Self-Acceptance at Midlife Is Key

Midlife brings demands and challenges, especially for adults with ADHD. But it doesn’t have to be time of struggle or mere survival. A combined treatment approach may help you manage ADHD symptoms. A better understanding of how ADHD affects your life, along with self-acceptance, can help you flourish after forty.

Kelsey, a healthcare advocate who lives in the Midwest, believes that focusing on her strengths and what makes her unique helps her be successful. She finds that having ADHD helps her to excel in her field.

“I’m able to empathize with others often or better than some due to my own challenges,” she says. “I also feel like I’m able to see things others can’t, which helps me bring new perspectives or ideas to the table or connect dots in ways others can’t.”

Developing self-acceptance

Living with ADHD is a journey, says Kelsey. She found self-acceptance by learning to be comfortable with all of herself, a process that took much of her thirties. Many adults who are diagnosed in their twenties or later experience feelings of regret or self-blame. Arthur Robin, PhD, a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, helps his patients form a new perspective on their ADHD diagnosis.

“As a therapist, I make sure to help them understand that their problems are not their fault, but part of an inherited neurobiological disorder,” Dr. Robin says. “They have been blaming themselves and been blamed by others all their lives.”

Laying aside self-blame can help you focus on managing your symptoms. Some adults with ADHD successfully manage their symptoms through a combination of medication and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Others work with an ADHD coach to help them with organization or time management challenges at home or work.

Dr. Robin says his patients are empowered by learning more about how ADHD affects them and by connecting with other adults, either through online or in-person support groups. Connecting with other adults who have ADHD can help you develop self-acceptance and know that you are not alone in coping with ADHD symptoms.

Kelsey recommends connecting to as many resources as make sense for you.

“To be able to find a sense of belonging and support, I think is extremely helpful to feel that you’re not alone,” she says. A therapist, a trusted doctor who understands ADHD, books, podcasts, support groups, or other resources may prove beneficial for you.

Finding treatment options that work for you

A combined treatment approach for adults commonly includes medication and CBT with a therapist trained in ADHD. According to Oren W. Mason, MD, a family physician and an assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, medication for adult ADHD can be highly effective.

“[About] 80 percent of participants in drug trials experienced moderate or large reductions in ADHD core symptoms,” Dr. Mason says.

Medication combined with CBT can also be effective for many adults with ADHD. CBT can help them to better manage executive function challenges, including time management, organization, planning, impulse control, and emotional regulation. A review of 32 studies concluded that patients with ADHD in a CBT program reported symptom improvement.

Behavioral management techniques and ADHD coaching also help many people to thrive in their daily lives. There’s no one right way—the goal is to find and employ the treatments, routines, and skills that work best for you.

Always a good time for an evaluation

If suspect that you have adult ADHD, an ADHD specialist can give you a proper evaluation and screen for coexisting conditions. Many adults find that once they’ve received a diagnosis they are better able to understand themselves and their experiences in life.

Kelsey found the reassurance and tools she needed to be successful after a diagnosis in her late twenties.

“I will say that getting an actual diagnosis during a psych evaluation was number one for me to verify what I had suspected,” she says. “I was able to begin talking to my doctor about options in regards to medications.”

If you have a diagnosis, but your current treatment plan doesn’t seem to be helping, you may want to discuss your treatment approach with your medical professional and try new interventions. ADHD symptoms can change over the lifespan. If you have any coexisting conditions such as anxiety or depression, managing them along with ADHD is extremely important.

“Remember to rest and also remind yourself of your strengths,” says Kelsey. “It’s easy to get caught up in the challenges of ADHD, but we all have our strengths that need to be supported and celebrated, too.”

Looking for more on thriving with ADHD?

Join the discussion: How has life improved for you after age forty?