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How to Deal with an ADHD Brain?
Dealing with an ADHD brain 🧠 is often as complicated as its symptoms and traits. Naturally, you need to understand Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a whole to manage the struggles that come with it. Knowing more about this neurodivergent condition, especially the brain development and function of people with ADHD, is essential for its management.
When you understand the brain activity of people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, you become more aware of why they act and think in specific ways👌. Understanding these concepts also help provide scaffolding as you build new habits and routines that work with your brain rather than against it.
Remember: treating ADHD may pose some struggles, but it’s not impossible. So, take heart. In our discussion, things might become technical, but we won't get to the details up to the level of the nerve cells, so don’t worry. In the end, it's good to know the gist of how a brain with ADHD works.
The Brain Development Of People With ADHD
When we know more about the brain structures of a person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, we may better understand how this neurodevelopmental disorder can result in inattentive symptoms, behavioral issues, emotional dysregulation, and other ADHD symptoms.
According to experts, the brain structure and function of an adult ADHD person can be different from that of a neurotypical adult🤔.
I know this topic can get a bit scientific and trigger information overload, but I will try my best to explain the brain structures and their functions in simpler terms. Knowing the basic anatomy of our ADHD brain can help us better understand how it works, which can further assist us in handling our ADHD symptoms.
The Technical Aspects Of The Brain: ADHD Edition
When mental health professionals want to learn more about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, they rely on nothing but facts🙌. On top of anecdotal reports on ADHD symptoms, experimental research, and peer-reviewed studies, they also go back to the brain development. In many cases, they laser focus on the differences between brain structure of those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and neurotypical people.
According to reports, the brain structure and function of adult ADHD people greatly differs from that of a neurotypical individual. These brain differences can be observed and studied through tests, like MRIs, PET scans, and CT scans. All these are types of imaging tests capable of producing images of the various parts of the brain. With them, we can see the brain structures and note if there’s a significant finding.
For example: certain areas of adult ADHD brain scans might look different, like volume differences and neural pathways, compared to the brain scans of neurotypical individuals😨.
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How ADHD Affects The Brain Structure And Function
The frontal lobe, or the anterior part of the brain, is the vast area responsible not only for our motor control, but also for the executive functions, including problem-solving abilities, reasoning, attention, creativity, emotional regulation, and short-term memory. In other words, the frontal lobe helps us plan, organize, and finish tasks.
Now, please note that a person with ADHD often experiences problems with these executive functions, making it hard for them to start or finish a task, remember things, or even make decisions. This indicates that the frontal lobe may have something to do with ADHD and ADHD symptoms. We’ll learn more about it in a bit.
The frontal lobe can be divided into smaller sections and is connected to other areas. This likewise means each section and area it is connected to may have some sort of connection to at least one ADHD symptom or trait. No worries, we’ll cover just a few things.
The prefrontal cortex is the area of our brain that helps us with attention, behavior, and emotions. According to the National Library of Medicine, the right hemisphere of the prefrontal cortex of people with ADHD can be smaller than that of neurotypical individuals, which might affect our abilities to stay focused and regulate emotions. Hence, for moments when you feel like having a meltdown or you cannot control your anger, the prefrontal cortex might be the reason behind it🥺.
The Basal Ganglia, which is an area highly connected to the frontal lobe, is responsible for our functional connectivity and motor coordination. One of its parts, the caudate nucleus, sends messages to the frontal lobes and appears to inform us that something is wrong and that we need to do something about it: Lock your door! Call your friend! Wash your hands! Reports say an underactive caudate may be associated with mental health disorders, like depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Neurotransmitters, like the dopamine in the frontal lobe, are responsible for our brain's daily tasks or executive functions, such as problem solving, decision-making, judgment, memory, and impulse control. This neurotransmitter also helps us feel happy and motivated. However, the production of these brain chemicals can sometimes be imbalanced in the neural pathway in an adult ADHD person, resulting in the typical symptoms we often experience. These can also be the culprits behind our search for fondness for novelty and impulsive buying behaviors😅.
