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What My ADHD Looks Like


I once read, “If you’ve met one person with ADHD, then you’ve met one person with ADHD.” I think this is pretty accurate. ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all disorder, and in fact, it is pretty complex. It requires a multifaceted diagnostic approach, and its presentation can vary from person to person.

I have heard many people with ADHD say that in order to focus, they need complete silence. Background noises are too much of a distraction to concentrate. However, I am the opposite. I need background noise. When I am doing homework, or writing, even when I’m trying to fall asleep, I always have the TV on or music playing.

I’ve met people with ADHD who are chronically early for everything. This is something I can not relate to at all. If I ever somehow miraculously leave the house in time to get somewhere early, I will then inevitably forget something imperative to my journey, requiring me to turn around and go back home to get it, causing me to arrive late. Every. Single. Time.

Here are some of my personal “quirks” and life experiences that I associate with my ADHD. Maybe you’ll find that you can relate to a few of these.

I can turn anything into an analogy.

I will dive right into new projects before I research the steps required to complete them. It is not until things start getting a little tricky that I will look into the directions — and inevitably end up having to go back a few steps.

When I discover something that interests/inspires me, I become obsessed. I can spend hours on end learning everything there is to know about it and can produce grandiose ideas related to my newfound “calling.” Until I get bored. Then I’m over it.

I work well in a crisis. It’s the mundane everyday tasks I find so challenging.

I feel things very deeply. A tragic news story can consume my thoughts and emotions for days. On the other end, show me a story about human acts of kindness, strength, or perseverance, and I’m reduced to a blubbering pile of emotions with a restored faith in humanity.

I love a challenge. Tell me something is impossible, and I am immediately interested in proving you wrong. It’s as if those words are an ignition switch to my brain.

I am a problem-solver, a puzzle-decoder, an out-of-the-box thinker. Nonlinear thinking leads to nonlinear solutions.

I secretly love finding broken toys in my house because I can throw them away, and that means less clutter!

I sometimes feel like a fraud and that the bottom can drop out at any time, exposing just how fraud-y I am. I feel this way far less often than I used to. I have come to accept that I really do deserve all that I’ve worked so hard for, and when people compliment me, it’s because I really am smart/talented/special, and I’m not just fooling everyone.

When I try to describe what ADHD is like to me, I compare it to having 22 different radio stations on at once and trying to learn the lyrics to one song. Try it.

I also say it feels like my brain needs glasses. (I love me some analogies!)

I am terrible at small talk.

If I have an unstructured day but I know there is plenty I should/could be doing, I become overwhelmed and opt to just stay in bed instead. In order to avoid this, I actually have to prioritize my to-dos and write out a schedule for myself.

I’m not afraid to try something new and actually thrive on changing things up a bit regularly.

If I love something, I end up buying a ridiculous, unnecessary amount of it (makeup, phone cases, “buttery soft” leggings, picture frames, books, office organizers, etc.).

I am completely oblivious to lights being left on, clothes piling up, or hearing the home-shopping network blaring from an empty room somewhere in the house, but I cannot stand for a door to be left open in a room I’m in. If someone pops into my office while I’m deeply engaged in a writing project and they forget to close the door on their way out, I cringe. I may even yell, “Get back here and close that door!” Even just opened a crack, it sends my blood pressure up a few notches. I have no explanation for this one.

I’m pretty sure my brain is turned off until the “final hour.” My best work, strongest ideas, and most creative solutions have always been produced when it got down to the wire.

This list can go on for days, and I’ll save emotional reactivity and lack of impulse control for their own separate post. I’d love to hear some of the traits and qualities you associate with your ADHD.

Image via Thinkstock.

A version of this post originally appeared on Hack Rack.

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