Although there exists much controversy about whether attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a “real” psychiatric disorder or a personality variant, most of us know kids and adults that struggle with structure, organization, impulse control and lateness. Despite these challenges, they might also be extremely creative and bright. Nevertheless, an individual’s tendency toward chaos can be frustrating for both the individual and those interacting with them. Here are some tips for dealing with adults diagnosed with ADD – or anyone with similar personality traits.
Get educated. Whether a strong personality trait or an official disorder, individuals suffering with ADD (or its cousin, ADHD, which has a hyperactivity component) have a difficult time keeping on task and being on time. Without a lot of help and planning, they often feel like the person who just can’t do anything right. They are easily distracted and it makes getting things done or even getting out of the house more challenging that it is for a person without these challenges. If you are dealing with someone with ADD, you’ve already taken a step toward learning about the challenges they face.
Get empathetic. If you don’t have similar challenges, it can be difficult to understand what the adult suffering from ADD is going through. You might feel as if they are flaky, purposely defiant or not respectful of your time. While any of these things might be true for anyone, for the individual suffering from distractibility and impulse control issues, these challenges arise despite their best efforts. Understanding that they really are trying and remembering that none of us is perfect will help you relate to them better.
Help them create external structure. Structure and routines truly benefit disorganized individuals. Whether you are the employer or employee, friend or family member of a person with ADD, you can contribute to their success by helping them create structure in their lives. For example, if you are the employer, you can mentor your employee by helping them devise a time-management system or teaching them to use Outlook tools on the computer. If you are the employee, you can help keep your boss organized with appointment reminders or by helping him or her organize their papers. Another example is that you could help a friend or family member organize their home or devise a morning routine so they can get out the door in the morning.
Provide support. As with any human condition, having support can help individuals overcome challenges in unique ways. By educating yourself and others about ADD, ADHD or similar personality types, you can help the individual find greater success in overcoming his or her unique challenges.
Remember that ADD is a challenge, not an excuse. Whether a disorder or a personality trait, you do not have to let someone walk all over you because of his or her personal challenges. It’s okay to tell them that you don’t appreciate being interrupted or having to wait. While it is admirable to help in any way possible –including just by being empathetic if that is all you can do – you also should maintain personal boundaries for both of your sakes.