Typical ADHD Behaviors

“OMG, So That’s Why I Do That?!”

“The ADHD world is curvilinear. Past, present, and future are never separate and distinct. Everything is now.” And that can complicate everyday life, work, and relationships. Here, Dr. William Dodson explains the neurological workings of the ADHD mind.

A jigsaw puzzle representation of the complex and evolving adhd mind.
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Your ADHD Life

Most people with ADHD have always known they are different. They were told by parents, teachers, employers, and friends that they did not fit the common mold. They were told to assimilate and become like everyone else. The main obstacle to understanding ADHD has been the incorrect assumption that adults with ADHD could and should be like neurotypicals. Here's a detailed portrait of why those with ADHD do what they do.

A road sign to guide you towards uncoding the ADHD mind.
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Why We Don't Do Well in a Linear World

The ADHD world is curvilinear. Past, present, and future are never separate and distinct. Everything is now. Individuals with ADHD live in a permanent present and have a hard time learning from the past or looking into the future to see the consequences of their actions. "Acting without thinking" is the definition of impulsivity, and one of the reasons that people with ADHD have trouble learning from experience.

A mother with ADHD cooks with her child.
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Troubles Getting from A to Z

People with ADHD aren't good at ordination — planning and doing parts of a task in order. Tasks in the neurotypical world have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Individuals with ADHD don't know where and how to start, since they can't find the beginning. They jump into the middle of a task and work in all directions at once. Organization becomes an unsustainable task because organizational systems work on linearity, importance, and time.

[Free Download: Secrets of the ADHD Brain]

A woman with ADHD thinks about the way her mind works.
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Why We're Overwhelmed

Individuals with ADHD experience life more intensely than neurotypicals. The ADHD nervous system wants to be engaged in something interesting and challenging. Attention is never "deficit." It's always excessive, constantly occupied with internal engagements. When people with ADHD aren't in The Zone, in hyperfocus, they have many things rattling around in their minds all at once. Nothing gets sustained, undivided attention. Nothing gets done well.

An illustration of an ADHD brain overloaded with emotions, senses, and ideas.
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Why We Let the Whole World In

Many people with ADHD can't screen out sensory input. Sometimes this is related to only one sensory realm, such as hearing. In fact, the phenomenon is called hyperacusis (amplified hearing), even when the disruption comes from another of the five senses. For example, the slightest sound in the house prevents falling asleep. People with ADHD have their worlds constantly disrupted by experiences of which neurotypicals are unaware.

How the ADHD mind perceives time: Now or never
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Why We Love a Crisis

Sometimes, an individual with ADHD can hit the do-or-die deadline and produce lots of work in a short time. The "masters of disasters" handle crises with ease, only to fall apart when things become routine again. Lurching from crisis to crisis, however, is a tough way to live life. Some individuals with ADHD use anger to get the adrenaline rush they need to get to be productive. The price they pay for their productivity is so high that they may be seen as having personality disorders.

A man with ADHD gives up and puts his head on his desk.
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Why We Don't Always Get Things Done

People with ADHD are both mystified and frustrated by the intermittent ability to be super-human when interested, and challenged and unable to start and sustain projects that are boring to them. They are never certain that they can engage when needed, when they are expected to, when others depend on them to. When individuals with ADHD see themselves as undependable, they begin to doubt their talents and feel the shame of being unreliable.

[Face It — People with ADHD Are Wired Differently]

An illustration of the complex ADHD mind.
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Why Our Motors Are Always Running

By the time most people with ADHD are adolescents, their physical hyperactivity is hidden. But it's there and it still impairs the ability to engage in the moment, listen to other people, and relax enough to fall asleep. Even when a person with ADHD takes medication, he may not be able to make use of his becalmed state. He's still driven forward.

For the ADHD mind, sometimes everything seems a blur.
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Why Organization Eludes Us

The ADHD mind is a vast and unorganized library. It contains masses of info, in snippets, but not whole books. The info exists in many forms — as articles, videos, audio clips, Internet pages. But there's no card catalog.

Each person with ADHD has his or her own way of storing that huge amount of material. Important items (God help us, important to someone else) have no fixed place, and might as well be invisible or missing entirely.

