, eat healthily, requires us tune what's called interoceptive awareness, know people eating disorders people ADHD low interoceptive awareness, tuning hunger cues, satiety

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