The Feelings of Adult ADHD
If you are an adult newly diagnosed with ADHD, it’s assumed you have been struggling with some level of distractibility, impulsivity and even hyperactivity. These key ADHD symptoms are what help specify and diagnosis the disorder. Less acknowledged, discussed or even know about, are the common inner feelings of anger, grief, shame, isolation and even hope that adults with ADHD experience.
Adults with ADHD often struggle with an array of other, less obvious inner emotions, that accompany the more obvious outward symptoms. Newly diagnosed adults commonly are experiencing feelings of anger, grief, sadness among others. Even if adults with ADHD were diagnosed earlier in their lives, they are often still struggling with feelings of shame, overwhelm and isolation. And many for the first time, in a long time, are experiencing relief and hope.
Four Common Feelings of Adults Newly Diagnosed with ADHD
When diagnosed as an adult with ADHD, many people experience feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment. Many are angry they didn’t know about the diagnosis sooner and mad at the educational system for misunderstanding their learning challenges. Some are angry or frustrated at the medical or therapeutic systems for not accurately diagnosing their disorder sooner. And many are angry and disappointed at family members for not having helped them identify, treat or manage their disorder earlier.
Along with the feelings of anger, many adults with ADHD are in various stages of grief. Grief for what “might have been”. Grief for what experiences were missed because of undiagnosed ADHD. Grief for the years they feel they lost not knowing “why” they acted they way they did. Some experience feelings of denial or even shock when they learn there is actually a name for what they have experienced all their lives and it is called “ADHD”.
Isolation and Shame
Another common experience of adults with ADHD is the feeling of isolation. For most, there is an overwhelming sense of being alone with their challenges. Many have lived in isolation as a way of protecting themselves from the misunderstandings of others and the familiar experience of rejection they have known growing up.
Commonly adults with ADHD isolate themselves due to feelings of shame. Shame perhaps as a result of the paths they have or have not taken due to undiagnosed ADHD. Feelings of shame as a result from living in a world that sends the messages that “ADHD is not real” or they are simply “not trying hard enough” or that they just need to make “better choices”.
And amazingly, along with all of these overwhelming feelings of anger, grief and sadness, many adults newly diagnosed with ADHD begin, for the first time in a long time, to experience positive emotions. There is relief. Relief that there is finally a name for what they had been experiencing all these years.
There is relief that they are not crazy, but that they have a brain that is uniquely wired. Relief that they are not alone, there are others, like them, who are successfully managing these same challenges…successfully. And finally hope that life can be different then how it was. Very real hope that they finally might be able to hold onto happiness and experience personal and professional satisfaction.
What to Do with Feelings Around Adult ADHD
Whether you are eighteen or eighty, the most important thing for adults with ADHD who are experiencing these common feelings of ADHD to do, is to talk about it with someone you trust and believes in you and your ADHD diagnosis. Talk to your doctor who perhaps supported you in being diagnosed and ask for more information to understand ADHD and your treatment options.
Seek out support from other people with ADHD. Online groups, forums, and even in-person community support groups and meetings are available. Find a therapist who specializes in ADHD that can help you better understand these very common adult ADHD feelings.
And of course find yourself a good ADHD Coach to help you understand your ADHD brain so you can move forward in your life in a positive way…minimizing the challenges of your ADHD and who can support you in discovering and maximizing your innate amazing ADHD talents, skills and qualities.
PCC, L. (2011, December 1). The Feelings of Adult ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2011/12/the-feelings-of-adult-adhd
Author: Laurie Dupar, PMHNP, RN, PCC
I am in the same situation as you. Still hoping to get diagnosed.
I live in an extremely rural area that has a high population of people who are drug addicted and I have had doctors deny seeing me because they don't treat ADD patients. The PA I see now basically does not seem to be empathic with my issue. I am feeling very hopeless at this point and I can see myself giving up. Depression is hitting me hard. I feel like if it were not for my children who need a mother, I would not want to go on because life is too difficult. Anxiety, guilt and shame steals any joy I could experience in my life.
Thank you for reading this. I have no one in my life that can relate.
It can be very scary.
I think this may very likely be the same for many others. I would have thought that ADHD patients be screened for these comorbid disorders as a matter of course. Not so. I suggest newly diagnosed ADHD adults do self-screenings and bring the results to your doctor for further investigation.
Thank you for your comments. You have discovered one of the most frustrating aspects of ADHD...it is often last to be considered and can therefore go years before being diagnosed. As you mention, a lifetime of living with ADHD often increases the likelihood of having other co-existing conditions. Considering that people with ADHD also have a 30% likelihood of having depression and 50% possibility of also having some sort of anxiety disorder, we would hope that these would be more often screened for and diagnosed. Unfortunately as you found, this is not often the case. Believe it or not, the possibility of someone having co existing depression or anxiety is more well known within the therapeutic and medical communities...and even still, as you found out, often an overlooked co-existing diagnoses. These other "soft emotions" that I wrote about in my blog, are even less likely to be acknowledged and are unfortunately equally as common. Thanks for sharing your story and keeping the conversation open! ~Laurie Dupar