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ADHD Symptoms: A Sufferer's Explanation

Updated on May 4, 2010

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.
  • I’m 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.

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I was looking on the internet for articles to help my ex-husband understand my recent Adult ADHD diagnosis as a way to also understand my belief that my daughter too shares this condition. I found myself cracking up at several points in your article, because I related all too well. My diagnosis has been a relief in understanding the annoying tendencies that have plagued me all my life, and I hope to apply this understanding to also help my daughter. Just need to convince others that the condition is real. Thank you for your article!

    • elrenec profile image


      6 years ago

      hi Falsor Wing.

      i was diagnosed when i was 7years old and am now 21. I agree with you on the way people treat you. I get the same thing and when you're trying to explain it to someone it sounds so stupid. but its something we live with everyday.

      i could walk from the kitchen to my room and not know what i went there for.

      I think its in my family as well. But my dad refuses to believe he has it even though its genetic. I know my older twin brothers have it. they are eighteen years my senior but i think theirs is also undiagnosed.

      its a struggle everyday to get anything done. especially because my dad has it but he doesn't get it; Because im like him so how do i have ADHD? lets just say i got hiddings everyday if not more than once.

      Teachers tortured me in school because i was the naughty kid. i even had a gp tell my mom i should get a hiddings 3 times a day(regardless if ive done anything wrong) was going to be my only cure!!!

      so yeah i get it.

    • htodd profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      This is informative ..Thanks for sharing

    • Joesy Shmoesy profile image

      Joesy Shmoesy 

      7 years ago from New England

      I live it, and now I see my daughter living it. Being able to stay intensely involved in something of interest is called hyperfoccusing. An awesome side affect, as well as a huge enemy!

      American Romance, my friends and family joke with me all the time saying, "If you could actually finish something you would be rich." I believe they are right!

      Thanks Falsor Wing for letting us know we are not alone! Great Hub!

    • Falsor Wing profile imageAUTHOR

      Falsor Wing 

      7 years ago from Lodoss the Accursed Isle

      You might want to speak to your doctor about this and find a doctor who's known for knowing how to accurately diagnose ADHD. If you do have it there are things that can be done for adult ADHD.

    • American Romance profile image

      American Romance 

      7 years ago from America

      I was reading to dispute, I have always thought ADHD was a symptom of not enough discipline, (parents allowing their children to get away with murder) AFter reading your hub I realize I am YOU! I didn't get meds as a child but I recieved the belt accross my buttocks daily and sometimes hourly, I have never had medicine, now Im 46 but nothing has changed, I start interesting projects get bored halfway through and have to grind and force myself to finish, Yesterday I wanted to go to the golf course and my wife nudged me to finish some closets I started last month, I got one done, after forcing myself back on it I realized there were some difficult things like the door hinges, hanging the coat rod in a strong place etc. I became interested and I got focused, I had a checkbook that I didn't balance for 10 years, this was before online banking, I still cant balance a checkbook even online, paperwork at a desk will put me to sleep in minutes, it can take 8 hours to do a simple job at my desk like fill out a form or something, I may need to research more of this for help. thanks for the write.

    • Etherealenigma profile image

      Sandra M. Urquhart 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks to both you and angela_michelle. You both described things my son does regularly, that drives me nuts. However, you might want to get evaluated again, because we thought it was just adhd, but have since found out that in the case of my son, he is bipolar with the adhd being the "least" of his problems. The bipolar can cause sub-conditions like adhd and learning disabilities, which explained much of what is going on with my son; the extreme highs and lows, the seemingly violent angry outbursts and aggressive posturing, the frustration, and even a lack of sleep. I'm trying natural treatments first, and if all efforts in that direction fail, then ultimately, we may need to go to meds, but I'm not there yet, and I will exhaust all natural remedies prior to going in that direction, because I'm not really into chemical drugs at all. I know how harmful they can be in the body. Thanks for the article.

    • KCC Big Country profile image


      8 years ago from Central Texas

      Fantastic article....I married someone with undiagnosed ADD. I immediately recognized the symptoms and had him tested and he refused to take the medication for a long time. He was afraid it would zombify him and alter his personality. He finally started it and it helps TREMENDOUSLY! He sounds like you. It's terribly frustrating for me, so I can't even begin to imagine how horrible it must be to live it and then to have to deal with the judgments others make about you. Thanks for sharing the world from your side of the table.

