Hey, if you know someone with ADHD
I just wanna let you lads without adhd in on something
Those of us with adhd have this nifty little thing called RSD. It stands for rejection sensitive dysphoria. Something like 99.8% of people with adhd have it. It’s an example of how adhd messes with emotional regulation.
If someone with adhd even perceives that they may possibly upset someone whose opinion and love they value, they may have a complete emotional breakdown, complete with tears and the certainty that they will now be hated forever. This reaction can also be caused by their own opinion of themselves.
If you see someone you know who has adhd make a mistake, please be gentle with them - especially if that mistake is related to you or someone else. You may save them an RSD episode and a lot of heartache.
Also, as a side note, RSD can also kick in when it comes to things someone with adhd likes. For instance, if I find a comic online and find it funny, if I show it to you, I’m confiding in you not to hurt me. Showing someone something I love takes a huge amount of trust. That’s because, if someone who I care about says something mean or negative about something I like, it can literally, permanently ruin it for me.
This isn’t melodramatics. It’s not about being bitter or petty. It’s an RSD response that comes from feeling inadequate if the things I like don’t measure up to the people whose opinions I care about. I’ve had entire hyperfixations absolutely ruined for me because my sister said she ‘didn’t get it’ and compared beloved characters to something she knows I hate. I could no longer see that show without thinking of the overwhelming sadness that came with that experience. That show became shame. It’s taken almost a year for me to even be able to palate looking at content for it again.
These days, I don’t share hyperfixations with people I’m not confident understand how much they mean to me. It’s a touchy subject and can end in devastation.
So, my point is, if you know someone with ADHD, please be kind to them and keep this in mind when they share things with you. You don’t have to like something or even understand it to show compassion. Maybe ask a question or two before letting the topic trail off. If you don’t seem very interested, they’re likely to find other people to talk about it with anyway, since it’s clear you’re not very into it (depending on how socially aware they are). However, even if they can tell you’re not into it, you’ve made a compassionate and understanding experience for them, showing your support and love and letting them know you care.
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The more I deal with my ADHD, the more I realize how a lot of the big issues are related.
Below I’ve listed three difficulties caused by ADHD (1, 2 and 3) and issues that are caused by the difficulties (a to h).
These are quite simplified for the sake of explanation but the information is all correct.
(I’ve also linked my coping tips for the issues making it a kind of an ADHD masterpost, I guess).
1) ADHDers aren’t deficit in attention, but rather have a hard time controlling the subject of our attention. I call the tendency to get distracted ‘distractable energy’.
2) ADHD makes it hard for us to do thing cause the brain doesn’t find it worth it.
3) ADHD makes it hard for us to understand and deal with our emotions and also makes us hypersensitive.
a) Distractability: Issues 1 and 2. Unless things are interesting, they lose our interest and our attention easily drifts away.
b) “Driven by a motor”: Issue 1. Everyone’s brains get random impulses to do things but our minds can’t shift attention away from it so we act on them.
c) Full of energy: Issues 1 and 2. See (b). We don’t actually have more energy, rather its the ‘distractable energy’. Doing things is just just less boring than not doing things.
d) Hyperfixations/ hyperfocus: Issue 1. We can’t shift our attention away from these things.
e) Inattention: Issue 1 and 2. We have hard time keeping our attention on things that our brain doesn’t find interesting.
f) Fidgeting: Issue 1. See (c). Doing something physical uses up the ‘distractable energy’ and allows us to work on what we want to do.
g) RSD: Issue 3. Our tendency to misunderstand emotions and hypersensitivity makes us feel rejected when not and feel it harder.
h) Sleep: Issue 1. Our mind is easily distracted cause of the distractable energy so has hard time switching off.
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Okay. So I know this is a topic that isn’t talked about a lot in serious terms, but I’m here to give it a try, because accurate representation is important to me personally and probably many others out there with ADHD. This post is mainly for writers who don’t have ADHD, but everyone is welcome to read.
