When our ADHD symptoms manifest themselves, they don’t come out “looking like” ADHD symptoms.
What I mean is that when we engage in an ADHD-related behavior, that behavior doesn’t come with a little sign for others to read that says “ADHD symptom.”
Accordingly, when people in everyday life comment on our ADHD-related behaviors, they’re usually not going to say “I noticed you have some symptoms of ADHD.” Rather, their feedback will often come out sounding a little more judgmental. They might say:
Stop being so…
- … lazy
- … messy
- … impatient
- … unreliable
- … hyper
- … annoying
- … forgetful
- … disorganized
- … unproductive
- … scatterbrained
- … irresponsible
And so on.
You need to try harder!
Don’t procrastinate so much!
Do you even care?
You’ve probably heard some of these before.
To people without ADHD, ADHD symptoms can look like a character flaw. ADHDers must be choosing not to put in more effort, and we need to snap out of it!
That’s why living with ADHD requires learning to translate judgmental comments on our behavior back into something constructive – specifically, by connecting them to concrete ADHD symptoms and seeing the impact of those symptoms in our lives.
Unfortunately, we start off life without the knowledge necessary to translate judgmental comments in that way. When we get told that we aren’t applying ourselves by teachers, we don’t have insight into the role our ADHD symptoms are playing. As adults, we might continue to take judgmental comments at surface value, especially if we still haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD. All of that can make us doubt ourselves and begin to think: maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I do need to put in more effort.
With a diagnosis and some knowledge of ADHD, we start being able to put those comments in context. “Ah, that is describing inattention,” or impulsivity, or the different way people with ADHD process rewards and experience motivation.
In that sense, we all have to be our own ADHD expert to some extent. When other people give us feedback on our symptoms, they’re usually not going to take the time to reflect on how the behaviors of ours that frustrate them might fit into a mental health condition. So that leaves it up to us to take everyday judgments about our symptoms and frame them with a more constructive, scientifically informed perspective!
Image: Flickr/Subhash Roy