Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that affects the brain and includes symptoms such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness, impulsive behaviour, inability to regulate emotions and a lack of concentration.

People are born with it and it stays with them for life.

It’s most commonly diagnosed in children and was thought to be a behavioural disorder you outgrew in your late teens. But now there’s an increasing number of adults who are being diagnosed with it too.

Our member Sarah Templeton, a counsellor and coach who specialises in ADHD, says: “ADHD used to be thought of as a disorder that only children had. There was a lot of myths and stereotypes – for instance that it was just about naughty boys.

“But there’s a much better understanding of it now. There are tens of thousands of adults whose lives have been hugely affected by the condition and are only just beginning to discover they need support.”

ADHD can have a big impact on people’s mental health, including anxiety and depression, and some people who have it can be prone to addictions.

While treatment for ADHD usually involves medication, counselling can play a huge part in helping people come to terms with their diagnosis and cope with how the condition affect their lives.

What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

ADD stands for attention deficit disorder and used to refer to the elements of ADHD that involve struggling to pay attention. But it's now considered an outdated term and isn't used.

Instead people with ADHD are now split into three categories:

  • ADHD primarily inattentive
  • ADHD primarily hyperactive or impulsive
  • ADHD combined type – which is by far the largest group

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Sarah, who has ADHD herself, says there are two main indicators that you or your child may have ADHD. 

The first one is inattention. This includes finding it hard to concentrate and becoming easily distracted.

“You feel like you’re constantly underachieving, lack motivation, procrastinate terribly, have ideas firing around your brain but do not achieve anything,” says Sarah.

The second one is hyperactivity. Sarah describes this as having an “internal motor in your brain that means you can’t stop". She adds: “I often ask people if they have a ‘busy brain’.”

Children and adults with ADHD may talk a lot and interrupt others. They may do or say things without thinking.

Sarah also says people with ADHD struggle to regulate their emotions and find they're "all over the place”. And over-thinking is another problem for people with ADHD.

If you notice these symptoms are interfering with you or your child’s everyday life, then it may be time to seek professional help.

How can counselling help with ADHD?

Counselling can help you learn how to cope with ADHD. You can talk to a counsellor about how it affects your emotions and your daily life, without being judged.

Sarah says counselling can be particularly helpful for adults who have struggled with ADHD symptoms for a long time before they have been diagnosed.

It can help people with the grief, anger and resentment they may feel after a late diagnosis.

“Counselling helps you make peace with your past and understand your present,” she says. “It helps you forgive yourself. You suddenly have a better understanding of everything in your past.”

Counselling can also help with feelings of anxiety, low self-esteem, guilt or shame that may result from ADHD.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you learn practical ways to manage your symptoms.

“One of the biggest problems in ADHD is overthinking and unhelpful thinking styles. CBT can help you identify problem thoughts and change your negative thought patterns,” adds Sarah.

Coaching can also help you move forward following a diagnosis, says Sarah. It can help you develop specific coping strategies to deal with ADHD traits.

One way that a counsellor can help is to encourage you to think more positively about yourself. Sarah says it’s important to remember that ADHD can be a positive thing and people do overcome the barriers it presents.

“If you can use it, and channel it in a positive direction, you can do so much with your life.

“People with ADHD have an incredible drive; so many succeed in life because of that. There are many successful business people, sports stars and television and film personalities who have ADHD.

"You can overcome the barriers you may think ADHD presents," she concludes.

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