For adults with ADHD, the work environment can be very daunting and create many challenges. Luckily, there are certain coping strategies to help those with ADHD reach their full potential at work. Dr Lars Davidsson, a consultant psychiatrist offers some tips for both employers and employees on how to manage ADHD in the workplace.
What is adult ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is a developmental disorder from birth and carries on into adulthood.
This disorder presents itself as a combination of persistent problems such as hyperactivity, restlessness, difficulty paying attention and impulsive behaviour. In adults, symptoms may not be as clear and hyperactivity may decrease. Children, on the other hand, are much more likely to be hyperactive, and have difficulty focusing, learning and sitting still in school. This is why ADHD is often picked up in childhood.
Would you consider ADHD to be a disability?
Yes, of course. Under the Equality Act 2010, any employee with ADHD is considered to have a disability and employers have to make reasonable adjustments when it comes to the workplace.
How can ADHD affect people at work?
Many adults with ADHD may find that they perform their jobs well, as some of the ADHD traits such as high energy, problem solving and creativity can be beneficial. However, there are times when it can cause difficulties in the workplace.
Adults with ADHD may find it they get distracted and procrastinate regularly resulting in missed deadlines and low quality of work. As adults with ADHD often make impulsive decisions, some may even make the impulsive decision that their chosen job isn’t right for them and change, without reviewing all the options first.
Both parties -the employer and employee with ADHD- need to make commitments and build strategies to increase job performance and satisfaction. Employers should always gain a full understanding of ADHD and make additional accommodations where necessary. The employee should also be actively receiving the right medication and/or treatment to manage their symptoms and perform to their full potential.
What are some tips for managing ADHD at work?
There are several things you can do as an employee with ADHD:
- Plan your time: use your smartphone to help you with plan your time better, and set alarms for meetings and deadlines.
- Have your own space: talk to your employer about having your own space away from distractions. If this isn’t possible, try to be away from busy areas where there are lots of people.
- Block noise: try to block out noise to avoid additional distractions e.g. earplugs, soft music, etc.
- Connect with co-workers: make friends with co-workers who can support you and help you keep focused on your tasks.
- Use calming techniques: If thoughts and feelings become too intense, take a minute to slow down and gather your thoughts.
As for your employer and co-workers, they should accept that their colleague has a disability and make certain allowances for that. Always ensure you are kind to people who suffer from ADHD and be patient with them.
How do you determine whether someone has ADHD or not?
There are no lab tests that check for ADHD; I usually know which signs to look out for. For example, I look for any change in hyperactivity and listen to their difficulties in their day-to-day activities. Although, this is not the same for everyone and each patient can present with different issues and symptoms.
Is ADHD curable?
ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood and for some people, symptoms do get better with time, but very rarely disappear. There was even a time before the condition was properly understood when many people believed ADHD miraculously did disappear- which was simply not true. While some children ‘grow out’ of the condition, most patients don’t; their symptoms simply change or become less apparent as they transition into adulthood.
For example, hyperactivity isn’t common in adults whereas in children it is. Adults do continue to have attention problems though and also may not be able to meet deadlines well. Symptoms can always be controlled and the current treatments available for ADHD are one of the most successful treatments ensuring patients follow the treatment plans.
What are some treatment options for ADHD?
I tend to stick to the NICE guidelines. NICE, which stands for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, offers recommendations on how healthcare professionals should care and treat patients with specific medical conditions. These recommendations are always based on the best available evidence.
In regards to the treatment I offer, there are typically three lines of treatment I focus on for adult ADHD: medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and coaching.
Firstly, I recommend my patients to take short-acting or long-acting stimulants. These medications either work immediately or over a long period. These medications aren’t able to cure the condition but will help the patient be calmer, less impulsive and concentrate better. Some of them include:
The second line of treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This therapy has proven to benefit patients in some aspects of their lives but isn’t completely efficient when it comes to reducing symptoms. I often recommend combining certain medications with CBT for it be more effective.
The third line of treatment is to obtain some coaching from a professional mentor. ADHD coaching is usually a goal-orientated and collaborative approach where a mentor works with the patient to identify and develop skills necessary for the patient to achieve their full potential.
If you wish to book a consultation with Dr Lars Davidsson, visit his Top Doctors profile and check his availability.