Do you struggle with addictive tendencies? Do you find yourself only able to complete things when there’s a deadline in place, procrastinate over boring tasks but equally get caught up in things that are enjoyable to you? Almost to the point of obsession! It may be that you are one of the 2 to 4% of adults that have ADHD.
I have worked in the field of addiction for over 30 years and have been a qualified addiction therapist for 25 of those years. I remember hearing the term ADHD for the first time almost 30 years ago. It was from a friend who had just been diagnosed with it. To be honest I thought it was a nicer way of calling someone an attention seeker! I was also really worried that it could be used as a way of minimising addiction. Over 30 years later and thankfully I’ve learnt so much more about both addiction and ADHD. It turns out that ADHD has nothing to do with attention seeking and everything to do with struggling to keep your attention focused on things that are either difficult or somewhat boring and challenging to you.
Have you ever had a school report that said ‘…… does not concentrate’? Disclaimer: ADHD does not mean you didn’t do well in school or can’t become a high achiever. It probably does mean that if you found a subject challenging and that subject didn’t ‘light you up’ that you would have found it very difficult to focus and concentrate on it.
Have you ever been called a daydreamer? Daydreaming is a way of dissociating from difficult tasks and is very common with people with ADHD. Neuro typical persons also daydream. They also procrastinate and can become obsessive over enjoyable things. When you add risky, impulsive behaviours such as addiction into the mix you are possibly looking at ADHD. It can be difficult to know what’s what because so many ADHD symptoms are also things that most of the population struggle with from time to time. Having ADHD means you have less dopamine than a Neuro typical person thus are more likely to get your ‘feel goods’ from addictive behaviours such a substance use, gambling or sex addiction. (We could substitute the aforementioned addictions for workaholism, gym addiction, shopping addiction, food addiction, phone addiction etc). All the above hit the pleasure reward spot in the brain – the part of the brain that creates and releases dopamine. If you have less dopamine than what is considered the normal amount it then makes sense that you may keep returning to a behaviour that stimulates those feel good chemicals. In time that behaviour may turn into an addiction. Addiction is when that behaviour no longer feels like a choice. You begin to feel obsessed and compelled to carry out that behaviour. You begin to ‘act out’ in order to feel ok.
Many of my clients have to make a choice between controlled use of their addiction or abstinence from it. Every client is different and needs a different course of treatment. It is my role to explore with my clients whether they can control their ‘use’ or not. What I have found is that those clients who present with ADHD symptoms do not always fit into the classic mold of the ‘addict’. And by that I mean that they are able to have control of their use at some points rather than the 12 step philosophy that states that more often than not when someone takes that first drink/drug/gamble/bit of sugar etc – it will set off a physical compulsion and a mental obsession to consume/act out more. Those with ADHD may actually have addictive tendencies rather than be struggling with addiction. Therefore if the correct diagnosis and treatment is sought and given they may be able to have control over their use in the future. It is only through a comprehensive assessment – exploring a person’s past experiences that a plan of action can be agreed. Many of my clients have both ADHD and addiction in which case abstinence may well be the only way forward.
For a full addiction assessment please get in touch via email at Victoriaabadi66@gmail.com
For an ADHD assessment please contact your GP or private specialist ADHD consultant psychiatrist.