After the ADHD Diagnosis

The Kübler-Ross Model of Grief

Throughout life, we experience different instances of grief. These can be caused by the breakup of a relationship, the death of a family member or close friend or receiving a terminal medical diagnosis. In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described five common stages of grief:

  • Denial – May be characterized by avoidance, confusion, shock and fear
  • Anger – This may result in frustration,irritability and anxiety
  • Bargaining – During this stage, a person may be struggling to find meaning, reaching out to others and telling their sotry
  • Depression – In this phase, a individual may experience feelings of being overwhelmed, helplessness, hostility, and a desire to flee
  • Acceptance – Finally, in this phase, a person begins to explore new options and is ready to put new plans in place and move on

These stages can vary in length and intensity depending on an individual’s situation, personal history and temperament. Also, these stages are not linear and some people may not experience all or even any of them. The model serves as a guide to what you might experience and can help you put the emotions you are experiencing in perspective.

A Model for ADHD Realization Following Diagnosis

Some clinicians who treat ADHD have developed a similar type of model to describe how their patients come to terms with their condition following diagnosis.

Similar to the Kübler-Ross model, these use 5 stages; Here is one such model outlined by which can be described as:

  • Excitement / relief Following diagnosis, you finally have an explanation for why you have been struggling for so many years. Now there is a name for the whole complex of symptoms and behaviors.
  • Investigation Finding out you have ADHD gives you a greater understanding of yourself. But you want to know more. You  may read more about ADHD, talk to others who have the condition and learn more about the available treatments. , But, it also shakes your selfidentity to the core. You have to rebuild your sense of self with this new knowledge. You might question if the person who tested you was accurate.
  • Anger / frustration Sooner or later you realize that ADHD is permanent, chronic, and relentless – and there is no no cure. It will be part of you forever. This can shake your sense of self to the core. You might feel frustration, anger or despair. You might feel a sense of loss of what could have been. You might find yourself thinking that your life would have been easier, happier, more successful, richer, etc. if you had known years ago.
  • Acceptance At this point, you accept that ADHD is part of you. You embrace treatment options,change habits and make adaptations to improve your quality of life.
  • Application In this stage, you build on your new awareness and work to discover the strengths and positive attributes of ADHD. You may even become a resource and support for others with ADHD.

As with the Kübler-Ross model, these post-diagnosis models for ADHD are only rough guides to what you might experience. They offer a summary of the stages clinicians have seen their patients go through following a clinical diagnosis of ADHD.

While You Are Re-calibrating

Here is some advice from Jacqueline Sinfield about things to remember while you are going through the post-diagnosis period:

  • Surround yourself with understanding people. Getting diagnosed with ADHD can make you feel very lonely.
  • Don’t judge yourself or your emotions. You are unique; so are your emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel. If you are feeling it, accept that its important for you to be feeling that emotion at this time.
  • Process them in a way that works for you. Work with a therapist, join a support group, or write a journal.
  • Be extra kind and gentle with yourself during this time. If you are feeling fragile, don’t set yourself on big projects or put yourself in unnecessary stressful situations. Practice extreme selfcare.



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