ADHD Counselling: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Counselling Options

Adhd counselling

ADHD Counselling: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Counselling Options

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a condition that adversely affects the brain. People with ADHD struggle to concentrate and control their emotions, resulting in hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour, and often need ADHD counselling. However, every individual is psychologically unique, and how ADHD causes mental health challenges and affects overall well-being differs for everyone.

Although most commonly diagnosed in young people, ADHD also affects an increasing number of adults. ADHD persists in adulthood in 10 to 60 per cent of childhood cases and is diagnosed in about 4.5 per cent of adults.

While treatment for ADHD usually involves medication, counselling can also have a huge impact on helping individuals understand their diagnosis and learn to cope with how their symptoms will affect their everyday life.

ADHD counselling provides a secure and supportive space for children and adults to cope with emotional difficulties, which can be extremely empowering and relaxing. ADHD counselling teaches individuals how to cope with mental challenges and learn effective strategies to make everyday life easier.

Different counselling and therapy options are available, and an experienced integrative counsellor can help you decide which is best.

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

As highlighted in the introduction, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that commonly affects children but is now increasingly seen in adults. Categorised as a behavioural disorder, ADHD makes individuals feel restless, resulting in a lack of focus, disorganisation, and impulsive behaviour. Also, these individuals find it difficult to sit and concentrate on trivial tasks for long periods.

ADD vs ADHD

ADD, or Attention-Deficit Disorder, is the out-of-date term previously used for ADHD. The term ‘hyperactivity’ was added to Attention-Deficit Disorder in the early 1990s.

Until recently, children diagnosed with ADHD were included in one of three categories. Those exhibiting only inattentive symptoms were categorised as ‘inattentive type’. Those who were only hyperactive and impulsive fell into the ‘hyperactive/impulsive type’ category. And kids exhibiting all three symptoms were labelled as the ‘combined type’.

Currently, healthcare professionals simply focus on the symptoms that are prominently present. They still use these three clusters of symptoms but do not consider individuals diagnosed with ADHD as separate types.

Living with ADHD can be extremely difficult and demanding, especially for school-going children. Despite symptoms, sometimes a conclusive diagnosis isn’t made early on, which impairs learning and affects academic performance. 

ADHD Symptoms

Symptoms of ADHD typically manifest during childhood and generally improve with age; however, certain individuals continue to struggle even in adulthood. In addition, symptoms usually become more apparent when the individual’s circumstances change, for example, a change of school or residence.

ADHD symptoms are divided into two categories: hyperactivity and impulsiveness and inattentiveness. Most people have a combination of the two, but not always.

Children and Adolescents ADHD Symptoms

These include:

Inattentiveness

  • limited attention span
  • making careless mistakes
  • forgetfulness
  • difficulty focusing on one task for long periods
  • difficulty managing organisational tasks
  • seemingly unable to listen to and complete instructions

Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness

  • continuous fidgeting
  • difficulty focusing on a task for long periods
  • talking excessively
  • excessive physical movement
  • interrupting conversations
  • limited sense of danger and risk
  • not waiting their turn

Occasionally, children and teenagers with ADHD might suffer from other neurological conditions along with ADHD. These may include depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, learning difficulties, epilepsy, Tourette’s, and autism.

Adult ADHD Symptoms

ADHD affects adults differently than young people, and the symptoms are usually subtle. However, ADHD symptoms in adults are not as clearly defined since, currently, research on adults with ADHD is limited.

It is believed that instead of developing later in life, the condition will always present itself during childhood. This is because inheritance plays a major role in developing ADHD. Symptoms might have been missed or undiagnosed and eventually persisted into adulthood. 

Common symptoms of ADHD in adults include:

  • lack of attention to detail
  • difficulty prioritising tasks
  • difficulty organising tasks
  • difficulty focusing
  • leaving tasks incomplete and moving on to new ones
  • forgetfulness
  • restlessness
  • interrupting conversations
  • mood disturbances
  • irritability
  • struggling to cope with stress
  • impatient
  • indulging in risky behaviour

Like children and teenagers, adults with ADHD might suffer from other neurological conditions, such as bipolar disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD)

Individuals diagnosed with ADHD often experience a condition known as Rejection-Sensitivity-Dysphoria. This condition causes them to be highly sensitive to criticism and to hold onto negative comments and grudges for extended periods, sometimes even years.

Moreover, individuals with RSD feel embarrassed about themselves and believe they have let others down due to some irreversible mistake. This can lead to emotional anguish, rejection, constant self-criticism, and self-harm.

ADHD Diagnosis

If you think your child has ADHD, an accurate and timely diagnosis can be extremely helpful in getting them the right support and effective treatment.

