I have some good news. Yesterday I was finally diagnosed with adult ADHD.
This is something that I’ve been wondering about myself for years, but yesterday I got the chance to meet with my psychologist who made the official diagnosis based on my history, symptoms, and her assessment.
I’ve been pretty open and honest about my struggles about Living with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. While I still have some remaining compulsions (skin/scalp picking for example) I’ve mostly cleared up my symptoms through years of counseling and a combination of mental health medications that work for me.
I still have issues that remain beyond managing my BDD symptoms. I filled out several screenings to determine if ADHD was the right diagnosis for me. I’ll link to the screening here: Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRSv1.1) (psychology-tools.com)
In summary, I checked just about every column in the often or very often. Not only that, I also went through several assessments that made me realize I’ve had these symptoms for as long as I can remember.
I’ve always known there was something different about my brain, I’ve known I was different from my peers. I knew I was being annoying and loud and talking too much but I couldn’t find a way to settle myself down. I knew I was talking too much but found it physically hard to stop. The feeling of “being driven by a motor” really resonates with me. I would be so hyper and chatty and talkative, almost like I was buzzing. Someone would say, “Kalissa, just calm down” and I just would get frustrated with myself for getting to the point that someone else needed to point out how restless I was. I won’t get too in depth on my childhood symptoms in this post.
The creative side of my has never been lacking, from song writing to poetry and creative writing, I’ve always had this creative itch inside of me, very common in people with ADHD.
Another symptom I struggle with is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria.
People with RSD experience an overwhelming emotional response to real or perceived rejection, criticism, judgment, or being left out. They may lash out in anger, dwell on negative thoughts, feel hopeless, think they’re a failure, or feel their self-esteem plummet.What is Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria…and Do You Have It? | Amen Clinics
RSD is beyond a simple “overreaction.” RSD can trigger full mood disorders (which for me, it has). A simple annual performance review can send me into a full blown anxiety attack, these are uncontrollable, illogical responses to basic feedback.
I know this is a lot to take in if you aren’t familiar with ADHD so I’ve got some basic questions I thought I’d answer and I encourage you to leave your questions in the comments.
What is ADHD? (Mayo Clinic)
“Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that can lead to unstable relationships, poor work performance, and low self-esteem. ADHD symptoms include trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.”
What do symptoms of adult ADHD look like? (Mayo Clinic)
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing
- Poor time management skills (time blind)
- Problems focusing on a task
- Trouble multitasking
- Excessive activity or restlessness
- Poor planning
- Low frustration tolerance (irritability)
- Frequent mood swings
- Problems following through and completing tasks
- Hot temper
- Trouble coping with stress
Doesn’t everyone have these symptoms at some point?
Yes! Everyone has probably had some degree of symptoms of ADHD at some point in their lives. The difference is I’ve had these symptoms for as long as I can remember. These symptoms impact my (here’s a fancy ADHD term) executive functioning like planning, self control, organization, planning priorities, initiating tasks etc. People who don’t have ADHD have these symptoms but can carry on a fairly normal life and their symptoms are temporary or situational.
For example, everyone loses things and misplaces their phone. Someone with ADHD might misplace their phone several times a day, day after day, no matter what they do to try and remember it, they have lost countless hours looking for their phone and it’s made them late so many times. Insert literally any other object into that sentence, (my glasses, my air pods, my water bottle, my keys, etc.)
So what now?
This diagnosis is a good thing. I’ve started on medications that can help me complete tasks, stay focused, stay organized, and help improve my overall executive functioning. I can learn coping mechanisms, I can learn what makes me tic, I can understand how my brain works differently and work with my brain instead of against it. It can also provide a community of other adults who were diagnosed with ADHD later in life.
There’s also really strong evidence suggesting that physical movement and outdoor activities can improve symptoms. Remember last March/April I blogged about totally feeling like a slug/in a slump? You can read that here. After thinking long and hard, I realized I had just cold turkey STOPPED working out after 6 months of intense, weekly strength training. Remember I said I felt the BEST I’d ever felt in my life in the 6 months prior? I think it was because I was working out! So I’m definitely getting back with my personal trainer.
How did you get diagnosed?
ADHD first came on my radar this past summer while listening to a podcast with Tracy Otsuka. She’s the founder of ADHD for Smart Ass Women. I listened to several of her podcasts and really resonated with what she was describing. I also listened to the book called ADHD 2.0 (I’ll link to that here) which was SO POWERFUL and really made me think it’s something I should look into. I messaged my primary care provider. This is where things get tricky.
I was diagnosed with BDD at Mayo Clinic by a psychiatrist. Because I hadn’t been there in so long, they would have to start all over and do a full assessment from scratch. Psychologists aren’t allowed to treat mental health conditions by prescribing medications. Psychiatrists can treat and prescribe medications. The only access to a psychiatrist within reasonable driving distance was a 6 month minimum wait. So my regular doctor referred me to a local psychologist who assessed me and diagnosed me and will make recommendations to my regular doctor for treatment. It was still a 4 month wait to get into the psychologist but the good news is I got in and got my diagnosis of Adult ADHD combined type.
What should I do if I think I have ADHD?
Start with this screener: Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRSv1.1) (psychology-tools.com)
Then chat with your doctor about your results.
What resources do you have?
I’m a podcast lover. I listen to several ADHD podcasts but highly recommend Tracy Otsuka’s ADHD for Badass Women
I also love Kristen Carder’s podcast: I Have ADHD
Definitely read ADHD 2.0. Here is the link to that on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3FHmNtn
Why are you telling the internet?
I’m an over sharer. Plus there may be other adults who were misdiagnosed or overlooked that could be helped with this information. If sharing my story could help even just one person, I’ll do it.
That’s all I have for today folks! Thanks for reading! Feel free to drop questions in the comments, I’d love to follow up with a real Q + A.