- Mental Health
ADHD Symptoms: A Sufferer's Explanation
I have read a lot of material on the disorder and while existing articles provide an accurate summary of the symptoms as they appear to an outsider I have found few articles that attempt to explain the condition from the point of view of the sufferer. I have written this article in an attempt to fill that gap. I have the most severe ADHD my doctors have ever seen. I was first diagnosed with ADD in kindergarten and have since been diagnosed with adult ADHD. I have dealt with ADD/ADHD my entire life and as such, I feel I am qualified to speak on the subject.
Many individuals do not believe in the existence of the disorder and claim it is merely used as an excuse for poor performance or a rationalization for drugging a child so they perform better in school. It is true that many diagnosed with the disorder do not actually suffer from the illness however it is very real none the less. Many individuals procure a prescription for medical marijuana because they want to get stoned without fearing jail time, but no one doubts there are individuals with a valid need. It is the same with ADHD.
Among those who believe in the disorder there are still basic misunderstandings about what the disorder is. Parents, teachers, and employers will likely always believe a sufferer can, "Fight through it." It doesn't work like that. I can “fight through” ADHD about as well as a diabetic can fight through insulin shock. One minute I will be doing what I am supposed to and then suddenly I will realize I've been playing with a ball point pen for more than 45 minutes. At no point was there will power involved.
Another unfortunate misconception is that parents think believe if they remove distractions we will be able to concentrate; this is completely untrue. Everything is a distraction; pens, paper, carpet, shoes and clothing, how sunlight hits a room’s window, everything. It does not even take parts of the environment to draw my attention off of whatever I am trying to focus on. As a writer I can create a virtually infinite amount of fascinating things to distract myself with using only my mind. The only way you could take away all my distractions is by putting me into a coma.
One reason people believe ADHD is falsely claimed is that its effects are not consistent. New situations stimulate the part of the brain that malfunctions in ADHD sufferers which brings those with ADHD close to normal. This means that at new schools, new jobs etc when people first meet me I’m a fantastic worker because everything is so easy compared to normal circumstances. A couple of weeks later however I’ll begin fouling up more and more tasks and be found screwing off more and more often. Explaining that I have a medical condition is worse than useless because they know I clearly didn’t have ADHD the week before. I can try to explain about new surrounds stimulating the brain but frankly it does sounds like bullshit and no one is likely to believe it.
Similarly people will demand to know why ADHD prevented me from doing a boring task but not from reading a science fiction novel cover to cover. The answer is too obvious; because the novel was interesting and the important task was not. Rather than saying I was able to pay attention to my novel it would be more accurate to say I couldn’t not pay attention to the novel.
There are some benefits to ADHD however; at least in my opinion. One is that, in certain situations, I can become an obsessive worker. When I'm not on my meds I'll inevitably end up paying attention to whatever the most interesting thing in the room is. If I actually find whatever task I need to complete interesting, I will become a fantastic worker unable to think about or do anything else until there is literally nothing more I can do. I can start something and finish 10 hours later never having left my spot even to pee, drink or eat.
I am quite serious. I can turn to go to the bathroom get distracted and sit back down and resume work on whatever fascinating project has caught my attention unaware of a full bladder. I’ll feel the discomfort but it is distant, it doesn’t seem relevant. I won’t realize I’ve been horridly uncomfortable until I finally remember I was going to go pee; likely the process will then repeat itself.
I also think I'm more patient and more easily entertained because of the ADHD. If I have to wait for something it only takes me about thirty seconds to be enthralled with how they grouted the tile in their waiting room. Now that I write a lot, any and all dead time becomes productive. I can just sit and think about books I’ve read or books I’m writing and my mind will go from there; flitting from one associated thought to another indefinitely.
Herein lays the source of the major problems caused by the disorder. I can spend hours pleasantly amusing myself and miss appointments, not hear important announcements, and not do anything productive. This leaves work to accumulate until suddenly everything has to be done immediately because I piddled away all the time I could have spent dealing with the day to day responsibilities of life. I’ll have to race and cram trying to avert whatever disaster I brought on with my inaction. I’ll spend this time horribly stressed and rarely ever manage to actually avert the disaster. I’ll then feel miserable and generally worthless; emotions that are very effective attention getters leading me to essentially wallow in whatever mess I’ve caused. Gradually however the fallout from my blunders will feel less and less pressing until it is no longer significantly more interesting than the rest of the world and I’ll wander back off with my head in the clouds repeating the process.
Lying is a frequent behavior of children with ADHD. The disorder does not cause an individual to lie however often children see no alternative. When asked why they did not complete a task and chose to instead play, a child cannot really explain that there was never a choice and so they will usually produce a more believable explanation and lie.
The worst annoyances of ADHD:
- When I’m taking some mundane object somewhere, I’ll often become distracted almost immediately. It can take me weeks to find where whatever was in my hand ended up. There are plenty of these objects I never find.
the guy who doesn’t go when the light turns green. At the time I’m only
vaguely aware I’m in my car. I'm aware I'm in my car in the same way I'm aware I'm on Earth.
- In social situations I’ll often leave to use the restroom or something similar and just disappear until someone comes to find me.
- The worst part is the frustration of trying to work and constantly starting to do or think about something else every few minutes. It can take me three hours to fold a basket of laundry. At a certain point I give up trying and just wander from one interesting thing to the next. No matter how well someone understands ADHD if someone is supposed to be working on something important and they are found merrily engaged is something entertaining anyone is going to get angry maybe not the first few times but it will happen.