ADHD Counseling: a family tree exercise

ADHD is highly genetic, meaning that it is passed on through the genes you inherit from your parents. According to the research described in (Sarkis, 2011), if you have ADHD, there is a 75% chance that you inherited ADHD genes from at least one of your parents. There are several genes associated with ADHD, and hundreds of gene variations that appear to be unique to children who have ADHD.

Can you think of anyone in your family who has the same problems paying attention that you do? Tracing your family history can increase your awareness of the genetic component of ADHD.

Exercise: Create a Family Tree of ADHD

  1. Using a large piece of paper, draw a diagram of your family tree.
  2. Underneath your relatives’ names write “ADHD” if you know or suspect they had ADHD. Keep in mind that ADHD was not as commonly known in years past, so people may have head symptoms, but were never diagnosed.
  3. Write down which family members struggled with drug or alcohol addiction. This could be a sign of ADHD since, according to research, as many as one in five people with ADHD has had a problem with addiction.
  4. Ask your family members about any relatives you don’t know a lot about.

As you are creating this family tree, think about the following questions:

  • What do you notice about the pattern of ADHD in your family tree?
  • What do you notice about the pattern of drug and alcohol addiction in your family tree?
  • Are the people with ADHD and the people with addiction one and the same?
  • Does anyone in your family seem eccentric? Do they do things that are outside the realm of normal behavior?
  • Does anyone in your family have learning disabilities? There is a higher rate of learning disabilities among people with ADHD.

You could share your discoveries with other family members and discuss them with your ADHD counselor. Therapists who specialize in ADHD Counseling are trained to provide treatment that helps address executive function challenges and emotional regulation issues that come with this diagnosis.