A man with ADHD covered in reminder notes
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Why We May Forget

For a person with ADHD, information and memories that are out of sight are out of mind. Her mind is a computer in RAM, with no reliable access to info on the hard drive. The ADHD mind is full of the minutiae of life ("Where are my keys?"), so there's little room left for new thoughts and memories. Something has to be discarded or forgotten to make room for new information. Often the information people with ADHD need is in their memory, but it's not available on demand.

A woman with ADHD looks in the mirror
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Why We Don't See Ourselves Clearly

Individuals with ADHD have little self-awareness. While they can often read other people well, it's hard for the average person with ADHD to know, from moment to moment, how they themselves are doing. Neurotypicals misinterpret this as being callous, narcissistic, uncaring, or socially inept. The vulnerability to the negative feedback of others, and the lack of ability to observe oneself in the moment, make a witch's brew.

A man with ADHD watches the clock
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Why We're Time Challenged

Because people with ADHD don't have a reliable sense of time, everything happens right now or not at all. Along with the concept of ordination (what must be done first; what must come second) there must also be the concept of time.

Eighty-five percent of my ADHD patients don't wear or own a watch. For people with ADHD, time is a meaningless abstraction. It seems important to other people, but individuals with ADHD have never gotten the hang of it.

[Free Download: Yes! There Are People Like You]

13 Related Links

  1. Finally got diagnosed the other week at 27 years old and I’m trying to not laugh at how many of these articles or completely spot on, all these years thinking I’m either an idiot or just lazy and now after having official validation from an actual psychiatrist, seeing all of this makes perfect sense, hell my life now makes sense.

    Happy to have found this site, though I’ve gotta say…the amount of ads you have on here is really unhelpful given your audience.

    1. Hey girl 🙂
      I got diagnosed at 28 (am now 30), and wow…this website has been a godsend for me. Just knowing I’m not stupid, lazy, or just plain careless, & that there are actual reasons for every single one of my shortcomings (many of which I’m surprised were even documented – because I’ve always thought a lot of my more pathetic personality traits, were just thoughtless old ME!) I mean…even my phobia of talking on the phone, and answering the door, or being more comfortable hanging out with strangers than family or friends… and the shame. Ohh the shame 😔

      I’ve got to say though… having the disagnosis might be extremely comforting and provide a heap of peace of mind to YOU – like I said, it did for me too… but that’s where it ended (for me anyway). NO adult takes another adult saying that they have ADHD seriously, (*especially* if it’s when explaining the reason for a mistake, lateness, or forgetting something)
      People just think it’s a cop out, period.

      All the preconceptions of the “naughty 12yr old boy “disease”” (which most people think it’s NOT a real condition at all, and is just a load of crap to help doctors put a label on out of control children that they can’t fix due to just plain old “bad parenting”)

      Like myself – I didn’t know much about the disorder besides the basics (& assumptions) that most of the public have… until i got diagnosed myself, and found ADDitude that is – & I felt so much better about it (along with my psych’s help and meds)…but I’m talkin, like even to help my family, my LOVED ONES how to understand me, and help in certain ways (by way of my bright idea of printing out a couple of pages that I felt I most identified with – this list of 12 actually being the main one) …they still find it a cop out. They just cannot fathom how blind one can be from the world “right in front of you”

      Ugh 🤦🏼‍♀️ LIKE HELLO?! 🤷🏼‍♀️DID YOU EVEN READ IT?! 💁🏼 NO – I don’t see that pile of bills and books piling up! NO – even though I just ate dinner and the result is a dirty plate – NO I DONT think about all the dirty dishes on the kitchen countertops and how much I want to clean them!! …that’s YOU mum! Not me!!
      -I think of the piles of bills when I get an email saying I’m late for a payment, or when I’m looking for a book and I know it’s in that pile. (YES, I *DO* know where every single thing is in these messes on every surface – but only when I need it!
      I *NEVERRRRRR* THINK OF HOW MUCH I WANT TO CLEAN ALL THE PLATES WE JUST COOKED & ATE OFF!! – If anything, my brain would purposely AVOID that subject..because it’s THE most boooring task on the planet and I don’t WANT to do it! & you know what, just like the pile of papers – when I can’t see the dishes in the kitchen – I’M NOT EVEN AWARE THAT THEY EXIST!
      And when I’m late, or my place is a mess, or I’m having to explain myself (for the 9375 billionth time in my life), and this time i say “but it’s ok, it’s just my ADHD and I’m working on it”
      …People give me the complete “did you ACTUALLY just say that” face+body language, while verbally saying “oh ok that’s ok” – I find that mentioning that I have ADHD in passing convo, &/or even announcing/admitting/declaring that “I’ve finally been diagnosed with ADHD, and now all the pieces of the puzzle seem to have fallen into place & have made my life finally make sense” (to me, that sounds like a huge, & happy statement to me, right? (Not that I’ve done it to a huge group or anything)) but regardless – it’s just NEVER received sincerely (by anyone who’s not family) …even though they respond with the appropriate words.
      ***I’m 200% SURE – that if I were to replace the “ADHD” with ANY other mental, emotional, even physical illness or condition when announcing my diagnosis, I’d get a much more satisfied response, maybe (actually, more than likely) there’d be some follow up questions like “so how are you going with that? What sort of treatment has your doctor decided on trying with you?”
      instead….nothing. *crickets*
      Not another word is mentioned about it after they’ve responded to your first-time confession of your newly diagnosed disorder at such a late stage in life (which really, warrants a whole BUNCH of questions in my opinion) 😕 But.. Nope, they don’t wanna know another word of your bullshit cop-out excuse.
      I imagine I might even hear from people “Wow…You’re even getting lazy with your excuses now Serena”

