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“How I Use Art to Explain My ADHD”

The ADHD experience is unique, and explaining it to others can be challenging. As an artist, I’ve used illustrations to help people better understand the condition. Have a look — and a laugh — at some of my ADHD-inspired comics here.

Illustration by Dani Donovan
Illustration by Dani Donovan

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 18. It was never a huge problem for me academically, but I did have trouble socially. I’ve always been chatty, with poor impulse control. I didn’t have many friends. I went to a behavioral psychologist because I was feeling down and struggling with extreme sadness, but she realized that my symptoms stemmed from undiagnosed ADHD.

My ADHD diagnosis actually was a relief. It felt good to finally have answers and to let go of some of the shame and guilt I had, thinking I was a massive screw-up. There really was an explanation for why I had these sorts of difficulties and getting diagnosed helped me piece it all together.

Looking back, it seems pretty obvious. I had a habit of starting lots of hobbies, quickly losing interest, and dropping them for new ones. My history of being easily distracted was pretty evident on the soccer field. I was the goalie known for being more interested in picking dandelions than protecting the goal and often didn’t notice the other team coming toward me until it was too late!

Illustration by Dani Donovan

Still, my unique way of looking at the world has some advantages. I’m a close observer of facial details and can remember every micro-expression of most people I meet. This has helped me form connections — though I sometimes misread them, constantly wondering if the other person is annoyed by me or if I’m talking too much.

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Noticing details and having strong emotions has spilled over into my career as a designer and illustrator. It’s what drives my ADHD-related comic series, which I created to explain ADHD in women and the condition in general to the world. Laugh if you see yourself, or a loved one, in these recent graphics I designed.

I laugh when people ask me for advice thinking I’d have something valuable to say! And I joke that the reason my comics are so relatable is that I don’t have my life together. Still, beating yourself up for not getting things right all the time is a recipe for unhappiness. After all, being inconsistent really isn’t the end of the world!

Illustration by Dani Donovan
Illustration by Dani Donovan

[Read This Next: Me and My Shadow: Life with ADHD]

Dani Donovan, an artist with ADHD, illustrates herself.
Self-portrait by Dani Donovan.

Dani Donovan is a Nebraska-based illustrator and designer diagnosed with ADHD. Her work can be seen on  Instagram @danidonovan and on her website:

Correction 11/6/2019: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the writer, Dani Donovan, lives in Ireland. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska.