This entry is an expression of my own experiences and clients’ experiences surrounding adult Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I have not researched the topic to any great extent except for reading and listening to a few books and podcasts. However, I have listened to many clients’ stories about their experiences and relationship struggles.

I was assessed clinically and physiologically for dopamine deficiencies and adult ADHD as well. And it has been confirmed that I am/was low in dopamine, and I do have adult ADHD. But there is a twist…

As a functional medicine practitioner, I can access wonderful functional medicine tests. I hadn’t intended to access dopamine levels, but it was a perk of the test. The test is called The Dutch Complete. This test looks at sex hormones and their metabolites (a fancy word for the hormones’ building blocks), the overall diurnal pattern of free cortisol (cortisol’s rhythmic ups and downs throughout the day), and the total distribution of cortisol metabolites. Additionally, it provides insights into nutritional deficiencies, oxidative stress, gut dysbiosis, melatonin, neuroinflammation, and more.

The test showed I was on the low end of dopamine as well as the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine, or what we often describe as adrenaline.

Now, I suspect I wasn’t born this way, and instead presume it is a result of nurture (parental and societal conditioning) and nature (nutrients) more. For example, specific amino acids are the building blocks for these hormones, and specific enzyme reactions allow your brain to function properly. Many other lifestyle practices come into play, such as reducing stress and ensuring adequate sleep.

I did the work and started using food tracking apps such as Cronometer to see if I was lacking nutrients and minerals or not ingesting enough macros (protein, fat, and unprocessed carbs). I despise measuring food, but I am also not a fan of popping supplements just because I might be deficient. I am all about the science, not fattening the supplement companies’ bottom line. Truth be told, once you start getting a hand at using these apps, it doesn’t take much time at all to track your food intake for 4-7 days. In fact, in the end, I enjoyed looking at the data.

So, after all that was in check, I thought I was done.

Not true.

Why? Because our lifestyles are constantly changing. There are metabolic changes (hello, menopause), personal changes (careers, family, and relationships), physical changes (broken bones, infections, or lack of activity), and environmental changes (forest fires, pollutants, allergens, etc.). Nothing is constant (Covid-19 case in check).

My point is when your body is talking to you – listen and investigate.

Methods of Assessing ADHD

My assessments occurred in two ways: in my doctor’s office, through a questionnaire, and by a clinical psychologist. The first method took about 5 minutes to complete, and in about 10 minutes, I walked away with medication.

The second method with the psychologist took much longer and was costly. This assessment revealed that I expressed some of the clusters of symptoms required for the diagnosis to be given. Still, by presenting the psychologist with more anecdotal information, she confirmed that I did not have ADHD.

My main complaints to her were lack of focus, impulsivity, and the need to always be busy—busy, busy, busy. I am not happy unless I am moving. In fact, I thought I was addicted to exercise for quite some time until I realized that exercise is a means to calm my mind. When I feel overworked or overwhelmed, I basically run (not physically anymore – but at one time, I certainly did). One of the symptoms related to impulsivity is my search for the next shiny object. This would explain my several degrees and piles of certifications. It always seemed like a ‘great idea!’ – at the time.

You might look at the list of symptoms above and think – Man, I WISH I were addicted to exercise or WISH I was so motivated to investigate and learn like you!

Not true.

Why? Because too much of anything is not a good thing.

For example, do you think marrying someone like me is fun? I am a woman who is never satisfied and whose favourite mantras are “ Need for speed” or “ If you feel you are in control, you are not going fast enough or working hard enough.”

Why Proper Diagnosis of Adult ADHD Imperative.

First of all, no one should be taking a stimulant drug unless it is necessary. I did try the medication for four days and did not like the side effects. As a trained clinician, I was also shocked to experience such a quick diagnosis with as few as 18 Questions. When clients would tell me that their family doctor was the source of their diagnosis, I questioned and as you can see, tested their claim.

Also, I didn’t seek a diagnosis as a way to find some ‘solution’. Instead, I ultimately hired a clinical psychologist to 1) confirm the diagnosis, but more importantly, 2) gain clarification and more awareness of how my brain worked. The awareness and discussion that the psychologist and I had, which included her experiences in working with other clients as well as her clinical expertise, allowed me to gain insight into what were expressed as personality traits and what are true presentations of Adult ADHD. Furthermore – what is the difference?

I believe the difference is how you can best manage these skills and how detrimental these personality traits/ADHD symptoms are affecting your personal and professional lives.

I created my own work-a-rounds to gain more focus and awareness of my behaviours. But that is just me. You do you, boo. Medications can be a life-saviour for some.

The whole experience of questioning my behaviours, listening to clients’ stories and witnessing their behaviours, and attending the appointments with my family doctor and the psychologist were absolutely worth it and honestly life-changing for me. It answered my scepticism about the plethora of ADHD diagnoses.

In summary, it doesn’t matter whether our behaviours are due to nurture or nature; it is what we agree to do about the behaviours. We must get honest with ourselves and ask, “Is this behaviour helping me or hindering me?” Once you answer that question, you take it further by looking at your lifestyle habits. Once you clean up your lifestyle habits and perhaps create some workarounds to improve your results, if you are still suffering, get help. Try different medications to see if they make a substantial difference in your or your partner’s life. I just always want to remind my clients that taking medications cannot be their first choice, and drugs like Adderal, Vyvanse and Ritalin were never meant to be recreational drugs.

I have developed my own workarounds to increase my focus, including sleep hygiene, timers, planners, and, best of all, self-awareness and meditation. These are the best and, some would argue, the only answer to my lack of focus and attention to the here and now.

Through the process of my own discovery and how it has affected my relationship along with the experiences of my clients, I feel well-equipped and knowledgeable to counsel couples where one or both partners suffer from behaviours often described as ADHD.

Need some help in this area? Reach out now.