ADHD and Intensity - 6 Tips for Damage Control

August 12, 2010 Douglas Cootey

One aspect of ADHD in adults that is hard for the non-ADHD to cope with is our intensity. This can be very off-putting for them—like “I think I’d rather walk from Salt Lake to Boston than drive with you” levels of off-puttingnessiveness. What’s an ADHD adult to do?

[caption id="attachment_1067" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="By Patrick Hoesly"]By Patrick Hoesly[/caption]

Is ADHD Intensity a Good Thing?

I've noticed a lot of time is spent in the ADHD community dealing with our eccentricities as negative aspects. This has the overall effect of lowering our self-esteem (read: ADHD and Low Self-Esteem) while seeking help to lift our spirits. It is very much like trying to stay dry when going for a swim. Only a dodo would do that. The problem is that ADHD intensity is not the flip side to the brightly creative coin that makes up your core being. It’s the force that makes the coin spin.

Ever randomly select oddly divergent ideas at the drop of a hat to come up with new solutions? That’s ADHD helping you. It’s all your neurons fired up and flaring at full force. Impulsivity burning like a supernova of brilliance in your hyper-focused mind. It makes for stupendous breakthroughs, solutions, and, unfortunately, fires.

ADHD Intensity Is a Two-edged Sword

Today, I was too much for my family. Okay, I was too much for them yesterday, too. But today, the chaos in the home had hit cosmic levels. After two months of my children dawdling over various messes, I suddenly whipped out paper and created lists for everyone and laid down some mandates. I burned brightly, and they all had that “Dad needs to chill” look in their eyes. Yet the lists were exactly what they needed, and my intensity turned the tide. Things got done. I even put a reward at the end of the list. Item #4 was a movie they wanted to watch. I told them, “Finish the list and I won’t ask you to do anything else for the rest of the night.” Wow, did they hustle.

Yes, I was too intense. Though I didn't yell, I was probably too loud. I probably didn’t need to look like a crazed madman. But would I have come up with the solutions if I hadn’t kicked it into high gear? No. That's the downside to the upside.

Some Tips to Manage Relationships Despite ADHD

Being in the presence of an ADHD solution supernova tends to burn people. Obviously, it is better to not let your intensity get away from you, but sometimes you aren’t even aware it is happening. This is why it’s important to train yourself to put out fires afterwards. Yes, you may have saved the day, but at what cost? Try these tips to see if you can salvage relationships from the fire:

  1. Be sure to apologize for rude or insulting behavior. You’re never justified in being a jerk.
  2. Be as calm afterwards as you were intense to establish balance.
  3. Don’t be Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. You want to burn brightly, not burn everyone out. Keep your anger in check.
  4. Try to channel your ADHD intensity productively. This takes training, but makes great use of your creative gifts.
  5. You’ll be more appreciated if your bursts of brilliance benefit others besides yourself.
  6. Surround yourself with people or a work environment where your intensity is an attribute.

After the intensity, I made sure each family member got a hug and knew that I wasn't their enemy. With such abrasive sides to ADHD, I find mending fences is easiest right away. I also make sure to let my intensity entertain them all the other times. They understand the balance.

Got any other tips? Share them with us below.

Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, August 12). ADHD and Intensity - 6 Tips for Damage Control, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

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