Can you teach an old brain new tricks?

Just received my diagnosis of the ADHD inattentive presentation along with General Anxiety Disorder. I also turned 61 a couple of weeks ago. My ADHD is moderate, but seems to be increasing as I age. This only feeds the anxiety, which increases the inattentiveness! Not a good feedback loop.

At this point, how do I learn to cope with the issues I’ve struggled with for so long? I feel like I’m taking tiny baby steps when I long to run!


First of all . . . WELCOME!

I can relate . . .

I am 73 and was diagnosed with ADHD when 53. Depression and anxiety was an every day experience since childhood.

Are you taking medication?

That can make a difference.

Based on my experience and the reports of so many others . . .
EXERCISE can be tremendously helpful. I recently got back on my exercise bike . . . And, as I knew it would, I am less depressed, more energetic, and get less frustrated by silly things that would then get me angry. I recently celebrated my 47th wedding anniversary. Over the years ANGER has been the one issue that periodically would threaten my marriage. Not my depression, not my anxiety, not my absent-mindedness, not my intrusive tendencies, not my failure to complete household chores . . . Etc.

Others here will certainly chime in with other insights / suggestions!

Wishing you the best in your newly undertaken journey!!


Hey Brooklyn. Thanks. No meds yet, but I just received the diagnosis today. Now I have to go back to my primary doctor for consultation. (My testing was done by a psychologist, so no meds there.) It is going to be a long weekend of anticipation.

I do try to walk regularly. Got started during the COVID semi-quarantine. Much harder to do now that I am required to be back in the office every day. My long walks seem to be the only time I am fully in the present (along with a podcast) and at peace with myself.

Been married for 35 years myself. For us, the issue is I’ll just close down because I try to avoid the confrontation of an argument. Of course, that means when it does blow up, it is a bigger explosion.

I’m sure I would benefit from some kind of therapy or coaching. How to find the right one is currently a mystery.


Hello, I also had a fairly late diagnosis at 48. You have been waiting a long time to get to this point probably without even realising this point existed before. It will take a little time to sink in, and ‘slow and steady’ is the best way to go about it, taking big jumps risks a bad landing, and often leads to falling over in my experience.

I have been to some ADHD psychology sessions, but that was 1 1/2 years after the diagnosis, it was well put together. I had already done plenty of research on the subject, so did not learn much in the way of new information and strategies. I think my point is that there is a wealth of information available on the web of strategies and self-help techniques that you can start working on.

Yes, you can teach an old brain and there is plenty that you can try out yourself. Have a look around to see what could help you and ask on here too. Give anything a go, at least for a trial, if it does not work for you, try something else. One problem I find for myself, I learn new things, but have trouble sticking with it even though I know it helps me. Maybe have a look at being more organised and making a routine if this is likely to be a problem for you. The bullet journal system works for me, but i have a problem with using that consistently too. Good luck!


“. . . ay, there’s the rub . . .” So said the bard! [Hamlet]

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I was 48, too, when I got diagnosed, and maybe 46 when I figured out that this might explain some of the things I’d been wondering about. I don’t know and often wonder if I’ve really learned that many tricks since, but it did give me the confidence that there are a lot of new tricks to learn - tricks that aren’t even in the playbook I’d been failing at before. Basically, I’m writing my own playbook now.

A German comedian who’s also ADD has this line that if you’re born a penguin, even seven years of psychotherapy won’t make you a giraffe. To stay within that image, coming to terms with ADHD made me understand that failing at being a giraffe doesn’t make me a bad penguin. Or, getting back to the original question: Before succeeding or failing to learn new tricks, we’ll first need a look at what these tricks are supposed to make us succeed at.

I’ve learned that there are things I’ll never be good at because they just feel wrong and against my nature, as well as others that I gravitate towards. (ADHD is a great BS detector that way. If I can’t get myself to believe something is worth doing, I just can’t do it.)

Like Neil, I can try anything for a short while but have problems to remember practising any new trick long enough to make it a habit. But sometimes I can tweak things until they’re easy enough to keep doing.

A small example:

I’ve been really bad at keeping an agenda for as long as I could think. I’d write down a date and then completely forget about not just the date but also the calendar until long after it was due.

I always keep a journal on me, though (still working on also having a pencil with me all the time), because the free format made it easier for me to keep notes. Keeping dates in there on pre-defined pages helped. I took some cues from bullet journalling for that.

This year, I’ve crossed over to an agenda again because it has lots of space for free-floating notes. It also has a good feel to it, because I learned that I’m more likely to pick a thing up that feels good in my hands. I’ve also developed ways of using both the free-form pages and the calendar pages in ways that worked for me.