      Don’t get me wrong – I do have support – (at face value) my family accepts it (for me)…but I know that they don’t believe it’s real in me. Because I only ever see them when I’m out, dressed nice, feeling good, (after having agonised myself for the past 48hrs convincing myself that I AM & WILL be fine & normal around them all, that “I’ve got this” …because they’re my family & they love me no matter what. And they’ve seen me through much worse – so let’s just “fake it til you make it girl!!”.. and you know what? I do! Every single time! I come across perfectly normal and happy and “together” for those few hours that we catch up every once in a while.
      ..Little do they know when I get home I am SO exhausted from acting normal & trying to control my gut wrenching anxiety while there that my muscles actually HURT from having tightened and tensed muscles them for the entire 3-4hrs.
      I remain exhausted for the whole next day too. It’s like a mental hangover! And Im sober!
      But I go over every single thing that happened, over & over the night in my head, with a fine toothed comb – checking & wondering if i made a fool of myself at any point over the night. What could they be gossiping badly about me after seeing them? …I know I was looking super fat that day. It was a size bigger dress but by the end of dinner I was fitting very snug into that size 10-12. I HATE how much I eat. 😭
      Apparently because our dopamine is all stuffed up and deficient – we crave food, sweet food, & lots of it.. that’s what hits the dopamine sweet spot.
      While you’re eating it it does anyway.
      Then unfortunately for me, I hate..no, DESPISE & disgust myself for the rest of the day because I’ve blown out my caloric intake for the day. It’s not worth the days of pain I put myself through mentally for that one fun size mars bar. Or ten.
      But it doesn’t stop me 5hrs later from having more though. Even though that 5hrs had been absolute hell, hyperfocusing on food for the next week or organising what and how I’ll eat. Wasting all that time cause I know I won’t follow the list anyway.
      And now – 2hrs after starting this comment, I don’t even think I’m going to post this because it’s too whingey.
      Ug, whatever.

      I’m not even going to proofread this because I know I’ll edit and change everything and spend another few hours on it. So I apologise for spelling and grammatical errors.

      All I want is for my mum to recognise that I *am* different…but I *am* trying.
      I don’t feel like she believes adult ADHD is a “thing” ☹️

      I love her more than anything and all I’ve wanted my entire life is to make her proud one day. I hope this has been the last diagnosis that I have to learn how to live with, so I can finally get to a point where mum can think to herself what a great daughter she made… and wow – if I ever heard her say it I think I’d cry to the ground ☺️ 🙏🏻 💕

      Sorry. All I’ve done here is whinge about my life, and you probably have no idea what it even have to do with your comment. I’m sorry. I just wanted to tell you I understand.
      I hope you have better luck with people who will accept all aspects of who you now know yourself better to be – ADHD and all! ❤️

      Good luck. I hope they found you correct and helpful medication first go, and that understanding yourself more extensively now helps you to become a better you, and succeed further than you ever thought possible!! 💡😊👍🏻

      I wish you all the love, health and happiness that you truly deserve. You’ve struggled and now you have a new weapon in your possession – this website to help you understand and continue to better yourself, while also realising you are certainly not alone, and that your behaviours are perfectly normal (for us with ADHD anyway 😜) & so now are able to learn & work on each part of you as you choose.

