“I Never Shut Up. Exercise and Therapy Helped with That.”
“My thoughtful and astute therapist introduced me to the idea that hyperactivity can be mental as well as physical, and he told me that I had been misdiagnosed with inattentive ADHD as a young adult. He noted that, in fact, I experience the hyperactive component of ADHD in the form of overwhelmingly chaotic thought and speech.”
I talk too much.
For as long as I can remember, the urge to express and connect has been a constant one, for better or worse. On the plus side, I find my gift of gab makes me incredibly transparent. People don’t often have to wonder what I’m thinking, and I’ve never been accused of being duplicitous or inauthentic.
Being hyperverbal has other benefits, too. From the moment my kids were born, I talked to them incessantly, seizing every opportunity to impart my personal musings on various topics of interest — photosynthesis and the water cycle; the earth and space; the genius of the Coen Brothers; the history of feminism; the Civil Rights movement; the Trail of Tears; Frodo and the Ring, and the merits of Beck as an artist — in exhaustive detail. They could both speak in complete sentences before age one, and now that they’re big kids, we all overcommunicate.
More often, though, my excessive talking gets me into trouble. Like most people with ADHD, I struggle with emotional regulation and impulse control, which, for me, frequently manifests in unfiltered verbal output. This can make me seem friendly and approachable (I am), but it can also be off-putting and make conversations terribly awkward. I tend to overshare personal information or express fleeting thoughts and emotions without considering how they might be perceived. Because I care tremendously about other people’s feelings (empath, here), I experience deep regret following many social interactions, especially when I realize I’ve been insensitive to another person’s perspective, or when I’ve said something that I don’t truly mean.
Once, at the end of a key long-term relationship in my young life, a former romantic partner told me I had “no tact at all,” and although it was a bit of an overstatement, I had to admit that he wasn’t entirely wrong. The advent of social media made this personal shortcoming even more problematic; I had an immediate public forum for my impulsive speech and, despite the occasional frantic deleting of regretful posts on my part, there are some who have severed their connections with me as a result. This kind of reaction from others — real or perceived, digital or in person — exacerbated another defining ADHD trait for me: rejection sensitive dysphoria.
Hyperverbal to Hyperactive: Linking Excessive Talking to ADHD
I started therapy, at last, when I realized my untreated ADHD was kind of ruining my life. My thoughtful and astute therapist introduced me to the idea that hyperactivity can be mental as well as physical, and he told me that I had been misdiagnosed with inattentive ADHD as a young adult. He noted that, in fact, I experience the hyperactive component of ADHD in the form of overwhelmingly chaotic thought and speech.
After a few sessions, my therapist told me I have “the most glaringly obvious case of combined ADHD” he has ever seen, and suggested that I channel some of my hyperactivity into daily exercise.
Exercise and Therapy: Outlets for Chaotic Chatter
As a former high school athlete and lifelong lover of most sports and the outdoors, I didn’t think myself a complete stranger to regular exercise. But between poor time management (thanks again, ADHD), the demands of parenting, pandemic stress, plain old anxiety, and a colorful variety of unhealthy coping mechanisms, I had unknowingly slipped into some sedentary habits. I didn’t realize how much I was missing a physical outlet. As I began to rediscover the peace and mental clarity that exercise had to offer, I also learned just how much it improved my ADHD symptoms.
After some laps in the pool, a bike ride along a greenway, a few strength training sets, or even a simple power walk around the neighborhood, I find that my working memory and executive functioning are better. I also have a greater capacity for emotional regulation and impulse control, both of which allow me to navigate social situations and other challenges more effectively.
In addition to routine exercise, therapy itself has been extremely effective in curbing my impulsive speech. My therapist is a caring, compassionate, unbiased professional who provides a safe environment in which I can dump out my racing thoughts, examine them, piece together the fragments, store those of sense and value, and leave the rest behind. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, I realized that the negative behaviors I had developed over time were an absolute drain on the finite amount of energy I possess for interaction and self-regulation.
From practicing mindfulness and spending time in nature to writing and even getting eight hours of sleep at night, I have found a way to replenish the energy that daily life — work, household chores, investing in my kids, listening to my spouse, transitioning between tasks, problem-solving, decision-making, and yes, filtering my thoughts during social interactions — requires of me. When I find myself feeling low-energy, I try to fall back on one of the strategies that have been helping to charge my batteries.
There are still moments when I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, or socially anxious. I sometimes feel as if I might spontaneously combust if I don’t say something to break the tension. I would be lying if I said I never wonder to myself why I’m still talking as I babble semi-coherently about some inane thing or other. I would also be lying if I said I didn’t go home after a social event just to overanalyze every unchecked word I uttered to someone. Still, I’m learning to manage my impulses more regularly, one conversation at a time.
Talking too Much and ADHD: Next Steps
- Read: The ADHD Guide to Naturally Flowing, ‘Normal’ Conversations
- Read: “The Rules of Conversation Mystify My ADHD Brain. But I’ll Keep Talking.”
- Read: If You’re Happy and You Know It, Talk Without Taking a Breath for Three Hours Straight
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