It’s now been half a year, and I’m still using that agenda. On and off, admittedly, but I think that’s longer than I’ve ever used an agenda before. I got there through incremental tweaks and thinking about what did and didn’t work before.

Most people I know will tell me to just stop being so weird about finding the right kind of agenda and use Google Calendar like a normal person. Most people I know think what works for them must work for me as well because it’s normal and if it doesn’t, it’s my fault for not doing it right. I used to think so, too. Now I realize maybe I haven’t been doing it wrong enough for it to work.

So it’s not about new tricks. It’s about learning the right tricks. About finding out what works for you in a way that you don’t have to push through to make work.

What I’m still struggling with is to beat the impulse to try and do things “right” (aka normal) because that impulse keeps coming back with every new challenge. Normality is very stubborn that way: It doesn’t just go away if you ignore it long enough. Following that impulse will most likely send me down that rabbit hole of failing, then failing again, then getting stuck there.

Also, excercise. I just can’t get myself to waste my energy on a run if I’m not going anywhere. (So to speak. I’m more of a cyclist anyway.) I had my half-hour a day of excercise set for me by working 15 minutes from here and always taking the bike (which worked because I didn’t actually have to make that decision every day, it was just the natural thing to do) but now I’m working from home half the week, I can feel the lack of excercise.


AMEN to that!

When I am on my exercise bike I have found it helpful to listen to radio. Trying to do anything visual would get me seasick . . . I usually listen to Groucho Marx’s radio show “You Bet Your Life”. He was a master of quick wit and puns (my “specialty” or your Pun ishment . . . :joy:). There is an app that can be downloaded to an iPad, iPhone, . . . Old Time Radio Shows. It has an amazing number of different shows from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s . . . Music, drama, comedy . . . It is all in English and mostly American productions, but if that is not an issue I highly recommend it.

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@MegaProcrastinator, Welcome! You absolutely can teach your old brain new tricks! I tell myself every night I will do better the next day. At lease one good thing about that is I start each day in a positive frame of mind (and not dwelve on all things I should’ve done earlier). That was baby step#1 for me. I make lists and while I may not get things on it done on the day I wanted, looking back I always get amazed at how much did get done! Another thing that helps me is getting started with some simple tasks earlier in the day. Getting started takes a lot of energy but once you get going you can keep going.

I have been walking at least half an hour a day now – I prefer to walk focusing on the walk itself + thinking (anything spoken is distracting – I may listen to fast paced instrumental music if I want to walk faster). But just thinking about stuff while walking actually helps me figure things out better.

@Brooklyn given your penchant for puns, you may enjoy The Goon Show, a British radio comedy program by Spike Mulligan, Harry Secombe and Petere Sellers, broadcast in the '50s on BBC. Very very funny. If you can follow them!

Audio episodes:
These transcripts may help:


SELLERS: Here is a hendu warning. Hendus are raging in sea areas cromety
  firth, fourth, fith and six. Gale force hendus are sweeping eastward from
  Iceland, Shetland and the ponies. Further hendus are sweeping in from the
  east. That is the hend of the endu warning. Tong

SECOMBE: Pardon me Wal, but what’s a hendu?

GREENSLADE: It lays eggs

SECOMBE: And you say they’re blowing from the east?


SECOMBE: Stand by for Easter eggs!

I’ve always had to moments that were “must be ADD, ha ha”. Never gave it serious consideration until about four months ago. The more I studied it, the more I realized how many things, in my life,
fit the the patterns. Now, I wish I had know all this 45 years ago.

Agreed - including this site. (Yes, when I first came to the conclusion, this was me, I spent a whole day binge watching Jessica’s videos on YT… The testing psychologist also sent me a list of resources to check out.

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That is really going to be the hard part. I’ve been falling short at work because I can’t make myself work in the expected manner. We get jerked from one thing to another quite frequently. That is the culture. Problem is, I forget to go back to the first thing. I’m thinking my own playbook is going to require a change of scenery.

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Exercise bike and treadmill are terminally boring for me. But I can do a walk\jog with not issues (other than bad knees!). I usually listed to podcasts and it becomes kind of a moving meditation for me. I do like Groucho, though. I’ll check out the app,

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Thank you . . .

I have started to listen (and read along with the transcripts).

OMG there is so much to listen to (and read :joy:)!

