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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Archive for July, 2016

Friday, July 15th, 2016

What do Fireworks and ADHD Have in Common?

Note from Ned

Fireworks

It being the season of Independence Day, I thought I’d write about fireworks, but not the kind we gather to watch on the Fourth of July, but the kind that animate life with ADD.

We who have the trait so misleadingly called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD (even though I still call it ADD, which is what it was called when I first learned about it in 1981), have fireworks in our brains all the time.

This can be good or bad or both.  We can surprise the world with a new idea that went off like a firecracker in our mind, or we can upset the world with a harebrained scheme that blows up in our face.

We never know what we are going to think, say, or do next.  That is not to say we are always reckless.  At times we can be super-focused, methodical, logical, and precise.  It’s just that at other times we can go off half-cocked.  We don’t plan or intend to do either: be focused or half-cocked.  These states of mind simply arise, de novo, out of the blue, without warning, aura, or premonitory signs.

One of the best ideas I ever had came to me out of nowhere while being interviewed by Catherine Crier about 25 years ago for the TV show 20/20.  With the camera running she asked me to describe ADD (as it was then called).  I ticked off the three defining symptoms: distractibility, impulsivity, and restlessness or hyperactivity.  But then, unplanned and without having thought it before that very moment, I added, “But if you turn each one of those negative symptoms on its head, you get a positive.  The flip side of distractibility is curiosity.  The flip side of hyperactivity is energy.  And what is creativity but impulsivity gone right?”

Most of my work with ADD since then has centered around developing that idea, especially the idea that creativity is inextricably linked to impulsivity, spontaneity, and disinhibition.  The analogy I developed to describe ADD, “race-car brain with bicycle brakes,” grew directly from that brief moment, that idea-out-of-nowhere, I had while Catherine Crier was interviewing me.

We never know when one of those fireworks will go off and be wonderfully useful, or when they’ll be duds.  All we really know is that they will continue to go off.

Other useful ideas regarding ADD that I’ve had also came out of nowhere, like comparing medication to eyeglasses, or saying that telling a person who has ADD to try harder is like telling a person who is near-sighted to squint harder.  Those came to me literally in the midst of writing a short essay about ADD.  When I started to write, the ideas had not yet hatched.  But as I typed words onto the page, pop!, the analogies appeared.  Out of nowhere, otherwise known as the unconscious or the imagination.

My imagination is like a black box.  When I reach in I never know what I will pull out.  Sometimes what comes out is irrelevant, misshapen, or or impossible even for me to understand.  But other times it is something new, useful, and true.

Of course, we can’t just rely on the fireworks to carry the day.  We have to hone our ideas, develop our projects, advance our lives piece by piece, day by day.  Often our tasks are frustrating because progress can be slow, and mistakes can abound.  We, or at least I, make tons of mistakes.

I am not a wealthy man because I never took the time to learn now to manage money well (and because my wife and I decided to send our three children to private schools and colleges).  Had I found a way to make money management come alive to me, I am pretty sure some fireworks would have gone off and I would have made a lot more money.

But that was not to be, at least not yet.  We go where curiosity and enchantment lead us, where the fireworks explode, where the action is, the disruption, the new.  We, or at least I, often ignore the sensible in favor of the new and different, the prudent in favor of the offbeat and risky.

We live close to the edge, not because we like danger (my whole life has been an ongoing search for a safe place) but because we love to chart our own paths and discover new lands.  We do without maps, instructions, and directions not because we want to court disaster but because we want to be the map-maker, not the map-follower.

I often say to Sue, my wife, “The only thing that’s harder than being me is being married to me.”  She laughs and says, “That’s the truth! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Thank God for Sue and all the Sue’s out there who love us for our fireworks and for our duds and inadvertent explosions as well.

  Happy summer to you all!

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

How to Finish What You Start

DrivenWorkslide_jacketAre you an idea hopper? Great at generating ideas, but not so great at bringing them to life? What to do about it?

