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10 CEUs Treating Locking In & Blocking Out: ADHD Adults

Section 4
The Role of Control in ADHD Clients

Question 4 | Test | Table of Contents | ADHD CEU Courses
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed the five steps of memory. The five steps of memory were Acquisition, Registration, Storage, Access, and Transfer.

On this track, we will discuss the ADHD adult’s controlling methods of coping with the ADHD diagnosis. Have you found, as I have, that there are two types of controlling methods of coping? The two types of controlling methods of coping that I have found are Manipulation and Blaming.

Christy, age 39, was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. For most of her life, people have expected Christy to struggle with tasks and have not been surprised to see her fail. Christy stated, "No one’s ever really expected me to overcome challenges. Usually people are just as happy to do something for me because they think it will go faster, and they won’t have to worry about fixing something I’ve done wrong. I’ve learned to just let everyone else do work for me."

However, Christy’s husband recently left her, and she now struggles with daily tasks and responsibilities. Christy stated, "I have trouble remembering to send in my bill payments. My husband used to take care of all of those, so I have basically zero experience doing it. I’m really worried I’ll forget taxes entirely in April, so I’m getting my dad to help me out with those."

2 Controlling Methods

Controlling Method # 1 - Manipulation
It seemed to me that Christy was using the first of the controlling methods of coping, Manipulation. Obviously, this classic coping method can come in a variety of ways. As you can see, Christy used manipulation through learned helplessness. Growing up, Christy was taught to believe that her disability would keep her from being able to take care of herself. Now an adult, Christy uses this helplessness to manipulate others into taking care of her.

As you know, another common form of manipulation can be scheming, when an ADHD adult establishes himself as the undisputed ruler at home and work and works to control everything around him. I have found that learned helplessness is more common in women with ADHD, while men with ADHD tend to manipulate through scheming. In my experience, the manipulation is usually neither conscious nor premeditated; however, it is the only way that some ADHD adults have found for satisfying their needs.

Do you have any female clients who can only satisfy their needs by manipulating through learned helplessness? Or do you have male clients who manipulate through scheming to get their needs met?

Controlling Method # 2 - Blaming
Adam, age 28, copes with his ADHD diagnosis through the second of the types of controlling methods of coping, Blaming. Adam would usually give the blame for every mishap to anyone except himself.

Adam stated, "I’m annoyed all the time because I keep having to tell people what they’ve done wrong. I mean, yesterday, I had to show my wife how to put groceries away ‘cause the ketchup and mustard bottles fell out when I opened the refrigerator door. It was ridiculous! We’ve been married six years, and now I have to explain that simple concept to her? And it seems like I have to tell my kids every damn day to put the remote control for the TV where I can find it!"

As you can see, Adam used blaming to shield himself from criticism. For many adults with ADHD, fear of criticism related to their inadequacies as a result of ADHD is strong. Blamers like Adam fend off criticism from others by actively accusing others of stupidity or wrongdoing. For other adults with ADHD, as you may have experienced, blame may be attributed to external, uncontrollable events. With either type of blaming, the ADHD adult refuses to accept responsibility for anything where their ADHD may cause them to be at fault.

"Laugh It Off" Technique
With clients using controlling methods of coping, I have found that a simple coping technique helps them better deal with their ADHD diagnosis. For Christy and Adam, I suggested the "Laugh It Off" technique. As you know, a strong sense of humor can go a long way in helping an ADHD adult cope with some of the daily struggles of life. Christy and Adam, like many ADHD adults who use controlling methods of coping, took themselves and their lives incredibly seriously and left no room for laughter.

In separate sessions, I first asked each Christy and Adam to think of a time when something minor had gone wrong in the day. Christy stated, "Well, I was trying to find my favorite soap on TV a couple of days ago. I missed most of it because without my husband, I couldn’t figure out the buttons on the remote." Adam stated, "The directions my wife gave me to get to my son’s soccer game were confusing. I ended up at this stadium where some high school kids were playing rugby instead."

I then asked them to try and find some humor in each situation. Christy chuckled and stated, "Well, I guess it’s kind of funny that, here I am, 39 years old, and I still can’t figure out a remote control." For Adam, the humor was an event at the rugby game. Adam smiled and stated, "Just before I left, some kid went streaking across the field. It kind of made me remember my days in high school and some of the crazy stunts we did."

I asked each Christy and Adam to consider the weight of the problem that they had originally been upset about, as well as the humor they saw in the situation afterwards. I stated, "If you practice finding the humor in situations after the fact, you might be able to cope with your ADHD through humor. Then you might find yourself relying less on other controlling methods of coping."

Do you have a client like Christy, who is using the controlling method of coping, manipulation, to cope with the ADHD diagnosis? Or maybe your client is like Adam, who uses the controlling method of coping, blaming, to cope with the diagnosis? Would your Christy or Adam benefit from using the "Laugh It Off" technique?

On this track, we have discussed the ADHD adult’s two types of controlling methods of coping with the ADHD diagnosis. These two types of controlling methods of coping are Manipulation and Blaming.

On the next track, we will discuss the ADHD adult’s passive and aggressive methods of coping. The passive methods of coping for an ADHD adult are the "Who Cares?" attitude and the "Take Me or Leave Me" attitude. The aggressive methods of coping for an ADHD adult are Rebellion and Perfectionism.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Atherton, O. E., Lawson, K. M., Ferrer, E., & Robins, R. W. (2020). The role of effortful control in the development of ADHD, ODD, and CD symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 118(6), 1226–1246.

Bottini, S., Polizzi, C. P., Vizgaitis, A., Ellenberg, S., & Krantweiss, A. R. (2019). When measures diverge: The intersection of psychometric instruments and clinical judgment in multimodal adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder assessment. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 50(6), 353–363.

Cohen, E., & Kalanthroff, E. (2019). Visuospatial processing bias in ADHD: A potential artifact in the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Rorschach Inkblots Test. Psychological Assessment, 31(5), 699–706.

Castel, A. D., Lee, S. S., Humphreys, K. L., & Moore, A. N. (2011). Memory capacity, selective control, and value-directed remembering in children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Neuropsychology, 25(1), 15–24.

Rauch, W. A., Gold, A., & Schmitt, K. (2012). Combining cognitive and personality measures of impulse control in the assessment of childhood ADHD. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 28(3), 208–215.

What are the two types of controlling methods of coping with the ADHD diagnosis? To select and enter your answer go to Test


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