The first step is to consult a GP. Even though they aren’t qualified to officially diagnose ADHD, they will refer you to a specialist and a qualified counsellor if necessary. Contrarily, they might suggest a strategy called ‘watchful waiting’; keep an eye on the symptoms for about 10 weeks and look for improvements. You may also be referred to ADHD-focused parent training or educational programs to help you better understand ADHD and your child’s symptoms. 

If you’re an adult suspecting you have ADHD, your GP will discuss your symptoms and, if you meet the following criteria, may refer you to a specialist for assessment:

  • You weren’t diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, but you exhibited symptoms, and they have persisted into adulthood
  • The symptoms don’t fall into any other mental health category
  • The symptoms are adversely affecting your everyday life

Types of ADHD Counselling

ADHD treatment generally includes medication; however, medication and integrative counselling work best for most children and adults. Effective support and proper treatment can mitigate symptoms and make everyday tasks more manageable.

There are various counselling options to help those with ADHD, and the best option for every individual depends on their personality and symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a kind of talking therapy that helps individuals manage their behaviour by modifying their thinking and feelings. This can especially help children with ADHD tackle difficult situations and lower anxiety.

CBT teaches individuals specific strategies to counter negative and intrusive emotions and beliefs and promotes positive behaviour. Medication doesn’t help achieve life goals nor promote long-term change – that’s why therapy is essential for self-improvement.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Techniques

These are the main components of CBT for ADHD:

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is the first and most essential step of the CBT process. It helps individuals understand their symptoms and how the therapy will effectively address them.

During psychoeducation, the counsellor will:

  • describe ADHD in more detail
  • describe the main ways in which ADHD affects behaviour, emotions, and thoughts
  • break down the steps of the therapy

Planning and Scheduling

During this session, the therapist teaches individuals useful methods to improve attention to manage and complete everyday tasks, such as:

  • constantly planning activities and errands
  • organising a daily schedule
  • time management

The therapist will also guide individuals on how to practically use these skills and how to continue using them throughout their life.

Cognitive Restructuring

This technique helps individuals re-evaluate negative thinking patterns that challenge performance and create relationship issues. These patterns include catastrophising (thinking about the worst outcomes for a scenario), overgeneralisation (undermining yourself), and mind-reading (associating negative thoughts with everyone).

An ADHD therapist will help individuals recognise these patterns and how they can reframe them to create more productive and realistic thoughts.

Guided Discovery

This technique is often used along with cognitive restructuring. The therapist will question the individual’s assumptions, beliefs, and self-perceptions to assess how they deal with everyday situations.

To modify negative self-beliefs, the therapist will highlight alternative perspectives. Moreover, the therapist will ask individuals to justify their beliefs with facts or evidence, pointing out their irrationality and baselessness.

Positive Self-talk

Individuals with ADHD often criticise or scold themselves when they fail to accomplish their goals. When they talk down to themselves, it aggravates their symptoms of anxiety, self-hatred, and depression. CBT teaches them to replace this negative self-talk with positive and reassuring messages which boost self-esteem and lead to self-compassion.

Moreover, positive self-talk can help individuals stay motivated to fulfil their goals, finish tasks, and reduce negative emotions triggered by failures and challenges.

Successive Approximation

Individuals with ADHD tend to become overwhelmed by the complexity and magnitude of everyday tasks. Successive approximation teaches them to divide tasks into smaller, manageable segments to complete them easily.

In addition, successive approximation teaches individuals to set time limits and minimise distractions during a task. Individuals are also encouraged to take short breaks between longer tasks.

Distractibility Delay

As mentioned, individuals with ADHD get easily distracted during tasks, complicating finishing them. Moreover, substituting urgent tasks with low-priority ones creates the illusion of productivity. This is a form of procrastination.

Distractibility delay teaches individuals to note down all their distractions so they can remove them and complete their tasks effectively. In addition, this therapy offers guidance on the following:

  • using alarms or other reminders to stay on track
  • taking regular breaks between tasks
  • modifying perfectionistic beliefs

After learning all these therapy skills, the individual will be encouraged to practice them regularly until they integrate with their daily routine. The therapist might also ask to record any changes in behaviour, emotions, and thoughts and will follow up on these during future sessions.

Behaviour Therapy

Behavioural therapy generally supports parents, family members, caregivers, and teachers of children with ADHD. Training parents and teachers in behaviour therapy teach them important skills and strategies to help children with ADHD excel at home, in school, and relationships.

Although learning and applying behaviour therapy takes time and effort, it has long-lasting benefits for children and their families.

Behaviour Therapy for ADHD in Children

The first step for parents and teachers is to list the most challenging behaviours. The counsellor will then help to create a plan to improve these behaviours by establishing a system of rewards and consequences.

