Climbing out of the Hole: Where and How to Find Help

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • In my last SharePost, I spoke of the adult with ADHD who has spent a lifetime of suffering from (often perceived or exaggerated) failures: personal, educational, social and vocational.


    Though ADHD is certainly not a death sentence, it can feel like one when day after day brings continued stress, pain and a loss of self-esteem. Depression often takes over and a new but sadly, negative self image sets in.

    The good news is, ADHD is highly treatable. The bad news is, it can be pretty difficult to find the appropriate help.


    Typically, by the time an adult begins to reach out for professional help, an emotional scar has already begun to develop. Years of failures, whether perceived or real, have taken its toll. What is one to do?

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    Taking the first move towards seeking professional help is an incredibly good sign showing you have enough self-worth and inner strength to take on the hard work needed to move forward in healthier ways. Somewhere within you, you realize you deserve better. Give yourself a pat on the back for taking that first and often very scary step.


    Now that you've made the decision, what's next?

    • Make an appointment with your primary care physician. You want to first make sure that your ADHD symptoms aren't due to - or are exacerbated by- a medical condition such as allergies or a thyroid disease; both of which can mimic ADHD.
    • Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional that has a lot of experience working with adult ADHD.
    • If your doctor can't make the referral, try the following:
    • Contact CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) to find the closest chapter to you. Ask the coordinator for names of local clinicians that treat adult ADHD. Contact CHADD at 800-233-4050 or visit their website at .
    • - If you don't live near a CHADD chapter, call your local hospital and ask for the Psychiatry or Psychology Department and ask for a referral. If you live near a teaching hospital, chances are you'll find someone there who can see you or refer you out.
    • -Call the various mental health agencies in your area, such as the community clinics or Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, etc. social services. Most will accept you regardless of your religion. Again, ask if someone on staff has expertise in adult ADHD.
    • - If you live in a rural area or if there simply isn't anyone nearby who works with adult ADHD, consider traveling to a nearby city. You may have to bite the bullet with travel time, but perhaps your visits can be less frequent of traveling is a hardship.
    • - If you're simply unable to find a clinician who understands adult ADHD, don't give up hope! Many generalists are capable of treating you! Interview potential therapists/psychiatrists and see if they'd be willing to learn more about ADHD.


    • Now that you've made the connection, ask questions. Find out if the clinician is familiar with the works of leading ADHD experts such as Dr. John Ratey, Dr. Ned Hallowell, Sari Solden, Dr. Russell Barkley and Dr. Patricia Quinn. If the answer is "no", lend them some of your books and suggest various websites where they can learn more. 
    •  Educate yourself and your loved ones. If you've never read any books by the authors mentioned above, start reading! A great primer is "Driven to Distraction", by Drs. Edward (Ned) Hallowell and John Ratey. For women, I also recommend Sari Solden's "Women with Attention Deficit Disorder." And might I suggest my own book, "Survival Tips for Women with ADHD."
    • If your doctor or therapist recommends medication, learn about the various types used for ADHD and follow your doctor's recommendations. There are a number of helpful articles HERE at ADHDcentral:
    • Consider working with an ADHD coach. You'd be amazed at how quickly you'll get yourself back on track when you have someone on your team guiding you and offering specific strategies for getting your life back in order.
    • Attend ADHD meetings and conferences. Connecting with other adults who have ADHD can be life altering because you will finally getting confirmation from others "who have been there" that you are not lazy, stupid or crazy.
    • Connect with others online. There are terrific resources that support those with ADHD. Here at ADHD Central, there are hundreds of articles to read and ways to connect via SharePosts with others who, like you, have daily challenges, living with ADHD. You can find more resources online at;; and there are even online ADHD conferences at .
    • Keep a diary of your therapy and coaching sessions. Our memories are often inconsistent and you'll want to track your progress. Jot down your feelings and watch how your self- image begins to change as you gain confidence and life skills.


  • Sari Solden, in her ADHD presentations, often quotes the rabbi, Hillel: "I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing." Sage advice, indeed.

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Published On: March 14, 2009