Advice for the Adult (and not so adult) ADHDer

W e’ve all grown up with stories like the tooth fairy who exchanges teeth for money, or a Santa Claus who brings gifts for the children, or the miraculous healing power of mommy’s kiss for your scraped knee. (Editor’s Note: In homophobic cultures, “tooth fairies” may be known as “tooth deliverymen.” In non-Christian cultures, “Santa Claus” may be known as “Hanukkah Harry” or may not be recognized at all. However, every culture acknowledges the existence of mommies.) As we get older we realize that they are myths but, still, they never completely die out. They remain alive deep within us and they come back to life, in a somewhat distorted form, when we encounter new myths. In the world of ADHD we find that the myth of exchanging a tooth for money becomes an exchange of money for “cures” for ADHD. Instead of receiving a gift from Santa Claus, we’re told that somebody (or something) has already given us a gift and, even better, that gift makes us a very special person. I’ve examined these myths and many others over the years (see Gift or Curse, Cures for ADHD, Self-Delusion). However, I feel compelled to again address a few of them since they’ve reappeared in Facebook. That’s the first part of this post. The second part of this post provides some time-tested, down-to-earth advice for the ADHDer.

A Few Pernicious Myths

  1. ADHDers are masters at self-delusion. Some ADHDers see themselves as better, smarter, brighter and more creative than non-ADHDers. This might be true for the small percentage of ADHDers who are already intelligent, bright and creative. But the majority of ADHDers, especially those sitting in prison cells (a sizable number of prisoners have ADHD), are not smarter, brighter or more creative. Therefore, don’t assume a causal connection between intelligence, creativity and ADHD. The fact that a person may possess all of these characteristics and NOT be in prison, may be more an accident of circumstance than a result of the magical powers of ADHD. (See: Adult ADHD As A Form Of Madness An interesting form of this madness can be seen here. For those who believe that having ADHD will make you rich and famous, see this post.)
  2. There are no “natural” cures for ADHD. Sorry Virginia. It’s true. Sipping various teas, taking vitamins and supplements, engaging in daily exercise, and so forth, may temporarily alleviate the symptoms but they cannot cure ADHD. However, that doesn’t stop some people from claiming they can cure it. Dr. Bob says he can do it in 18 days. See: Jon Bennett claims he can cure ADHD in three easy steps. See: My critique of Mr. Bennett’s “cure” can be found in the post How Not To Cure ADHD.
  3. ADHD is not a death sentence, in the same way that diabetes is not a death sentence. But they both require vigilance, they both require that you be aware of how your body works and that you pay attention to warning signs. Your body will let you know when you may require a change in diet, medication or exercise.

Time-Tested Advice About Living With ADHD.
(This is an adaptation of an earlier post: Advice for the Adult ADHD Newbie.)

  1. Be realistic. Do not expect to change yourself overnight. It is a slow and gradual process, but it can be done. (See this article from ADDitude.)
  2. Realize that, at times, you will still stumble. That’s okay. The question is, not how many times did you fall but how many times did you stand up?
  3. Get on medication. It takes some time to figure out what medication is right for you but, once you do, it works wonders. But don’t just take medication. Watch your diet. Eat healthy food. Take supplements like Omega-3. Get some exercise (long walks; bicycle rides, etc.).
  4. Keep a diary. Jot down thoughts, feelings, events, triumphs and failures. Be sure to review it periodically to see where you may have made improvements and where you still need improvement.
  5. ADHD is a moving target. You can, and will, get closer and closer to “controlling” it but, it’s a sly son-of-a-gun and will always outwit you. It is like a caged tiger, always looking for that one time when you accidentally leave the cage door open and, when you do, it will jump right out of the cage. That’s the nature of the ADHD beast.
  6. Work with a therapist or ADHD coach who understands the challenges of ADHD. Your sessions will be much more productive if the therapist or coach understands the underlying forces that are causing your problems.
  7. Learn to laugh about your ADHD. When you walk from your kitchen to your bedroom and forget why you were going to your bedroom — because something on the television caught your eye and your attention shifted — learn to just laugh it off.
  8. Read. Reach Out. Learn. Read blogs. Read books. Learn as much as you can about ADHD. Go to a CHADD conference. Join a support group. Embrace your ADHD and then focus on the things that are most important to you, such as career, health, love and having some fun. Of course your ADHD is still with you but you don’t have to dwell on it. It is only a tiny part of who you are so learn how it affects your life, learn how to minimize its effects, and concentrate on enjoying your life.

P.S. I forgot to address the myth about the healing power of mommy’s kiss on your scraped knee. Seems there may be some truth to it.

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  • Excelsior

    Kinda like a Play….You start it out of Town and try to tweak i so it works. Finally it is Good Enough to play Broadway. The Play is your Life…To keep it running, changes have to be made to keep it fine tuned. One of the longest running plays was THe Mousetrap. We have The ADDtrap. The only show in town is US!

