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Finding Clarity After an ADHD Diagnosis and Bettering Myself With CBT and Medication

“Now as I was getting older, I felt I couldn’t trust my own thoughts in the same way as before, and self-doubt would creep in. I would constantly ask myself whether my emotions and thoughts were accurate or not when reacting to social situations. As you can imagine this was a huge challenge and draining emotionally.”

Struggled with:

Hello! Who are you?

Hi, my name is Junaid and I live in Birmingham in the United Kingdom. I work as a primary care doctor, I’m married, and have four children.

I am extremely passionate about mental health, as I had previously struggled with this through university and in much of my working life. I now run a mental health platform that provides solutions for the mental health needs of men.

My happiness is always a work in progress. We all have good days and not-so-good days, but the trajectory for me is definitely in the right direction, over the past 5 years in particular. Much of this has been down to enjoying stability in life and getting on top of my mental health diagnoses.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I officially have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), made about 2 years ago. I am also very likely to have high-functioning autism, although I decided not to pursue a formal diagnosis for this. These are life-long diagnoses that I only became aware of over the past couple of years.

I first noticed my mental health wasn’t quite right when I went to University. While I had a small group of friends, I struggled in social settings and struggled to regulate my own emotions. I’d often get lost in my own thoughts, daydream, and at the same time strive excessively toward an unrealistic state of perfection.  

Looking back, my family has told me I was very hyperactive as a child. In fact, looking at my old school reports, there are signs I had ADHD back then. The reports would mention a bright child who would constantly stare out of the window and lose focus! Despite this, I still did extremely well in school and graduated from medical school.

However, and it’s very easy to see it in hindsight, not having diagnoses and having uncontrolled ADHD impacted my emotional well-being and often meant I was extremely creative and bursting with new ideas, but rarely able to see those ideas through to the end.

It also meant that I did extremely well in areas where I had a narrow personal interest such as mathematics or science subjects, but I would completely flop in subjects where I would perceive there would be no tangible benefit to me.

That is because ADHD and autism allow many people to hyperfocus on their interests but at the expense of things they are not interested in. In my case, I was and have always been terrible at art.

I had always assumed ADHD was a diagnosis that primarily affected children and the ‘typical’ ADHD child profile was a naughty child climbing the walls at school and at home. I was often a shy, quiet, and observant child and hard working. 

Autism and ADHD often coexist and it was the autism that likely affected my behavior as well, and impacted my ability to socialize. Things like making and keeping eye contact and being able to talk and ‘chit-chat’ spontaneously are things that I have had to learn, rather than actions that come intuitively. I still struggle with this to this day.

It is well known that autistic people ‘mask’ their symptoms and in my case, I was able to learn to manage social situations at school and university, but keeping up the facade took an emotional toll on me later in the day. 

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

During my most challenging moments, I’d become very depressed as I was struggling to understand my own emotions and those of those around me. Any small setback would feel infinitely worse. Growing up I had felt very in control of my mind – probably because when I got home I was able to ‘be myself’ and be looked after by my parents. 

Now as I was getting older, I felt I couldn’t trust my own thoughts in the same way as before, and self-doubt would creep in. I would constantly ask myself whether my emotions and thoughts were accurate or not when reacting to social situations. As you can imagine this was a huge challenge and draining emotionally.

Not everyone realized I was struggling. At university I did not open up to friends, not necessarily out of a sense of shame or fear, but out of a sense of not really knowing who would be able to help. 

My family did not understand and they saw behavior changes in me but often thought I was acting that way out of choice, rather than realizing I was behaving that way as I was struggling to regulate and understand my own emotions.

This added to my sense of isolation and loneliness. When no one understands you and you don’t really understand yourself or what is ‘normal’, where can you realistically turn for support?

My erratic emotions also caused me to balloon in weight as the dopamine hit from food became a source of comfort and regulation of my emotions. Of course, this was an unhealthy coping mechanism, but it was all I knew at the time that could help.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

It was in later life when my son received his diagnosis of ADHD and autism that I confided in the same psychiatrist, who also happens to be a friend of mine. 

It was my wife who prompted me to discuss it with him and it is not uncommon that in the case of men, it is often their partner who receives the brunt of the mental difficulties they are having and who ultimately advises them to get support. 

This is because partners of those with ADHD and autism see firsthand the emotional rollercoaster a person can go through and they themselves may need support at times to understand what is happening. It goes without saying it can have an effect on relationships too.

After a candid conversation with the psychiatrist and some testing, I was diagnosed with ADHD and was told I likely had high-functioning autism, but I declined further testing. For me, the diagnosis was validation enough, and having a formal rubber-stamped diagnosis was unnecessary. 

I started medication for ADHD and my life changed completely. Suddenly I was able to see the world with a balanced view and I was actually able to channel my creativity productively. 

I decided not to get a formal diagnosis of autism as it wouldn’t change the outcome for me. Whether I had it or not, the key to getting better was to understand my mind and my thoughts better and learn to live with what I have.

