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Finding Life Lessons in ADHD

Over on the AllPsych blog, I just wrote about a study suggesting that reflecting on lessons you’ve learned from life can help with aging.

Now, while I wrote about this study because I find it interesting, I should admit that, as a 28-year-old millennial, I’m no expert on coping with aging. True, I’ll soon be having to deal with the trauma of turning 30, but even then I’ve got another year or so of denial before I reach that point.

But reading the study immediately made me think of something I am familiar with coping with: ADHD.

ContemplatingSo here’s the question I’m now asking myself: if reflecting on life lessons helps with adjusting to the process of aging, could reflecting on life lessons also help with accepting ADHD?

I think so, and I’m aware of at least a couple major life lessons I’ve learned from having ADHD.

One is to trust your intuition on life decisions. Even if something seems like the right thing to do on paper, if it doesn’t feel right it’s probably not.

For example, even if a job or a career path checks the boxes you’re looking for in theory, it might not be a good fit to you psychologically. It might not mesh with how your brain works, it might not keep you motivated in the long-run – and, specifically, it might not accommodate your ADHD symptoms.

Your intuition can be a good gauge of those factors that are less tangible but ultimately fundamental. The thing with ADHD is that some activities will keep you engaged and hold your attention while many won’t, so you have to listen to your brain when it tells you what it really finds rewarding.

Something else I’ve learned is the need to be cautious about interpreting other people’s behavior from the surface, especially with behaviors that you find frustrating.

As an ADHDer, I sometimes don’t pay attention when I should, I do things impulsively that turn out to have undesired effects, I make unthinking mistakes, and so on. All those things can give the impression that I simply don’t care, or that I’m not putting in an effort.

That’s not true, though. I want the people around me to not jump to conclusions about the motivations behind behaviors that stem from ADHD symptoms. And so I have to extend that same courtesy to other people. In particular, I have to keep in mind the possibility that when I encounter frustrating behaviors in others, there might be some factors below the surface that shed a different light on things.

I haven’t created an exhaustive list of life lessons I’ve learned from having ADHD, but these are two realizations that jump out at me. My main point here isn’t even the specific lessons I’ve mentioned above, but more generally the fact that I think it’s possible to find personally meaningful lessons in the challenges that ADHD brings.

That said, if you try the exercise of reflecting on ADHD life lessons for yourself, I’d be curious to hear some of the lessons that you’ve learned!

Image: Flickr/rulenumberone2

Finding Life Lessons in ADHD

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2020). Finding Life Lessons in ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 May 2020
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