ADHD is exhausting. For the individual themselves, the partner, the parent, colleague, teacher, child etc…
… but mostly for the individual.
To understand why, it’s important to return to the basics. A diagnosis of ADHD suggests that a bunch of things may be difficult. If you read through the list carefully, you’ll notice that they all relate to each other:
The ability to control your attention
The ability to stay focused on something that ISN’T interesting
The ability to shift away from something that IS interesting
The ability to plan ahead
The ability to organize yourself
The ability to keep track of time/be on time
The ability to apply past mistakes to current situations
The ability to self-reflect
The ability to follow through on promises
The ability to remember more than 1 things at a time
Think about this in the context of the world we live in today. We are hyper scheduled, multi-demanded creatures living in a society that prizes efficiency and productivity.
And then understand that every single one of the ADHD symptoms gets in the way of our ability to get things done!
…which is why every day is exhausting.
The back of the envelope estimate is that it takes someone with ADHD 3-5X more energy to complete the same task as someone who doesn’t have it. Add to that the constant stress of all the things you haven’t gotten to, disorganized approach to your workload, not knowing how you plan on getting things done, and knowing on some level that there are a bunch of things you’ve probably forgotten about. It feels like a never ending stream of unfinished, open-ended business with no reprieve in sight.
All of which makes the following experiences start to make sense:
Burnout (aka I’m exhausted and can’t do this anymore)
Anxiety (aka I am so stressed and can’t stop worrying)
Depression (aka I feel so hopeless and helpless about everything)
The number one most important thing you can do if you’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD, or recognize several of these behavioral symptoms in yourself or someone you interact with, is to get educated. The challenges are driven by the biology and chemistry of our bodies – not character flaws.
There are a number of online and hard copy resources out there with a wealth of information. With understanding, you will begin to learn what you can expect, how to adjust your environment to facilitate things, how important it is to rest, and how to self-advocate so that others can offer effective support.
Grace Y. Lin is a mom, wife and Licensed Behavioral Therapist living and practicing in New York.