Anyone have experiences about how to ... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

CHADD's Adult ADHD Support
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Anyone have experiences about how to heal or help families after late adult diagnosis?


I just received a very emotive email from my father apologising for ‘missing’ or ‘ ignoring’ my ADHD symptoms as a child. The email was very guilt ridden. This is coming from a man who almost prides himself in his British stoicism and to coin a phrase ‘stiff upper lip’. In other words completely out of character and very surprising to receive an email with such heart felt language.

I’m 37 and just diagnosed. My life has been an absolute car crash of chaos. My father basically said that he and my mum discussed, at length, the possibility of getting me tested for ADHD as a child but failed to do so. In essence my parents blame themselves for the quality of life I’ve experienced.

I feel no animosity or anger in anyway shape or form for their perceived ‘failure’ as parents.

The question I would like to know is does anyone have experiences of how late diagnosis effects the family? Has anyone advice or been through similar situations? I don’t want my new diagnosis to perpetuate guilt, remorse or anguish in my family because of a condition that was not particularly well understood by society (in the uk) at the time.

How do you move on yourself and how can you help the consequences of ADHD in a family member be understood and healed?

9 Replies

My family wasn't influenced in any way after my diagnost. They actually don't believe in me. I'm 30, I received the diagnost early this year. I've been treated for anxiety for 5 years, and they always said that I'm dramatic. I have no support, My medication is so expensive here in Brazil, it consumes my entire salary, and no one helps me.

So your family is going to heal in their on time, they did the best they could.

in reply to PriP

Hi Prip,

Thank you for the reply. Your situation sounds very painful and, I mean this in the best possible way, puts my situation in perspective.

I have to count my blessings and you are absolutely right that things will work themselves out in their own time.

I guess I was just putting it out there to see whether this was a common thing?

By no means is this a complete or absolute observation but it seems that different parts of the world, specifically America, are way ahead in the treatment and understanding of ADHD.

Even in the last few weeks I there has been a stark difference in reaction to telling people about my recent diagnosis. I haven’t exactly painted a banner and announced it to all and sundry, my closest friends (few) and family (large) have fallen into two camps. Firstly very supportive, engaged in wanting to help, educating themselves on the condition and very much saying ‘ I always knew you were different and I’m glad you are now able to get help’ . The second camp say that ADHD doesn’t exist, it’s a made up condition for big Pharmaceutical companies to make money. They also say that, and this is a direct quote, “ everyone needs a (expletive) label nowadays! You’ve just looked for and found an excuse for your poor life decisions and behaviour”.

I don’t know. I’m glad I have this site to read and post on. I’m glad people like you take the time to reply. And I really wish you all the best and hope you find the support from your family. You’ve made me see my situation from a different angle and I’m glad for that.

Once again thanks.

hi Sausages, I wanted to add my two cents regarding understanding in the US. I am the Mom of adult children with ADHD, my son diagnosed as a child and my daughter as an adult. Yes there is a wealth of information here and some good mental health resources but unfortunately most neurotypical people do not get it and just criticize and judge based on their prejudices. For example a friend of my daughter is a teachers aide working with ADHD kids and by her comments such as "oh they can focus when they want to!" just show how ignorant many, including those working with and supposedly helping our kids, really are. It infuriates me. My own mother doesn't understand her own grandson, she was a teacher and thinks that because she went to an hour long teachers in-service 40 years ago, she is an expert. Truth is she knows nothing and just adds to the prejudice against this "over medicated non existent condition."

Hi dubst3pM4UL-

I appreciate your reply to sausages. The sentence that most nuerotypicals don't get it and just criticize and judge is spot on. The teachers aide saying the adhd kids can focus when they want to is also spot on. Some professionals have suggested that we rename this as Attention Variant Disorder, which is actually much more accurate. IF i am interested in something (often some kind of physical work, heavy cleaning or outdoor landscaping), I work until exhaustion. With a big smile.

Paper projects or organizational tasks can be really difficult, or impossible for me to complete. And I judge myself as inadequate, lazy or defective still sometimes because the task at hand is not rocket science, it's easy to see what needs to be done! But so hard to do, it feels like herculean effort to complete simplest tasks.

Yet I have 2 degrees, magna cum laude....because I was so interested. And I created a sensory deprivation place to study!

There are a couple of TEDtalks which I have sent to a couple of family members to help educate them. just 15-20 minute long, entertaining, and 'credentialed' information. That has helped some. But seems like they forget and revert back to that condemning attitude that I could be different if I tried hard enough!

It's a lot like non-alcoholics not understanding the disease and craving that alcoholics deal with.

I am glad you are so understanding for your family members!


in reply to Sausages99

Sausages, I'm grateful to have been living in the US and diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school. I was given Ritalin by the school nurse daily and it continued for several years. I can't remember exactly when it was discontinued, maybe middle school, but we moved a lot. The 2nd camp above is sitting high and mighty and has a closed mind. There certainly is a documented condition called ADHD and ADD. Tell your parents that you in no way blame them for your late diagnosis and that you are moving forward with your life.

in reply to dgs2018

Thanks for the reply. I have told my parents exactly that. Things have settled down on that front and I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the support I’ve received from my family. We aren’t particularly close and live all over the country but they’ve been cool, studying up on ADHD, just being supportive whilst letting me get on with it.

As for the ADHD ‘deniers’ as I call them there were only a couple. Neither particularly ‘close’ friends, but friends all the same. I realised that whenever someone says something negative or hurtful it’s a reflection of their own stuff. One person who sent me a discouraging message is not in a good place in life and the other I just won’t have anything to do with.

I know the consequences to my life from not being diagnosed till my late 30’s. And I certainly know how close this condition had been to taking my life. If that’s not ‘serious’ enough for some members of society or associates then I’ll just surround myself with people who ‘get it’. Like you lot! Thanks again.

