Updated 14 July 2017

Adult ADHD: Don’t be impulsive

With the festive season around the corner, adults with ADHD may be at risk of overindulging and overspending.

As the year winds down and we find ourselves eating more, spending more and thinking less, adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) need to work harder to control impulsive habits.

“ADHD has three basic groups of symptoms: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity,” says Dr Rykie Liebenberg, psychiatrist and convener of the South African ADHD Special Interest Group.  She explains that ADHD is a lifetime disorder but may only present in adulthood for the first time. Symptoms vary across a wide spectrum – from mild to severe – and can fluctuate depending on life circumstances (a promotion, new job, starting to study, and so on).

Read: 10 signs that you may have adult ADHD

“Adults with ADHD are naturally more impulsive in their day-to-day lives, which can pose a major challenge during the festive season when overspending and indulging is on the up-swing,” says Dr Liebenberg. “Problems with managing finances, diet and drinking become even more prevalent in peak holiday season.”

Read: ADHD - a life lived in chaos

3 tips to get through the festive season

Dr Liebenberg shares three tips to surviving the festive season with ADHD:
1.    Shop with a friend or partner – they can keep you in check and make sure you’re not veering off course and purchasing unnecessary out-of-budget items.
2.    Make a concise list of the gifts or items you need and set a budget. Avoid large shopping malls where you’ll be tempted – stick to smaller shops with limited options instead.
3.    Attending an end-of-year function? Set a time limit and leave before things get too festive – or, even better, book your transport ahead of time so there is no temptation to stay on longer than you should.

Read: 7 myths about ADHD debunked

Symptoms of ADHD

According to Dr Liebenberg, common symptoms of adult ADHD include inattention, distractibility, inability to sustain attention, procrastination, not completing tasks, missing deadlines, associated symptoms of mood swings, anger outbursts and impatience. Household tasks are postponed, bills not paid on time, chronic lateness, forgetfulness of appointments and personal belongings. Sleeping and eating habits are often chaotic.

Treatment of ADHD

Diagnosis of ADHD is made by a specialist with experience in the condition and treatment consists of a multimodal approach. Medication forms the core of treatment and is augmented by psychotherapy, psychoeducation of the patient (and the family), coaching, skills training, exercise and good sleeping habits.

Read more:

Exercise may help ease adult ADHD symptoms

How to know if your child is misdiagnosed with ADHD

ADHD-related insomnia gets better over time



Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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