May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One disorder worth raising awareness about is ADHD, an invisible disability. “An estimated 9% of children between ages 3–17 have ADHD. While ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, it does not only affect children. An estimated 4% of adults have ADHD.” (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness)

ADHD and ADD are interchangeable terms. ADHD is the official psychiatric term. There are three types: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined (hyperactive AND inattentive). All types have in common deficits in what is called executive functioning. Executive functioning includes focus, organization, time management, and self-control—important skills that make it easier to set and accomplish goals. ADHD often co-occurs with (is accompanied by) mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders. All in all, it’s more difficult for a person with ADHD to get things done.

Below are five tips to improve your mental health if you have ADHD:

1. Allow extra time to do things.

If you know you are notorious for underestimating how long things take, plan to do less, much less, in the time you have allotted for work, school, errands, chores, etc. You will be less stressed and less frustrated with how little you accomplished.

2. Plan to arrive early for things.

Don’t start doing something new if you have to leave within 15 minutes. If you want to arrive on time most or all of the time, you should plan to get in the car 15 minutes before you actually need, to account for last minute delays and traffic. Rushing and weaving madly through traffic does not calm the soul.

3. Put everything you need to do in a date book and on the calendar of your phone.

Set alarms, even for daily events, like picking up kids from school or leaving work, if you tend to get so absorbed in things that you lose track of time. Getting super-absorbed in an interesting activity to the exclusion of everything else is called hyper-focusing, and is, ironically, also typical for people with ADHD. Getting a wristwatch with a timer can help you remember the little things like getting the pasta off the stove in ten minutes.

4. Take ADHD mess-ups in stride.

All your best systems will sometimes fail and you will occasionally miss deadlines, forget appointments, arrive late, lose things, blurt things out, etc. Coming to terms with this reality, even as you layer on more reminder buzzers, can be freeing. I like to say, “You laugh or you cry.” Laughing requires fewer tissues.

5. Forgive yourself for not becoming what you could have been if you had better executive functioning skills.

Forgive yourself for under-achieving or taking longer to get there than others. Having ADHD isn’t easy and should be taken into account when you pull out the ruler and see how you measure up. What? You say you can’t find your ruler? You’re in good company.

Take charge of your mental health! During this Mental Health Awareness Month, take a moment to reflect on your mental health. JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are here to help you navigate through life’s daily struggles or those big life-changing moments.

Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept. Call 407-644-7671 or email Sonja.Pollard@JFSorlando.org to schedule an appointment today!


Author: Dorrit Ram, LCSW

Dorrit Ram, LCSW, earned a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is a licensed clinical social worker experienced in providing psychotherapy to teenagers and adults with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, dissociative disorders, addiction, autism, and intellectual disability. She specializes in working with people who have experienced childhood trauma.

Dorrit utilizes an eclectic therapeutic style and a little humor to help people regain a lost connection to themselves. She offers habit reversal training for common body-focused repetitive disorders such as nail biting, skin picking, and trichotillomania (hair pulling).

Dorrit thinks that therapy is a great way to gain insight, develop self-acceptance, and make lasting changes. She conducts therapy sessions in English, Spanish, and Hebrew.