Downsides of ADHD

Things That Actually Suck About ADHD

The downsides of ADHD are essentially the reasons that lead to a diagnosis in the first place. Generally, I believe in being positive and learning how to cope with the cards you’ve been dealt. However, this is not a safe place for toxic positivity because we live in reality (unfortunately) and the reality is that sometimes having ADHD just simply sucks. In addition to completely sucking on occasion, some of the biggest downsides of ADHD are lesser-known aspects of it. Those who aren’t in the neurospicy-know hear ADHD and think of hyper kids who can’t sit still. Shittily, it’s much more complex than that.

ADHD downsides are not just about struggling to sit still and stay focused in school. ADHD is much more complex than an inability to sit still and focus. The sooner more people understand that, the more inclusive and empathetic our society can be. Ironically, as stress and societal pressures are key factors in worsening ADHD symptoms, a more inclusive society would likely lessen ADHD symptoms on a grand scale but that’s an entirely different tangent for another time. I’ll stick to the current subject of suck for now and keep that one in my pocket for later.

So come, take a rant with me about about the downsides of ADHD.

What ADHD Really Is

What It Really, Really Is 🎵

ADHD is a neurological disorder and our brains simply work differently. Well, simple isn’t the right word as it’s quite chaotic up there, but more on that later. Research has found that there are differences in ADHD brains versus non-ADHD brains. These differences are seen in the chemistry, structure, and function of ADHD brains. The chemical imbalance in our brain doesn’t make us incapable of focusing, it makes it difficult to regulate that focus. If we’re not interested in something, it can feel next to impossible to get us to focus on it. If it’s something we’re really interested in, good luck getting us to stop.

These chemical and structural differences in ADHD brains impact:

  • Regulating focus and attention
  • Self-control and self-monitoring
  • Communication and language
  • Social behavior and interactions
  • Impulsivity
  • Judgment
  • Memory and information recall
  • Planning and organizing
  • Motivation
  • Problem-solving
  • Emotional regulation

A Journey Through the Downsides of ADHD

Obviously, I’m an over-explainer, we know that. So clearly, I don’t feel like the bullet points above adequately portray what the downsides of ADHD are. Join me through this journey of neurospicy nonsense on my quest to bring ADHD awareness to the masses. Hopefully, you’ll find something helpful or relatable that will justify my ranting.

The ADHD Urge to Multi-Task

We tend to crave multi-tasking in an attempt to engage all the chaotic crevices of our brains. Our multi-tasking abilities can be an incredible feat to witness when they work out right. More often than not, the result looks like a sad juggler who threw too many items into the mix. He’s dropped everything 12 times but he’s still pretending like everything is fine.

Multi-tasking is not just something we tend to do because of our drifting focus. Many of us need it to help with auditory processing. If I attempt to watch TV with nothing in my hands, I’ve got maybe five minutes before my mind wanders. After an undetermined amount of time, I’ll realize I’ve been disassociating and have no idea what’s happening. Too often this means I’m also scrolling or playing games on my phone which is further dysregulating. Even before smartphones, while watching TV I would do puzzles, color, or craft. Lately, I’m really working to do more of that again so I spend less time on my phone. I’ve felt more regulated but have been realizing how much my multi-tasking habits can create barriers.

Multi-Tasking Misunderstandings

When we’re seemingly always engaged with something in our hands, it makes us seem closed off. The loved ones we live with can feel like we’re not paying enough attention to them. They may worry they’ll get a snappy response if they interrupt us because we struggle with transitions and interruptions. Even with understanding partners, these multi-tasking habits can create a barrier. There are times my husband thinks I just need downtime or am processing something so thinks he shouldn’t bother me. In reality, I’m usually just busying myself and need him to burst into my emotional bubble.

This is an issue that pops up in a variety of settings like schools or work. People with ADHD struggle with auditory processing at various levels of severity. It’s almost impossible for me to retain something I’ve only heard without reading it or writing it down. I cannot tell you how often I got in trouble in school for not paying attention because I was doodling on notes or fidgeting with something. I wasn’t doing it as a sign of disinterest or not listening, it was what allowed me to actually listen. So nice to reflect back on how early I was perpetually misunderstood. (That was sarcasm.)

Rejection Sensitivity Spice

Like a rejected Spice Girl, rejection sensitivity is that reactive response that you didn’t even Wanna Be anyway. Rejection Sensitive Disorder (RSD) is a condition linked to ADHD that causes you to feel intense emotional pain because of feeling rejected or failing. Likely due to the differences in brain structure, people with RSD can’t regulate rejection-related emotions and behaviors. This makes the feelings more intense, whether the rejection was real or perceived. I say that not to gaslight you about your feelings but because RSD makes you more likely to interpret vague interactions as rejection and seemingly overreact. While rejection and failure suck for everybody, RSD amplifies those feelings which can make them harder to manage.

