Being Open About Your ADHD By Robert Wilford, Ph.D. and Sarah Ferman, LMFT
Do you ever hold back about sharing that you have ADHD? You aren’t alone. If your parents weren’t sure how to handle your diagnosis, you might have been conditioned from childhood to not bring it up. Some well intentioned parents tell their children not to disclose their diagnosis for fear others will discriminate against their child.
Many people hold back from telling others because they don’t want to be treated differently. No one likes feeling judged by others. Some fear that knowledge of their condition might cause people to feel sorry for them. Some people hold back because they are ashamed of the impact it has on their lives. There also might be fear that even if you tell someone in confidence, they might pass it on to others to whom you might not have the chance to offer a further explanation.
Still others just can’t face having another conversation explaining whether it is a real condition – and not a result of bad parenting, a poor diet, or media hype. In this country, we’re culturally conditioned to work hard and make our own way in the world, so saying that you have a mental health diagnosis might feel like making an excuse for what you’re doing. Revealing you have the condition can feel like a risky task indeed!
Sharing that you have concentration issues with your friends, families and co-workers is a very private, personal decision between you and the people with whom you choose to share with. Here are a few reasons that you might want to consider the benefits of being open with others.
Secrecy Increases Shame: Keeping a secret has a dark side – it can leave you feeling like there is something you have to hide, or that there is something wrong with you.
Secrecy Walls You Off: Deciding to hold back from someone you know, you build a little wall between you and that person. The longer the wall stays in place, the harder it becomes to disclose the truth. While the other person might remain oblivious, worrying about being discovered can become a burden for you. Relationships with secrets require much more work.
Secrecy Inhibits Growth: It’s much more difficult for you to educate yourself if you aren’t open to acknowledging that you have it. Asking questions of an expert, sharing experiences with other people who have this and learning strategies to work with your strengths and weakness – all of these require that you are open and willing to disclose your diagnosis.
Secrecy Robs You Of Authentic Understanding: If the people you’re around don’t understand, they are left to make sense of you and your behavior without any clue of what is really going on inside of you. Secrecy denies those around you from having the same kind of compassion or understanding for your mistakes that might otherwise had if you had given them the opportunity. For instance, colleges want to accommodate students with certain conditions, but you’ll need to disclose your status before they can help. It’s not that you’re asking for undue sympathy or an unfair advantage, it’s that you’re allowing others to help you as they desire to do.
Being Open About ADHD
Hopefully, you’ve seen some of the positive reasons to “come out” to your family and friends. If you do decide to disclose your diagnosis, just blurting it out there is probably not the best plan. Instead, try this thoughtful, three step approach to disclosing your status:
Take the time to do it right. Tell people when you have time to talk about it with them without feeling rushed and have time to answer their questions. There are a lot of misperceptions and inaccurate myths especially about adult ADHD! Many people will need time to fully understand just how this manifests in your world and what it really means.
Get your own education first. Getting a good understanding of what it is, how it works, and be ready with this information The truth is that this condition affects everyone differently, so understanding your own symptoms is the foundation for understanding what your needs are and what type of support you require can empower you to be your own best advocate. There are tons of resources on the web, including on this site.
Ask for help. Part of coming out about your condition includes being able to know when to ask other people to help you out. Help can take many forms, including being understanding when you slip up with things like running late, needing extra direction as well giving you extra room when your running in three different directions. For people in relationships, it is especially important that you regularly visit this issue regularity so that you and your partner are taking charge and so that this does not run you or your relationship.
Finally, if you do choose to share your condition with others, take a second and acknowledge yourself for taking one more step to being your best self.When you choose to be open about your condition, use your disclosure as a possible opportunity to increase understanding ab, and learn to ask for the right kind of help when needed, you are paving the way for others to do the same.
This article was inspired by a blog post by Peggy Dolane: g/blog/2010/08/16/coming-out-about-adhd/