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4 ADHD Traits -- What they Feel Like

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a rather poorly named condition typified by a lack of attention, near constant physical hyperactivity, and impulsive decision-making. However, these 3 stereotypical features of ADHD do not adequately describe the challenges people with ADHD (ADHD'ers) face as a result of their neurodiverse brains.

The true list of ADHD symptoms is considerably longer and considerably more the varied. If you are anything like me, however, a list of symptoms is really hard to connect with or see yourself as part of, and this connection problem, I feel, may be preventing people from knowing themselves better and learning better ways of coping with their gloriously strange brain.

Below, I have listed some of those symptoms as well as what it feels like to live through them.


Your focus shifts quickly, usually seeking stimulation

  • While sitting in a restaurant by yourself, you can't help but hear pieces from all of the conversations around you, missing pieces from each one, but they all seem more interesting than the wait for your food.

Internal Distractions

  • When talking to someone, you are thinking about the topic of conversation... which makes you think of 4 related topics, each with 4 other related topics. Before you notice person talking to has finished their sentence and you have no idea what was being said anymore.

Loss of interest quickly

  • You have a pile of uncompleted projects. Each project was a deep burning passion that kept you up at night as you planned it out. The next morning, the project doesn't seem interesting any more, and within a week you have completely forgotten about it.

(Richard Croft / Open door / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Working memory issues

  • The sensation of walking through a door and forgetting what you were doing isn't just about doors, it is everything, everywhere, all the time.

  • You have forgotten where your phone is... while it is in your hand... more than once, this week.


Energy Level

  • You feel like you have endless physical energy. You don't feel like you are hyper, but you know everyone else is always so slow.

  • You are told to stay still, calm down, or slow down all the time.


  • You fidget constantly. Pens, rubber bands, your hands, your legs: something has to be in motion.

  • Sitting or standing still physically hurts.

(Photo by RachelH_)


  • Your mind feels like a wall of televisions with thoughts all happening at once, competing for space and attention.

  • In the time between a colleague saying "Hello, how are you?" you have had 155 different thoughts, many of them self-critical.


(Photo by: Ray Hayward | CC-BY-SA 3.0)

All or nothing

  • When you make changes, it is go big or go home. Trying something new means it is time to change everything all at once.

  • You find making decisions super easy because you just go with your gut, until you start thinking about it and then you can never make a decision.

Issues planning

  • When you are planning something, you feel like you don't know how plans work, how much time things take, or what order things happen in.

  • You start planning something, but you have to do this one thing over here, then that over there, and a week later that you don't have a plan.


  • Everything is faster for you than others. If there is a problem, you need to fix it now. If there is an awkward silence, it hits you 5 seconds before everyone around you.

  • You call yourself a blunt person, but you question if you choose to be blunt or if the factory forgot to install a filter between your brain and your mouth.

Emotional Regulation

(Photo by: Daria | CC-BY 2.0)

Big, fast emotions

  • When you are angry, you are the Hulk. When you are sad, you are in a never ending pit of despair. When you are afraid, you are really paranoid and terrified. ... and it all happens at breakneck speeds.

  • You find it tiring to hold onto an emotion. It is easier to just let it change again.

  • Your feel like your emotions last about as long as your attention span, and you are tad distractible.

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

  • You take people's criticism of you very seriously, and usually think it is a bigger rejection/rebuke than it actually is.

  • When someone criticizes you, it cuts really deep.

Emotional Expression

  • Everyone knows your feelings the instant that you do, and they think you are the angriest anger to ever anger.

  • You have been told that you wear your heart on your sleeve, and you have no poker face.

For non-ADHD'ers, some (or many) of these examples have happened to you, but they are fairly rare and they likely feel somewhat abnormal to you. Most of the time, these were 'bad days' or times when you felt a bit out of it. After all, everyone has some inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and emotion dysregulation now and then.

For many ADHD'ers, the examples here may feel like home. Those with strong coping strategies may feel as if these examples are the way that their brain wants to work, and that it take energy to pull away from them. Those with less developed strategies may feel like these examples are just completely normal to them or assume they are completely normal to everyone.

Hopefully, these examples offer you a new insight into how the ADHD mind works, whether it is your own or someone else's. If you are an ADHD'er, I would love to hear examples of your ADHD experiences in the comment section down below.

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