Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a complex disorder that we’re still learning more and more about, especially as the name can be misleading. ADHD is not a deficit of attention but rather an abundance of unregulated attention, and not all people with ADHD show visible signs of hyperactive behavior.
In fact, ADHD can easily go undiagnosed into adulthood for people who do not display the restless, impulsive, disorganized behavior that is stereotypically associated with ADHD. Interestingly, many people end up learning extreme ways of coping with their symptoms. This can convince them and the people around them that they do not experience the symptoms to begin with.
Mental health professionals are getting better at spotting the signs of ADHD that fly under the radar and can hide behind diagnoses of mood and anxiety disorders. This means that more people are getting accurately diagnosed in adulthood. For ADHD Awareness Month, we thought we’d share with you 4 signs of ADHD that are often overlooked.
1. Emotional Dysregulation and Rejection Sensitivity
You experience emotions more intensely and react intensely to negative feedback.
ADHD makes it harder for people to regulate their emotions, and they may experience sadness, anger, anxiety, and even happiness more intensely than other people.
People with ADHD also tend to grow up hearing negative comments about their symptoms from their parents, peers, teachers, and even strangers. They may constantly hear people call them lazy, self-centered, and uncaring, which leads to guilt and shame. They may subconsciously carry this guilt and shame around with them and become very sensitive to negative feedback or criticism, reacting with excessive anger or sadness.
You can focus for hours on things that are urgent or that interest you.
As mentioned before, ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but rather an abundance of attention that is hard to regulate. People with ADHD tend to pay attention to everything that crosses their mind and everything in their surroundings, which is why they seem distracted.
The ADHD brain focuses on things that are interesting rather than things that are priorities. It can slip into a state of hyperfocus when presented with something that is sufficiently interesting or challenging and blur out any other incoming stimuli. This is why people with ADHD can spend hours gaming, reading, listening to music, scrolling through social media, socializing, or even completing last-minute work tasks, sometimes even forgetting to eat or use the toilet.
You struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep and have difficulty waking up.
Once the ADHD brain gets going, it’s hard to turn it off. People with ADHD find themselves struggling to fall asleep due to their mental and/or physical restlessness. They may even wake up several times during the night as a result.
A common theory is that people with ADHD have disrupted circadian rhythms, which are mechanisms that tell your body when to sleep and when to wake up. They may find themselves sleeping deeply toward the later part of the morning, which makes it harder for them to wake up. The lack of sleep combined with the mental and physical restlessness can eventually lead to chronic exhaustion and burnout.
4. Lack of Motivation
You feel stuck when making decisions or starting and completing tasks.
The ADHD brain can feel noisy and cluttered, making it hard to think clearly, organize and prioritize thoughts, and make measured decisions. That’s why people with ADHD can often seem paralyzed when making decisions or seem unmotivated. In reality, they are often overwhelmed with the effort that goes into organizing their thoughts enough to execute an action. They may be stuck for hours in limbo, unable to get out of bed or get started on work.
If several of these signs seem all too familiar and you think you might have signs of ADHD, book an appointment with one of our mental health professionals for a screening today.