As two wonderful things happened to me since last week - a colleague reached to me for advice on helping clients with ADHD, and also a few clients with ADHD found me through my website, I decided the universe has spoken and it’s time for a blog on ADHD. Yes, we people with ADHD can be a handful so if you are living with someone who has ADHD keep reading.
ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity “disorder” is something that some may not even be recognized as a real disorder by many. Well of course, it is in the DSM-5 and there are three types: inattentive, hyperactive and combined. More information on how it works can be found on my ADHD page here.
I was diagnosed with combined ADHD as an adult at the age of 30, 7 years ago. The initial response was: wow, this explains everything! My whole life, every impulsive decision. the second response was a deep sadness and minor depression, as in “why did no one tell me this before?”. As I kept devouring books on ADHD, I then also promised myself that I will spend at least 10% of my professional life helping others with ADHD (don’t ask me how come I think in numbers).
As Dr Gabor Matter says (side note: if you have ADHD, or work with people who do, his book Scattered Minds is a must read, plus the guy is a genius (obviously;) so all his books and youtube channel are amazing), ADHD Is “attention” deficit disorder, meaning we didn’t have enough attention growing up. So as adults we overcompensate in all sorts of ways. Some (or a lot) of us become creatives, performers, getting the audience’s attention. Some become sales people, always on the go, multitasking, sweet-talking, in front of people, having a constant dopamine rush. Some become scientists, thinking out of the box, inventing the impossible.
For me ADHD is this: genius in disguise. I wear my diagnosis as a badge of honour!
You “just” have to heal the disguise (the trauma) to let the genius come out. Easier said than done, of course. It takes continus healing, self-awareness, noticing what needs to change and more healing. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s about healing. Yes and putting time management and other practices in place and making unfamiliar situations familiar such as a calm home environment but mostly healing. That’s my motto when it comes to ADHD. I absolutely whole-heartedly believe it. So if you have a self-critical, self-deprecating relative or friend with ADHD, make sure you tell them that.
So many famous people were or would have been diagnosed with ADHD had it been available. The "problematic" behavior isn't the ADHD, it's the trauma underneath.
So the usual symptoms of adult ADHD are:
- impulsivity (making decisions we later regret)
- general lack of attention to details
- not paying attention
- being late
- blurting out inappropriate comments or interrupting, speaking before the other person has finished
Also, tabs left running, half eaten snack, started and incompleted tasks, unfinished chats….
The list goes on but the main thing is: we live in our head! We get distracted easily, hence we forget, lose track of time, we live in our own world. We self-medicate. All that of course before the healing begins.
I was the best at my school. I was still inattentive as a child even if I was top of my class. Easily distracted… and also frozen in a constant fight-flight-freeze response.
My parents were always fighting and then later divorced. The world was impossible to handle, it didn’t make any sense. When that happens, we start escaping to our heads, distracting ourselves. Some distract and escape to the out world and become hyperactive and some into the head. Or both.
The ADHD brain is accustomed to a mess and confusion. Anything normal seems boring, hence why you will often hear people with ADHD say they are always bored. In fact my first words as I started sharing my story with the psychiatrist 7 years ago were this: “my life has been defined by boredom”.
ADHD is also closely linked to attachment issues but that may be a topic for another time. Again lack of attention and attunement to a child’s needs. In relationships people with ADHD often come across almost narcissistic. Again - craving the attention we didn’t have enough of growing up.
Then comes the self-medicating on street drugs. Many diagnosed people have self-medicated first before being diagnosed and placed on Ritalin or a similar drug. Drugs give you the dopamine you need to function in a regular everyday (boring) situation.
And then, we blurt out inappropriate things. One of the concepts around ADHD is that the so called thinking brain, executive brain gets underdeveloped or develops differently. And since the executive brain isn’t functioning properly, it’s not filtering the emotions or the things that aren’t appropriate in a situation - it lets them through instead and since the emotions are quite intense (because of trauma) the things we say can be quite intense. Again - healing is the answer. Trauma gets healed, negative emotional blockages dissolved and no longer triggered in such an inappropriate way.
Also we are great at handling difficult situations and … not so great at everyday life. I’m still not. Having an assistant changed my life. Big picture is exciting, mundane tasks not so easy Because again - every day life is boring and also because the brain grew up with fights, arguments, drama, or abuse. Not with every day life the way most people know it. So every day normality is unfamiliar.
Another common trait is that it’s so hard to learn from experience. We repeat the same mistakes. Again in the context of trauma that makes so much sense. The learning processes are inhibited.
Again all of these “traits” get better through healing. So instead of diagnosing we need to start healing. Supplements and proper nutrients makes a difference too. And the winner of all: sleep. Poor sleep can have a significant impact.
You probably knew all that if you or your love ones have ADHD, but I want to mostly point out is what ADHD is not. It’s not a lack of intelligence. And ADHD people don’t aim to disrespect you by being late or hurt you with their emotions. They can’t help it. But you can help them heal through understanding, love and acceptance.
Lots else to say, but I’ll end here for today. If you are close ot someone with ADHD, I hope it gives you an understanding of what the ADHD brain is like.