Adults who have grown up with undiagnosed and untreated ADD have things that they cannot do, and their sense of self has been formed around these deficits. Many have experienced difficulties or failures in school that have limited their life possibilities; many cannot read well, retain what they read, or enjoy reading. Without a real understanding of how attentional differences really affect the child, parents and teachers have attempted to deal with the failures by telling the developing child that s/he is lazy, stupid, crazy, or just bad. And the child believes them. After all, the child can look around the classroom and see that other kids seem to be able to bring their homework in and despite trying hard, s/he can’t. Effort and trying do not seem to be related to success in school, and the child eventually stops trying. Other ADD folks get through school just fine, sometimes by working twice as hard as other students, sometimes by figuring out work-arounds for their deficits.
ADD folks are often procrastinators, impulsive in actions and/or speech, often have trouble finishing what they start, organizing their belonging and keeping track of them, and demonstrate difficulty in relationships understanding the other person empathetically. They often seek thrills such as mountain climbing and driving fast. They are at risk for developing mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and passive-aggression. Many ADD’ers are quite successful in life and others struggle. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many successful people have ADD.
Gestalt therapy helps ADD adults develop their awareness. ADD means there is a deficiency, not a complete absence. They improve their ability to notice their sensations and sustain attending to them longer. They develop more awareness of their own awareness patterns, when they are attending and when they are not, and become able to find this interesting information about themselves rather than deeply shameful indictments. ADD people have spent their lives trying to organize and remember according to ways that normal people do those things but they need to really figure out their own ways. ADD people need to figure out the line between “Can’t and Won’t”: they often really do not know what they can and can’t do and what they won’t do. In therapy ADD adults explore what they are really like and shed the “lazy, crazy, stupid, bad” definitions of self they have been living with.