In particular, I found psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) very helpful. It helped me to understand my thoughts and behaviors and put plans in place to manage my assumptions about myself and others and to tackle unhealthy behaviors such as hiding from problems or feeling hopeless that things won’t change, and as a result not doing anything to bring about that change.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I always say, “Men know something isn’t quite right, but they don’t want to admit that they know something isn’t quite right”.

If you think that in your day-to-day life, things are not quite right. Perhaps you are not making friends. Or you are feeling other people are hostile toward you. You may be feeling unmotivated or sad or frequently getting angry. Then definitely reach out for support. 

What really helped me was being able to be open and honest with my wife and listening to her guidance helped. I actually think most primary care doctors in the UK would not have been as helpful as my wife. I was incorrectly diagnosed with depression and started on antidepressants. 

This is not the doctor’s fault, but the fact that awareness of neurodiversity is not as common as other mental health conditions and symptoms of ADHD and autism, especially in adults, can mimic other mental health conditions.

Not everyone with ADHD needs medication to function well. I will always recommend that men reach out to a psychologist to talk about their thoughts and struggles. Psychologists help to identify and tackle your incorrect thoughts and negative behaviors that have the biggest impact on your mental health. 

Speaking to one helped me to realize I wasn’t always right in my assumptions in my thoughts and it allowed me to accept that actually, I may well have a mental condition that requires help from a professional. 

In my case, I would constantly get frustrated with family or friends, and think that they were purposefully trying to manipulate me. This made me more reclusive and less likely to engage with them. This of course is an unhealthy mindset and behaviour. 

The psychologist told me to challenge my assumptions about others, think of other possibilities or outcomes for the behaviors of others, and rate the likelihood on a scale of 1-100, that they are purposefully manipulating me.

It sounds like a simple exercise but it allowed me to realize that not all my thoughts are 100 percent accurate and there are shades of grey in our interactions with others.

It’s almost impossible to be able to accurately self-identify our mental health issues ourselves one hundred percent of the time. That is why it is so important to let someone else help you in analyzing the struggles you are having. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I feel much more comfortable talking about mental health now, from a position of recovery and well-being. However, it was not always like this. I struggled to talk to anyone in my family, many of whom were very dismissive or unhelpful in their response. 

Coming from South East Asian descent, where mental health is very poorly understood and with a lot of stigma attached to diagnoses, I can understand why. It is often easier in this community to pretend mental health doesn’t exist than to do anything about it. 

Talking about my mental health always brought an unbelievable sense of unease and guilt as well as some elements of shame for feeling this way and being unable to manage my own thoughts. As such, speaking to colleagues was never on the radar either.

Being a doctor meant I worked extremely busy hours looking after patients. There was barely any time in the rest of the day to recover, let alone time to introspect and think about what may or may not be wrong with my mind.

As a result, it took years of being married and of my wife noticing my behaviors and realizing something wasn’t right before I could finally open up and feel comfortable, even with her, in talking about my innermost vulnerabilities

Once I did open up, gradually over months and over subsequent follow-on conversations it became a lot easier and now I find myself writing about it on the internet for strangers to read!

It became easier as I realized sometimes we need to externalize our inner mind and get support from someone who really has our best interests at heart. This helped me to see my thoughts in a different way and to manage my mood much better.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Trust the voice that is telling you something is not quite right. Write a list of people who you might be able to reach out to for help who you feel are actually helpful (doctors, friends, and family are not always the best people for everyone, but if any could be, speak to them) and approach them. 

Take your time to decide who you want to disclose to first, choose a suitable time and place when you are both free, and give them a heads up that you want to talk about something serious and important, so they can be mentally prepared for a deeper level of conversation.

Be prepared to speak to the same person a few times or even a few different people and now you have opened up, do listen and take on board the advice of others.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Given I’ve written so much about mental health, you may find it surprising that the two most influential resources have not been mental health related, but they still had a positive effect on my mental health.

Blue Ocean Strategy by Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim is a book about business strategy. I read this book prior to my diagnosis of ADHD. It immediately clicked with me as it touched the part of my brain that thinks laterally, the part that is unique to my particular strengths of ADHD. 

I was able to see the world and innovation in business and healthcare, through the lens of strategy for the first time, in a coherent way. It led to a powerful shift in my thinking and it allowed me to hone my creative strengths in business. In turn, this helped my mental health. I was able to enjoy creating change in a meaningful way in the world, and it did wonders for my mind.

Professor Tony Attwood is a world-leading academic on neurodiversity, with a focus on autism and ADHD. I initially read his works to better understand my son, but began to see myself in his works too. His works, books, research, YouTube videos are an absolute must for anyone who wants to gain a nuanced understanding of neurodiversity. 

His work is incredibly insightful and he goes into amazing detail about how neurodiverse people think and why they may react and behave in a particular way. By reading his works and watching his videos, I better understood myself and the world around me.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can find me on LinkedIn where I post regularly about mental health and my other interests in digital health and health innovation.

My personal website is and you are welcome to see some of the work I do on there. 

Of course, I now run Man Confidence, a site that is digitizing psychology for men, allowing men to access clinician-designed support, instantly, 24/7.

This project came as a result of my own experiences in mental health, my experience as a clinician, and my experience in innovation. It is a personal project that is slowly growing with more and more users and interest.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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