A very common conundrum that psychologists hear from clients, is that they have been
given a diagnosis (yay) but that do not know what this really means. No one has
really explained what this diagnosis means for them. This can be explained by some of the following
oFaults in the education process
oAssumptions of knowledge
oShort appointment times
oExplaining new constructs when someone is overwhelmed
oNot providing resources for someone following an appointment
Having a diagnosis can be a good start, but the work takes place when we have
an individualised understanding what that means for us in the real world.
If you have ADHD, understanding your brain and the diagnosis helps you to
harness your unique strengths and find strategies to work on the difficult areas.
If you have friends, family, or partners with ADHD, fully understanding their brain
will also help you to support them in their strengths and difficulties. This is one of
the reasons why ADHD awareness month is so important, because awareness is
the start of understanding.
Now before we jump into understanding more about ADHD, I want to preface
that although people may have the same diagnosis, they often will have a
different set of symptoms, a different expression of symptoms, and different
coping strategies, and, so not all things below will be relevant for each person.
Pre Frontal Cortex: The frontal cortex plays a crucial role in regulating
attention, behaviour, and emotion, it is essential for executive functions which
allowing us to organise and plan for the future: executive functioning.
ADHD and Executive Functioning
Executive function skills are processed in a part of the brain called the prefrontal
cortex. Think of executive functioning as the admin team in a workplace, or a
teacher in the classroom, they help everything to run smoothy, keep things calm
and on track.
In a neurodiverse brain, the executive functioning system can be resourced
differently to neurotypical brains, meaning their executive functioning system
Some things that we find are different and can cause difficulties are;
Inhibitory Control: self-restraint and behavioural regulation. This can look
like saying things without thinking.
Attention control: Directing your attention to where you want it to go. This
can look like distracted by things when you want to focus on a task,
especially if the task is boring or long but able to hyper fixate especially
Some things that we find are different and are often strengths are:
Verbal Working memory: Self-talk, you use this every time you repeat (out
loud or in your mind) something you need to remember.
Visual working memory: Visual imagery; remembering faces or things we
Once we really start to understand our brains, we can learn how to support our
difficulties, like making a boring task you struggle to focus on exciting; think
cleaning your room whilst listening to your favourite music, or harness your
strengths, like leaving visual reminders for yourself.
Further understanding of the brain helps you to work with it, rather than fighting
it. This also applies to family, friends, or partners of those with ADHD, you can
learn how to work with this person rather than fighting them: this is often more
productive and helps improve/strengthen your relationship.