Hi Sausages - I'm going to put a different spin on this- I was diagnosed in the mid 1970's. I was the unusual hyper girl. Nothing much was known about ADHD at that time- I think overly hyper and a disruption in class were the top 2 criteria and often attributed to boys. I was told I would grow out of it. Someday I'll write up my memoir about the horrors of how I was treated... but for now I'll just say it was only 5 years ago I discovered- there are others out there LIKE ME!!! WOW- mind blowing. AND- there are RESOURCES!!!! Triple WOW!!!!! So I've been reading, searching the internet and finding information.

However- I went to my PCP for some help recently and we totally disagreed. He says ADHD kids grow up to be bipolar adults. WHAT?!!?!! Well- some with ADHD have bipolar, yes- but you don't lose your ADHD to it. Anyway- I'm really certain I do not have bipolar. It just doesn't fit me. I'm textbook ADHD. So I'm going to go have a formal ADHD eval done on July 25th. I've never had an actual eval (reminder about the just found out 5 years ago that I'm not alone). I just dealt with my ADHD. I am smart- which many people argue- "then you can't be ADHD" as if intelligence is on that scale to measure ADHD. I did better academically than I did socially. If I had to pass school be being able to get along and converse and socialize with everyone, I would have been an epic FAIL. I won't go into the bullying story. But I figured out how to cope- until I reach points where I'm by myself too long. Right now my husband is deployed, and even though we talk often, a dad who is practically deaf and 2 dogs, 2 cats, just don't do it for connection.

I think it's amazing that several of your family have sought to learn about ADHD. No one in my family looked past the diagnosis & the fact I was on meds so no more notes came home from school saying I was a disruption in class.

Greeting my British space cadet buddy-

Hope this finds you well. I am touched by your post about your father feeling guilty and softening his stiff upper lip towards you now. I try to remember that the forward facing windshield in a car is huge compared the tiny rear view mirror, and that is analogous to how to go through life. Look back when needed, get what info is needed, but move forward. I hope your Dad can do that. He didn't cause ADHD. And you know what it is NOW, so that's what you can all deal with...

I was diagnosed in my late 30's also, but my family of origin is/was quite dysfunctional (it's such a damn cliche term).

My father was a folksinger drug addict. First speed in the 50's, then in the 60's he found heroin. My mother was a daily pot smoker.

I was on my own at 13, legally "emancipated minor" at 14. So my parents could feel guilty about a lot of stuff, but they didn't. They were too high.

My ADHD was hardly a blip on the radar of all that wacky world.

So I jumped past "childhood", following 2 older sisters, and was passing as an adult at a young age. I could get served alcohol in bars at 13.

So feeling like I was 'faking' my way through life continued on into adulthood.

The family challenge I have is with my adult children.

Neither my 34 yr old son, nor my 28 yr old daughter have ADHD. Which is the both the good, and the bad news. They thrive in their chosen careers which ironically both of which require lots of self discipline. So they just don't 'get' me at all.

They have very little insight nor compassion about my ADHD issues.

I have sent them a couple of TED talks over time. And an article about adult ADHD.

But we are mostly estranged, even though they live within an hours drive.

It's sad, frustrating and a bizarrely opposite of the common parents not understanding their kids with ADHD.

I know that it is just the typical adhd characteristics that is creating the discord between us. But that doesn't make it easier, and they choose to keep their distance from me.

I have to focus on the positives: that I did my job well. I raised 2 children (as a single Mom for 7 years, then remarried). My kids are independent, self sufficient, healthy responsible content adults. And that is the main point of parenting: to work yourself out of the job! Knowing some people who have adult kids who continue to depend on them , (well into their 30's!), makes me grateful. And proud. Perhaps my ADHD plays the major role in their 'estrangement'. But they are both living busy full lives!

So it is my task to do the same. Stay busy, find positive things to stay engaged in, and enjoy my creative, big idea, very busy brain.

Take good care as you grow into more understanding.

be well,


Hi Pati,

Thanks for your thoughtful and honest reply. It’s definitely food for thought. It goes to show that the complexity of an ADHD mind, combined with family dynamics, histories, and in both our cases a lot of dysfunction, can take an awful toll on our nearest and dearest. And ourselves as well.

I think all families get to a stage whereby an event, perhaps a medical diagnosis or bereavement, compel family members to finally air truth and look at how things have worked out. Whether this is a necessary exercise I don’t know. You beautifully extol the virtues of looking forward and not letting the past dictate our present circumstances: however painful they may be or how much we would like them to be different. Your almost estrangement from your children, despite bringing them up on your own, must hurt. But you remain positive and accepting with a certain amount of justifiable pride in the job you did despite your own difficulties. Goes to show that ADHD doesn’t define our potential to be successful in areas of our life, we just need to take time to acknowledge the bits we got right and learn from the less successful parts.

A late diagnosis of ADHD has been one of those (for me) life defining moments. And for my dad. If anything over the last month I’ve been able to communicate on a much more honest and understanding way than before. For that I’m grateful. He’s taken a real interest in the condition and how he can help. My mum shows no interest at all. Both ways are fine. I’m learning all the time, with professional help, you guys and my own study what happened, what to expect and more importantly what to do about it. And more than anything not get too bogged down in the introspection and nostalgic remorseful ‘what if’s’.

I’m lucky in so many ways. I have a family, others don’t. I know the problem, others don’t. I know I have lots to learn and hard work ahead. But I define what ‘success’ looks like for my life. Not my diagnosis, not my family and not my memories of good or bad. You put it simply as ‘growing in understanding’. That I can have a fair go at.

Thanks again Pati. All the best.

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