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ADHD: Beyond Concentration

If you’re a Millennial or Gen X’er, then you probably grew up with a very specific idea of what ADHD looked like. Specifically, it was the (frankly, middle class and white) boy that couldn’t sit in his seat despite every attempt to. And that was the long and short of it, it was just being hyperactive, and they couldn’t concentrate on anything, likely because they “weren’t trying enough.”

Now, if you’re a Millennial or Gen X’er, you might also have realized that something was different, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. Maybe you actually did really well in school, but it took very little effort and you eventually found you never learned how to “actually study.” Maybe you had trouble concentrating on school work, but it was dismissed because “they can concentrate on video games, so clearly they can do it.” Maybe outside your body was fairly calm, but inside, your thoughts were running a mile a minute. But regardless of the specifics, “if you would just apply yourself, you wouldn’t have any issues.” At lease according to parents.

As we learn more, we understand that ADHD has so much more to it than just being unable to pay attention, or running round nonstop. Particularly in girls, ADHD tends to be more “internalized,” meaning the issues with concentration and hyperactivity are more focused on the inward thoughts than outside behavior.

Here are some aspects to ADHD that you may not have known:

  • Hyperfocus: It’s a myth that folks with ADHD can’t pay attention to anything. In fact, sometimes we focus too hard on something, to the detriment of other things we have going on. Have you ever started binging a show and find you literally can’t do anything else until you finish it? Maybe picked up a random hobby, got super into it, and then just lost interest and dropped it just as suddenly? It could be hyperfocus.

  • Auditory Processing: Have you ever found yourself listening to someone say something, you automatically respond “huh?” as if you didn’t hear or understand them, and then answer them a couple moments later without them saying anything else? ADHD can cause our ability to process sound information to lag behind a bit.

  • Sensory Overstimulation: This is one that folks tend to associate with Autism, but the truth is Autism and ADHD are close cousins. It’s often sound that causes us overstimulation, but it could be anything.

  • Big emotions: We are increasingly understanding that for folks with ADHD, emotions tend to come fast, and they come hard. Our joy tends to feel on top of the world, and our lows tend to feel like the end of things, and they can change on a dime.

  • Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria: Related to big emotions is the phenomenon of Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria. It’s a very specific experience where when we actually experience, or think we’re experiencing rejection from someone, it feels incredibly bad. Primal, end of the world bad. We’ll eventually get over it, but in that moment, it’s some of the worst pain imaginable, and that’s not an exaggeration.

Of course, these things in and of themselves do not mean someone has ADHD, and this article is not a substitute for discussing the consideration of a diagnosis with a professional. If you think you might qualify for an ADHD diagnosis, reach out to either your primary care doctor, or therapist to discuss options in terms of assessment or managing the challenges of this wide-reaching experience. As always, we here at 253 Therapy and Consult are here to help!

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