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Leave Me Alone!

crowd

A woman asks:

“I’m a 48-year-old married woman and I have trouble being around large crowds. I would rather be alone, and there are times that I don’t answer the door if people—even my children—visit.”

Michele answers:

You say that you have a lot of trouble being around large crowds but I’m not sure if that is because of ADD-related difficulties such as inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity or something else. If ADHD characteristics are in the way of your social relationships, then you could have unlocked a big piece of understanding yourself better. If you do struggle in those areas and that is what makes it difficult for you to socialize with others, I recommend an evaluation with a professional who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

However, you also said that you lack desire for even one-to-one contact with your spouse or children. Sometimes people with ADHD are so used up trying to cope with the stresses of everyday life that they need extra quiet/alone time and sometimes avoid social contacts. However, it could also be that you have something else going on.

Just because you have ADHD that doesn’t mean that you can’t also have something else (like depression, anxiety, etc.) going on and if you have something else, that doesn’t mean that you also can’t have ADHD. When you have more that one difficulty at the same time, we call that comorbidity. Professionals would not view your behavior as stupid or selfish as you fear, but rather as an indication that there is a problem.

I recommend that you seek out the help of a psychologist to help you understand your behavior whether ADHD related or not and to help you develop strategies to change. I wish you well in gaining a better understanding of yourself and overcoming the obstacles to connecting to the important people in your life!

Falling out of touch

How you can restore friendships that really matter.

Are you missing old friends—people you once loved to talk to and spend time with, but with whom you’ve lost touch? What went wrong? Maybe they moved away. Maybe your interests diverged. Or maybe you said or did something that drove them away. (That’s not unheard-of for folks with
ADHD.)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could resurrect relationships that used to sustain you? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can. All you need is a do-over.

Let me explain. Not long ago, I was walking by a school playground and stopped to watch four girls who were playing kickball. One of the girls, shorter than the others and sporting messy pigtails, gave the ball such a mighty kick that she fell down from the effort… but the ball rolled only a few pitiful feet. She got up and, without missing a beat, said, “I need a do-over.”

The other girls quickly assessed the situation and agreed. And so she got a second chance, this time with better results. The girl certainly looked happy as she ran to first base. So did her playmates.

As I continued on my way, I realized that the do-over is a powerful tool — one with applications that go far beyond childhood games. A do-over can fix all sorts of sticky social situations — including those involving close friends and family members. Of course, the sad truth is that, as we get older, we are less inclined to ask for, or grant, do-overs. And so a minor misstep — perhaps something as simple as making a careless remark or forgetting a birthday — puts a chill into even our most treasured relationships.

If neither party makes an effort to ask the other what’s wrong, the chill turns into a deep-freeze. No more calls or e-mails, no more getting together. In this way, we get cut off from countless wonderful experiences. What a shame!

It’s no secret that ADHD can complicate relationships. Unfiltered words, missed social cues, forgetfulness, quickness to anger, and other problems can offend others and make them think that you don’t care. Perhaps you could benefit from putting the past behind you and forgiving a friend. Perhaps you need to ask someone else to get over her own bad feelings and give you another chance. Perhaps it’s a little of both. Whatever the specifics, I invite you to begin the new year by trying a do-over. Here’s how:

Four quick steps that will help you reconnect with old friends.

  1. Name a person you used to enjoy spending time with but from whom you are now estranged.
  2. Ask yourself what caused the estrangement. Did you have a fight? Did you drift apart? Did the other person stop returning your calls or e-mails? Was the other person always “too busy” to get together? You may not even know what happened—that’s OK.
  3. Ask yourself how you feel about the demise of the relationship. Do you still miss spending time with the other person? Are you angry? Hurt? Confused?
  4. Make a phone call or write an e-mail or letter. Tell the person that you miss him or her. Ask if it might be possible to get together to talk about the relationship. You could write something like, “I want to see if there is any way for us to be friends again. I never meant to hurt you. If I did, I am sorry. You are important to me, and I miss you. If you would like to see if our friendship can be restored, please call me, so we can get together to talk. If not, I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll respect your wishes.”

You may decide that it is not worth the investment of time and energy to reconnect. But even if that’s the case, do your best to let go of any negative emotion you feel when you think about the lost relationships — whether it’s anger, sadness, or simply regret.

Writing in a journal is a great way to let go of negative emotion. So is visual imagery. For example, imagine attaching your feelings to balloons and watching them float up into the sky. Or imagine smashing some dishes.

In the spirit of the new year, see if you can reestablish at least one relationship. Consider making a phone call or writing an e-mail or letter telling the person that you miss him or her. Ask if it might be possible to get together to talk about the relationship.

If it’s possible that you did something to hurt the other person, offer an apology. Maybe you’ll be rebuffed—or maybe you’ll find that your old friend is just as eager as you are to reconnect. You never know until you try.

