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Mind Benders

By Linda Brockman
Posted On Sep 30, 2016
Mind Benders

Armchair analysts often diagnose themselves and others with ADHD or OCD.
Could it be true? 

Stress is inevitable. But if you find that your everyday anxiety levels are manifesting in extremes—like the inability to focus or, perhaps, focusing too severely on things beyond your control—it might be time to seek professional help for one or two common conditions: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Take heart; there are ways to determine if you’re simply stressed or truly stricken.

Do I have ADHD? 

In business meetings, you find yourself distracted by issues big and small. Your spouse is annoyed with your inability to finish tasks. Disorganization with your bills is causing low-level stress that never totally goes away. While these may seem like minor occurrences, they can significantly impact relationships, interfere with a career, and subsequently hamper a person’s quality of life. Symptoms of ADHD may include an inability to concentrate, subpar planning and time management skills, impulsivity or hyperactivity, chronic procrastination, inner or outer restlessness, difficulty starting or completing tasks, and relationship discord.

“It’s helpful to hear feedback from a spouse or a work supervisor to understand the impact of these characteristics,” says Dr. Beth Klein, a clinical psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Take it all in.”

Adult ADHD affects 4 percent of adults, according to the National Resource Center on ADHD in Landover, Maryland. There are three types—Primarily Inattentive, Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined Type (with elements of the previous two). Each type has its own list of symptoms. Visit Chadd.org to see if you’re a match to one of these categories.

Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose ADHD and rule out other issues such as anxiety, depression, or mood variability, says Dr. Klein, who specializes in ADHD assessment and therapy. Bring your suspicions to a professional. Physical problems such as sleep difficulty, a thyroid condition, or iron deficiency should also be ruled out.

Should your doctor officially diagnose you with ADHD, worry not. The sooner you adhere to a protocol provided by a professional, the sooner you can restore much-needed balance to your life. “[One can] improve function in ADHD through cognitive and behavioral strategies—self-monitoring techniques or adding a level of accountability through sessions with a therapist or coach,” says Dr. Klein. “Others may find that medication, along with such strategies, are beneficial.”

The bottom line: If your behavior interferes with day-to-day tasks or causes distress, seek a professional opinion.

Do I have OCD?

TV characters such as Felix Unger on The Odd Couple and detective Adrian Monk from Monk have offered charicatures of life with OCD. Subtleties of the diagnosis, however, can vary greatly. “OCD can take millions of forms beyond the ways in which it’s portrayed on TV or in the movies,” says Dr. Steven Brodsky, a Manhattan-based expert on the subject. “If you’re experiencing disturbing thoughts that you feel you can’t control or excessive discomfort, distress, or guilt, seek professional help.”

OCD is a common affliciton, shared by millions of people. Knowledge is the key to stabilizing and moving forward. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: Do disturbing thoughts pop up out of nowhere? (These could include looping concerns about your health, cleanliness, safety, sexuality, violence, morality, guilt, orderliness, body image, or unanswerable philosophical questions. They could also be thoughts of harming yourself or others.) Do you attempt to fight off these thoughts with repetitive behavior, seek others’ reassurance, or try to resolve these complex questions in your mind? Does the urge feel to be against your will? Are you late to appointments due to ritual actions that relieve anxiety, such as repetitive hand-washing? Do your worries and behaviors cause you exorbitant stress or delay and bother others?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it could be OCD—a very treatable condition that does not necessarily require medication. Only a medical professional can—and should—diagnose, so share your truth with your provider. By acknowleding the struggle, you’re a step closer to the life you deserve.