As discussed in my other article Our Journey with ADHD, there are some readily available checklists outlining the most common symptoms.
These generally relate to challenges with:
- Attention, organisation and memory (mainly Inattentive Type);
- Hyperactivity and impulsivity (mainly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type);
- or both (Combined Type).
However it can be helpful to learn more about the lesser known symptoms of ADHD in adults.
Different Nervous System
People with ADHD have a different nervous system. They are activated by interest, novelty, challenge, urgency or passion which is unlike the nervous system of people who do not have ADHD, which is activated by importance, reward and consequences.
In other words, if you take a person without ADHD and tell them they need to work on this task / project and they will get a bonus, or it will increase their chances of getting a better role, it is very likely that the person will be internally driven by this motivation and will make their nervous system do the work that needs to be done (listen, focus, remember, concentrate, think, organise etc.).
On the other hand, if you put the same task to the person with ADHD, they will not be able to ‘make’ their nervous system ‘listen’ and do that work, even if they believed it would be good for them. They would not be able to sustain the attention and effort needed to complete that task / project.
Therefore, the only times that the nervous system of the person with ADHD would ‘listen’ and do the effort consistently would be in situations when the person felt urgency, anxiety, meaningful challenge, special interest or passion (for further reading go to: https://www.additudemag.com/symptoms-of-add-hyperarousal-rejection-sensitivity).
It’s like the nervous system of the person with ADHD speaks a different language compared to that of the person without ADHD.
People who have ADHD experience strong emotions which can shift quite rapidly, in minutes. This is usually called Emotional Hyperarousal.
Emotional hyperarousal is triggered by everyday events and perceptions, and shifts quickly. It is when a person finds it difficult to ‘get over’ seemingly small things, and seems to get stuck in emotions or thoughts where the brain just cannot seem to let go even when the person wants to. It can be very challenging, painful and draining for both people with ADHD and their significant others.
Once again, it is important to remember that this is not something that the person with ADHD chooses to do, this is how they are, how they are neurologically built.
Most people with ADHD experience a feeling which they find hard to describe when they believe (whether it is true or not) that people close to them are rejecting them, judging, teasing or criticizing them, as well as their own perception that they have failed.
Known as Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, this feeling is sometimes described like a physical pain, like they were stabbed in the chest. It is an involuntary reaction which may bring feelings of shame, lack of control and inner vulnerability for people living with ADHD.
This experience and reaction can be confusing and overwhelming for both the person with ADHD who is experiencing it; and their family members, who may not understand this reaction (as it may seem illogical, irrational, too intense, unfair etc).
While living with ADHD can be challenging, both for the individual with the condition and their family, it is possible to enjoy a meaningful and interesting life together.
If you or your loved one are looking for some support from somebody with the professional training as well as the personal experience of family life with ADHD, I welcome you to book a session with me.
Author: Ilana Gorovoy, B.Arts (Psych), B. Arts (Hons.)(Psychology), MPsych (Couns.)
With a Master’s in Counselling, Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy draws on therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Existential and Strengths-based approaches, Person-Centred and Positive Psychology, to assist her clients to become conscious of their strengths and difficulties, design and reach their goals, live a life of meaning and purpose, and reach their full potential.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Ilana Gorovoy, try Online Booking – Wishart. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology (Wishart) on (07) 3088 5422.