If you are diagnosed with ADHD, it’s assumed you have been struggling with some level of distractibility, impulsivity and even hyperactivity. These key ADHD symptoms and behaviors are what help diagnosis the disorder. Less acknowledged are the everyday inner feelings of ADHD. Feelings of anger, grief, sadness and denial are common. If you have been diagnosed as an adult, the more likely it is that you are also struggling with feelings of shame, overwhelm and isolation. And yet for many, amazingly, when they finally know it is ADHD, they begin again to enjoy hope for their future.
Many people with ADHD live daily with feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment. There is anger about not knowing about their diagnosis sooner and resentment at the educational system for misunderstanding their learning challenges. Some are angry and frustrated at the medical or therapeutic systems for not accurately diagnosing their symptoms. And many are angry and disappointed at family members for not having helped them identify, treat or manage their disorder earlier.
Along with the feelings of anger, many people with ADHD are in various stages of grief. Grief for what “might have been”. Grief for what experiences were missed because of undiagnosed ADHD. Grief for the years they feel they lost not knowing “why” they acted the way they did. Some people experience feelings of denial or even shock when they learn there is actually a name for what they have experienced all their lives and it is called “ADHD”.
Another common feeling among people with ADHD is the sense of isolation. For most, there is an overwhelming experience of being alone with their challenges. Many have lived in isolation as a way of protecting themselves from the misunderstandings of others and the rejection they have known growing up. Commonly people with ADHD will isolate themselves from others due to feelings of shame. Shame perhaps as a result of the paths they have or have not taken due to ADHD. Feelings of shame as a result from living in a world that sends the messages that “ADHD is not real” or they are simply “not trying hard enough” or that they just need to make “better choices”.
And amazingly, along with all of these overwhelming feelings of anger, grief and shame many people when diagnosed with ADHD begin for the first time in a long time, to experience positive emotions. There is relief. Relief that there is finally a name for what they had been experiencing all these years. There is relief that they are not crazy, but that instead they have a brain that is uniquely wired. Relief that they are not alone, there are others, like them, who are managing these same challenges…successfully. And finally hope that life can be different then how it was and that they finally might be able to hold onto happiness and experience personal, academic and professional satisfaction.
What to do
Whether you are eighteen or eighty, the most important thing to do if you are experiencing these common feelings of ADHD, is to talk about it with someone you trust and believes in you and your ADHD diagnosis. Talk to your doctor who perhaps supported you in being diagnosed and ask for more information to understand ADHD and your treatment options. Seek out support from other people with ADHD. Online groups, forums, and even in-person community support groups and meetings are available. Find a therapist who specializes in ADHD that can help you better understand these very common ADHD feelings. And of course, find yourself a good ADHD coach to help you understand your ADHD brain so you can move forward in your life in a positive way. A good ADHD coach will help you in minimizing the challenges of your ADHD and support you in discovering and maximizing your innate amazing ADHD talents, skills and qualities.