October is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness month, and Sechelt’s Gillian Smith hopes Coasters will take some time to learn about the disorder, including who it affects and how it can be treated.
Smith is a local ADHD coach and consultant who was diagnosed with the disorder at the age of 41, a few years after a friend had suggested she might have it.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can’t have ADHD, that’s something seven-year-old hyperactive boys have,” Smith said.
Although successful in her career as a lawyer and able to tackle cases with confidence, Smith had trouble doing simple things like writing down the hours she was working to ensure proper payment from clients.
She also had trouble concentrating in long meetings and was easily distracted.
One day while waiting in line at a store she picked up a book with an ADHD checklist inside.
“I was checking every box, so I obviously bought the book and it was just incredible. I thought, ‘if this is true, it explains so much,’” Smith said.
Eventually Smith was diagnosed by a doctor as having ADHD. She said the diagnosis changed her life.
“Everybody I’ve talked to says they feel a huge relief when they find out, because it’s not a character flaw, it’s a brain thing. It’s not something you choose,” she said.
After starting a time-released Ritalin medication, Smith said she could “feel the fog lifting.”
“I could stick to boring meetings and I was better at organizing my time. It was amazing,” Smith said, noting she also used exercise, eating properly and personal supports to keep the symptoms of her ADHD at bay.
“Medication is part of the answer but it’s not everything,” she said.
Most recent statistics from the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention show that about 9.5 per cent of students have ADHD while 4.4 per cent of adults have been diagnosed.
People with ADHD generally have six or more of the following symptoms on a regular basis:
•Doesn’t pay close attention to detail or makes careless mistakes.
•Has trouble focusing on tasks or activities.
•Does not follow through on instructions or fails to finish work.
•Has trouble organizing activities.
•Avoids or dislikes things that require a lot of mental effort.
•Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
•Loses things needed for tasks and activities.
•Is easily distracted.
•Is forgetful in daily activities.
The hyperactivity and impulsivity linked to ADHD usually presents itself in some of the following ways:
•Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms when should sit still.
•Gets up from seat when remaining seated is expected.
•Excessively runs about or climbs when not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).
•Has trouble playing or doing leisure activities quietly.
•Is “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor.”
•Blurts out answers before questions are finished.
•Has trouble waiting his or her turn.
•Interrupts or intrudes on others.
Smith notes that ADHD “is only a problem if it interferes in your life,” and encourages those who think they may be struggling with the disorder to contact their doctor for a proper assessment.
Find out more at www.adhdawarenessmonth.org.