Dr. Hallowell offers advice on how to put your ideas into action in his Distraction Podcast #17. He also offers the following:

10 Tips for Idea Hoppers from his book, Driven to Distraction at Work, so you finish what you start:

  1. Review the basic plan: energy, emotion, engagement, structure, control. Consider what you need more of. For most people, who idea hop,the problem lies in element four: structure.
  2. Write down your ideas. Then peruse the list to see where your brain lights up most brightly. If you can’t decide, pick no more than 3 items.
  3. Next, set up a structure – a game plan – to help you first decide and then implement.
  4. While doing this, write down the various people who might be able to help you follow through. This kind of problem responds best to a team effort.
  5. Consider hiring a coach.
  6. Reflect, with someone who knows you well and likes you, on what emotional obstacles or hot buttons might be getting in your way.
  7. Stay in the game. Use your power. Don’t pull back out of a fear of winning, of hurting the opposition. Many people so fear their own power that they pull back rather than use it in full force.
  8. Don’t fall into the trap of selling yourself short. Most people possess more power than they use or give themselves credit for.  Feeling inadequate is often just a feeling, not a fact. Side with the part of you that feels you can succeed. Gradually, that part of you will grow.
  9. The old saying is correct: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right. 
  10. Celebrate your gift: you have many ideas. Just team up with the right people – usually people who do not have many ideas but are good at implementing others’ – to see your ideas turn into realities.
Monday, July 11th, 2016

ADHD Q&A with Dr. Hallowell & Dr. Ratey plus tips on Managing ADHD

 ADHD experts Dr. Hallowell and John Ratey,  team up again in the DISTRACTION Podcast Episode #17 airing Tuesday, July 12, 2016  to answer listener questions on the subject of ADHD: How to tell if I have ADHD? What medications are best for me? How can I best manage anxiety, focus and more.

SUBSCRIBE to receive podcast.

12 Tips on Managing Adult ADHD

  1. Educate yourself. Perhaps the single most powerful treatment for ADHD is understanding ADD in the first place. Read books. Talk with professionals. Talk with other adults who have ADD. You’ll be able to design your own treatment to fit your own version of ADD.
  2. Realize what ADD is and is NOT, i.e., conflict with mother, etc.
  3. Make deadlines – Prioritize. Avoid procrastination. When things get busy, the adult ADD person loses perspective: paying an unpaid parking ticket can feel as pressing as putting out the fire that just got started in the wastebasket. Prioritize. Take a deep breath. Put first things first. Then go on to the second and the third task.
  4. Be sure of the diagnosis. Make sure you’re working with a professional who really understands ADD and has excluded related or similar conditions such as anxiety states, agitated depression, hyperthyroidism, manic-depressive illness, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  5. Try to get rid of the negativity that may have infested your system if you have lived without knowing that what you had was ADHD. A good psychotherapist may help in this regard.
  6. Get well enough organized to achieve your goals. The key here is “well   ”  That doesn’t mean you have to be very well organized at all — just well enough organized to achieve your goals.
  7. Do what you are good at, instead of spending all your time trying to get good at what you’re bad at.
  8. Understand mood changes and ways to manage these.
  9. Choose “good” helpful addictions, such as exercise. Many adults with ADHD have an addictive or compulsive personality such that they are always hooked on something. Try to make this something positive.
  10. Learn how to advocate for yourself. Adults with ADD are so used to being criticized that they are often unnecessarily defensive in putting their own case forward.
  11. Learn to joke with yourself and others about your various systems. If you can learn to be relaxed enough about the whole syndrome to be able to joke about it, others will forgive you much more easily.
  12. Coaching. It is useful for you to have a coach, for some person near you to keep after you, but always with humor. Your coach can help you get organized, stay on task, give you encouragement or remind you to get back to work. Friend, colleague, or therapist (it is possible, but risky for your coach to be your spouse), a coach is someone to stay on you to get things done, exhort you as coaches do, keep tabs on you, and in general be in your corner. A coach can be tremendously helpful in treating ADD.

*Adapted from Delivered from Distraction, Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., John J. Ratey, M.D., Ballantine, 2005

Have more questions about ADHD? Learn more here!

Need a diagnosis? Click here to learn what The Hallowell Centers can do for you.

For another great source of information on ADHD, please visit ADDitude magazine

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Connect with DISTRACTION

I invite you to join the growing community created by my podcast calledDistraction”.

The antidote to distraction is connection, which this podcast creates and promotes. Of course, it is all free.

One of my most treasured goals in life is to create and sustain community. While electronically super-connected, our world is dangerously disconnected interpersonally, divided by factions, fear, prejudice, and anger.

The remedy is connection, which I call the other Vitamin C, Vitamin Connect. My heartfelt hope is to help us all reconnect, person to person, group to group, so that we can revive the feelings of trust and friendship we do deeply need.

My podcast, Distraction, represents one way I am trying to bring people together. If we can create a community of listeners and start a dialog amongst us, we will all reap enormous benefits, not only of knowledge, but of well-being, health, trust, and joy.

To join this burgeoning community and contribute to it, download Distraction on iTunes, or go to the website, www.distractionpodcast.com, or call 1-844-55-Connect

I look forward to connecting with you!

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