Denial of ADHD in Adults

Health Writer

ADD can interfere with daily life, in children and adults. Although once thought to be a childhood disorder, research has shown that it lasts throughout life. In "Update on Adult ADD," Sam Goldstein estimates that one third of children with ADD go on to adulthood with only minor problems, another one third have difficulties and the last once third continue to experience significant difficulties throughout their lives.

For those adults that continue to have problems, life may have been filled with a string of failures. Maybe they have failed relationships, maybe they have moved from job to job or maybe they have "self-medicated," with illicit substances. It is quiet possible that they have heard statements, such as: "You are stupid." "You are lazy." "If you would just try harder, you could amount to something." After hearing such remarks for so long, they probably believe at least some of what other people have said about them.

At this point in their lives, they may deny the possibility that they have ADD. Denial, however, can come in many shapes and sizes.

The Blame Game

A common type of denial is to avoid any indication that you have done something wrong. Instead, it is always someone else's fault. Maybe they received bad grades in school because the teachers did not like them. Maybe they have been passed over when promotion time came because they boss is a jerk. Maybe they haven't been able to stay at any job long because the co-workers were impossible. You get the picture and most probably know someone who does this. It is never their fault, time after time blame is transferred to someone, anyone else. After thinking and acting this way for years, the person actually begins to believe it and no longer bothers taking responsibility for anything in life.

Fear of Failure

In intense fear of failure can cause a person to simply stop trying. They cannot bear the possibility of another failure and another humiliation; therefore, they simply do not put forth any effort. It is much easier to say, "I don't care," or "I don't want to," than to try and fail again. They will avoid situations that require effort or require them to learn a new skill. Unfortunately, many on the outside, will view this as being lazy, unmotivated or unwilling. This fear of failure can also cause someone to not seek treatment. They may be afraid that the result will be that they do not have ADD and then they will need to face that everyone else has been right all along, they are stupid or lazy.

Not Wanting to Be Labeled

ADD has not always been a popular diagnosis. For years the publicity it received was negative. Television showed children becoming zombies when given ADD medications. Many of the negative traits of ADD are emphasized on television and the positives, the creativity or the thinking "outside the box," is mostly ignored by the media. For those that work with individuals with ADD or live with ADD and understand it, the positives are accepted as well as the negatives. The general public, however, is receiving a tainted message and the negative label of ADD continues. There is still a stigma attached to the diagnosis. It is considered a "mental illness" and treated by psychiatrists. Counseling and therapy are sometimes recommended. Who would want to admit that they are "mentally ill," that they need counseling and therapy? To admit to having ADD can be difficult.

Denial, no matter how it shows up, is driven by fear of the unknown. A life of failures is familiar. This familiarity may be more comfortable than diving into the deep abyss of the unknown and risking yet another failure.

Stay tuned for additional posts this month on overcoming fear and denial, finding acceptance of yourself and your diagnosis (or moving toward seeking help) and determining what you really want from life.