As promised, here’s a report from Toronto’s 5th Annual CADDAC ADHD Conference. I attended on Sunday, the day devoted to adults with ADHD.
I’m happy to say that my loyalty to the work of Dr. Margaret Weiss has not been misplaced. Dr Weiss’ presentation was packed with research-backed information and anecdotes from inside the ADHD trenches (i.e., from her decades-long work as a clinical psychiatrist).
Weiss was a lively and entertaining presenter, proving she knew her audience – knew us very well, indeed. Right off the top, she looked at us point-blank and said, “We all know there’s nothing worse to a person with ADHD than boredom.” We laughed. She delivered. Her talk was anything but boring.
My devotion to Weiss began in 2008 when I wrote Spinning Out Of Control, my first article on adult ADHD for the now-defunct MORE magazine. When searching for experts to interview, I came across a book called Hyperactive children grown up: ADHD in children, adolescents, and adults1. This book was the result of a landmark long-term study that established most kids with ADHD do not outgrow it. It was co-authored by Dr. Gabrielle Weiss, who (as it turns out) is Dr. Margaret Weiss’ mother. As ADHD runs in families, so does ADHD research, at least in the Weiss family.
My main goal was to meet Dr. Weiss, but I looked forward to connecting with other adults with ADHD as well. I was hoping to learn about new ADHD research, and make valuable contacts for upcoming blog posts and articles. Mission accomplished on all counts. Oh ya, and I sold a few books and DVD’s too.
Here are few tidbits from Dr. Weiss’ talk that I thought you’d find interesting too.
I appreciated Weiss’ unique perspective on treating adults with ADHD. It’s hard to argue with her rationale:
“You have to have experience in child psychiatry to do adult ADHD. I don’t care what anybody says, if you have never seen a child with ADHD then you can’t really identify the impact of how it presents in adults.
“The converse is also true. …If you don’t treat adults, then when a mother comes in crying, hopeless, and desperate because despite all her efforts she had tremendous difficulty and doesn’t think there’s a chance in the world that this person will ever be able to live independently – and you’ve treated 100 adults just like this child, and you can look her right in the eye and say, ‘He may be absolutely so successful that he’s supporting you in your old age.’ …That is a kind of encouragement that you can’t give unless you’ve both seen the good outcome and the bad outcome.”
Weiss says time management is a huge issue. “And it’s a huge issue on multiple levels.” She explains:
“Time implies some kind of a sense of the past, the present, and the future. So we talk about mindfulness as being in the present. No one is more mindful than [someone with] ADHD. Unfortunately, they are really in the present. They’re so in the present that there is no past, and there is no future.
“They’re not in the present in the sense of really grasping what’s actually around them in terms of the significance to their lives. …There’s certain things that I’ve learned to ask about in my adult groups.
“I’ll often ask, ‘Do you have insurance?’ And they just don’t get insurance. They don’t have insurance but they are so pleased that other people are so stupid as to have insurance. Because why would you pay, regularly, good money now for something that hasn’t happened and probably won’t? So it’s a real bad judgment on the part of the entire [ADHD] population.”
Apparently, including a reference to finding your keys in the sub-title of my book ADHD According to Zoë is (if you’ll pardon the double entendre) misplaced.
According to Dr.Weiss, no adult with ADHD when asked, “Do you lose things?” will own up to it. Instead she hears:
Patient: What do you mean, lose things?
Dr. Weiss: Do you lose your keys? Do you lose your purse?
Patient: Absolutely never.
Dr. Weiss: Oh. That’s fantastic.
Patient: However, I do misplace things. And I don’t know where they are, but it isn’t a problem, because I have 10 sets of keys and I’ve figured out that having 10 sets means that I’m going to find out where I misplaced the first set by the time I get to the 10th set.
I think many of my readers will relate to this:
“The number one presentation of women coming in to see me in middle age is that they’re overwhelmed by the little things in life. ‘It shouldn’t be this difficult.’ So that is something that is uncomfortable and therefore leads them to seek help.
“It may have in the past been interpreted as either issues with personality, more often issues with anxiety, or a subtle depression, but in fact what it really is is what allows them to plan and realistically think about what’s expected of them so that they can achieve it and achieve it with success.”
In other words, ADHD.
According to Weiss, the peak period of risk for people with ADHD is from the age of 18 to 25. She explains that the risk escalates,
“The moment you no longer have an adult to wake you up, brush your teeth, and advise you to ask a girl out before you kiss her.”
1. Weiss, Gabrielle, and Lily Hechtman. 1993. Hyperactive children grown up: ADHD in children, adolescents, and adults. New York: The Guilford Press.
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Last reviewed: 28 Nov 2013