    • profile image

      ADDer - ADHD Tips Tricks Tools 

      8 years ago

      Nice post. I too couldn't find much in the way of what it is actually like to have ADHD. I wrote up some of my specific experiences to help fill the gap a bit.


      The main reason for my comment is that I also know ADDers are often competitive, and yet know one has stepped up to the "worst ADD ever seen" statement! :)

      I have similar symptoms to a lot of what you mentioned (can't do the book thing though). I figure dueling with medication doses would be appropriate (smirk). I take (or am supposed to take) 100mg of Adderall (generic) a day. Better or worse? :)

    • Falsor Wing profile imageAUTHOR

      Falsor Wing 

      8 years ago from Lodoss the Accursed Isle

      It sounds exactly like it to me, but you should talk to a professional. Misdiagnosis of ADD/ADHD is rampant and I'd hate to contribute. good music might help with homework, that and caffine.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      8 years ago from United States

      This was really interesting. I have suspicions that a girl I care for has ADHD. I will ask her to do her homework, remove distractions, and then she'll spend fifteen minutes doing who knows what, and I'll come back, she'll be sitting at her desk with nothing in front of her, and I'll be like "Why haven't you done a single problem on your homework?" She looks at me surprised I'm upset. Or I'll ask her to get dressed after her shower and I walk in twenty minutes later wondering why she didn't come down and she's completely nude. Today, I said, "Could you please..." She interrupted me to tell me something that happened at school. Then I said, "Excuse me, I was talking to you, please do not interrupt." She goes, "Oh I'm sorry." Then as I started talking again, mid sentence, she walks away. I guess I'm not all that interesting, now am I? But it's very frustrating. These are actually just the things that happened today, and I saw her for a little more than an hour. Then other times, if we are cuddling she can sit with me and do anything, until I am ready to get up. Plus, if the tv is on, it's like she can't not look at the tv. I have to literally walk in her line of site, if I want her to walk past a tv that is on.

    • embee77 profile image


      8 years ago

      Falsor Wing, you have done a great job of describing what it's like to live with this thing called ADD. When I was 40, I found out I had grown up with the non-hyperactive variety. Now I can see patterns in the things that come easily and those that challenge me. I love your comments about the benefits: creativy, compassion, persistence. We need to keep these in mind for balance as we try to build up our confidence and self-esteem after years of struggling in school, with friends, etc. I'm writing on my experiences, too. I agree that sharing what we've learned is important. Maybe we can make it easier for someone else. Thanks for your fine efforts. Your humor is another ADD trademark, and delightful.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hi Falsor Wing,

      I can truly identify with what you are saying and feeling. I believe I have had it since childhood and only have been diagnosed with it in the last four years. I dont know how many times I have lost keys, etc and told that I am just not disciplined enough. However on the good end of things stick in a Walmart and I can find it within minutes!!

    • FranyaBlue profile image


      8 years ago from Windsor, England

      Hi Falsor Wing, great hub. My sister has ADHD and the hyperactivity has always been a major thing, she just never knows when to stop. My mum wouldn't allow her to be put on rittalin and so she just grew a grey streak instead. My sis is 17 now and really finds it hard to make new friends but she is really smart and a brilliant artist.

      Thanks for the insiders view, I'm gonna get my sis to read it.

    • Rafini profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      I found this to be interesting and informative. My son also has severe ADHD, but his experiences are different than yours because he also has Aspergers. With my son, new situations are utterly ridiculous - he doesn't transition well at all, and he has no patience. Entertaining himself doesn't seem to be a problem, most of the time, but now that he's 20 I can tell that he's getting bored at times even though he changes activities almost constantly (still). And as for losing things! OMG!! lol I don't know how he did it, but he lost more than one winter jacket at school and a pair of shoes in the car - I had to stop and get him new shoes cuz we could only find one shoe. lol

      Anyway, it is difficult to explain his behaviors to people. I understand it isn't a choice, but so many others just don't get it.

    • LPogue profile image


      8 years ago from Missouri

      ADHD is in my family. My son and I both have had to deal with it our entire lives. I definitely saw my son and myself both in your descriptions. I often work through the entire night without realizing that I did, or will sit in my computer chair so long I am stiff and sore when I stand up. Some of the people in my life don't understand. Others do. Writing seems to help concentration, though, at least for a while. Then again, I have seven or eight short stories started and 14 web sites I am building.


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