Coping skills and strategies for adults with ADHD


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that can manifest as impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattention, or a combination of these characteristics. Symptoms can make certain daily activities difficult. Certain strategies can help adults with ADHD cope with and feel more in control of the challenges they face.

These strategies include techniques that help people organize and manage their time, environment, tasks, finances, and stress levels. They can produce multiple benefits, such as helping people keep their appointments and bills and allowing them to focus on and get things done.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, ADHD affects approximately 4% of the adult population in the United States, which corresponds to approximately 8 million individuals. However, research suggests that less than 20% of adults with ADHD have received a diagnosis or treatment.

This article discusses six coping strategies that may help adults living with ADHD. It also reviews the diagnostic process and explains the importance of seeking professional help.

A planner can help people keep track of what they need to do on a given day. A person can save the dates and times of appointments, meetings, and other commitments in the planner and refer to them frequently.

It also helps to establish a planned routine. In doing so, individuals must allocate more time than they deem necessary for each task.

Also, to stick to a schedule, it’s best to avoid the distraction of checking phones and other devices often. A person can try setting an alarm to help limit the time they spend looking at their phone.

The effort it takes to organize a room, home, or workspace can reduce anxiety and increase productivity. A person can start by reducing clutter, which will make the effort easier. Next, they need to make sure they have all the necessary organizational tools, such as storage bins, on hand.

Grouping similar objects makes it easy to locate them. It’s usually also helpful to have a designated place to store essentials, such as keys and wallets.

A person looking to organize and manage tasks should first make a to-do list for a given day after consulting their calendar. Then they can prioritize tasks based on their importance and time sensitivity.

The next step is to break down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. A person should plan to work in small increments of time, such as 15-minute periods, with 5-minute breaks in between.

Focusing on one thing at a time will increase the likelihood of completing a task, so it’s best to refrain from trying to multitask.

Distracted driving is a danger for everyone, but it is a greater danger for people with ADHD. It is essential to avoid talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. A person can remove temptation and avoid noisy distractions by turning off notifications before starting their journey.

People who are struggling to manage their finances can benefit from setting up reminders on a calendar to pay their bills before their due dates. Using online banking makes it easier to manage bills as it does not involve paper clutter. These online systems also provide a record of when a person pays a bill.

When ADHD leads to disorganization and impulsiveness, it can result in unhealthy lifestyle habits that can increase stress, lower mood, and cause feelings of being out of control. Measures that can help offset these effects include:

  • Do enough physical activity: A person should aim to exercise daily and spend time outdoors.
  • Avoid sleep deprivation: Abstaining from caffeine later in the day and aiming for a regular sleep-wake schedule can help people get longer, better-quality sleep.
  • Have a balanced diet: A non-nutritious diet can make ADHD symptoms worse, so it’s important to include a healthy protein at every meal and eat several servings of whole grains a day. At the same time, people should avoid sugar and fast food.
  • Practice mindfulness: This practice involves directing attention to the present moment, which can reduce impulsiveness and improve focus.

Discover the benefits of ADHD that can accompany the challenges.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that adults are diagnosed with ADHD if they have at least five persistent symptoms of inattention, five persistent symptoms of hyperactivity, or both.

Also, symptoms must be evident in at least two aspects of life, such as home, work, family, or friends. Also, these symptoms must be significant enough to interfere with functioning in these areas.

The following are examples of symptoms of inattention:

  • frequent loss of essential items, such as keys
  • forgetfulness in tasks, such as paying bills and keeping appointments
  • challenges in efforts, such as:
    • organization of tasks
    • be very carrefully
    • follow the instructions
    • maintaining attention for long periods

Here are some examples of symptoms of hyperactivity:

  • interrupt others
  • experience extreme restlessness
  • talk excessively
  • have difficulty queuing
  • to wiggle or squirm

In addition to assessing the person’s current symptoms, the doctor will review their medical history. The diagnostic process may also involve psychological tests that assess a person’s memory, decision-making skills, and reasoning ability.

Once a person receives a diagnosis, they can begin treatment. Although medication is the main treatment, most individuals also benefit from psychological, behavioral and coaching strategies. An example of a psychological strategy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help a person identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.

Living with ADHD can also involve significant levels of anxiety and other mental health symptoms. A healthcare professional can tailor the treatment to meet any specific needs a person has.

Effective treatment can make everyday life less difficult for people with ADHD and their families. A person seeking help can use the behavioral health treatment services locator. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this search tool to find mental health services and treatment programs in each state.

Learn about untreated ADHD in adults.

Adult ADHD strategies can help people cope with the problems that impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention can create.

Eliminating distractions while driving can promote safety, while setting up calendar reminders can compensate for oversights, and organizing spaces can prevent the essentials from getting lost.

Doctors base a diagnosis of ADHD on a person’s symptoms, medical history, and, in some cases, the results of psychological tests. Medications and other forms of treatment can help people who are diagnosed manage symptoms.


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