These are just some of the most notable differences in the brain structure and function of people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) compared to neurotypical individuals. It is important to remember that not all people with ADHD will experience all of these symptoms or have them in the same intensity. It is also possible that some people with ADHD will only experience a few of these symptoms while others might not experience them all.
How to Really Deal with an ADHD Brain?
Now that we have a brief background on the different brain networks, brain chemistry, and brain structures of an ADHD brain, let's talk about what we can do to support those with an ADHD diagnosis.
Firstly, you might ask: what does understanding the ADHD vs Neurotypical brain differences bring? How can it really help me manage my condition🤔?
Well, it can help you accept that ADHD is NOT your fault. Because you gained the knowledge on the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder brain, you can now rest easy that your symptoms, such as your lack of impulse control and difficulty sustaining attention, are NEVER intentional😉. With this awareness, you can become ready to accept your condition and fully work with it.
So, how do you deal with an ADHD brain?
Aside from having the official ADHD diagnosis from a mental health professional 👩⚕️ , you might want to look into the little, daily things you can do to manage your symptoms. Some people with ADHD may overlook things like reward systems and motivations, which is sad because they can help you make peace with your struggles with ADHD.
Work Harmoniously with our Brain
Compared to neurotypicals, the brain of a person with ADHD needs a more stimulating environment. We can do much more when we are interested in what we have on our plates👌.
Ever wondered why routine tasks are hard for us to do? It may be caused by the low level of dopamine that our brain produces when we are bored. We can overcome this by “manipulating” our brain chemistry. Rewards, recognition, and a sense of accomplishment can increase the level of dopamine in our brain, which helps us feel good about ourselves and encourages us to do more.
Emotion Regulation and Having Deep Breathes
There will be moments when we'll be subjected to difficult situations. No matter how significant our brain maturation is, when we are faced with conflicts or confrontations, we can struggle to handle our emotions and have outbursts of anger or sadness😭.
This is when we need to take a step back and, perhaps, have a different take on things. Maybe do some deep breathing exercises until we calm ourselves down. We need to understand that our brain is wired differently and that we should not be too hard on ourselves when we fail to regulate our emotions perfectly.
Impulse Control and All Types of Pressure
One of the most challenging things for many people with ADHD is having insufficient impulse control. When our frontal cortex seems to be having a lot of hyperactivity and forces us to do things on a whim, we need to always keep in mind that it is our responsibility to ensure that we do not act on these impulses. We can do this by being more mindful of the things that we say and do, always trying to think before we act, and being more patient with ourselves.
The Uniqueness and Creativity We Have
Even though there could be volume differences between a neurotypical brain and an ADHD brain, having an ADHD diagnosis should not discourage us from doing more.
We should use this as an advantage and continuously work on ways to improve the quality of our lives. We are wired to be more creative and unique individuals😘. This works with other health conditions as well. There are differences in our brains that we should accept and learn to work with to be the best versions of ourselves.
Other people may tell us that the brain maturation and brain development of some people with ADHD can be different from other neurotypical brains. That may be true, as research suggests, but that should not stop us from continuously working on our goals and dreams. We are more than our ADHD diagnosis. We just have to find ways to work with our brains in order to manage our symptoms well. Understanding everything there is about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can help you manage it in a more efficient way.
How to Deal with an ADHD Brain: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Is it true that the brain of someone with ADHD is different from that of a neurotypical person?
There are several studies suggesting that an ADHD brain has some differences when compared to the brain of someone who does not have this neurodivergent condition.
What notable differences are there?
Three of the notable differences are as follows: An ADHD brain may have a weaker prefrontal cortex, underactive caudate (a part of the basal ganglia), and lower levels of neurotransmitter, dopamine.
How can these differences contribute to the ADHD symptoms?
First off, a weaker prefrontal cortex (found in the frontal lobe) may affect the executive functions, which include short-term memory, planning, decision-making, and emotions. As we know, many people with ADHD have some problems in their executive functions. An underactive caudate appears to be associated with ADD. And lower dopamine levels appear to contribute to our fondness for novelty and impulsive behaviors.