Newsletter #11: The autism-ADHD combo and how to keep your New Year’s resolutions

Happy 2021!

We’re ready for a new year. And we’re going to kick it off with one study on ADHD, one news article, and one practical coping tip! 

Study of the month: Suicide risk and ADHD

new study from researchers at University of Toronto and Toronto General Hospital explores a difficult but important topic: the connection between ADHD and risk for suicide attempts. What makes this study stand out is that it involved a sample of over 21,000 adults who were selected to be demographically representative of Canada’s population.

Among the study’s participants, the researchers found that 2.7 percent had attempted suicide in the past. Out of the 529 participants with ADHD, though, that proportion was far higher, at 14 percent. A full one in four women with ADHD in the study had attempted suicide. 

According to the study’s authors, some but not all of ADHDers’ increased risk for suicide attempts could be explained by higher rates of anxiety and depression. With or without comorbid conditions, the results underscore the damage that ADHD can wreak in people’s lives and the importance of making mental health treatment accessible to people with ADHD.

News article of the month: Being diagnosed with autism and ADHD

ADHD and autism commonly go together, and a recent article in the Guardian provides a firsthand account of what it’s like being diagnosed with both. In the article, writer Marianne Eloise shares her experience of being autistic with ADHD, then finally receiving a diagnosis this year.

She describes how she spent years “chastising myself for my inability to connect with strangers or just feel remotely relaxed,” and how she was “always restless, oscillating between distraction and hyper-focus on the wrong things.”

After finally getting an official diagnosis, Eloise found that “knowing why you are the way you are gives you more than knowledge: it gives you power. To be seen and known. To be forgiven and understood.” And for anyone who wants to see, know and better understand the combination of autism and ADHD, her article is an excellent read!

Coping tip of the month: Phase out or replace, don’t eliminate, unwanted habits

Habits that are unhealthy or otherwise unwanted are a prime target of New Year’s resolutions — and especially of New Year’s resolutions that fail. It’s hard to give up something you enjoy, even before adding the impulsive and reward-driven nature of the ADHD brain into the mix. 

So rather than trying to eliminate a bad habit from your life in one fell swoop, aim to gradually phase it out or replace it with a new habit instead. 

My inspiration for this coping tip is one of the few New Year’s resolutions I actually kept: deciding to cut TV out of my life after one too many Netflix binges. Rather than suddenly dropping my TV habit altogether, I resolved that I could keep watching episodes from TV shows I’d already started but I wouldn’t begin episodes from any new TV shows. Over time, I ran out of episodes to watch and opened up time for more rewarding things than watching TV.

As another example, if you want to cut back on unhealthy snacks, try replacing them with healthy snacks. 

Finding ways to substitute an alternative for an unhealthy habit or to gradually reduce the habit over time will increase your odds of sticking to your plan compared with aiming for an all-or-nothing, cold-turkey New Year’s resolution.

Best wishes for the new year. We look forward to bringing you lots of new content about adapting to life with ADHD in 2021!

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