NEW YORK (PIX11) — Working from home, Zoom and FaceTime sessions, social distancing, mask-wearing — the way we live changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That change in structure also triggered a response in people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD.
PIX11 News spoke with Andrew Fingerman, the CEO of a tech company who has the neurodivergent condition. Fingerman said he turned to coaching to help him weather life’s challenges.
“Becoming CEO, my purview, the information that was coming at me on any given day, shot up exponentially. So you can imagine the number of emails the number of phone calls,” said Fingerman. “Managing my top priorities alongside this deluge of inbound information became very challenging for me.”
Fingerman has been with PhotoShelter for 14 years. Initially, he was hired to be head of marketing for the company, which creates a space for photographers to store and manage their visual files.
He led a smaller team with a smaller set of responsibilities. Then in 2012, he was promoted to CEO. It was the challenges he faced with the added workload that led him to question what was affecting his productivity as a leader and it was a seminar about ADHD that led him to answers
“Turns out ADHD is a very common behavioral type for entrepreneurs,” said Fingerman. “I started connecting the dots turns out maybe the signs were there my entire life.”
It was only five years ago when Fingerman was diagnosed with ADHD. Although it is usually more often diagnosed during childhood, studies show the prevalence of ADHD in adults has been steadily on the rise in the last decade.
An estimated 10 million adults in the U.S. have ADHD. Common symptoms include inattention, such as difficulty staying focused or organized; hyperactivity, like excessive fidgeting, or talking too much; Impulsivity, or acting without thinking.
ADHD is considered a neurodivergent condition, a condition where the brain works differently, but not deficiently. Fingerman said he has come to embrace the positives of his ADHD.
“Creativity and problem-solving, resilience, high energy and the ability to have hyper-focus on certain things that interest you,” said Fingerman. “Harnessing those superpowers can be a very effective tactic for a CEO or an executive with ADHD.”
The onset of the COVID pandemic turned life as we know it upside down. Social distancing and the work from home format took away the structure we were all familiar with and, for those with ADHD, relied upon.
“For somebody with ADHD, you’re put right in front of the screen all day long and all the distractions and the pitfalls that you have to watch out for, the inbound messages the distractions of emails, perusing social media, managing that was probably the single greatest challenge.”
On top of that, Fingerman was faced with the pressure and anxiety of safeguarding the health of his more than 100 employees and his own family. He turned to his sessions with an executive coach who specializes in ADHD. Coach Antonia Bowring, who received an adult ADHD diagnosis several years ago, works with Fingerman twice a month.
“Some were so challenged because a lot of people with ADHD also benefit, my words, from scaffolding, from structure, and all of a sudden that went out the window,” said Bowring. “We didn’t know how long we’d be at home, people didn’t have offices set up, people had to reconfigure the whole way they’d worked.”
While there is still a stigma attached to ADHD, research has shown many people with the condition go into creative or entrepreneurial fields and become leaders of industries. Bowring’s philosophy: combining standard ADHD coaching with the needs of executives.
“I’m an executive coach, I bring some of that tactical work in, for my clients with ADHD but I’m looking at marrying the tactical with the leadership and the management,” said Bowring.
The challenges brought on by the pandemic had undiagnosed adults seeking evaluations and those diagnosed seeking a new approach. Coaching was one of them.
“For people who may have had perfection tendencies, people who get distracted easily, people who procrastinate, all of a sudden, that lack of structure became a huge set of obstacles to overcome,” added Bowring.
In Fingerman’s case, Bowring’s coaching was another form of therapy. Their sessions were often over the phone, as he took walks outdoors, away from his computer.
“Taking medication can be very effective for people with ADHD, not for everyone but for some,” said Fingerman. “But the medications will only get you so far if you don’t have strategies and tactics.”
ADHD coaching ranges in price per session and coverage depends on your insurance. In recent years, coaching has become a more mainstream form of treatment.
“The statistic is that 75% of adults with ADHD are not diagnosed,” said Bowring. “Which means they were children with it and it wasn’t diagnosed because you do not develop ADHD throughout your life, it is a neurodivergent condition and you were born that way.”
Fingerman noted there have also been positives during the pandemic as well.
“People with ADHD tend to thrive in high-pressure situations stress can be a stimulus that drives people with ADHD to focus,” he said.
Overall, it’s about navigating a neurodivergent mind pre- and post-pandemic.
“Antonia was able to help me restructure my daily routine, restructure my approach to managing my time,” said Fingerman. “We meet twice a month and it’s two of the most impactful hours that I spend throughout the month doing anything.”