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Please STOP Telling Successful Adults They "Can't Have ADHD."

In our office, we can spot ADHD very well. Not instantly, mind you (although if you walk in my door as an adult with rainbow hair and a pop-culture tee shirt, I'd bet money). Still, even when we are absolutely sure.... we always double check with a QB Check assessment. Because the QB check does not rely on any personal opinion or observations, this helps rule out any bias, which I fully admit we may have! After all, we believe ADHD is a "thing." But not everyone does, and many outright deny it despite a mountain of evidence.


Let's take a look at some of the stories we've seen... Many people come to our office strictly for the QB Check test to confirm their doctor's or therapist's suspicion of the diagnosis. Here are some of the reactions when we share their results:

From an Engineer who graduated valedictorian of his class... "Does this mean I'm not lazy?" he asked with sad, wide eyes. I responded "Listen, you are not lazy by neurotypical standards. You are a miracle by ADHD standards."


From a PhD-holder... "My mom always told me I couldn't have ADHD. She said 'ADHD people cannot get PhDs.'"


From a CEO in her 50's... "My psychiatrist told me I couldn't have ADHD because 'adult onset ADHD doesn't exist.' I've always felt this way, but I'm in my 50's and not originally from America- they didn't ever diagnose when I was young!" The psychiatrist is right, of course. Adult-onset ADHD does not exist. But just because a medical professional did not diagnose you before age 18, does NOT mean you don't have it.


From a the adult child of a physician... "My dad is a doctor, and he denies ADHD even exists, so he always told me I can't possibly have it." What's more likely happening here is that dad has it, too. But he doesn't want to admit it because by some it is seen as a weakness. And since such a personality would likely not want to "coddle" their child, then their child simply cannot be diagnosed either; the old militant attitude of "suck it up, Buttercup."


From countless others, especially women... "My doctor would just ask me 'How do you do in school?', and when I told them I got good grades, they would say 'Then you cannot have ADHD.'" Oh. Wow. Where do I start here? Listen...


If you're criteria for diagnosing ADHD is based on academics or career success, you do NOT know ADHD, and you should get informed or get out of the way. You are actively harming your clients by denying their struggle, and compounding their pain by adding medical trauma to it if you are in a position to diagnose. (You add plain ole non-medical trauma to it if you're not in a position to diagnose.) When they get to our office, we not only need to treat for ADHD, but we need to spend a lot of time undoing the damage caused by this invalidation that has lasted a lifetime up until this point.


What is it like to grow up without a diagnosis? Ask anyone with ADHD who didn't learn about it until adulthood, and they will tell you a story of a life lived in shame. Not only do you struggle to fit in, get those good grades, cope with painful rejection, and navigate overwhelming emotions (which lead to anxiety and depression) but you have no reason why. Your diagnosis is "f*ck up." (This is what I used to say to people before I learned about my own ADHD diagnosis at age 37. Ha ha! Funny-not-funny.) You are struggling TWICE as hard just to keep up with your peers. But you have no idea, because you have no other experience to compare it to. You fail relentlessly, which is traumatic, so you develop hypervigilance and one or more stress disorders to function. And with multiple disorders, your misery compounds exponentially, but hey! everyone else thinks you are a success! I mean, you're a workaholic, gymaholic, you drink heavily, and your relationships are a disaster, but you have prestige and money! Worth it, right??


Now you're passing that pain onto your kids... Being often linked to genetics, your kid's got a good chance to have ADHD themselves. You would never want them to experience the pain you have, but you have a solution! Success-at-all-costs! It worked for you, right? So you enforce control, and high expectations- straight A's, captain of the sports teams, internships, "real" jobs. And so it goes... Another generation of trauma.


Please. If you are reading this, pause a moment to examine any innate biases you may hold. Chances are they are wounding you, as well as others around you. But biases are not permanent. And mental flexibility leads to inner peace as much as mental rigidity prevents it. Maybe you have ADHD and you don't want to explore that. No one will force you. But don't force your personal truth onto others who DO want help.





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