I guess English English is not the same as American English. But you Brits cannot be expected to speak in the manner we do, here across the pond! No worries that ours is . . . and yours is not . . . how shall I say . . .revolutionary! :rofl:


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Not a Brit but have lived in more than one country! Enjoy! It will grow on you as it did on me. The inventiveness and razor quick wit of these Goon Show guys makes me think may be they had ADHD!


I understand where you are coming from. In retrospect all the signs were obvious when i was young, especially teenage years, but I was seen as a problem child. I knew by my late 20s that i was having major problems in my life, started asking for help when i was 30 but misdiagnosed. 20 years on and i’m only starting to get anywhere near to the right track. If i had known what i do now, even 10 years ago it would have been a big help and i’m sure i would be in a much better place at this point in my life.

Adult ADHD has only relatively recently become a ‘thing’ so back in the day, 45 years ago, even 20 years ago there was very little knowledge or information and no assessment or diagnosis available. Unfortunately we are held to the times that we live in. As you know already, we can’t get the past back, try not to spend too much time going over it, it’s self-defeating in my experience. I think that some form of acceptance is the best place to aim for, not exactly sure how to get to that point, I’m still working on that for myself.

Spike Milligan had severe type 1 bipolar which he was very open about, it has been claimed that Peter Sellers was also bipolar but i don’t think he was diagnosed, maybe ADHD in the mix too.


There’s one anecdote about Sellers that makes me think he might have had, if not ADHD, then something akin to it.

Brian Henson told it in his reissue introduction to Sellers’ Muppet Show episode. Trying to dodge the part of the show where Kermit interviews the guest, he said to Jim Henson something like: “You can ask me to play anyone or anything, but don’t ask me to play Peter Sellers!”

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Yeah, I was kind of lucky in a weird sense because I was unemployed when I got diagnosed. (In fact, that contributed to my seeking a diagnosis.) So I was already starting everything anew anyway. Also, the workplace I found is one of those rare places where, when stuff goes wrong (and it does, a lot), they’re not interested in why you failed the task as much as in how to adjust the workflow so you don’t. There’s also the chance that I just haven’t used up all the good will they hired me on yet, but I think that interest is genuine.

One tweak that I didn’t suggest but that helped me a lot was to switch from a push system (where they drop the next task on your desk) to a pull system (where all the due tasks are lined up somewhere and you grab the next one when you’re ready).

It’s not always possible to change a work culture that way, especially not if you’re the only one suffering from it. Then again, maybe you’re not. Maybe others can handle the pressure better but still could do with less pressure. If you can frame your needs in a way that benefits both you and your employers, you might have a shot.


I’m pretty sure the suggestion of bipolar came from Britt Eklund some time after the marriage failed in a disasterous style, as did all his other marriages. He was notorious for anger outbursts and his volatile and obnoxious nature off screen. Many people who worked with or were in relationships with him have said how diffcult he was to be around, even Spike Milligan, who remained close friends with Sellers. A classic case of the flawed, tortured genius in my opinion.

“He causes pain to everyone who gets close to him … Even when you’re the victim of his outrageous behaviour, his selfishness, or one of his tantrums, you always found yourself smiling about it afterwards, even if you had to do it through gritted tears”.

—Spike Milligan on Peter Sellers

It sounds like bipolar and quite possibly ADHD too, they often come together like evil twins, also he may have had a narcissistic personality and definately a difficult childhood to put in the mix too. ADHD and BP also appear quite similar in some aspects, it’s not uncommon to get misdiagnosed with ADHD before arriving at a bipolar diagnosis. A whole load of overlaping conditions can be offered up as theories, I’m not sure which fits best, the theory that the best comedy comes from tragedy can also be applied.

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I think it might be worth looking at the Bullet Journal to try and keep on top of everything, there are at least 2 vidoes on HowtoADHD YT channel. Have a look at the vids and see if that could work for you.

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HI MegaProcrastinator,

I can relate. Being 50 I received my diagnosis, beginning of this year. Suddenly it all make sense. At the beginning I felt a big relief, for I had a reason. Now it is sometimes so hard because I am so impatient and I somehow believed I could find solutions and tools quicker. I also believe my inattentiveness is increasing as I age. Also I used to procrastinate my whole life and then finish my workload in a couple of night shifts in my office. I realize that I can not live on 4 hours of sleep anymore. Trying to relax and take it slow, I find my “new self” sooo boring, that it is hard to motivate myself. Well I think, we need to get accustomed to this baby steps. I hate it though. It should be no steps or big jumps. Who wants to take baby steps :slight_smile: Take care. I feel the same.

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Did we forget this “alien” brain?


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