What is ADHD and DSM-5?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is what the DSM-5 classifies as a set of criteria that one experiences that negatively impacts the functioning of an individual due to structural differences in the brain. For example, having ADHD can cause someone to struggle in many of the following areas: effective decision making, memory, impulsiveness, time management, emotion regulation, focus, attention to detail, sleep hygiene, hyperfixation, retaining information, following directions and much more. 

ADHD can (but is not limited to) look like:

  • someone who is preoccupied with the tasks on their to-do list, 
  • who easily loses interest, 
  • who acts without thinking something through, 
  • who asks you to repeat things often, 
  • who struggles to get things done on time, 
  • someone who is often late, 
  • who cannot find important items, 
  • who loses things often, 
  • who is often dysregulated by having to complete tasks with multiple steps,
  •  who can be easily irritated
  • someone who is easily distracted

 At the same time, someone with ADHD can look like someone who has a great amount of passion for the things they are interested in, someone who wants to be frequently doing new things and going new places, someone who has a lot of energy, someone who remembers very specific and/or special pieces of information, who is spontaneous and adventurous, a night owl, or someone who can be very creative and fun. Unfortunately, someone with ADHD can come across in a negative light at times and it is important to remember that just because someone is engaging in a certain behavior or has certain tendencies, does not mean they have bad intentions. People with ADHD, especially those who are not aware of the fact that they have it, can often be misunderstood by those around them. This is important to keep in mind if you are someone who struggles with ADHD or knows someone who has it.

There has been a growing amount of awareness about ADHD over the last 5-10 years as many people are not only recognizing the symptoms of it in themselves, but are documenting their experiences via social media platforms, sparking curiosity amongst many who have struggled to function in different ways for most of their lives. What we are learning is that ADHD is actually more common than originally thought, especially in women, and that there are many ways to cope with and manage the symptoms of ADHD. Although medication remains the most effective way to help an ADHD brain, there are evidenced based strategies that one can use along with, or without, medication to improve capabilities in the following areas: executive functioning, planning, decision making, memory, impulsiveness, time management, emotion regulation, focus, information processing, and much more. Whether you have been formally diagnosed with ADHD, suspect you might have it, or just happen to struggle with any of the above, implementing these five strategies is a great place to start if you are looking to become more effective and efficient in all aspects of your life.


  1. Hold less information in your mind by externalizing it. Keeping to-do lists, schedules, directions, passwords, etc. just in our mind deplete our executive functioning and can often be harder to remember when we have ADHD. Writing all of these things down on a daily or weekly basis and then revisiting them when necessary is a very effective way to have more energy, feel less stressed and be more present in the moment! This can also look like adding recurring meetings and appointments in your phone or computer calendar for an effortless reminder system.
  2.  Engage in “time predicting” by figuring out ahead of time how long something will take based on the setup, the doing, and the clean up so that you can more accurately manage your time and are less likely to impulsively decide to do something only to realize you do not have enough time to do it.
  3.  Utilize guided meditations via apps on your phone such as headspace, the calm app, peloton, or even youtube. These can be anywhere from 5-30 minutes and can help us quiet our minds and practice being more present. They can be effective any time of day or night and with consistent practice, increase our ability to be more mindful over time.
  4.  Make the breaks that you take from work/tasks/responsibilities efficient by restoring some of the executive functioning during those breaks! Unfortunately scrolling on your phone on your breaks isn’t going to actually make you feel re-energized, more present, more focused, or more interested. So, try things like taking a walk, eating a snack, painting, playing with your pet, or anything else that makes you feel restored! Think of it like adding gasoline to the gas tank of your car before it hits E and try keeping yourself close to half a tank or more as often as possible.
  5.  Ask your friends, partners, and loved ones for help with tasks that you know are hard for you. Help can look like: them sitting and working on something along side you, joining you on your errand, helping you to time predict (as mentioned above), reading the directions out loud step by step while you do it, holding on to the important item so you don’t forget to bring it with you, or simply just letting them know what has been hard for you recently.


ADHD can be extremely disruptive to your life and can also have significant consequences if left unmanaged. However, there are so many great resources to help you understand and manage your symptoms. At Boshardy Counseling & Consulting we can help you implement these coping skills and provide the support needed to be the best you can be. Reach out today! 

By: Melissa Martin, LCPC

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