Dr. Cali Estes - The Addiction Coach ®

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Cali Estes Featured in MSN MONEY

This post is by Erica Sandberg of partner site Creditcards.com

MSN Money PartnerWhat happens when you can’t keep your mind on your money? That’s the dilemma of approximately 8 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Money falling in a manhole © LdF, Vetta, Getty ImagesMore than 4% of U.S. adults have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), according to the National Institute of Mental Health. ADD is Attention Deficit Disorder without the hyperactivity, which is often used synonymously with ADHD. Whether you or a loved one is among this group, you need to be attuned to the financial chaos it can cause. Problems include blowing cash on unnecessary or duplicate items, failing to pay bills and running amok with the credit cards.

The ADHD-money mess connection

Symptoms of ADD/ADHD can include extreme difficulty getting and staying organized and an inability to concentrate. They can also include impulsiveness and restlessness. Therefore, constructing and sticking to a budget and determining which bills need to be paid and when can be especially challenging for those with the disorder.

Such was the case for Venice Beach, Calif., resident Connie Yang, who was diagnosed with ADHD as a minor. “I made a lot of financial mistakes and jumping from school to school or career to career,” says Yang. “I would spend tons of money taking classes or on certifications, which contributed to my debt. I also have impulse control problems, which is part of my ADHD. I buy things I don’t necessarily need.”

Cali Estes, an addiction coach and clinical therapist out of Miami, also has firsthand experience with the financial wreckage brought on by ADHD. Not only does she treat people in her practice with it, her husband, a drummer in a rock band, has also been diagnosed with ADHD.

“Before he met me, he always had an overdrawn bank account,” says Estes. “He’d never look, he’d always just spend.” When they first got together, she tried to have him share in caring for the household expenditures. The electric bill was his one task. “I even gave him the money, envelopes and stamps,” says Estes. “He forgot to pay, and I got a shut-off notice. He had gotten distracted and spent the money!”

Credit cards were especially hard for Estes’ husband. “Oh, he’d get a lot of cards and charge them up and then forget to pay,” says Estes. His solution was to apply for more.

Financial positives of ADHD

“Most of my clients who have ADHD are passionate about something,” says Estes. “They all have one thing they really love. I have one client — he’s a manager of a gym. He loves it. Very motivated, and has that drive to be the best. Because of that, it has been financially rewarding.”

Her husband, too, can channel his energy into his career and earns big. The paycheck, though, is not the driving force. “He cares about drums, and he’s playing all the time, ” says Estes. The positive thing about having ADHD is that whatever those who have it choose to do, they typically do it 100%, says Estes.

Since ADD/ADHD can help you delve deep into your passions, it is more than possible to make the disorder work for, rather than against, you, says Estes: “Sir Richard Branson is ADD. If you think of his empire, it goes all over the place. He has no barriers to his mind and where it can go.”

In fact, the self-made billionaire Branson is just one of countless people with ADD/ADHD who enjoy extreme financial successes. Famous folks who have confirmed they have ADD/ADHD include Steven Spielberg, Dustin Hoffman, Magic Johnson and Terry Bradshaw.

Talk with your doctor

Want to emulate Branson and others’ success stories? Your first step is diagnosis, and the sooner the better. Yang wasn’t ADHD identified until she was 25, and believes the delay resulted in serious yet avoidable credit problems. “By the time I figured it out, I was $30,000 in debt and that’s not including student loans and car payments.

Talk to your doctor about ADD/ADHD, being sure to ask about its relationship to financial mismanagement. Your doctor may not address or detect the connection, so you may have to.

Claire Vannette, from Carlsbad, Calif., was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. Today, as a businesswoman, she understands the financial struggles of people living with it, and how they’re often missed by professionals.

“I think psychologists and psychiatrists should bring up money issues proactively when they’re working with someone with ADHD — any mental illness or neuroatypicality, really,” says Vannette. “Some doctors just don’t think about their patients’ financial situations at all. It’s silly, since money is such a stressor.”

ADD/ADHD treatment often includes medication as well as therapy, but money issues can require additional help. “I do talk to my psychologist, but have not found a real solution to my financial problems,” says Yang, who takes Adderall for her ADHD. “I find it helps with my shopping impulses most of the time. But I still splurge occasionally.”

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