This is what having ADHD as an adult is actually like
ADHD is something we talk a lot about when it comes to kids. But what about adults? ADHD is a chronic mental illness, which means it doesn’t go away once you reach adulthood. So what’s life actually like for adults who live with ADHD?
As it turns out, it can be really challenging. We probably could have guessed that, because there’s no such thing as an easy mental illness. But there’s still a strong stigma around mental health, and while it’s becoming more common for people to talk openly about anxiety and depression, adult ADHD still isn’t a huge part of the conversation.
Yashar Ali, a freelance journalist who has contributed to HuffPo and New York magazine, took it upon himself to combat some of that stigma singlehandedly. Ali is an adult who lives with ADHD, and in a must-read Twitter thread, he explained some of the most common misconceptions about the illness, and how it affects his day-to-day life.
Ali explains that he doesn’t want to speak for all adults with ADHD, because the illness manifests itself in different ways for different people.
But he goes on to share some of his own, personal experiences, which he says aren’t uncommon for adults with ADHD. He also calls out that very, very tired “squirrel” joke that people make, which is ableist and insensitive and we should definitely all have stopped making that joke by now, thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
One huge struggle for people with ADHD, Ali explains, is starting tasks that can feel insurmountably difficult, even if they’re objectively small.
Of course, Ali recognizes that he’s privileged to be able to talk openly about his ADHD without fearing any professional or personal repercussions. Not everyone has that luxury in their life.
He also talks about how kids are hugely more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than adults are, even though it’s a lifelong illness and many adults live with it.
And he talks about his own personal experiences with his ADHD affecting his life, both at home and at work.
Ali recognizes that he’s lucky to have had interactions with people who understand his diagnosis and challenges, because that’s often not the case when people disclose a mental illness in their professional lives.
He explains that not all of his workplaces have been so understanding.
Ultimately, Ali wants readers to take away from this that everyone has challenges, and we should work to understand and empathize with the challenges of others.
A lot of the people responding to Ali’s tweets are people who also live with ADHD, which is cool to see. It’s estimated that 4.4 percent of American adults have ADHD, and nearly half of those cases are considered severe, but only 20 percent of adults with ADHD actually seek help. That needs to change, and talking openly about mental illness is the best way to break down the stigmas that often get in the way of people seeking help.
The important thing here is that this discussion has been opened. People are respectfully engaging, asking questions and learning. When it comes to mental illness, every, single conversation like this one is a big step forward.