At home, for instance, parents will create a chart listing all the actions their child needs to accomplish to meet a specific goal and earn a reward. The counsellor will help the child select rewards that motivate them.

Each achieved goal should be praised, rewarded, and encouraged. For an incomplete task, the child must not be punished or embarrassed; not earning a reward is the punishment.

In addition, behavioural therapy teaches children the skills to efficiently complete the tasks on their chart and the strategies to achieve their goals at home and school. Moreover, it helps in understanding how to manage anger and develop self-control.

Behaviour Therapy for ADHD in Adults

A reward and consequence system doesn’t work as effectively for adults with ADHD since they have different challenges and require different strategies. Hence, instead of teaching them new organisational and task-completion strategies, CBT is generally used.

Behavioural Parent Training (BPT)

Behavioural parent training (BPT) is a therapy designed for parents and caregivers to help mitigate their stress levels and regulate their emotions and actions. BPT also positively influences how children act, improves their self-control, and boosts their self-esteem. This therapy is most effective for parents of young children.

During BPT, counsellors educate parents about methods for managing ADHD symptoms. There are usually a fixed number of sessions in which parents understand how to talk with their children, set expectations, and discipline them. Children are usually not part of the sessions.

BPT decreases behavioural problems among children and improves family dynamics. It also improves low self-esteem and helps children develop positive relationships with friends and teachers.

Overall, BPT teaches the following strategies:

  • Creating a familiar daily structure (house rules, prioritising tasks, etc.)
  • Planning for outings
  • Appreciating and encouraging good behaviour
  • Discouraging negative behaviour
  • Being firm and consistent while disciplining
  • Using positive communication to establish a healthy and stronger relationship with children

Social Skills Training

Social skills training includes programs that help people with ADHD get along with other people. For children, these programs focus on improving peer problems within a classroom or recreational setting. Certain summer camps also offer programs for kids with ADHD and combine social skills training with academic education and recreational activities.

Social skills training programs are generally six to eight weeks long and run for about six to nine hours weekly. The goal is to help kids with ADHD:

  • develop long-lasting social skills
  • improve problem-solving skills
  • learn teamwork
  • reduce negative feelings and behaviours
  • develop and sustain friendships

Psychotherapy

All the above-mentioned ADHD therapies fall under the category of psychotherapy. However, psychotherapeutic interventions alone are not sufficient to effectively manage ADHD.

Instead, a combination of supportive psychotherapy – enhancing the patient’s pre-existing coping skills – along with CBT and medication is the best treatment for ADHD, particularly in adults.

This formula helps individuals improve their organisational and planning skills, helps them efficiently cope with distractions, and promotes cognitive restructuring.

Medication

Medication can help kids and adults with ADHD manage their symptoms to perform productively. It also allows individuals to control the behaviours that create difficulties among family, friends, peers, and colleagues.

Various FDA-approved medications are available to manage ADHD among individuals aged 6 years and above. These are broadly divided into two categories:

Stimulants: these drugs appear to increase the amount of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and balance their levels. They are the most commonly prescribed ADHD medication and are fast-acting. The most common examples are methylphenidate or amphetamine.

Non-stimulants and Anti-depressants: these drugs were approved for treating ADHD in 2003. They are not as fast-acting; however, their effects last up to 24 hours, and they are a good alternative for those who cannot take stimulants due to health issues or side effects. Examples of such drugs include atomoxetine and bupropion.

Medications can have varying side effects among individuals, such as sleep disturbances and loss of appetite. Hence, healthcare practitioners need to try different medications at different doses to find out a suitable balance between benefits and side effects.

Moreover, parents must work with healthcare providers to determine the medication that best manages their child’s symptoms.

ADHD Counselling: Let Our Expert Therapists Help You!

Individuals with ADHD must deal with various personal, social, and mental health challenges. In addition, these individuals are prone to develop anxiety and depression and may also revert to substance abuse to ease their symptoms.

Individuals with ADHD must deal with various personal, social, and mental health issues. In addition, these individuals are prone to develop anxiety and depression, and may also revert to substance abuse to ease their symptoms. Individuals with ADHD face difficulties in all phases of life, such as school, work, and relationships, which can lead to low self-esteem and self-loathing.

ADHD counselling teaches individuals how to cope with their symptoms and channel negative feelings and emotions into productive outcomes. In addition, counselling encourages individuals to think positively about themselves.

Counselling can be especially useful for adults struggling with ADHD symptoms long before diagnosis. If you or a loved one need help with ADHD, get in touch with our expert online therapists today! Our ADHD clients include individuals of all ages, and our integrative counselling treatments are designed for the best results.

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