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Why Can't I Keep It Together?! How Undiagnosed ADHD Holds You Back and What To Do

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Online therapy for adults with ADHD and anxiety

Are you an adult recently diagnosed with ADHD?

If so, you may quickly come to find that learning how to overcome a new diagnosis later in life can bring with it many challenges.

Not only are you trying to navigate life through a new lens, you likely have many relationships to repair, amends to make, and impulsive decisions to fix.

Living with undiagnosed ADHD can derail your inner voice, too. You may have struggled for years with forgetting birthdays, showing up late to important events, and mood swings that seem to come out of nowhere. These unpleasant side effects can take you down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and unforgiveness towards yourself.

However, with a new diagnosis comes a fresh start. ADHD is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, understanding exactly how your ADHD has come to play a role in your life can jumpstart you on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself.

So, if you’re curious about how to conquer a new ADHD diagnosis - no matter what stage of life you’re in, read on.

We will discuss ways you may not have realized ADHD has run your life from behind the scenes, and how you can emerge from the chaos even stronger.

What Is ADHD?

So, you’re diagnosed with ADHD. Now what?

When you hear the term ‘ADHD’ you may think of a hyperactive 7-year-old boy who can’t sit still for more than 30 seconds as he runs around creating chaos wherever he goes.

While this scenario can be true in young children, ADHD in adults manifests quite differently.

No, you’re probably not climbing all over railings in public, or running around in circles at the dentist's office, but what about hyper-focusing on a hobby for a few weeks and then never touching it again? Or, impulsively spending money like you have endless amounts of it? Do these sound like you? Don’t worry, your ADHD is to blame.

Adult Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder:

Your ADHD diagnosis was likely missed, or misdiagnosed as a child which has caused it to lie just below the surface, impacting most of your day-to-day decisions.

ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder and affects roughly 6% of the United States adult population.

Symptoms of adult ADHD include, but are not limited to:

  • Restlessness: Fidgeting often, shaking your leg, talking excessively, switching topics quickly during a conversation, trouble sleeping, or inability to relax.

  • Disorganization: Do you have trouble putting things back where they belong? Or, maybe you have ‘organized chaos’ - while there might be 6 different piles of laundry on the floor you know exactly which one has the red blouse you wore last week.

  • Problems Staying Motivated: It may come as a relief that you aren’t lazy - you just had undiagnosed ADHD. Oftentimes those who struggle with ADHD have so many tasks on their mind at all times, that it can feel debilitating to know where to even begin, so they simply don’t.

  • Unfinished Projects: Did you find yourself starting projects every week, only to get distracted by another or lose interest? You might have dozens of projects at once that never end up completed.

  • Lack of Focus: Anything that isn’t interesting, time-sensitive, or important will immediately be blocked out by someone with ADHD.

  • Forgetfulness: For those with ADHD, their brains quite literally work differently. Neurotypical people are able to filter out unimportant distractions in order to focus on what really matters. This just isn’t the case for ADHD patients. Because of this, they can forget things almost instantly such as where they put their car keys, or what time their doctor’s appointment was at - even if they just scheduled it.

  • Time Blindness: As I discussed, people living with ADHD can’t filter out unimportant information. This can result in poor time management skills. Chronic lateness, difficulty sticking to schedules, and underestimating the time an activity may take are a few examples.

These are just a few ways ADHD may have affected your everyday life. These struggles likely contributed to inner turmoil as you tried to figure out, “what is wrong with me?”.

But, that was before, and now you have the knowledge to understand why you constantly misplace your phone, even when you just had it in your hand. As they say, knowledge is power.

Emerging From The Chaos:

Now that you have a new diagnosis under your belt, let’s talk about the ways you can start to recover from years of high stress, low self-esteem, and unregulated emotions. Working with a counselor can provide everything you need to lay the foundation for a successful life going forward.

How Working With A Counselor Can Help You Conquer ADHD:

When you find yourself day in and day out making the same mistakes over and over, you can begin to become your worst critic. No matter how hard you we

re on yourself, this often did nothing to fix the real problem. You may have felt defeated and came to accept you would always live this way. Or, you may have deemed yourself a failure or a letdown to those around you.

Working with a counselor can help erase those negative thoughts and understand how your ADHD can turn into your superpower.

Women seeking therapy for ADHD adults

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of talk therapy used by clinicians all over the world. Instead of teaching you new ways to organize your life, a therapist’s goal with CBT is to reframe your thinking entirely.

As a patient and client work together, a therapist will address any negative thinking patterns that arise and guide the patient into redirecting them into healthier, more productive thoughts. This can retrain your brain to view yourself, and your life in a more positive way.

In addition, CBT can address past challenges and work with you to understand just how your ADHD played a role in the situation. Understanding other ways the situation could have been handled can give you insight on how to approach it next time.

CBT can also help with emotion regulation, positive self-talk, resetting behavioral patterns, stress management, self-care, and self-defeating actions.

Anxiety Management:

Did you know? Around 50% of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder. ADHD and anxiety go hand in hand, as the inability to focus can cause panic, distress, and unsettling feelings to arise.

Researchers aren’t completely certain as to why ADHD and anxiety pair together so often, however side effects of some ADHD medications can cause anxiety.

In addition, chronically missing work deadlines, or forgetting to study for an important exam can cause you to consistently live in a state of fear and worry.

Working with a counselor can help you address this uncomfortable side of ADHD. Your therapist can refer you to a clinician able to prescribe anxiety medication, give you support and encouragement, and teach you skills to reduce anxiety and cope with stress.

Self Forgiveness:

When you struggle from years of mounting criticism of your ability to remember important dates, or losing valuable items, you can begin to talk down on yourself.

This can exacerbate any underlying mental illnesses you may have had before, such as depression.

As you learn more about your new diagnosis, you can begin to practice self-forgiveness towards yourself.

Imagine if you had a friend come to you about the same exact struggles you deal with. What would you tell them?

It’s likely you would be much more compassionate and understanding than you are with yourself. This is normal but unhealthy.

Working with a counselor can help you learn how your ADHD has played a role in your low self-confidence. Counselors are trained to work with you on creating positive affirmations and rebuilding love for your inner self.

ADHD Is Not A Death Sentence:

Therapy for adhd adults

Living successfully, and happy with ADHD is entirely possible.

It may take a bit of a learning curve to understand and pinpoint exactly when your symptoms are flaring up, but with help from a trained professional, you can get your life back on track in no time.

Through reframing your negative thoughts, working through debilitating anxiety, and repairing the relationship you have with yourself, you will quickly see just how crucial a counselor can be for your late-stage diagnosis.

Don’t let ADHD hold you back any longer from being the highest version of yourself.


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