For those who don’t know exactly what ADHD is, here’s a brief description. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Its main symptoms are inattentiveness, impulsivity, executive dysfunction, hyperfocus, and sometimes hyperactivity. Essentially, ADHD is a learning/processing disorder that affects the storage, processing, and decision-making parts of the brain. Attention, focus, and recall are the main areas afflicted, but it’s not uncommon for people to also have sensory or social issues as well. Like people with autism, people with ADHD sometimes need to “stim”, or stimulate themselves, in times of anxiety or boredom. Here’s a list of some of the common signs of ADHD:
- interrupting others without meaning to
- losing/forgetting things constantly
- very intelligent but poor grades
- leg shaking, pen tapping, etc.
- talking fast/constantly switching subjects in conversation
- inability to focus on common tasks
- spacing out during tasks
Like I said before, not every ADHD character is a stereotypical hyperactive motormouth. Some are (and that’s perfectly okay!), but when writing characters who have struggles that you yourself aren’t familiar with, it’s smart and considerate to do some research and not play into stereotypes if you can help it. As a side note, more boys than girls tend to present with hyperactivity, while more girls tend to air on the side of inattentiveness. There is also ADD, without the H, which encompasses all of the symptoms except hyperactivity. Not all of us are bouncing off the walls or interrupting the teacher during class; ADHD can be the girl doodling in her notebook in the back of the lecture hall or the boy spending five hours without a break on an essay. Here’s my advice on how to write and recognize accurate characters with ADHD.
This is one of the most common symptoms of ADHD. Paying attention and focusing on things that aren’t particularly interesting is a major issue. For children and teens who are still in school, this is usually one of the things that results in bad grades or letters home. A way to deal with boredom when we need to pay attention is with stimming, which is an outlet for hyperactivity. I personally got sent to the principal’s office a few times in middle school for doodling during class because my teachers thought I wasn’t paying attention, when in reality doodling was the only thing that could help me pay attention. I shake my leg, tap my pencil, move my fingers, and other small things during class in order to pay attention as a way of letting off excess energy. Other people have toys or stress balls that they can fidget with.
In social situations, inattentiveness can present as forgetfulness, distractedness, or disrespect. Some inattentiveness problems can be attributed to processing speed problems; for example, someone asking their friend to repeat what they just said, only to process it a second later and interrupt their re-explanation. However, inattentiveness usually presents as daydreaming or drifting off during activities or conversations that don’t capture someone’s full attention.
This is an aspect of ADHD that is often ignored or overlooked, but can be a major issue. Impulsivity can be described as a lack of consequential thinking, or an inability to see/care about future effects of current actions. Examples of impulsivity in characters could be blowing money on shopping sprees, suddenly deciding to drive somewhere without forethought, cutting or dyeing hair on a whim, or binge-eating at a party.
Exdys is probably the most complicated symptom and the hardest to explain because it’s purely neurological. This is basically the phenomenon of knowing you need to do something, telling yourself over and over that you need to get up and do it, and yet continuing to sit there and not do it. To people without ADHD, it might seem like a non-issue, but it’s a real problem that can be extremely frustrating. When frustrated parents ask their ADHD children why they didn’t just get up and DO their homework, or just DO their chores, there’s often no answer that makes sense. When writing characters with ADHD, this isn’t the most prominent symptom, but it does exist and it does add conflict to characters already struggling with outside tasks.
Hyperfocus is when the brain locks down on a certain task and a person can have a sudden laser-beam of work ethic and attention. Unfortunately, most people can’t choose or decide when or what to hyperfocus on, so it ends up being more of an inconvenience than a benefit, especially when you're trying to clean your room and you suddenly find a bunch of old stuff in a box and then you’re on the floor for two hours instead of finishing your task.
Like some forms of autism, ADHD people often have “special interests” that they focus a lot of their time and energy on, called hyperfixations. Mine were/are mostly TV shows (go figure), but they can be almost anything that someone has an extreme interest in.
Writing characters with mental or physical disorders can be difficult because in order to be an interesting 3D character, their illness can’t define them. Real people have many facets and personality traits that don’t revolve around their trauma or mental issues. On the flip side, some people’s issues contribute to their personality; there have been studies linking ADHD to creativity and intelligence, for example, just as it’s hypothesized that people with depression and anxiety tend to be more empathetic. Whatever it is, as always, make sure your character is a person and not a plot device.
Thanks for reading! I’m always happy to answer any questions about anything on this blog. Happy writing.
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