      Do you get the weekly email? I don’t normally subscribe to emails from websites, but the ones from this website are just so perfect. They give you all the new articles, and have themes, a lot of which are helping with organising yourself, your space, your routine, and your lifestyle. It’s all worth the read. (Unfortunately I have many, many unread issues of this subscription- that I promise myself I WILL read – even marking them with a flag in my inbox…but every day, I pass them by because there is yet another task/issue to deal with that I’m hyperfocused on at that moment) gosh, hyperfocus is both a curse AND a gift – it just depends what you’re working on.
      I often lose entire days…spent on useless crap that has me achieving NOTHING (of importance) for the day, even though I’ve been flat out, so busy all day, exhausting my mind..all for a result of MINUS.
      I really should read more of the articles that inhave saved about prioritising & HOW to do more than one task a day, & how to stay “on track, focused” – rather than “snowed under, hyperfocused.”
      Then again there are days that I kick ass and get the week’s worth of to do’s done just before the last hours of the week.
      It’s almost like I NEED the drama and the stress to get shit done …even though I can’t STAND being stressed. I’m ALWAYS stressed!

      OMG. If I don’t stop typing now I never will. I could type here all day and still not get a coherent enough point across for you.
      I’m so sorry, I really do apologise for bombarding you with my old “woe is me” sounding novel.
      It’s just comforting knowing I’ll be posting this to a website where someone might understand, and “get it” ..rather than trying to talk myself into believing I’m good enough, or talking to mum about the frustration & shame I feel, & trying to explain how & why, and the facts that go along with it. She doesn’t accept them. She probably thinks I just googled for any info that would support whatever I wanted her to believe.

      OMFG STOP TYPING SERENA 😔🤦🏼‍♀️😖😥😭🙅🏼🤷🏼‍♀️🥀💫⚡️✨🌟🌈💧🌬💦☔️🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍫🍦🍰🍩🍮☕️💊💊💊💊🚬🚬🚬🚬☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️🍬🚬🚬🚬🍫🍰🍪💊💊💊🍩🍮🍫🍫☕️☕️🍫🍫☕️☕️📅📆📅📆📅📆📅📆🗓⚠️📉🕐🕑🕒🕓🕔🕕🕖🕗🕘🕙🕚🕛
      Bye bye. I surrender.
      🙋🏼🏳love to all
      Take care

      1. Girllllll I don’t know you but i love you!!! Thank you for this response this is the perfect answer to describe how i feel and act everyday. Somtimes i have a hard time communicating my thoughts so I’m always reading comments to see which is relatable. And this one is the best I’ve ever read from a woman’s point of view. I wish we can meet or if I can meet other people who received their diagnosis at a later age. I feel so embabbrassed sometimes. Plus you would be an excellent blogger.

        1. Oh my gosh ☺️ …what an angel you are! You’ve totally made my day 🙏🏻 thank you SO. MUCH! I’m so grateful & to be honest, really really flattered at how you felt about my comment/response/…rant? (lol)
          I’d actually been worried that I may have over-done it and completely shadowed what you were looking for, by making it “all about me” (which was not my intention at all – and I’m glad you recognised that). I think that that most likely might be because we are connected by our ADD, which makes it sooo much easier to understand each other (as opposed to those “normal” people trying to understand us, & vice-versa)

          Oh i would TOTALLY love to meet you too! (I’m in Australia, you?) Or like you said – i’d just like to me *anyone* who is like us. I don’t know anyone else who has adhd (besides my dad lol), & I haven’t looked into any support groups as yet..I don’t know if I just haven’t got around to it, or if I feel a bit silly, or embarrassed, or too shy…*sighs* it’s likely to be all 3 actually, mixed in with a huge chuck of shame, in having to even seek out a SUPPORT group – i think in my mind it just screams out to me in huge red neon lights “YOU ARE SO ABNORMAL THAT IT’S COME *THIS*!!!” (Of course, completely blocking out the fact that it’d be so beneficial & joyful)
          You’ve inspired me to do it though thanks to your comment. I want to meet someone who “gets me” – just like you seem to have just through our one exchange 😁 What a motivation! Again, THANK YOU ❤️
          Hahaha how funny – I was responding to your post hoping to make you feel a tiny bit better if I could..& the whole thing has completely turned around and payed it back to me 😊 it’s true what they say- a little kindness goes a long way. And sometimes it feels better to give than to receive, because seeing that you’ve made someone happy makes you feel happiness yourself! And karma etc.
          I feel so lucky! It’s like seeing a shooting star, or finding a 4 leaf clover – doesn’t happen that often hehe 😛

