October is more than ADHD Awareness Month for me. It’s also a reminder of the struggles I’ve overcome with my own mental health, and why I committed my career to helping others that struggle as I did.
As a child with ADHD, I was very disorganized in school—so much so that I would lose not only my homework but also my backpack. Teachers would admonish me by saying “you need to focus” and “you could do well if you applied yourself” without knowing what I was going through. At the time, I didn’t know what I was dealing with either.
Those comments, and my own lack of understanding about my condition, had a negative impact on my mental health. I wasn’t having the same experience or receiving the same support as other kids; I knew I was different. Because of that, I went through bouts of depression beginning in middle school and throughout my life.
When I was tested and diagnosed as an adult, the psychologist said I had the worst case of adult ADHD she had seen in her practice.
My struggle with ADHD, however, is not unique. The disorder impacts roughly 10.5 million adults in the United States. Many of those cases stem from the disorder persisting in children who go undiagnosed.
Picture ADHD. Often what comes to mind is a young boy bouncing off the walls. But the cases often overlooked are those children that seem to be paying attention, even when they’re not—words go in one ear and out the other. This inattentive subtype contradicts our preconceived notions of what ADHD is “supposed” to look like and has led to it being severely underdiagnosed in many cases.
Adults that struggle with ADHD, particularly when undiagnosed or untreated, are more likely to develop addictions or substance use disorders. A 2020 ADDitude Magazine survey found that more than 15 percent of adults with ADHD relied upon alcohol and drugs during the past year—nearly triple the rate when compared to adults without ADHD.
Many adults with ADHD may also have problems regulating their emotions, and may display anger, impatience, an inability to get along at work, self-doubt and have difficulty managing stress. I endured depressive episodes for years during my own struggle with ADHD. I tried different medications, but any symptom relief was negated by drastic weight gain and other severe side effects.
My own mental health struggle helped me find my passion in the world of neuroscience, where I was first exposed to alternative treatment methods. These cutting-edge treatments included transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), ketamine infusion and neurofeedback, among others, all of which have shown to be effective at alleviating symptoms of ADHD, depression, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, OCD, insomnia and more.
Many people have endured struggles similar to mine but aren’t aware of the alternative treatments available to them. Because of this, it’s important to continue raising awareness about how ADHD presents itself and how we can best treat it.
It’s not necessary to have a story like mine to help someone struggling with ADHD or other mental health disorders. However, I’m grateful every day that my journey led me here, and that my team at TMS & Brain Health gets to help those struggling with these life-changing treatment methods.
Ben Spielberg is the CEO and founding neuroscientist of TMS & Brain Health, an innovative brain health center based in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. TMS & Brain Health specializes in treating numerous mental health disorders through the use of cutting-edge treatments – such as TMS, ketamine infusion and neurofeedback – and by creating personalized treatment regimens for its patients.