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Talking to Yourself: Is it Crazy, or an ADHD-Coping Strategy?

Looking for an alternative treatment for adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Consider saying your thoughts out loud, doing so could help you manage some of your most challenging symptoms: self-defeat, distractions, procrastination.

They used to consider talking to yourself a sign of insanity. Then they said it’s okay to talk to yourself, as long as you don’t answer. I must be crazy, because I have conversations with myself all the time. I happen to think it’s healthy. It’s hard to keep things straight in the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) brain, with so many different thoughts racing around in there. Verbalizing helps us sort through things. Saying something out loud makes it more tangible, and thus easier to follow and remember.

I think crazy vs. sane, or healthy vs. unhealthy, has more to do with how you talk to yourself than with whether or not you do it. It’s crazy and unhealthy to berate yourself. It’s sane and quite beneficial to find that voice of reason and give it airtime, letting it be your guide.

Here are some examples of healthy self-talk I use, when I’m trying to stay on top of a project or important task, while avoiding distractions and procrastinating:

  • Achieving my goal is just three steps away. I can do this!
  • Ignore the computer. It’s a trap!
  • Is this really what I want to be doing?
  • I’ll feel much better after this project is done.
  • What can I do differently next time?

[Free Download:8 Ways to Get Better at Small Talk]

Here are some statements you’d be better served to put a lid on:

  • I am so stupid!
  • Why can’t I do anything right?
  • Nothing ever goes my way.
  • Why am I so irresponsible?
  • Why do I always make things so difficult?

How does each set of words make you feel? Those mean statements just make me feel bad, like there’s no point in trying. They shut me down. By contrast, I feel much better when I nurture myself. Those words give me a sense of hope.

Self-talk is powerful. The choice is yours whether you use it to your advantage or your detriment. As Don Miguel Ruiz said in his book The Four Agreements, be impeccable with your word. Don’t use it against yourself. You’ll be much happier if you always make it a point to treat yourself with respect and kindness.

What do you say when you talk to yourself? Are you telling yourself the same things your mother used to? Are you being your own ally, or your own enemy? Leave a comment and let me know.

[Life Hacks to Stave Off Boredom]

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  1. Hi
    I have been talking to myself since I was a teenager I am nearly 40 now. I have to be honest I dislike this behaviour it causes me a great deal of grief. It just started spontaneously, my family were aware of it, but no one thought to take me to the doctor. I did ask my GP (at aged 17) if it was schizophrenia, she said it was coping mechanism, wasn’t convinced as it’s something my father does and my paternal grandmother did it.
    So what do I talk about ???
    Well I have full blown conversations, I might pretend somebody I know is present in the room and have a convo with them. I talk, laugh, shout, argue, cry all alone. Occasionally I ruminate and have conversations I wish I’d had at the time but mostly it’s random stuff. I pretend to be famous/ important, I might even pretend I’m talking to a celebrity. I discuss assorts of topics. Sometimes I pretend to be a therapist talking about me if that makes sense.
    This is spontaneous behaviour which happens mainly in the home, I’ve managed to hide it and act normal but the truth is something is really wrong in my brain, other members of my family do it but they don’t seem bothered or they are so scared of the stigma they won’t ask for help.
    I jut went to see a therapist after years and years of going round in circles with psychological services, misdiagnosis, the assessor recognised my problems as ADHD/ ASD . I cried out of sheer relief, I now have a long wait before I can speak to an adhd specialist most likely a psychiatrist. I will be given meds for the adhd and cbt for the autism (aspergers)
    Writing down all my difficulties and emailing them to the assessor helped her to identify the disorder.
    I would urge others to do the same. The talking think is linked to the excessive day dreams I have, my mood also fluctuates when I am doing it. I am just so relieved, I am also glad I came across this website as talking to like minded people is comforting.

    1. ***edit ***I emailed her a list of all the difficulties a couple of weeks prior to the appointment, it gave her a chance to read through. In the past I haven’t done this and not given them a full picture, I’ve been prescribed antidepressants, they don’t work for adhd/ asd )that’s what the assessor told me) I’m hoping when I get the right meds it might stop this behaviour, I have lost years to it, I spend hours each day doing this and am worse when I am hormonal . I find I am becoming less guarded now around family, I even talk to myself in the car!

    2. When you said, ” I have full blown conversations, I might pretend somebody I know is present in the room and have a conversation with them. I talk, laugh, shout, argue, cry all alone. Occasionally I ruminate and have conversations I wish I’d had at the time but mostly it’s random stuff. I pretend to be famous/ important, I might even pretend I’m talking to a celebrity. I discuss assorts of topics. Sometimes I pretend to be a therapist talking about me if that makes sense.” I have been doing that ever since I can remember. I’m in my thirties now. My mom has caught me talking to myself, or has heard me and she would frustratingly say, “who are you talking to?! I would usually say, “no one!”, or “I’m praying!” She would say that I have full conversations with myself and that it’s not normal (she also has ADD, but she doesn’t do this). She isn’t wrong, but I was too embarrassed or ashamed to admit it to her. I was terrified that a spouse or a close friend would catch me in the act when I think I’m alone. I have cried at night praying praying praying that my children would not have this. But I feel SO much better when I “pretend” that I have imaginary friends, especially if it’s a celebrity I admire, or even a celebrity crush pretending their my boyfriend. As insane and crazy as it sounds, it makes me feel as if someone is listening to me when I can;t express myself fully to flesh and blood right in front of me. I’ve been this way since I was probably 5 years old. I’m much better at hiding it now, but it still happens when I’m by myself. Whenever I’m not doing this I’m listening to my favourite music to calm me down or get my tasks/projects/finished and to get my feelings out. I never thought I was insane, or “crazy”. I think other people are just not as smart or quick witted as me. I sounds arrogant, but, seriously, it’s frustrating when you’re trying to explain my stuff to people and they just don’t understand me. I’m really exposing myself here, but I don’t feel as scared anymore now that at least one other person like you does this too. I have a saying, if I find another “crazy” (aka intelligent) person, we can be “crazy” together. I wan to thank you personally, from the bottom of my heart for saying what you did and being vulnerable this way. You have no idea how comforting it is to know that I’m not alone in this way of life. ADHD is a blessing in disguise, and I’m not going to apologize for having it. It’s those that don’t understand that can be the ones that are wrong. One day I will write a book on my ADHD journey, and this “problem” will be in it. God bless you for sharing.

  2. OMG! I did a search because I totally do this! I have all of my life. I am not schizophrenic so it has me baffled. It seems worse now, since an accident I was in and I am finally looking into the possible reasons. I haven’t told a soul. It’s terribly embarrassing. I am able to control it if others are around, but I am hearing impaired and sometimes I don’t hear if someone is around. I fear that I will one day be blabbing away and someone will walk in and hear me and think I’m insane.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing your stories! It’s just nice to know that I’m not alone. I feel better about things now, but I still hate the “disorder” (it IS some sort of disorder I think) and wish I could STOP!

    Do you ever wonder what it’s like in the minds of people that do not do this? How do they NOT do it? How are they able to think internally and not have the external conversations? It’s bugging me more than it ever used to. I’m almost 60!

    Thank you again for the candidness!

    1. I have often wondered how people get through the day without talking out loud to themselves. Another encouraging thing for me to keep in mind is that Einstein also had ADD and he talked out loud to himself all the time. It has also been said among psychologists that geniuses and highly intuitive people talk out loud to themselves. I guess that means that we’re in a good group of people.

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