I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes, worn the t-shirts, and seen the photos with the caption connecting ADHD and the sudden verbal outburst of “Hey look! A squirrel!” This punchline is commonly used as shorthand to illustrate the high level of distractibility in those of us with ADHD.
But let’s see if we can crack that old chestnut.
Why a squirrel? Why not a jack russel? An iguana? An oreo cookie? We’re distracted by just about anything and everything, right? Especially shiiiiiiiney things. So why a squirrel?
I’m glad you asked. My research has revealed a bona fide affinity between people with ADHD and squirrels that transcends their uncanny ability to distract us. There’s a psychological, deep-rooted logic to the choice of this feathery-tailed, fur-bestooned rodent as our totem animal.
Deeper analysis reveals similarities between us and our nutty neighbors, members of the family Sciurus. See if any of these traits sound familiar.
1 ) Squirrels suffer from restless tail syndrome
2 ) They hide nuts then forget where they put them
3 ) They’re risk-takers. Ever see a squirrel leap from one spindly branch that shouldn’t be able to hold it to another spindly branch that it shouldn’t be able to reach? Clearly, squirrels like to go out on a limb.
4 ) They’re creative and innovative. When none of the other squirrels were able to figure it out, the Glaucomys sabrinus (Northern flying squirrel) came through. Do they have feathers? No. Do they have wings? No. But present this seemingly impossible conundrum to the intrepid flying squirrel and they’ll find a work-a-round.
5 ) They love to chatter
6 ) They lack social skills. You’ve seen that squirrel that helps itself to the peanuts set out for the birds? You know: the one that does a daring Tarzan-swing from a nearby tree limb, landing right in the middle of the feast and disrupting the entire occasion. In spite of the name bird feeder (which should be a dead giveaway, right?) it’s clueless.
7 ) They can have criminal tendencies. Let’s revisit that squirrel that helps itself to the peanuts set out for the bluejays. It might know perfectly well they were meant for someone else but have no compunction about stealing them. (Similar to statistics for adults with ADHD, research shows that up to 45% of incarcerated squirrels have ADHD)
8 ) Have you ever seen a squirrel that was not in constant motion? Me neither.
So, the next time you see an ADHD caption that ends with, “Hey look! A squirrel!” you’ll have a new-found appreciation of our close affinity with squirrels.
For more in-depth, non-scientifically researched yet scintillating insights, make sure you check out these previous offerings: