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.
Dupar, L. (2011, December 1). The Feelings of Adult ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2011/12/the-feelings-of-adult-adhd
Author: Laurie Dupar, PMHNP, RN, PCC
Have found this so useful......
The drummer and the Great Mountain podcast, for a non medicated holistic look at tips and advice...
I am 13 and I was taking medicine for ADD since 1st grade or longer.
(My mom says that I have ADHD but it's really ADD)
I think the biggest feeling I had was....relief. I wasn't alone, I wasn't weirdly broken, these symptoms weren't my fault, and there was a way to deal with it.
This year I was diagnosed with ADHD, although I already suspected that I had this, knowing that an expert confirms it is a relief and at the same time it is very painful. Knowing that all my life I will have to deal with this in a country that still does not hear much about it. I isolate myself from people because I know that they will eventually reject me, no one wants a slow person.
I have been working in my first job for a year and I think that my boss and my colleagues are already getting fed up with me always asking them questions about how to carry out processes that are practically basic. I need weekly therapies but they are very expensive and nowhere is there support for people with ADHD. I hope that reading blogs like this will help me get through my day to day.
I am 12 and I think I have it but now I know i have so I am from Bulgaria and i dont know how to tell my mom or dad or the doctor..
Do you have another adult in your life you trust even school coucellors can be good. They can help you build the confidence to talk to your parents. But seriously your parents love you and I'm sure they will understand and just want the best for you.
I am almost 19 and i'm just getting medication. My parents have been so supportive. But you know I so wish I knew when I was 12.
Me Too... I tried smoking medical grade weed and I quit 20+ years ago cuz it made me Stupid & flighty & over eat..... today it Works better than Zyanyx (which I didn't care for either- side effects)
Just saying, I don't have the attention span required to read all of this...
Lol, me too
I am in the same situation as you. Still hoping to get diagnosed.
When I was diagnosed about 10 years ago I felt hopeful about my future. Now, ten years down the road I struggle finding an understanding doctor will work with me on getting the right dose age of medication. I feel like the five hours a day of " normal" functioning is great, but how do I decide when and where to function normally. I teach school, take graduate classes, a wife and a mother. How do I choose where to use those productive hours? My family means the world to me. I don't want them to get the emotional wreck I become every day when the effects of my medication wears off. My job is extremely demanding and my family must have that income in order to survive..
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.
Hi Sandy. Wow. I can relate to SO much of what you are saying and I wish I'd seen it in 2016!
Believe me, if you are holding down a demanding job, being a wife and mother (no matter how well or badly you think you are doing this), then you are doing, very, very well! And even if you're not, you are still doing SO much successfully.
I live in a rural area as well and it makes so many things harder. Keep advocating for yourself with therapy and doctors! Because of the pandemic and virtual therapy, we have SO many more choices! Look for someone who really focuses on ADHD and Cognitive Therapy.
I have felt my whole life that there was something wrong with me, but I didn't know it was ADHD. I just felt broken, a scatter brain, undisciplined, etc. I finally was diagnosed this year at the age of 57. It's going to take a while to undo the low self esteem issues.
I have struggled with what u have said and more. I was diagnosed at 11 but didnt take it seriously because believe it or. Not no one actually ever explained to me what it was I had so I never really knew what the prob was my mother just said I couldn't behave properly so eventually years of criticism and disapproval from family friends employers it was only at the age of 25 i really started to question what exactly is adhd after a 5 year struggle with clinical depression soon as. I discovered what it was and looked at my past present and put the pieces together and why no one not even my pediatrician explained to me I then sunk into an even deeper depression that was three years ago from which I have still not emerged and. Don't know if I ever will because at this stage I have never been medicated. Or received any sort of help and. Once you reach 18 in my country ur left to your own devices there is no support services for adults here I don't know what I'm going to do things are. So bad I isolate myself from every one because of depression to the point I havnt scene any mates. In a year this is a recipe for disasterous results I need the help in which I cannot get and the comorbidities are building up fast and its the same with me I went to three different docs one said its depression the other anxiety and the other looked at me like had. Three heads and said adhd is a kids disorder sometimes I feel like I know more than the doctor does because I have read SO much about adhd its in my every thought now but still cannot get any help its hopeless life should not be.
I've experienced all the above at the time of my diagnosis as well as a pretty good helping of fear.
It can be very scary.
I was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD. until then my life was always conflicted and forever shadowed with depression anxiety, feelings of anger, frustration and shame. I am not angry they didn’t know about the diagnosis sooner, but I am so sad because our parents, friends, educators, employers for misunderstanding us. I am angry and frustrated that even now medical or therapeutic systems for not accurately diagnosing their disorder sooner but also dismissing it now as "not a real" mental illness but a lazy response to responsibility. I am forever suspected by these same clinical therapeutic systems in regards to my meds as using them inappropriately. I am here to say those drugs iron out so many creases in my brain, they do NOT make me high as they may for those that do not battle this 'Dis-Ease' I always knew I was smart and always loved learning can you imagine knowing the right answers and not being sure of how to accurately respond so others would understand? But my greatest feelings of disappointment and hurt lie authorities in a therapeutic work place where I have been constantly challenged and ultimately lost a position that I performed exceedingly well at because I have different styles of accomplishing the same tasks as others.
HI Blest Bliss and thank you for your comment and sharing your experience...it seems so familiar and is why I wrote this blog. People with ADHD, even after diagnosis, are still struggling with these "soft emotions" as I call them. It is always amazing to me that even in professions where we should know better, people continue to misunderstand what ADHD is it's treatment and ongoing challenges. Please keep in touch and let me know what else you would like me to help people know about what it is like to be an adult living with ADHD. Most Sincerely, Laurie Dupar
Thank you for this information... printing off for son.. age 30..
I was recently diagnosed with ADHD at the rather late date of 46 yrs old. What I even more recently realized was a very, very high likelihood that I also suffer (and severely) with Borderline Personality Disorder. (And quite likely GAD as well) From what I have read, I understand that this is a very common combination, especially with lifelong undiagnosed ADHD, and one in which the BPD is widely and routinely under-diagnosed. I think it's easy and natural to attribute the anger and depression to ADHD, and that may actually be the case for many, but for many it is not that simple. I know that in my own case, I began my ADHD treatment full of hope and relief, but after three months my life situation changed for the worse and the stress triggered a major dysphoria, and I realized my ADHD meds weren't the complete answer (biologically) that I need. I fell into a pretty deep despair for several days, and really only recovered from it after much, much reading had convinced me that I had another, much more serious, but comorbid and linked disorder to address.
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