This article comes from the December 2006 / January 2007 issue of ADDitude. To read this issue of ADDitude in full,  purchase the back issue and SUBSCRIBE NOW to ensure you don’t miss a single issue.Copyright © 1998 – 2007 New Hope Media LLC. All rights reserved. Your use of this site is governed by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. Additional information, click here

New Hope Media, 39 W. 37th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10018

Avoiding Fights on the Job

Find yourself quarreling with colleagues?

Follow these ground rules for getting along with others.

  • Always look for win-win ideas.
  • Make sure the proposals you offer and the positions you take are in alignment with the company’s values and priorities.
  • Before proposing a potentially controversial idea at a large meeting, test the waters by meeting in advance with some of the attendees.
  • State your position calmly and clearly. It may be helpful to break down your position into bullet points.
  • Stick to the facts so as to avoid becoming emotional. ADDers sometimes lose their jobs after making inappropriate comments in the heat of the moment.
  • If you get angry, “reset” your emotions with a 30-minute break. Do something unrelated to the situation that caused your anger.
This article is republished from Additude magazine.
Click here to subscribe to ADDitude.
Copyright © 1998 – 2007 New Hope Media LLC. All rights reserved. Your use of this site is governed by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. Additional information, click here

New Hope Media, 39 W. 37th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10018

Playmates and Friends

A mother asks:

“I have a son with ADHD who is 9 years old. He prefers to play with girls instead of boys. He seems to fight with boys and act as a caretaker for girls. Is this another symptom of his condition?”

Michele answers:

AD/HD does not in itself cause children to be drawn to interact with the opposite sex. However, it could be that your son has found more acceptance and nurturing with girls than he finds with boys. There are often gender differences in the way children react to differences with boys often turning to aggression and girls more often being more nurturing. This is not true in all cases. Perhaps he has just found people he likes who like him and they happen to be girls. For many with AD/HD, finding anyone who likes them is a wonderful gift!

How to Stop Defeatist Thinking

Five proven expert strategies for battling ADD-related defeatism and negative thinking.

Depression is common among people with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). In fact, people with ADD are three times more likely than non-ADDers to be depressed. It’s easy to understand why; you’re unlikely to feel good about yourself if forgetfulness and disorganization cause you to feel less than competent at home or work.

But why does poor self-esteem continue to plague ADDers even after their ADHD has been treated? To answer that question, let’s go back to the mid-1960s, when University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman conducted pioneering research on a psychological condition now known as “learned helplessness.”

Seligman trained a group of dogs to associate a particular sound with an impending electrical shock. Initially, the dogs were restrained, so, even though they knew a shock was coming, there was no way to avoid it. (Thank goodness such cruelty is now out of vogue!) Later, even though their restraints had been removed, the dogs did nothing to avoid the shock. They had been convinced that it was unavoidable. In other words, they had learned to be helpless.

ADDers are not dogs, obviously. But many ADDers — particularly those whose diagnosis comes late in life — exhibit learned helplessness. They’ve spent so many years failing to live up to their potential, at work, at home, and in their personal relationships, that they assume they always will fail.

That was certainly true for my client Mike, who worked in sales. For years, he had been told that he was not working up to his potential. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t set priorities or keep up with paperwork, and he missed meetings. He was afraid he would lose his job. Even after beginning treatment for ADHD, he just knew that he would continue to fail.

Mike was experiencing learned helplessness. So I urged him to talk to a physician about antidepressant medication (often a good option for severely depressed people) and suggested a few strategies to help him cast off his chronic pessimism. Here they are:

Stop negative thinking.

Mistaken beliefs about yourself are major contributors to depression. Stop beating yourself up with thoughts like, “I’m a failure” or “Things will never change.” How do you do that?

Each time you think ill of yourself, try to  replace the negative thought with one or more positive thoughts. Sit down for a few minutes and take inventory of your strong points. Are you unusually creative? Are you a good storyteller? Can you make a yummy apple pie? Jot down everything you can think of on an index card, and carry it with you in your wallet or purse.

Choose friends carefully.

Spend more time with people who are supportive and encouraging. Do your best to avoid “toxic” people.

Get more exercise.

Physical activity fights depression by boosting levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Exercise for at least 15 minutes, three times a week (ideally, you’ll get 30
minutes of exercise, five days a week).

Seek the sunlight.

Spending 15 minutes in direct sunlight can have a big impact on your mood.

Don’t wait to celebrate.

Give yourself a pat on the back for any progress toward your goals. Invite a friend to dinner. Get a massage. Pick up a new DVD.

Mike is no longer depressed. His office is organized, and he is on time
for meetings. He no longer worries about getting fired; recently, he was
publicly recognized for his outstanding achievements at work. All this
came about because he had the courage to believe that success was possible.

Are you depressed? Be like Mike!

This article comes from the April/May 2007 issue of ADDitude magazine. To read this issue of ADDitude in full, purchase the back issue and SUBSCRIBE NOW to ensure you don’t miss a single issue.
Copyright © 1998 – 2007 New Hope Media LLC. All rights reserved. Your use of this site is governed by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. See additional information here.
New Hope Media, 39 W. 37th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10018