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Improving Your Life When You Have AD/HD

Having AD/HD presents many challenges, especially when you interact with people who don't have the condition. Here are some of the more important issues that people with AD/HD have when they live with people who don't have it.

Managing moods

One of the main characteristics of AD/HD for most people is extreme, frequent changes in mood. One minute you may feel happy and hopeful, and a minute later you feel angry and frustrated without anything outside of you causing the change. This phenomenon is a product of several different factors, the most important of which are:

  • A biological disposition to react more strongly than other people to the ups and downs of life: This tendency is usually helped to some degree by biological treatments — such as diet, medication, and rebalancing therapies — all of which can change the way the brain works.
  • Past experiences: Most people with AD/HD have come up short on meeting their (and others') expectations, so they tend to have an internal dialogue that is demeaning and negative. That tendency to have a low opinion of oneself can be formed, worsened, or reinforced by . . .
  • Others' words: How many times can a person hear "I'm disappointed in you" or "You could do so much better if only you tried harder" before turning that criticism inward (and often making it even stronger)? Most people with AD/HD bear deep scars from criticism directed at them over and over again.
  • A tendency to jump to conclusions: People with AD/HD have a talent for jumping to conclusions ahead of the evidence. After you've jumped to a conclusion, an attitude isn't far behind. If you have an attitude about every conclusion you jump to, you're probably going to come across as moody.
  • Medication wearing off: If you take medication for your AD/HD, as it wears off you may experience changes in mood. If you notice a mood pattern that seems to coincide with your medication schedule, talk to your physician about adjusting your medication, dosage, or schedule.

Here are some suggestions to deal with negative thoughts that can lead to negative moods:

  • Stop the thought and ask yourself if it is based on what's happening at the moment. Most of the time, negative thoughts are simply popping up without relating to your life at the moment.
  • Breathe through it. When you have negative thoughts, your body tenses up, and your breath becomes shallower. Take a few deep breaths, and you'll begin to relax.
  • Cancel that thought. After you acknowledge that the thought isn't based on what's happening and you've had a chance to take a breath, you can let it go.
  • Reframe that thought. Even if you think a negative thought is based on what's really happening, you don't have to let it lead you to a negative feeling. Try to reframe negative perceptions, thoughts, or words into positive ones. If you can see the humor or the benefit in a difficult situation, you can probably feel better about it.
  • Don't take things personally. All of us have internal pressures, reasons, or ideas that make us do the things we do. When someone directs a negative comment or action your way, try to realize that it's not necessarily about you. If you can do so, you may not feel the need to have such a strong reaction. Work on understanding the causes and consequences of your own and other people's actions and reactions. If you succeed, you may be able to let us all off the hooks of blame, resentment, and general bad temper.

Extreme moodiness may be a sign of depression or bipolar disorder. Because both of these conditions are common among people with AD/HD, have a professional screen you for these conditions.

Taking responsibility

AD/HD is an explanation, not an excuse. You must take responsibility for your actions regardless of the fact that AD/HD has a biological cause. If your behavior is causing problems in your life, you need to seek the best possible help in getting it under control.

If you hurt someone, create a problem, or make situations more difficult — even unintentionally — don't use your diagnosis of AD/HD as an excuse. You and everyone else will benefit if you can focus on understanding how your actions caused the hurt or contributed to the problem. If you can find a way to express that understanding to the other people involved, all the better; they can then realize that you have not ignored their feelings and rights.

The most important thing you can do is to learn from situations in which your AD/HD plays a part in creating bad feelings or less-than-optimal outcomes. That way, you can take responsibility and continue on the road to self-improvement.

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