So basically, we’re prone to misreading people, feeling intensely hurt about it, and then have ourselves a nice little spiral, which may or may not be in public. I’ve been doing a lot of work on my rejection sensitivity but honestly, it is one spicy bitch. Especially considering my husband also deals with rejection sensitivity which just really increases the spice level.

Having ADHD is Exhausting

One of the downsides of ADHD that many people are unaware of is how exhausting ADHD is. To the neurotypical, we are balls of energy often bouncing between places, fidgeting about while babbling stories of some random adventure we went on. We seem like we’re oozing with energy and in a way, we are because it seriously takes it out of us. We take in more sensory input which can be both overwhelming and exhausting. Trying to monitor and manage rejection sensitivity? Exhausting. Basic decisions are exhausting because we struggle with decision-making. Sometimes my decision exhaustion hits so early in the day that drinking would be socially unacceptable, which doesn’t even matter because I’m too exhausted to decide to drink or not.

People with ADHD take in more sensory input and tend to be highly empathetic which can make socializing extra draining. There are so many things we want to go out and do, so many interests we want to pursue but we also need considerable downtime or else we can’t function. (Because we’re exhausted.) But then we haven’t done enough to stimulate us so we somehow hit a spicy combo of bored exhaustion and bouncing off the walls.

Everything Takes Longer With ADHD

Another downside of ADHD is that every fucking thing takes longer. Decision-making is difficult for us and it makes every. little. thing. take longer. The more tired I am, the worse it gets. It takes me longer to recall information. It takes me longer to clean because I get distracted by side quests or forget what I’m looking for. I take longer to write things because it’s hard for me to find the right words without getting distracted by another thought process entirely. If I need to enter a page count for work, I have to write the page count down because by the time I switch tabs to enter it, I’ll have forgotten it or swapped the order of the numbers. Given how often I forget to write down the page count and then have to re-open things, you can see where the time starts to add up here.

If my husband walks the dogs in the morning, it’ll take him 15 minutes. If I walk them in the mornings, the actual walk will also take 15 minutes but somehow, it will take an hour out of my morning. I wish I could explain how this is possible but I truly do not know. Articles that take other writers 4-6 hours to write will take me 8. I’ll spare you from a rambling list of how many things this impacts but it’s truly just every fucking thing and I hate it.

The ADHD Inability to Recall Information

ADHD’s impact on memory makes recalling information a real struggle. It often feels like you know you have all this information filed away somewhere in your brain but you don’t have the filing system. You’re left to just pull things at random and hope you find it. Then at some point, it’s just too overwhelming so you give up and come out empty-handed.

Short-term memory is also quite tricky. If someone leaves the room while we’re watching something and asks me to tell them what happened, I will make a mess of it. Even if I was actively watching and mentally keeping notes so I would be able to tell them what happened, when they come back two minutes later, I won’t be able to accurately summarize it. This often leads to an intense sense of frustration because there are things we just know but can’t find the details we need to coherently communicate them. If we try to explain, it often comes out in jumbled, incoherent tangents. People’s confused or bored responses then trigger our rejection sensitivity so we just give up and shut down.

ADHD and Reaching Your True Potential

Maybe that’s a misleading headline because I think most of us feel exactly the opposite. We don’t think we’ll be able to reach our “true potential” because there are so many areas we struggle with. The workplace can be a prime place for ADHD to hold you back. Whether it’s because you can’t do things fast enough, appear unfocused to your boss, or struggle with the social aspects. For those of us who are attempting to reckon with how much knowledge we know we have and how much of it gets lost in the void of executive dysfunction and information recall, that shadow of unmet potential seems to get bigger every year.

We see people our age progressing in their careers while we feel stuck. Sure, many neurodivergent people manage to become successful (and I’m really trying to become one of them.) But many of us are so overwhelmed by life, stuck prioritizing tasks in nonsensical ways, and just trying to stay emotionally regulated that we can’t even fathom how to make the time to take anything else on.

But maybe that feeling is a result of extreme capitalism that’s conditioned so many of us to tie self-worth with salaries and titles. Why can’t we all feel accomplished by simply existing and finding ways to be happy in this often dark and dreary world? We need to flip this feeling of not reaching our true potential on its head. We have ADHD so isn’t anything we do that is true to ourselves reaching our true potential? Damn, started ranty but got a little healing here. Look at me, I’m growing.

