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ADHD and Self-Interrupting

Like not listening to people, interrupting is one of those unintentionally rude behaviors that is a classic ADHD symptom. I’ve talked about interrupting and ADHD plenty of times before, including “good” types of interrupting (which, to be clear, certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t bad ones too!)

As much as being interrupted is frustrating for others, there’s something here that we should acknowledge: there’s no one that ADHDers interrupt more than themselves!

Yes, we might blurt out a comment that knocks your mid-sentence train of thought off the rails. But at least we can feel your pain, from all the times we’ve derailed our own thoughts in a similar manner.

Speech BubblesThe stereotypical “hey, look a squirrel” moment is an example of ADHD self-interrupting. Most literally, though, self-interrupting occurs when we interrupt ourselves in the middle of conversation.

An example of this is what I’ll call the ADHD self-interrupting sentence structure. This is kind of like a run-on sentence, but it’s a sentence that runs on because in the middle of saying something you remember something besides what you were going to originally say, which you then insert in the middle of the sentence:

  • I was cooking dinner last night, when – oh, by the way, I tried that cake recipe you were talking about – but anyway, when the phone rang…

A self-interrupting sentence could easily interrupt itself multiple times:

  • I was cooking dinner last night, when – oh, I tried that cake recipe you were talking about – anyway, when the phone rang – actually, I wanted to ask, when you take the cake out of the oven do you usually…

These sentences occur when you start to say one thing, which reminds you of something else you want to say, which you then try to work into the same sentence. Self-interrupting sentences can progress in different ways. They might return to the original topic that began the sentence, or they might diverge irretrievably. They might even lead to multiple self-interruptions as one topic reminds the speaker of another, which then brings up another.

This is one of those things that everyone probably does to some extent, but that I’d bet good money ADHDers tend to do more. One of the advantages of writing versus speaking, as far as I’m concerned, is that I can edit out these types of incoherent self-interrupting constructions.

Self-interrupting sentences in conversation are the most literal way people with ADHD interrupt ourselves, but of course we’re prone to self-interrupting in many more figurative ways as well – when we start one task and switch to another, when our stream of consciousness takes a hard left turn away from whatever we were thinking about before, basically any time we get suddenly distracted, and so on.

None of that is to minimize how irritating it can be for other people when we interrupt them. It’s just to say: as far as being taken aback at not being able to finish what we were saying, we’re right there with you. When it comes to people with ADHD, an interrupter tends to also be a self-interrupter!

Image: Flickr/Mashup Communications

ADHD and Self-Interrupting

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). ADHD and Self-Interrupting. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jun 2020
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