I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but (naturally) I forgot about it until a reader emailed me a request for some recommended reading for adults with ADD. I’ve always been an avid reader, and that dovetails with an ADD-related ability to hyperfocus on something I’m interested in, to the exclusion of nearly all else. (Just try to talk to me when I’m into a book, a television show, or a computer game. At home I actually have to practice turning away from them to focus on who’s talking to me.)
The benefit is that when I develop an interest in something I tend to read everything I can get my hands on about it. As a result, I’ve read a lot about ADD/ADHD, much of which I found helpful in terms of developing coping strategies to deal with the traits that medication doesn’t fully take care of, and just coping with the reality of finally figuring out what the problem was after a long period of struggling and not knowing why. So, if nothing else, I’d like to pass on some of the books I found helpful.
Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood. I’d definitely recommend that anyone who’s just been diagnosed with ADD — or has a loved-one, friend, co-worker who’s just been diagnosed — pick this one up first. It gives probably the best overview off ADD from childhood to adulthood. Edward Hallowell and John J. Ratey are both Harvard docs who have ADD, and between the two of them literally “wrote the book” on the subject. Actually, they’ve written a few. Answers to Distraction is another I’d recommend, if only for it’s Q&A format which makes it easy to use as a reference. Delivered from Distraction is even better in terms of looking at the “up side” of ADD, that is the benefits on the other side of the coin.
If you grew up with with untreated ADD and lived with it for a significant portion of adulthood, you’ll immediately appreciate the title of YOU MEAN I’M NOT LAZY, STUPID OR CRAZY?!: A Self-help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder, because you probably heard over and over again from parents, teachers, and employers that you were lazy, stupid and crazy. After several years of absorbing those messages, the title is a much-needed affirmation. I picked it up because of the title alone, and found it was an entertaining read that left me realizing I wasn’t the only one who’d been living with the frustrations of untreated ADD in the first place. I was a bit disappointed that it seemed light on strategies for organizing and coping with the ADD-related traits that remain after treatment, as well as coping with the sense of loss I felt about all the years I’d struggled without treatment. But that’s probably because I was in a different place and had different needs by the time I picked up this one. That leads me to the next two books.
Without a doubt, Sari Solden’s Journeys Through ADDulthood : Discover a New Sense of Identity and Meaning with Attention Deficit Disorder is the best book I’ve read that deals with the emotional and psychological side of coming to terms with an ADD diagnosis in adulthood. She walks you through the process of coming to terms with it all — the anger, frustration, regret, loss, etc. — all, step by step, and does it with compassion and humor. It helps you answer the lingering post-diagnosis question: So now what? If there’s a better one out there, haven’t read it. My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner. (Solden also wrote Women with Attention Deficit Disorder: Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life, which I haven’t read but I’ve heard good things about.) In a perfect world, anyone who was diagnosed with ADD as an adult would walk out of their doctor’s office this this book under their arm.
For better or worse, getting an ADD diagnosis even as an adult (perhaps especially as an adult) doesn’t come with a free pass to get out of having to function out in the predominantly non-ADD world (arguments about the internet and television tipping that scale notwithstanding) that still waits just outside the doctor’s office. After getting a diagnosis, treatment, and an ADD coach, I still needed strategies for coping and organizing my life in a way that complimented the way my brain works. ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life came in handy in that regard, and I used a couple of strategies to get myself more organized at work and at home with immediately positive results. Today I’ve moved on to other methods than those described in this book, but what I realized as I went about applying the strategies it recommended was that the treatment and coaching I’d received helped me gain the focus I needed to sustain an organizing strategy. Before that, I made many, many valiant efforts at it which almost always came to naught, because I couldnt’ sustain them. (How many times have we said “This is the year I’m gonna get organized and stay organized, only to end up floundering again?) Following the strategies here helped me appreciate my new degree of focus and gain confidence that I could implement complimentary strategies to help me function.
Granted, there are a number of books out there on ADD/ADHD that I haven’t mentioned here, but these are a few that I found most helpful. There are a couple more I could add to the list. Daniel Amen’s Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD was particularly valuable in helping me understand the different types of ADD and that I was clearly the inattentive type (the kind “without the h”). He also goes into detail about non-drug treatments and for each type, so that might be of interest to some. Thom Hartmann’s Complete Guide to ADHD: Help for Your Family at Home, School and Work goes into detail about an interesting theory of ADD that’s helpful in terms of reframing it. He also collaborated with the authors of You Mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy on The ADDED DIMENSION: CELEBRATING THE OPPORTUNITIES, REWARDS, AND CHALLENGES OF THE ADD EXPERIENCE, which is helpful in the same way.
That’s about all I’ve got on my bookshelf related to ADD. Anyone have something else to suggest or add to the list?
Update: I should also add that Amen’s book does a good job of introducing scientific brain-imaging evidence which suggests that the brains of people with ADD function differently than the brains of peopel without ADD.