ADD Overview III: Associated Features


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I use “ADD” to include AD/HD etc. Check out What’s in a Name for why.
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Associated Features: NOBODY has ‘em ALL!

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Third article in a 5-Part Series

” There ain’t no IS about ADD! “

Common ADD behaviors and problems may be mild, they may be severe; they can vary by situation or environment, or present chronically.

Some ADDers are able to concentrate when they are highly interested in (or excited by) an activity.  Others may have difficulty focusing under any circumstances.

Amplified stimulation brought about by risk or danger may increase or decrease an ADDer’s ability to focus — some ADDers look for stimulation, while others avoid it.

ADDers can be withdrawn and antisocial, or they can be overly social and unable to be alone. Some are reticent to share their thoughts and opinions, some can’t stop themselves from saying whatever they think.

ALL we can say for sure is that there is “impairment” in various arenas that are relatively unimpaired in non-ADDers. These “impairments” may be a direct result of ADD or may result from related adjustment difficulties.

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I use “ADD” to include AD/HD etc. See ADD or ADHD: What’s in a Name? for why.
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ADDers think so far “out of the box,” many of us have to be reminded there IS a box!

Never forget that an ADD diagnosis is a matter of degree of impairment
relative to the “norm”

  • How many of the Characteristics, Associated Features & Challenges are present?
  • How often do they rear their ugly heads?
  • How strongly do they manifest whenever they show up?
  • How long have they (or something like them) been showing up?
  • How disabling are they to the individual’s life trajectory?


Associated Features

  • Under-achieving:
    •  Less academic or vocational success than would be predicted by IQ or training
    •  Sub-standard financial management skills, relative to intellectual level
    •  Career uncertainty – Employment problems
    •  Inability to sustain attention on tasks or activities.


  • Chronic self-esteem problems
    •  Overwhelming feelings of failure, even with history of achievements
    •  Difficulties with self-acknowledgment
    •  Frequent bouts hopelessness about the probability of future success


  • Organizing difficulties (things, projects, thoughts)
    •  Difficulty understanding the relationship of organizing basic concepts to organization and order
    •  Extreme household disorganization
    •  Chronic “procrastination
    •  Over-focus on details to the detriment of the “big picture”
    •  Many simultaneous projects in various stages of incompletion
    •  Chronic failure to mobilize effort towards completion
    •  Losing things necessary for tasks
    •  Low ability to plan ahead


  • Memory glitches
    •  Often very little recall of childhood
    •  Forgets birthdays, names, agreements
    •  Difficulty remembering dates, phone numbers, street addresses
    •  Sometimes forgets past events: meeting people, movies seen, restaurants eaten in, etc.
    •  Inclined to forget daily activities (missed appointments, forgetting to bring lunch/wallet)
    •  Difficulty recalling where they left possessions (keys, cars, shoes, etc.)


  • Atypical response to substances – (READ Very Important to Note below!)
    •  Food (over-eater or binge eater, eating for comfort, extremely picky eater)
    •  Psychoactives seem to have a “paradoxical effect”
    •  Seeming resistance to anesthetics (needs more to numb dentally, put “under” for surgery) — unusual reactions/sensations as anesthetics wear off; often wear off more quickly than usual, so need to be “boosted” mi-session
    •  Higher than average substance abuse statistics** – (especially unmedicated)
    as well as higher addiction potential**

• Uppers- caffeine, nicotine, OTC diet pills
xx- cocaine, crack, crystal meth 
(Research indicates 10-30% of cocaine addicts have ADD)

•  Downers -
xx- Recreational use of prescription meds (pain pills, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety meds)
xx- More easily addicted to pain pills, even properly prescribed & used
xx- Alcohol

**VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: the higher abuse numbers occur at “statistically significant levels” in UNmedicated ADDers – when those who need medication ARE medicated, the statistics fall right in line with the rest of the population. Properly medicated teens are LESS likely to get hooked on drugs, NOT more. Read the studies – get the facts.

Pharmaceutical usage and recreational usage are NOT the same thing. Don’t let the anti-drug lobby’s misuse of this information SCARE you away from a legitimate chemical approach to a diagnostic neuro-chemical problem! 


  • Sensitivity to certain foods (exacerbation of symptoms)
    •  milk and dairy
    •  wheat
    •  food dyes & additives
    •  hyper-reactive to sugar


  • Sleep disorders, disturbances & difficulties
    •  Tend to be “extreme owls”
    •  Falling asleep with difficulty (often handled by staying up until overwhelmingly tired, able to fall asleep easily)
    •  Extremely slow starters in the morning (sometimes even if expecting to participate in a high excitement activity)
    •  Extreme morning disorganization and/or grumpiness (no frustration tolerance)


  • Trouble going through proper procedures
    •  
    Resistance to rules for rules sake
    •  Extreme dislike of authority when enforced without choice
    •  Difficulties taking turns, waiting in line, stopping at stoplights (yellow means hurry!)
    •  Frequently interrupting or intruding on others
    •  Not following details or adhering to rules in social situations


  • Mood dysregulation
    •  Mood swings,  sometimes misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder
    •  Severe PMS in women and girls
    •  Super-sensitives, feelings hurt easily,
    •  Emotionally volatile
    •  Low frustration tolerance – difficulty controlling anger
    •  Tendency toward bouts of depression or hopelessness
    •  Chronic, low-level anxiousness (below anxiety diagnostic line)


  • Difficulty maintaining long-term relationships
    •  Multiple jobs, marriages, careers
    •  Chronic marital/relationship problems
    •  Old friends fade away through lack of contact
    •  A pattern of whirlwind romances
    •  Instant intimacy
    •  Unexplainable loss of interest once the high romance phase fades.


  • Easily distracted by task/topic-irrelevant stimuli
    •  Frequent shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
    •  Interrupts ongoing activity to investigate something easily ignored by others
    •  Communications “wander all over the place” – difficulty coming to the point
    •  Many changes of subject in conversations
    •  Mind wanders when attempting to listen or read
    •  High degree of difficulty with tasks that require focused concentration.
    •  Dislike or avoidance of tasks that require sustained mental effort
    •  Careless mistakes – failure to pay close attention to details
    •  Difficulty concentrating on/little patience  for the “unexciting” (financial reports, tax info, etc.)

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Articles in the ADD Overview series:

ADD Overview 101
ADD Overview II: Identifying Traits
ADD Overview III: Associated Features
ADD Overview IV: Hyperarousal
ADD Overview V: Red Flag Warnings
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Founder: ADD Coach Training Field; Co-founder: ADD Coaching; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with Executive Functioning struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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