Friday 30th of June, 2023.
Written by Provisional Psychologist, Megan Higgo.


Over the last few years there has been a boost in awareness relating to neurodiversity and particularly Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD). While most people have heard of ADHD, there is still confusion regarding what it is/isn’t, when testing and a formal diagnosis can be useful, what treatment can involve and how it can help.

What is the difference between ‘typical’ attention issues and neurodivergent attention issues? 

Generally, neurotypical people find that they can attend to a task if it is of high importance, whereas people with ADHD may find that they are unable to give the task their attention, despite it being extremely important. For example, when stopping and asking someone for directions, someone with ADHD may forget to listen, despite being aware that they are doing it.

Another difference is that people with ADHD tend to experience extreme variability in attention. Specifically, people with ADHD may go through periods of ‘hyperfocus’ where they intensely focus on a particular topic or task in detail. People with ADHD often describe this fluctuation in attention to be as though their brain is self-sabotaging, as it will not “come to the party” despite desperately needing it to.

When is testing or a formal diagnosis for ADHD useful?

The treatment of ADHD is different from other mental health conditions, as medication is part of the first line of treatment. For example, with disorders such as depression, treatment typically involves cognitive and behavioural interventions before looking into incorporating anti-depressants into treatment. With ADHD, behavioural modification alone is ineffective; in fact, it can worsen things, as the lack of improvement may contribute to feelings of shame and poor self-esteem. A formal diagnosis unlocks medication treatments. Medication treatment for ADHD levels the playing field, allowing behavioural interventions to be more effective.

Often people diagnosed later in life describe receiving the diagnosis as a lightbulb moment that adds clarity when reflecting on earlier parts of their life. It can also bring people to peace by letting them realise that they weren’t “just lazy” and allowing them to release critical thoughts and create space for self-compassion and healing.

With anything in mental health, if it is negatively impacting someone’s functioning or well-being, finding out further information about their experience may be useful. However, not everyone with ADHD will require a formal diagnosis or medication. For example, if an individual’s ADHD symptoms are not having a significant negative impact on their relationships, workplace or vocational pathways, then testing may not be necessary.

How does therapy help to manage ADHD? 

Medication forms the first pillar of treatment as it provides a new baseline level of neurological functioning. Although medication does not eliminate ADHD symptoms, they will occur at a level where behavioural and therapeutic interventions can be effective. The second pillar of treatment involves therapeutic interventions. The specific type of interventions will vary depending on where the individual is in their diagnosis and treatment journey. For example, for someone recently diagnosed and has begun medication treatment, behavioural modification techniques that have been unsuccessful in the past may be worth revisiting.

Other parts of the therapeutic process may involve:

  • Rebuilding relationships.
  • Challenging and reframing negative self-beliefs.
  • Processing grief and loss associated with past experiences
  • Fostering hope relating to positive future experiences related to education, employment and relationships.

The third pillar of treatment involves mindfulness and meditation to help promote healthy ways of coping with emotions and connecting with the present moment.



Dr Russell Barkley – leading researcher and writer on ADHD.


Taking Charge of Adult ADHD – Dr Russell Barkley