One of the frustrating aspects of ADHD is that it can be hard to explain the symptoms to other people. “Oh, that happens to everyone,” they might say, or “maybe you should try harder.”
If there’s anyone who will get it, that should be other people with ADHD, right?
To a degree, that’s definitely the case. In my experience, other people with ADHD are less likely to assume that you aren’t trying or that your symptoms are a result of some type of character flaw.
I think they’re also less likely to assume that because you struggle with inattention or impulsivity you must just be stupid or incompetent. They tend to understand from personal experience that someone who is disorganized or unfocused in certain settings can still have a lot to contribute.
So in that sense, people with ADHD are probably less inclined to make sweeping judgments about you from your symptoms than people without ADHD.
Do you sense a but coming? Yes, because I probably wouldn’t be writing this post just to say that ADHDers always understand each other and everything is great.
ADHDers are, it turns out, people, and people are complex enough that they find all sorts of ways to misunderstand other people, even when those people have the same mental health diagnosis.
First there’s the fact that ADHD affects people differently. Two ADHDers might have different symptoms, and they might not understand each other’s symptoms.
Let’s say one ADHDer has a difficult time concentrating in environments where there’s any background noise whatsoever and another ADHDer is prone to impulsively interrupting others in conversation. The second ADHDer might not understand why the first cares so much about working in total silence, and the first might still get irritated by the second’s tendency to interrupt.
Even if two ADHDers have the same symptoms, they might still not be understanding of each other. Many ADHD symptoms like disorganization, missed deadlines, or hyperactive behavior can test your patience, even if you have the same symptoms.
Then there are varying of awareness among people with ADHD. In general, someone with ADHD who doesn’t realize that their behaviors are part of ADHD will be less able to understand similar behaviors in others.
In certain cases, someone with ADHD might not even realize that they themselves exhibit the behaviors that bother them. Or they might believe that ADHD is a “made-up” disorder – yes, ADHDers can hold this uninformed belief too. All of which is to say that someone can have symptoms of ADHD without recognizing them for what they are and relating them to symptoms that other people have.
There’s one more aspect of this that has less to do with ADHD. It’s the fact that ADHDers, like any large group of people, are incredibly diverse.
People with ADHD can have wildly different interests and opinions. They can have diametrically opposed political views, or life experiences that don’t overlap. Even if they have their ADHD in common, there are plenty of other reasons they might have to work hard, in some cases unsuccessfully, in order to understand each other.
Image: Flickr/John Blower