Published on ADDitudeMag.com

Three Common Phrases in the ADHD Vocabulary

One of the standard symptoms used for ADHD diagnosis is "Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly."

by Rebeka Covell


"Huh?"; "Were you talking to me?"; "What did you say?" These are probably the three most common phrases in my vocabulary.

The DSM-IV lists one criterion for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as: Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly. My younger brother (who also has ADHD) and I like to repeat this to each other when one of us is spacing out and not responding.

My mom asks: "Bekah, do you want strawberry or banana yogurt for lunch? Can you hear me?" Followed by, "Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly!" yelled from upstairs.

My classic response, "What? Were you asking me something?"

We joke around about this, and at home it’s funny, but when it happens at work, in a meeting with a professor, or at a doctor’s appointment, it’s not as laugh-inducing as it is around the kitchen table. In these cases I try to avoid the huh?! response as much as possible. At work, if I forget what we’re talking about while my boss is giving me instructions I try to repeat what he told me to do, so that he’ll fill in anything I missed. This saves me from appearing ditzy or careless.

Also, before I finish a project, I usually have to double check what I did, and repeat out loud: "So, I called … and I sent out pricing for … and I wrote up the proposal for you to go over, was there anything else?" Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll overlook something, a mistake that could cost the company some serious money if everyone’s too busy to check my work carefully.

Once, a couple of months ago, I went to see a neurologist because I was having horrible migraines on a daily basis. He was just making small talk, and he asked me where I was in school. For some reason, I couldn’t understand the question he was asking me. It was like another language. Where am I in school?! What does that mean? I couldn’t decide if he was asking where my school was located, or what year I was in, or what the name of my school was. I sat there dumbstruck for a few minutes until he repeated the question, and I finally just chose to tell him I go to college in Boston. I guess that answer was sufficient, because he didn’t question me further, but he did give me a funny look.

He was probably thinking to himself “often does not appear to listen when spoken to directly.”


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Source: Three Common Phrases in the ADHD Vocabulary