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If ADHD Were a Movie

This morning I was reading about a new TV series based on the experiences of a woman with “Pure O” OCD, or OCD without observable compulsions. In the TV series, the protagonist’s intrusive sexual thoughts are acted out in scenes that are graphic and sometimes absurd.

TheaterPresumably, this is supposed to give the viewer of a sense of what it’s like to have daily life constantly interrupted by unwanted obsessive thoughts. Which got me thinking – if ADHD were depicted as a movie or a TV series in this way, what would it look like?

Here are some of the ideas I had for what the experience of having ADHD might look like if it were put on film:

  • Having the camera randomly pan away in the middle of scenes
  • Setting entire scenes in slow motion to give a sense of impatience and understimulation
  • Conversely, having some scenes sped up so they’re over before your brain has had a chance to process them
  • Having conversations in which characters speak in words that sound like English but have no meaning (the feeling I’m going for here is when you read a paragraph in a book without any of its meaning sinking in)
  • Completely cutting important scenes from the film to simulate the experience of missing out on information because of not paying attention
  • Having multiple scenes happen simultaneously in split screen
  • Making the movie drag on and on so the viewer eventually loses motivation to get to the end

Optionally, you could then include a note on the back of the DVD case telling the viewer that they’re lazy, stupid and need to try harder if they didn’t finish the movie. Or enroll the viewer’s friends and family to tell them the same.

Any other ideas on how to depict ADHD cinematically? And, by the way, any recommendations for good movies featuring characters with ADHD? Leave a comment!

Image: Flickr/Emily

If ADHD Were a Movie

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. (2019). If ADHD Were a Movie. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2019
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