The Secret Life of Adult ADHD: 5 Common Misunderstandings that Couldn’t Be Further From the Truth

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Most people have heard about ADHD, but there are a lot of misconceptions—especially when it comes to adult ADHD.

As someone who has ADHD herself, I want to shed some light on common myths about this condition—and talk a bit about what it’s really like.

1. ADHD Doesn’t Go Away After Childhood

We used to think ADHD was only something kids dealt with, and that the need for medication or assistance went away as the child became an adult.

But for many people with ADHD, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

That kid who can’t sit still or pay attention in class becomes the adult who can’t sustain focus at work or complete tasks as they’re expected to. And an adult has a lot more to get done day-to-day than a kid.

For me, my ADHD symptoms became much harder to deal with as I entered adulthood. It’s what led me to seek a true diagnosis and treatment!

2. ADHD Is More Than Just “Not Being Able to Focus”

There are three main symptoms of ADHD you’ll hear about:

  1. Inattention

  2. Hyperactivity

  3. Compulsivity

Sure, everyone has trouble focusing sometimes and deals with distraction. (With smartphones, we literally have distractions at our fingertips at all times!)

But ADHD is struggling with focus, inattention, and distractibility to the extreme. It’s doing everything you can to set yourself up to focus and get stuff done, yet still struggling to do it at the same caliber as those around you.

Having certain tools in place and taking good care of yourself can certainly help, but it’s a constant struggle to catch up with everyone else’s “normal.”

As a freelance writer, I’m in charge of my own schedule. This is a dream for me because the traditional work environment and schedule doesn’t fit my mind at all. On the other hand, it also means I have to hold myself accountable to get stuff done.

To have a productive day of work, I must eat a good breakfast, have plenty of water, keep healthy food or snacks available every couple hours, take a stimulant (either expresso or my medication—or sometimes an intense-ish morning workout), completely remove all distractions, use tools like Trello and a project timer, do my mindfulness practices, and sometimes simply be in the right headspace to tackle my focus.

I’m the person who stays at the coffee shop for eight hours at a time, staring intently at the screen and avoiding conversation or eye contact with anyone else.

Even still, sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get anything done.

I know this will sound (super duper) dramatic, but sometimes trying to simply sit still and focus on a task feels like I’m going to die! The closest thing I can compare it to is feeling like my skin is crawling. My brain screams for something more exciting, to get up and move, to stop what I’m doing immediately… and start writing that novel I’ve been dreaming up or research something random I just thought of or buy a new website domain for my next business idea or signing up for some event in my city that I’ll inevitably not actually make time to go to. Etc, etc, etc.

Thankfully, when I take great care of myself, it greatly increases my chances of a successful day. :)

3. Adult ADHD Affects All Areas of Your Life

A condition doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When your brain is different, it makes sense that it would affect all aspects of life.

That can include emotional regulation, work-life balance, relationships, sensitivity to lights and sound, disordered eating, all-or-nothing thinking (very common for ADHDers!), being prone to addiction and impulsive decisions, trouble keeping up with bills, and more.

This is why proper treatment and understanding of ourselves can improve so many aspects of life too.

4. We’re Trying Our Best

On the surface, an adult with ADHD can seem lazy, unproductive, or even apathetic when in reality, they’re trying their best to fit into a neurotypical world. We just need different tools to “catch up” and tap into our amazing potential.

I spent years thinking I was a terrible worker, so embarrassed by my chronic lateness and procrastination and confused about why I could never just “get it together.” But understanding my ADHD and finding ways of working, time management, and more that worked for me has been a total game-changer.

5. ADHD is Superpower When You Learn to Harness It

Those with ADHD often make successful entrepreneurs, according to Entrepreneur.com. This doesn’t surprise me one iota! ADHD brings creativity, empathy, ultra focus in areas we really care (known as hyperfocus), a unique drive, and the ability to think of a million different “out of the box” ideas.

When it’s treated as a real thing and you learn how to utilize the strengths while accommodating for the weaknesses—when it’s treated more as a trait than a disability—ADHD can be used to change the world.

Learning more about it and being diagnosed has completely changed my life, improved my work life, my relationships, and how I view myself. Basically, finding out you have ADHD is not a curse; it’s a new beginning!

Written by Lauren Stewart