What is ADHD?
ADHD. You might have heard the phrase, but potentially not understood what it means, so let me explain.
The NHS definition of ADHD is: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people's behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse.
But while this definition may be true for many, and for me, it’s much more than that – and not as negative as the description makes it sound.
My ADHD journey
Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with ADHD.
I always had good grades at school and a great group of friends; however, you could guarantee that at every parent’s evening, teachers would say I was “very chatty” and that I “struggle to settle down and get work done”. I also struggled with online learning during the pandemic. But these struggles weren’t just a school thing, as I often found myself being overly talkative and interrupting others at home. No matter how many times my parents would tell me to wait my turn to speak, nothing seemed to work.
My parents initially put it down to simply being a teenager and exam stress, and initially ruled out ADHD. As time went on, they knew something was ‘different’ though, and so did I. One reason why we waited so long for my diagnosis was because of the label that came with it. ADHD is often viewed negatively, and I didn’t really want people to treat me unfairly.
But after my diagnosis, everything started making more sense - attention, memory and sensory issues.
"I have discovered how to use my ADHD as a strength, and now I am proud to be able to talk about what it means for both myself, and others who may also be diagnosed.
I’ve found being open about it has helped - it helps people understand, and in turn, helps them support me and try to understand the disorder.
ADHD can be mentally and physically exhausting, so having someone there to support us is vital.
Patience is also key when interacting with people with ADHD, so this also helps them when communicating with us or knowing why we do things a certain way."
What does ADHD mean for me during everyday life?
Fidgeting and poor time management can affect many ADHDers, but there are so many different things going on under the surface that neurotypical people may not see – and these are not always negatives.
· Sensory issues: like many other neurodivergent people, I experience sensory processing issues. Sensory overload can be triggered by many different things, at any time. Whether it’s a seam in clothing, someone chewing too loudly, or intense strobe lights beaming down on you. Whatever it is, the feeling of sensory overload can be very uncomfortable and make it extremely difficult to focus on other things – at worst times it’s very similar to the fight or flight response - the only thing you can think about is how to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
My sensory issues can also be linked to food and taste. There are some foods I can’t eat – mushrooms or pickles for example. It’s a texture thing! Sometimes people may refer to this as being a ‘picky eater’ but it's much more than that. I think of it as having a ‘refined pallet’ and will always explain it this way. The best way to tackle this is being able to explain the situation – in my first week at Ceres I made sure the team know how certain foods could make me feel – especially as there is often so much food being cooked up by the Ceres Kitchen team!
· Hyperfocusing: this is a state where we can focus on a task for hours on end, essentially tuning out everything around us. It often happens when we’re doing a job that we enjoy and find interesting. Hyperfocus can actually improve our performance, meaning we can do the task efficiently, without any distraction, and the outcome being of great quality - so it’s a good skill to have in a busy PR agency.
Outside of work, my hyperfocus means I can spend hours researching something I enjoy, creating and listening to music, and photography.
Sometimes we become so immersed in hyperfocus, that we can forget other tasks that need completing, such as eating food, completing work and chores – so learning to manage this , especially in a work space, is something I am continuing to do.
· Another issue is ADHD paralysis. This is when you have so many tasks to do, that you can’t do anything at all - complete paralysis. It may sound slightly counterintuitive, but it’s something that almost everyone with ADHD struggles with. Think of it like rush hour gridlock, it’s pretty much impossible to get anywhere.
I do tend to struggle with prioritising things, so putting sticky notes on a board (or wall) not only helps me keep on top of things, but it also helps me to visualise and remember them. I order them by the urgency of the task. I have 3 categories: ‘Urgent’ (to be completed ASAP), ‘upcoming’ (things to complete in the next few days.) and ‘when I have a spare moment’ (such as sorting through a cupboard). Funnily enough it actually isn’t that different to the way the rest of the team at Ceres plan their day!
It’s not all bad
When it comes to ADHD the sky is the limit. When managed effectively, ADHD doesn’t have to prevent people reaching their goals and in fact, it can help! A few well-known people who have ADHD and are successful include Jamie Oliver, Britney Spears, Emma Watson and even Richard Branson! So, I like to think of my ADHD as a resource that can help, rather than hinder, and definitely something I am learning to adapt to my new PR apprentice role at Ceres.
There are a number of different strategies and techniques to help ease our day-to-day life.
It’s important to note that some strategies may work for some, and not for others. The best thing to do is try a range of techniques and stick with the ones that work best for you.
The link below is a page that I created with links to useful websites, articles and studies for anyone that wants to further their understanding of ADHD and how they can support those with it.