Last updated on 7 May 2023

ADHD, what is it?

ADHD isn't an inability to focus, it's the inability to exert control over focus. Focus is just something that happens.

It is not an intellectual disability, and does not affect IQ scores.

It is not necessarily a bad trait. People with ADHD excel in creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and initiative.

Longer description of ADHD

(Originally found on Reddit, forgot to save a link to it. Sorry.)

There is a part of your brain that assesses what's happening to you and around you and basically portions out your brain's resources (focus, memory, retention, etc) to it based on importance. A leaf falls off the tree in the backyard? Barely even registers. The dull hum of the computer in the corner? Your brain tunes it out. But a gunshot goes off outside? 100% alert, full power to everything, what the fuck was that, get up and focus right NOW. A movie you're watching is halfway along that scale.

ADHD is, to oversimplify, a disorder in that system that means your brain constantly underestimates how stimulating things are. With severe ADHD, no amount of stimulation or urgency is enough for your brain to dedicate your full attention to it; important things get tuned out and your brain is always feeling laggy, irritable, looking for something to stimulate it. The football game you're playing is as important to you as a dull novel is to an ordinary person, and a dull novel is as important to you as the barely-audible sounds of traffic outside.

Have you ever been so bored that you're just thrashing around, pacing up and down, frustrated? You've got your taxes to do, but they just make you so much MORE bored that you can't even sit down and do them, it makes you space out and the words just don't register? That restless-legs feeling in your mind? That's what it's like. Being bored for a long period of time makes you really antsy and hyper.

What stimulants do is make your brain assess everything as much more important. So for an ordinary person, they would think "Okay, nice, this music has got some energy to it" and bop their head, then take speed and think "FUCK YEAH, this is the BEST FUCKING SONG EVER", and dance for hours. Everything is jumped up in urgency 50%.

So if you're ADHD, you take stimulants, and it pushes your brain's urgency levels to what would be normal for other people. Everything seems 50% more energetic and vital and important to your brain, so now it actually gives out your attention and brainpower and focus the way you need it to.

This is actually calming, because before your brain was desperate for any kind of stimulation and constantly saying "Nothing's going on. Dude, let's go find something. There's nothing here. Go do something else. No, nothing important here either. Nothing's been interesting in days." With stimulation it will say "Okay, this is important, let's turn on memory and focus and pay attention to this", and you can work and feel satisfied in what you are doing.

If you are ADHD and take large doses of stimulants you get the same overhyped wired feeling that ordinary people get from a medium dose.

Time blindness

People with ADHD tends to have a shaky understanding of the concept of time itself. One might have long-term goals, but everything past tomorrow is a foggy concept. It is pretty much impossible to make plans past next month. Also cause of or caused by terrible memory.

Do you know those scenes in movies, when a suspect is interrogated and asked "where were you the night of Tuesday, 3 weeks ago?" I am still unsure if people can actually remember where were they this time last week, or if this just is a fictional device.

Medication greatly helps. I was unaware of my blindness until I started medication, but I still don't remember about last week.

What does unmedicated ADHD feel like, to me?

ADHD and addiction, two sides of the same coin?

Both are dysfunctions of the dopaminergic system in the pre-frontal lobe. Both present with the same symptoms (lack of focus, impulsivity, impaired executive function). They often present together, yet ADHD is not addiction, nor addiction is ADHD.

ADHD and addiction; an often overlooked problem by Todd L. Love

Coping strategies

Pay the ADHD tax upfront

tl;dr: pay more for services and goods that are more ADHD friendly. Do not cheapen out and expect yourself to work harder to fit the thing into your chaotic life. You won't.

Example: pre-cut and washed salad instead of raw lettuce. Decent, easy food is often better than healthier food that needs more preparation and time investment.

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly.

Effectiveness score of different "coping" strategies

  1. Stimulant medication: 5/5. Downsides: Dry mouth. Stigma and ignorance.

  2. Nicotine: 3/5. Terrible side effects when inhaled.

  3. Low carb, protein-heavy diet: 3/5. Iron and magnesium are your best friend. β-Hydroxybutyrate calms down your brain.

  4. Exercise: 2/5. But has incredible positive effects on health and mood.

  5. Caffeine: 1/5. Gives you the jitters before it's effective. Loses effectiveness quickly.

Anything else, is just useless at best.

On stimulant medication

Yes, it works. Yes, it has side effects. No, meditating and healthy diet aren't enough.

What does it feel like? Calm. Silence. Space to think.

Is it addictive? If you abuse it, yes. If you don't, it's much less addictive than coffee. I routinely take breaks from it, but I hate lazying around on the couch on days off when I could be doing something.

Will you get tolerant to it? I am still at the same dose from when I started, and it's still as effective as day 1. Never, ever take more than your daily dose, and you'll be fine.

How much do I need? The least effective amount. Undermedicated is much better than overmedicated.

Things to completely avoid

To research

Further reading