ADHD and hoarding

I’ve had a lot to consider since my last blog post. This hoarding thing has taken over so much of my life (which I suppose is part of what makes it “hoarding” and not “clutter”), that I decided to see a therapist about it. My goal was to find out if this truly was Hoarding Disorder and what I could do to start making a difference since my desire for change is often more theoretical than something I can act upon when it matters. I’m glad I went, because it seems there’s a broader issue going on that I wouldn’t have put together on my own.

I couldn’t find any hoarding specialists in my area, so I decided to go back to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) counselor I saw from 2016-2017. I started seeing her to find out how to deal with my chronic pain, but the CBT approach helped me in a lot of other ways, too. I credit it with the stronger and more harmonious relationship I have with my husband. I also credit it with the ability to even see that I have a hoarding and spending problem and get help. It turns out that seeing a therapist who was already familiar with me was a good move, as the patterns seen through my previous visits and with the new confession of how bad my hoarding had become led her to a diagnosis I never would have considered: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Me? ADHD? I was never a bouncing-off-the-walls kid. I was a daydreamer who just wanted to be left alone. I found hyperactive, noisy kids annoying. I wanted to avoid attention and be left alone with a book so I could forget the rest of the world existed. Sure, I couldn’t be made to do things that didn’t interest me and I didn’t take in information well unless it was something I could read or touch, but I did well in school to the point of being in the gifted program. How could that be ADHD?

So apparently that’s very much ADHD, but it’s a subtype, called Inattentive, that gets overlooked because it doesn’t draw attention to itself the way the Hyperactive/Impulsive subtype does. Your typical Inattentive ADHD kid is, well, pretty much what I described in the previous paragraph. Possibly with comorbid disorders, like my anxiety. As an adult with ADHD, it contributes to overspending (impulsiveness), clutter (difficulty focusing on or staying focused on tasks), overeating (impulsiveness and hyperactivity/fidgeting), and pretty much all areas of my life that I struggle with, including my desire to do many activities but inability to stay focused on any of them. When I can stay focused on something, it’s an obsessive focus that blocks out all other considerations. This is also a part of ADHD called hyperfocus.

It seems that ADHD is poorly named. Inattentive ADHD isn’t really a deficit of attention nor is it hyperactive. The attention problem is an inability to control focus. Either attention shifts very quickly and possibly in a detrimental way, or the focus is so strong that it cannot be shifted appropriately. The problem is in how and when attention is switched, and unfortunately there isn’t a lot of control over this process. Learning this and seeing the related diagnosis criteria was a light bulb moment for me. So many things I have struggled with or have developed coping skills for are related to ADHD. It was like finding out how a connective tissue disorder accounts for 90% of my physical difficulties. ADHD does the same for my mind. It’s been a lot to adjust to, but I’m hoping that getting treatment will allow me to finally act on my intentions.

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