We've invited Duane Gordon from the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) to discuss Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults. He has worked within the ADHD community for over two decades and is the association's president. Established in 1988, ADDA currently has over 5,000 members from all over the world. Their mission is to provide education and resources for adults diagnosed with ADHD, filling the gap in need as so many services for ADHD focus on children with this diagnosis.
ADHD is a neurobehavioral condition that affects multiple areas of executive functioning, and the symptoms can vary considerably from person to person. With different strengths, abilities, and life experiences, some people cope better with the condition than others, which can further impact the presentation and symptoms. For this reason, Duane Gordon advises that it is essential to seek a proper diagnosis, mainly as there are over 20 conditions that could present as ADHD.
Although it seems that so many people are diagnosed with ADHD these days, many adults with ADHD have not received a proper diagnosis. Duane Gordon notes that while misdiagnosis can happen, it's much more common for the condition to be underdiagnosed. While diagnosis will not eliminate the possible problems arising from ADHD, it can help explain some of the difficulties people have experienced throughout their lives, which can be a very validating experience. People with ADHD may attribute their issues to depression or anxiety, for example, although those symptoms may be related to their difficulties in functioning with their ADHD. Duane Gordon shares that he was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult after his daughter's diagnosis, and he recognized many of the symptoms in himself. He said, "it explains so much."
For people interested in assessment, Dr. Gordon recommends diagnosis from a psychologist and someone with experience with ADHD. Duane Gordon also notes that bias can occur, and it can help to "see someone who looks like you." For example, male clinicians can misdiagnose women, and white clinicians can misdiagnose people of color. Find a provider who matches your demographics and understands your life situation, if possible.
For those who have been diagnosed with ADHD, treatment approaches can vary. Some may choose to seek therapy, while others may see ADHD coaches. Duane Gordon advises, again, to find someone with experience with ADHD. Therapists helping with ADHD will focus on emotional experiences related to the condition. In contrast, coaches will focus more on concrete behaviors to help, such as focus, sleep, and eating. Medication, which a psychiatrist can prescribe, can also be a consideration. However, many people who use medication also find that they need to focus on emotional and behavioral factors as well.
The organization ADDA offers many helpful resources to adults with ADHD. They provide educational materials from scientific research and evidence-based approaches, including webinars and courses. Importantly, ADDA offers support groups they help so that people don't feel so alone in their circumstances. By attending groups with others, people can see that others have found ways to cope well, instilling hope for those who may feel discouraged. Groups are available for many people, including couples, non-binary folks, BIPOC, and high-IQ people. Some groups focus on healthy habits, reading particular books, and working on specific goals. The virtual aspect of the groups is beneficial because finding people within a community with similar experiences can be challenging. Also, traveling to an in-person group can be challenging for people struggling with executive functioning.
Duane Gordon was born in 1962 in New Brunswick, Canada. He traveled the world before settling in Montreal, Canada. He married Linda Walker in 1984 and is the father of two daughters, one of whom has ADHD.
Duane was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD following his own daughter’s diagnosis. Duane has worked in the ADHD community for more than 20 years. He is a founding member of the Montreal Adult ADD Support Group, and he joined ADDA’s Communication team in 2005. He volunteered as a writer and later edited the newsletter. In 2011, Duane joined the ADDA Board as Chair of the Communication Committee. The Board elected him president in 2016.
Duane knows the devastating impact of untreated adult ADHD. Despite his struggles with ADHD, he earned his business degree from the Collège Militaire Royal, veered into high technology, first as a programmer, later as a teacher, and finally rose to the executive level in high technology consulting. He retired in 2020 and now volunteers full-time with ADDA.