Written by Talya Feldman-Lloyd & edited by Kristina Virro
The complexity of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is frequently overlooked and misunderstood by the general public. To those unaffected, it can be viewed as a more simplistic disorder than it truly is, and one that’s comprised of mainly three symptoms: difficulty paying attention or concentrating, hyperactivity, and impulse control.
While these are absolutely three of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD, I am here to tell you that the impacts of this disorder stretch much further than this. My hope is to provide you with some more insight and get you to consider how it can affect certain aspects of one’s life—possibly in ways you hadn’t considered before.
First Thing’s First: What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurobehavioral, developmental disorder that restricts one’s executive functioning abilities, such as emotional self-regulation, working memory, focusing, organizational skills, processing, and planning and problem solving skills. The intensity and corresponding level of disruption of these symptoms varies from person to person.
There are also three subtypes of ADHD that come with their own symptoms:
Inattentive: having a hard time paying attention, difficulty listening and following instructions, getting easily distracted, misplacing things, not paying attention to detail, failing to finish tasks, disorganized, forgetful.
Hyperactive/impulsive: trouble sitting still, fidgeting, talking excessively, impatience, blurting out answers before being called upon, interrupting others, excessive running or climbing, difficulty playing quietly.
Combined subtype (MOST COMMON): displays a combination of symptoms from the above sub-categories.
How Symptoms Translate in Real Life
It’s not until I become close with someone that they really start to understand the degree to which I struggle with memory issues—a common symptom of ADHD. I’ve missed appointments, made plans with multiple people on the same day, and have forgotten important events.
Forgetfulness also impacts my relationships greatly. It makes people feel that I’m not truly listening or that I simply don’t care. “If it’s important enough, you’ll remember.”
Here's the thing: ADHD is like a web browser that has way too many tabs open all at once. You excitedly want to sort through all the information on every page and on every tab as quickly as possible, but your computer system can’t keep up with you—it’s too slow! Instead, the computer freezes and shuts down temporarily at very inconvenient times, and it’s functioning is disrupted by tons of pop-up ads.
Having a poor memory is not fun, and is something I work to try and improve every day. Here are some tools and techniques that I work with to help prevent forgetfulness from interfering with my success and happiness:
Post sticky note reminders in point-form and COLOUR: the colours make things stimulating for the brain, which is essential for the ADHD brain. Post them around the house where you'll see them often: on your bathroom mirror, your bedroom door, fridge, desk, and computer screen. Re-write the reminders regularly and change their positions frequently so you aren't getting used to their positions. Remember, the more stimulation the better.
Have phone alarm reminders that go off at RANDOM times on multiple days: motivation can be a big struggle for individuals with ADHD, but setting random reminders on multiple days increases the chances that you'll feel motivated during at least one of those time periods.
High Risk Behaviours
Adults with ADHD are often called “adrenaline junkies” as they can get easily hooked on the “rush” associated with more risky behaviours such as unprotected sex, bungee jumping, sky diving, gambling, substance use and abuse, etc.
Studies show that adults with ADHD are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system, having higher arrest rates for more aggressive offences, frequent charges and convictions, and higher propensities towards recidivism (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, 2014).
Risky activities can definitely be fun, but the trick is in carrying them out in a smart, well thought out manner where safety is taken into account and consequences are considered. Below are some techniques to help you do that:
Get a proper psychological assessment: something like a whopping 75% of adults who have ADHD don't know it and haven't been diagnosed. The benefits of a diagnosis are plentiful, including: receiving proper support (therapy, medication, financial support, etc.) and gaining access to resources that could be life-changing (literally).
Plan a weekly "risky activity day": acting impulsively often means you haven't considered all of the ways in which completing that activity could affect you and those around you. How safe is it? What's the cost? Should I run it by loved ones? When you plan it in advance, you can do your homework and really think about your decision.
Dealing with ADHD in general is stressful; you don’t have as much control over yourself as you want, it feels like your mind is betraying you, you have difficulty managing your emotions, and live with the constant knowing that your mind works in such a different way that it could hinder your success. This is a lot for one person to face over and over, day after day. One is bound to have moments of irritability when confronted by the proper trigger.
Irritability further strains relationships and causes those around you to walk on egg shells. Communication becomes more difficult, as it prevents people from being able to be as honest as they would like to be. It also upsets the person who is feeling irritable; it's not enjoyable being the one to snap easily and feel like you want to scream at the top of your lungs when someone in your family simply opens their mouth to breathe in fresh air. It is stressful and creates toxic energy.
Here are some other techniques that I've found useful:
Diaphragmatic breathing: this can be used after an explosion to help you calm down as it slows your breathing rate, decreases the demand for oxygen, and allows you to use less energy while breathing:
DO IT YOURSELF: Lie on your back and sit comfortable. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach (below your rib cage) so you can feel your diaphragm as you breathe. Breathe in slowly through the nose, envision a balloon filling with air and expanding inside your stomach, and feel your stomach rise beneath your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. Tighten the stomach muscles and exhale through pursed lips. Allow your stomach and hand to sink in. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
Grounding (or Earthing): this technique gives you a heightened sense of presence and awareness through becoming electrically connected to the earth. In doing so, you can dispel excess energy from your body into the earth's core.
DO IT YOURSELF: Get into a comfortable position and close your eyes. Envision roots connecting from your feet to the earth and spreading out into the ground—all the way to the earth's core. Send all of your excess or unhelpful energy down these roots. Feel any toxic energy leaving your system and envision it traveling down the roots to the core of the earth where it is absorbed and recycled by mother earth.
Anger management and/or family therapy: this may be a good idea when you feel ready so both you and your family can learn how to communicate in a way that makes everyone feel heard and respected.
Irritability can very easily turn into full blown anger. For tools and techniques on how to confront your anger, send me an email so we can chat: email@example.com
The Bottom Line
These are just a few areas of life where ADHD interferes, but the impact is unlimited and unrestricted. Everyone experiences it differently. Keep an open mind and remember that sometimes it’s not as simple as it seems. Please feel free to reach out, share your stories, ask questions, or whatever else!
Today's Guest Blogger
Talya is a feisty yet loving and sensitive LGBTQ-positive individual. Born and raised in Toronto, she loves connecting with people from all walks of life to provide them with a safe, comforting, and non-judgemental space where deep healing can occur. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram at: talking.with.talya.