          😲 Wow! Do you really think I could do a blog!? I’ve wanted to do so for prob 6-7yrs now (long before my diagnosis), but I’ve never felt like I had anything worthy to write about, that people would be interested in or be able to connect with.
          Having your words of encouragement have meant so much to me. I’m feeling a flood of excitement! & thoughts, ideas, and most importantly to me, contentment & comfort:from making a true connection with another human being…just by being understood by another ☮️

          You’re special and compassionate & I can’t express enough how much of a difference you’ve made to my evening…and who knows..maybe even my future if/when I go ahead & find people to meet in my area, or when I start up a blog of my own (once I work out how to actually do it LOL, aaand once I’ve grown the balls to give it try haha) – I’m absolutely terrified of failing, or looking so stupid & pathetic, OR, or the flip side – if I succeeded at it – feeling like an imposter, as though I don’t deserve the recognition or kind words people express to me about it!
          Hahaha – can’t win either way right?! Never satisfied…always chasing more/the next thing/anything else but this moment …(unless I’m hyperfocused, then butt out & let me finish this life-or-death-important task!!)

          Uuuughh! Anyway. All things i can work on, right?
          It seems I find new things to “work on” every single day lol! More and more added to my “I’ll get there one day” to-do list LOL.
          All we can do is keep trying, and find what works for us 🙂

          Anyway, I want you to know that the sun has just set for the day here now, & I’m entering my evening with a smile on my face thanks to you & your comment, I was feeling an importance and connection while replying back…& now that I’m finishing up I realise that I still have the smile on my face (really) – what a beautiful feeling! Thanks girl! You’re the best ❤️ please know how happy & content you’ve made this just one person (probably from the other side of the entire planet, right?) have a smile so big on her face AND in her heart… and that’s a BIG deal. It’s not often this girl feels this kind of special.
          So again, thank you! I love you! Take care! And hopefully, talk again soon?!
          😊😊 Wishing you lots of love and laughs for your day today,
          Serena 😊😊

    2. Welcome to the Surreal World!
      Loved this article and this site, wish my family would look here for some guidance, and help with acceptance of my diagnosis. After a lifetime of being the weird girl, Finally, this great phych tells me I have ADHD! Four years ago, at 56!
      Still trying to relearn how to live and cope, using these newly discovered tools!
      A website such as this is wonderful, especially for those of us isolated either by distance or something else, to find support and maybe a few shared moments! Maybe even laughs!😊😎

  2. I can relate. There is some comfort in knowing that “seeing oneself as unreliable” is shared by others with ADD; very difficult to see oneself “realistically” if you can’t predict your energy level accurately.

  3. I’d like to add that the multi-frame format of the article is not particularly “ADD-user-friendly”! Why not simply use a one-page or bullet list format?! I hate having to see each tidbit of information with a delay! Does anyone else experience this?

    1. Yes, and I wanted to copy it to put on one page to show my boyfriend (who, I think, still doesn’t “get” what my ADD is and means) rather than making him take the time to read through twelve pages himself! Also, referring back to one part of the info without going thru the slideshow all over again wold be helpful to me, too.

  4. Serena, You’ve just described my entire life experience perfectly at a time when I no longer have the words and am feeling exhausted from a lifetime of valiant attempts to be the best I can be for everyone.. I have a masters in social work. I was a therapist. Can’t count the number of times I’ve been fired for being disorganized, late, and not being able to keep up with paper work. Not even trained psychologists nor other mental health professionals are the least bit understanding towards a colleague with ADHD and EFD. In fact, mental health professionals are much LESS UNDERSTANDING. My self esteem and sense of worth has been obliterated from the comments. My love and compassion to my ADHD kind.

  5. My heart goes out to all of you and it goes out to me too, for the first time in 29 years.

    I was diagnosed a few months back. Life changing. For the first time, I can truly feel love for myself and accept myself as a truly strange and wonderful masterpiece from God’s hands.

    The struggle is real but so is the awesomeness.

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