Letting Others Down

Healing would be so much easier if I could just decide to feel that way about whether I’m reaching my true potential or not. Unfortunately, those feelings are often tied to feeling like you’re letting others down, and letting others down is a feeling all too familiar for those with ADHD. We’re often late, forget to do or bring things we said we would, and fail to remember birthdays and other important things. We unintentionally zone out when they’re telling us things that aren’t immediately interesting to us. We’re prone to unpredictability, with rapidly changing moods and are prone to snapping when interrupted or overwhelmed.

We already feel like we’re drowning in the feelings of letting our loved ones down and those feelings of failure get amplified by RSD. All of this coalesces into feeling like we suck at everything all the time and it makes it difficult to navigate relationships.

We feel like we let our loved ones down so often, we want to be able to make them proud in other ways. Then the workplace is overwhelming, we’re too tired from work to volunteer for things we’re passionate about, and suddenly we realize the world is passing us by while we desperately cling to oh-shit handles. When we mess up, we try to explain the ADHD ways of our brains but we worry it’s perceived as us making excuses when really it feels like being boiled alive by a brain that’s consuming us.

Shame and ADHD

A rant about the downsides of ADHD would not be complete nor would it be accurate without mentioning the vacillations between shame, self-disgust, and self-resentment. It’s hard not to resent yourself when you’re incapable of having a consistent level of productivity. Difficulties with executive dysfunction and motivation can make it hard to eat a healthy diet and get enough exercise. This not only further dysregulates us but often leads to issues with body image. Many of us hate that we’re as moody, sensitive, and reactive as we are and as a result, find it hard to like ourselves.

We always feel behind on everything and like we’re underperforming. Even if we get ourselves organized in an attempt to GOST (Get Our Shit Together), we know it has an expiration date. We just have no idea when that expiration day is because one day we’ll just wake up and not pick it up ever again, devolve into a mess, and then try it all again…later. It’s really hard to feel good about yourself when you always feel like you’re barely holding it together and letting everyone down. For those of us who did well in school as children and were constantly told how smart we were, or how well we’d do if we’d just apply ourselves more, those expectations are so internalized it’s nearly impossible to not have negative emotions surrounding it. And you know what that is? It’s exhausting.

Emotional Fog of ADHD

Emotional fog is one of the downsides of ADHD that I find most frustrating that people don’t talk about more. Sometimes you feel like you’re just merely existing and out of touch with reality. I don’t mean this in some kind of psychotic break way. I mean it in terms of feeling disconnected from yourself, your sense of self, and others. The only thing you really feel is foggy and you can’t reach through it to understand how you feel and why you feel that way. It can’t be categorized as depression because we still find joy in things and get excited. It’s more about the in between moments where there’s nothing particular happening to get your dopamine going so you’re all ‘meh’ in the meantime.

Per usual, I have multiple theories. Maybe it’s because kids with ADHD are corrected and nitpicked so often, they develop a foggy little layer of protection for themselves. Constant corrections and nitpicking can be triggering for adults with ADHD and RSD as well, and having that emotional fog can prevent stormier weather…sometimes. Other times, that emotional fog erupts into a vicious storm and you’re left working backwards from the aftermath trying to figure out what you’re so upset about. Even in the best of times, it’s confusing for our loved ones to navigate which just further adds to those feelings of shame and guilt over letting people down and being difficult to live with.

Breaking the Cycle of ADHD Downsides

As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of these ADHD downsides are interconnected with one another. When things take you longer or you’re forgetful, it’s hard to advance in your career and not let your loved ones down. That leads to feelings of shame and self-resentment and you put yourself under more stress to do better; to try harder. Only, stress and inflexibility have a direct impact on worsening ADHD symptoms, causing you to feel like you’re letting people down so often that you get stuck in a shield of emotional fog. What’s worse is that that emotional fog makes it harder for us to connect with our loved ones and our loved ones are most equipped to help us fight through those negative feelings.

It’s all exhausting and it sucks. It all really fucking sucks. No, it’s not fair that we have to deal with it. It’s also not fair how much more work we have to put into every aspect of our lives. And it’s definitely not fair how many of us grew up in households with undiagnosed and therefore dysregulated parents living through the downsides of ADHD.

But half of the battle of getting through it is being able to recognize these things about yourself. When you can recognize and put language to what you’re feeling, you feel less alone, less broken, and less mystified by the things you do. You’ll find yourself more able to regulate and more capable of finding and utilizing coping mechanisms. When you learn these things about yourself, you learn how to give yourself grace and love yourself through all the many ebbs and flows. Admittedly, I’m still working on those things (and it’s exhausting!) but I’m happy to be sharing that journey with you here.

Did I leave out any Downsides of ADHD that drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments!

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