Getting Out of the Post- ADHD Diagnosis Doldrums

It is common that people diagnosed with ADHD as adults go through a period right after diagnosis in which they seem to make progress, then get into the doldrums.  Adults are different than kids.  With kids, the natural forward momentum of their development help keep progress with ADHD treatment headed in a positive direction.  With adults it’s just the opposite.

Recently diagnosed adults often fall prey to their disappointment when the forward momentum of their treatment slows down.  This is because they have a long history of pessimism, shame and negativity related to their ADHD experiences to fall back upon.  When their momentum stops, it is easy to dig into their experiences, and become negative all over again.

Ned Hallowell discusses this syndrome in detail in his “Don’t SPIN” chapter of “Delivered from Distraction” and includes specific ideas about how to get out of the negativity adults bring with them once and for all (or at least most of the time!)  One of his most interesting ideas, I think, is that people who are trying to improve their ADHD symptoms need a “productive, creative outlet”.  Creating something, whether it be learning how to cook, writing a diary, singing a song, or creating a more positive set of communication patterns with your spouse, provides a natural forward momentum and provides positive feedback.  Both Ned and I use writing as a creative outlet.  Ned considers his writing to be one of his main resources for controlling his ADD symptoms.  I also use music and (when I’m in the mood) cooking as ways to stay creative.

Last night I went to a meeting of a new concert band starting up in our town – it’s for adult beginners (you don’t even need to read music!) who want to (finally) learn to play an instrument.  The band is part of a nationwide movement to bring music to adults called New Horizons.  As I was sitting there, listening to New Horizons players from the Portsmouth, NH group talk about how great their experience making music has been I thought of all of the adults with ADD I know who would love to try something this fun.

If you find yourself, or your spouse, in the post-diagnosis doldrums, find a good creative outlet that can provide productive forward momentum for you.  You may not be lucky enough to have a beginners band just starting up in your neighborhood, but use your inborn creativity and let yourself go!