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Some ADHD Ground Rules

There are a lot of unknowns in ADHD. For starters, we don’t know what exactly causes the condition. We don’t know why some treatments work for certain people and not others. As individuals with ADHD, we don’t always know which coping strategies will work until we try them. And sometimes we can’t even tell what’s a symptom and what’s not.

Ground Rules
I couldn’t really think of a fitting image for this post, but then I realized — you can’t ever go wrong with a picture of a cat.

But there are some things we emphatically do know. There are certain facts we have to establish in order to explore all the other, more interesting and less certain aspects of life with ADHD. These are the things where it’s really hard to even have a productive conversation with someone about ADHD if they don’t agree on these points.

I’m going to call these the ADHD ground rules. These are:

  • People with ADHD have brains that work differently than people without ADHD: This is a more precise way of saying, basically, that ADHD exists. There has been an enormous amount of research on ADHD, and it’s clear by this point that people with ADHD have brains that work differently, and they experience different outcomes in many areas of life as a result. If you really don’t believe this, go back and pick one of my earlier blog posts at random – chances are about 50 percent that I’ll cite some studies.
  • People with ADHD shouldn’t feel ashamed about how their brains work: People with ADHD didn’t choose the way their brains work. They aren’t stupid, they aren’t lazy, and they can’t just snap out of it if they try hard enough. People with ADHD have lived their lives experiencing all sorts of setbacks as a result of their symptoms, often without knowing why. The struggle of living with ADHD, of knowing you’re different but not knowing why, can give rise to feelings of shame and self-doubt, but that doesn’t mean these feelings are justified.
  • People with ADHD can live fulfilling lives: ADHD is not a sure sentence to failure and unhappiness. Having ADHD means you have to experiment to make your life fit with your brain. It means you have to build insight into how you function, and you might have to do some things differently. But it doesn’t mean you can’t thrive.

There’s a lot of trial-and-error to living with ADHD, but these are a few principles that are invariant. And the more I progress in learning about and managing ADHD, the more I find these points to be true.

What are some other ADHD ground rules? Please add them below!

Image: Flickr/Rui Duarte

Some ADHD Ground Rules

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). Some ADHD Ground Rules. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Jul 2017
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