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Zoë’s Pet Peeves: Dumb-Ass Stuff People Say to Me About ADHD

Zoë's Pet Peeves: Dumb-ass Stuff People Say to Me About ADHDOk, I admit, maybe they’re not referring to my ADHD per se.

Ya, they are. You might have heard some (or all) of these, too. Didn’t you wish you had some quick response at the ready? Feel free to use any (or all) of these, any time. You’re welcome.

(Clearly, I had too much time to think while I was away at the cottage with “the girls.”)  Or maybe not. After all, I’ve heard some of this stuff since childhood, and continue hearing it to this day. It’s good therapy to get it out, and what better place to let ‘er rip than right here on my Friday Pet Peeve?

Here we go.

Top 5 Dumb-Ass ADHD Comments
(and responses I wish I’d thought of before)

#5      You say the weirdest things.

On my planet, that made perfect sense. Here’s your decoder ring.

#4        Can’t you sit still for five minutes?

Apparently, not. [said while breaking into River Dance moves. Kicking person who said Can’t you sit still, etc., by “accident” optional]

#3        ADHD doesn’t exist.

Neither does normal.

#2        You’re not applying yourself.

I’ve already applied, myself. I’m just waiting for the callback.

And finally, my personal favorite:

#1        You think too much.

You don’t think enough.

I tried coming up with smarty-pants replies to all the dumb things I’ve heard, but the truth is, I’ve worked really hard, post-diagnosis, to STOP blurting out rude “first thoughts” (as my fav writing guru, Natalie Goldberg, would call them. Bless her heart.)

For the most part, I’ve learned to think before speaking. Given that, I have to wonder, how is it that others think it’s perfectly ok to blurt out these hurtful or critical things, without (it would seem) giving it a second thought?

But officer, I didn’t know…

Many of the things I’ve heard are born of ignorance (lack of knowledge) about ADHD. Fair enough. I’m doing my part to educate about adult ADHD, but it’s difficult to hear remarks that perpetuate negative stereotypes.

After years of therapy I’ve learned that I often over-think or over-analyze things (it took years of thinking to realize this.)

Instead of, You think too much, how about reminding me of positive alternatives to ruminating, worrying, and feeling self-doubt: this is often what’s happening when I’m thinking “too much.” I need encouragement, not criticism, to get out of my head and into my heart.

I’d much rather err on the side of thinking too much rather than too little. There’s some truth in my comeback, “You don’t think enough.” Many don’t. But I hope I’m gracious enough to never actually utter those words.

Wait! There’s more…

A couple more doozies that have irked me over the years:

“I know someone with ADHD, but he’s actually quite intelligent.”

Huh?! This is wrong on so many levels! My knee-jerk reaction is to flaunt my academic prowess and point out that there are many people without ADHD who are actually quite unintelligent. But that’s just mean. And irrelevant. And besides, unless you know someone well, you don’t always know who’s who.

Yet it still irritates to hear ADHD = low intelligence, when in fact the opposite is true (more often than not.) Why do you suppose we think too much?!

“You’re so intense.”

What does this mean, exactly? I’ve heard it all my life, always as an insult.

Post-ADHD diagnosis I’ve decided to embrace my inner drama queen (intense emotions/HSP tendencies), and revel in my deep thinking (but not too much of it, of course.) I’d much rather be intense than shallow or superficial, which I suppose would be its opposite.

I would never say to someone, “You’re so superficial,” although I’ve known many for whom talking about anything other than the weather was too challenging. Live and let live. But don’t invite me to your next cocktail party.

“You’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on.”

Oooooh…this one truly makes me crazy! Alright, technically, I’m already crazy, make that – crazier.

Those who say this to me have good reason. They’re right. As a child, I heard this often, and I imagine I would have left my head, for example, at a friend’s house after a sleepover party, only to return home the next day, neck ragged, bleeding, and gory, cervical vertebrae bleaching in the sun as the bones thrust up out of the bloody stump…

First, DO NOT say things like this to a child whose imagination is as vivid as mine.

Second, yes, your keen observational skills have detected a certain spacey-ness in my demeanor, as witnessed by my frequent walking into furniture that I didn’t see even though it’s been in the family home since before I was born.

I already have the bruises to show for it. I’ve lost my favorite toy. I’m hurting enough. Threatening me with the loss of crucial body parts does not help the situation. (See I’m Your Dog: An ADHD Parenting Guide.)

Here’s a radical idea: instead of exaggerating and reinforcing my propensity toward lapses in attention, how about getting me a G-Damn ADHD diagnosis?! That might have been more helpful. Just sayin’…

Blogging as therapy

*phew* That was a satisfying rant. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

So, how about you? What dumb-ass things have you heard in relation to your ADHD? And what would you have uttered in response had you listened to the gargoyle on the right shoulder instead of the saint on your left?

Maybe we can have a “Pet Peeves” Part II next week with your responses. (I reserve the right to re-phrase or omit any comments that are too over-the-top for this site. I do want to keep blogging!)

STAY TUNED for Zoë’s Pet Peeves every Friday! (more or less)

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Zoë’s Pet Peeves: Dumb-Ass Stuff People Say to Me About ADHD

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2019). Zoë’s Pet Peeves: Dumb-Ass Stuff People Say to Me About ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 19 Mar 2019
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