Guest Blogs

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]

16 Comments & Reviews

  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.

    3. Hi there! I can’t believe this! I never knew someone else does the same thing as me, i mean I’ve assumed someone HAD to SOMEWHERE, but it’s still an amazing relief for someone to describe my same problems as well. I’ve known I’ve had ADHD since I was first grade and have also taken medications for my ADHD since then as well. I’ve ALWAYS done this! In fact i Just had around a ten minute conversation pretending to be having a discussion with some friends right before I found this article! It has been something I’ve always remembered doing and most of the time I do it when getting excited about wanting to tell my friends something or pretending what i would tell people if I were in certain situations. I also imagine that i talk to celebrities or that im a much cooler person than i actually am. I’ve come to see this as selfish and irresponsible but I have never been able to stop doing it and I couldn’t figure out why
      Recently I’ve realized just how many things that I do that i can’t stand are in fact related to my ADHD. And even though it’s a relief to have this new insight into why I do this things, i still want to work on stoping these habits. I hope things get better for you and God bless. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in doing this. ❤️

    4. Hi, I’m another who does the same thing. I always thought it was because my Dad does it. We often hear my Dad talking away to himself and having full conversations under his breath about something.

      Now I know it’s ADHD and my Dad also shows signs of ADHD as well.

      I talk to myself in my head constantly, especially if I’m doing a mundane task. At work the other week I was stuck in the stockroom for a few hours unpacking clothes and I couldn’t stop the mind wandering and head conversations. In fact they started to make me feel loopy. Now I have to have either music to listen to or a podcast when I’m doing boring tasks, so my brain doesn’t just keep cycling through all these conversations, as it’s exhausting.

      I talk to the exact same people you mention. I imagine conversations, meeting people in the street, dinner parties, interviews. If I have to go somewhere and meet someone for the first time, I play out the conversations in my head, what the meeting might be like, what we might talk about. I mutter to myself all the time, especially in the shower. That’s a prime time for me to get lost in these imaginary conversations.

      I don’t know if other people hear me. I think when I’m in public I’ve managed to keep the conversation in my head, rather then mumbling although sometimes it does get out a little.

      I’m starting to wonder whether these thoughts are damaging to my mental health and cause me anxiety, because the imaginary world I want to live in, the one in my head seems so much better then the real world. And I really wish i was in that one, instead of the one that I am. It makes me wonder whether I’ll ever get to where I want to be in my head. All this thinking and daydreaming about it all the time, makes me more depressed about the situation I’m in now. But the head world is so nice. I’m not sure I’d ever want to give it up!

  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.

  3. I have always done this though I’m an only child so at times I just thought it was due to lack of siblings that started my self talking. I too have full blown conversations with other ppl in my head mainly my husband but I find it is because I am scared to speak out about things that bother me so instead I have the conversation within myself and feel as though I settle whats bothering me. Only I find it is only a band aide and soothes the problem for a time. Which I believe is a coping mechanism I have learned to use in order to deal with confrontation (my biggest fear). Other times though I find I talk to myself in order to boost my confidence or on the other hand my harsh critic is berating me. I can say with all day conversations going on in my head I’m never alone nor is there a dull moment. If I look at it thru the eyes of a non adhd person I imagine thats what theyd probably say. Whatever the cause for it it has been part of my daily life from the time I can remember. I dont think I’d have it any other way.

    1. I’m an only child as well, and hate confrontation. I always get really embarrassed when it’s people I don’t really know, and freeze up.

      I have conversations about everything in my head, and will often talk through things that are bothering me, but in my head I’m a much more confident person then I am in real life. I wish I could be the person in my head sometimes. The one that is strong, and capable and fun and stands up for themselves.

  4. I feel self-I heathy to review how my day was or review
    what my day plans are. Mostly I am writing check list of to do’s. I work toward self talk – being present in the moment

  5. I feel self-Talk is heathy to review how my day was or review
    what my day plans are. Mostly I am writing check list of to do’s. I work toward self talk – being present in the moment

  6. I mostly narrate or think outloud. Not full blown conversations though I do run those through my head and if I dont “internally verbalize” or basically pronounce all the words through those thought conversations I get stuck and have to start that thought over because it didnt make sense to me.

    I do get self conscious because I dont even realize I am thinking outloud most of the time. I can control it when I am around people like with friends/family or in class but walking across campus, or when I am at work and the external stimuli and excess thoughts overwhelm me I find I need to think outloud just to make sense of what I’m trying to understand or do.

    I’m glad I’m not alone and at least now have an answer as to why I do this. Also, I was just recently diagnosed at 38, though I realized I had ADHD when I started researching it for my son 5 years ago. Having a diagnosis and learning about the connections between everything I struggle with and that it is connected to ADHD has helped me so much.

  7. It’s crazy because I’ve been doing this for years, ever since I was a kid, back then I did it a lot when I was taking tests. Teachers would think I was trying to cheat and would stop me from doing it, although one time a teacher actually just let me take the test at a table farther removed from all the other desks so that I could talk. It really helped to walk myself through the problems or questions out loud. I find myself doing it a lot in groceries stores, telling myself where I need to go next and “no, I don’t need that, stick to the list” often repeated multiple times. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADD until I was eighteen, so for a long time I just thought I was weird and crazy, and then after the diagnosis I figured the talking out loud might have something to do with it but I’d never confirmed it until now.

  8. I just logged in and saw all these replies, thanks all so much, it’s so comforting to know I’m not the only one . I love talking to people who understand, so many don’t, family are the worst offenders.

    Just to clarify above when I mentioned “full blown conversations” I meant just me talking about one topic for a lengthy time , I hope I didn’t create confusion.

    I have been researching and came across ‘maladaptive daydreaming’ , a term coined by Eli Somers

    It is also a negative symptom of schizophrenia And the hypomania part of bipolar

    For some it’s not part of an illness and It doesn’t bother them. I hate thsis part of me, it’s gotten worse with age , I’m 41 now and was only referred to an adhd specialist in October 2018, still waiting. Here in the Uk, cuts were made to mental health services by the government, as a result people like myself can’t access the right care quickly enough.

    Thankyou all once again, I read all your comments several times, means a lot.
    Below is a link I posted a while back , please have a look at the responses from people.

  9. Hey There,
    A wonderful and informative blog on ADHD. ADHD can affect your life in many ways. While it is common, it can become frustrating and limiting if left untreated. You might have trouble with relationships, tend to be late and face consequences at work, and be prone to anger, depression, and low self-esteem. That is why it is so important to get the ADHD treatment you need to start living the life you deserve.

    Seems like we are both in the industry of helping people and the more we can connect and come together over a common subject, the better.


Leave a Reply