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      “The ADDtrap. The only show in town is US! ” – Too true! Our own, non-stop production.

  • Lisa Comingore

    I particularly like your “moving target” description. Great post!

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      “I particularly like your “moving target” description. ” – Thank you!! It’s really the only way to describe it. I’ve seen how, in my own life, it has changed. I was not a physically hyperactive kid but as an adult, I’m tapping my feet, bouncing my head to music, etc. If I had displayed these characteristics as a kid, maybe I would have been diagnosed 30 years earlier.

  • Anonymous

    Good advice… “Learn to laugh about your ADHD”. I know some of my most severe symptomatic characteristic actions (or non – action - procrastination, for just one example) are not so funny. But those are the ones that I can deal with if I learn and use the strategies you give here in your advice.

    There are symptoms of ADHD that include memory that will be there no matter what I try to do about it. That’s just a fact (which I believe is scientifically proven) that I can either look at the funny things that have happened because of them, or dwell on the bad things that have happened.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      “Learn to laugh about your ADHD” – All of us, ADHD or not, have way too many things that we could cry over but, no sense doing that. Might as well laugh and move on.

  • Anonymous

    Very good advice. 
    It is incredibly frustrating seeing people grasping at chimeras, looking for the magic cure.They find the temporary fix be it real or placebo, and forget the 400 lb. caged tiger in the room waiting to pounce. They try to sell their cure to those desperate graspers who are ripe for the modern day snake oil salesmen. I’m all for placebo’s if they help to expose frauds and occasionally  tricking some people into better behavior but if they were a real cure that’s all doctors would prescribe. When the tiger eventually attacks, the damage can be devastating. Better to face reality and prepare for what is likely to come than ostrich-like bury you head in the sands of denial or the shamans of modern herbalism.Following your “Time-Tested Advice” is the only realistic means of treatment.As for #7. No shortage of that on this site, here: and here: 

  • twilightfades

    Hey now. People who are in prison aren’t necessarily NOT bright, smart, or creative. Getting caught is not just something that happens to “stupid” people. Even evil masterminds get caught eventually! There is a lot more to prison (poverty, drug addiction (which we KNOW we are more prone to, as ADDers, isn’t something like the majority of addicts have ADD when they are randomly tested at drug clinics?) etc) then whether you are intelligent or stupid.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      “People who are in prison aren’t necessarily NOT bright, smart, or creative.” – I didn’t really mean to imply that they weren’t necessarily smart, etc. The main point was that ADHD did not give them any particular positive advantages that would keep them away from prison, drug addiction, etc.

      “evil masterminds get caught eventually” – I suspect that only happens in comic books because, if that were true, we could rattle off a list of people who should be sitting in jail right now but are, instead, still sitting on Wall Street and collecting their bonuses.

  • Umfundise

    Thank you. Just finished reading dr Barkley’s Adult ADHD: whatthe science says and correlates with myown life…..NOT the myth of the 3 easy steps…..

    Great blog!

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      “Great blog!” – Thank you!! And I also read Barkley’s book. Sad to say, my life also correlates with much of what the science says.

  • Loknar28


    I just created a petition: Director NIMH: Meaningful NIMH recognition of
    ADHD as a lifelong disorder, because I care deeply about this very
    important issue.

    I’m trying to collect 100 signatures, and I could really use your help.

    To read more about what I’m trying to do and to sign my petition, click here:

    It’ll just take a minute!

    Once you’re done, please ask your friends to sign the petition as well.
    Grassroots movements succeed because people like you are willing to
    spread the word!


  • Robin

    Some even more practical advice..
    1. Don’t get married, or even date. ADDers have a very high divorce rate, even more so than the average folk. And even if you don’t divorce, you’ll drive your SO to a support meeting for those partnered to ADDers, where they’ll share with each other how heartless and rotten we are.
    2. Don’t have any kids. With ADD’s heritability, do you really want to replicate your problems in another human being?

    3. Learn to live a life by yourself. Because everyone only has so much patience.
    4. Stop feeling altogether, if you can. It’s what’s called “growing a thicker skin”.

    • anon

      that’s a pretty shitty post to make about ADD people. I hope you’re joking.

      • Jeffs ADD Mind

        I may not agree with everything Robin has written but there are certainly some ADHDers who have decided not to have children so they don’t pass it along to another generation. Not saying if this is right or wrong and I don’t know if there can even be a “right or wrong” answer to this question.

  • DD

    “ADHD is not a death sentence…” But Lord, sometimes it feels that way. Realizing that your problems are not temporary or situational, but will ALWAYS be with you, that’s pretty horrifying.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      But realizing that your problems will always be with you also means that you know what you will be dealing with. You can figure out how to deal with the problems, how to minimize their effects, as opposed to assuming they are some special gift or will just fade away all by themselves.

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