Many people with ADHD have problems fitting in. I often hear the people we support through Adult ADHD NI describe themselves as being the square peg in the round hole. Due to a life time of ADHD and experiencing life from a somewhat foggy perspective it can be extremely difficult to navigate social situations appropriately. Kids growing up having the excessive traits of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness because of their ADHD are less likely to fit in with their peers at school and due to a combination of these ADHD traits as well as having less opportunities to develop in social groups due to rejection by their peers, these children often grow up with underdeveloped social skills and issues such as low self-esteem.
Since I was diagnosed with ADHD I have become more aware of how socially clumsy I am due to my ADHD, such as interrupting people when they are speaking, abruptly ending conversations by changing the subject impulsively or walking away because I have gotten distracted by something else. My ADHD diagnosis allowed me to recognise the problematic traits I was up against and identify how much my ADHD was affecting my ability to communicate appropriately in social situations.
Having ADHD myself I recognise that people with ADHD can be quite intense and draining for those without ADHD, who are often left struggling to keep up with the constant changes of topics, the jumping back and forth on subjects or the blurting out of seemingly random or inappropriate things during conversations. I say “seemingly random things” because the ADHD mind often makes connections that may not always seem obvious or in relation to the conversation to an non-ADHDer, but for the person with ADHD because their mind work very fast it can be hard and overwhelming trying to keep up with the connections or the patterns of thinking. The blurting out or the quick changes in subject for me, is due to the short term memory problems associated with ADHD and the need to say what you have to say otherwise it will be forgotten and lost forever.
Hypersensitivity is another aspect of ADHD that affects communication with people and causes them to appear rude or cause offence. I have spoken to many Adults with ADHD that have heightened senses which cause distraction during conversation. For instance I have heightened sense of smell and find it very difficult to hold conversation if there is a strong smell that I can’t identify the source. So imagine trying to have a conversation with me when every few minutes I keep saying “what is that smell?”.
When you have ADHD you also tend not to mince your words and people on the receiving end are often hit with the uncut and unedited thoughts of the ADHD individual. Without realising, a person with ADHD often offends people accidentally by speaking inappropriately or saying whatever pops into their head and it’s only on hindsight that the person with ADHD recognises the social mistakes. For many people with ADHD every social interaction is over analysed to ensure no social mistakes were made and this can be extremely draining and cause the individual to seclude themselves rather than make social blunders.
Another thing that I have identified within myself is that if a subject arises that I am passionate about I can’t seem to shut up even when I am aware that I am talking way too much and the non-verbal cues I am receiving are not positive. It’s almost like I get overly excited and shift from a dialogue into a monologue and prevent other people from getting a word in edge ways. I often find myself asking those close to me when I am out “Am I talking too much?” because I find it really hard to gauge what is an appropriate level of dialogue.
These little observations and recognitions of my own difficulties have been extremely important for me in developing new ways of communicating and overall helping me to maintain better relationships with people. However it is also very important for me to be able to express myself freely and I am lucky enough to be able to do so through my close friendships and relationships with people who understand and accept my way of being. In an ideal world people in general would be more understanding and accepting of the personalities of those with ADHD and hopefully that will happen through time, with education and willingness for people to try and understand differences. More and more people are recognising ADHD as a real and complex condition that affects the lives of both children and adults. Learning about my own ADHD over the years has helped me to come to accept that I am a bit of a square peg in a round hole and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many other fantastic square pegs along the way. I’ll probably always continue to find myself saying, OH OH, my mouth has got me in trouble, AGAIN!! But you can’t please everyone.
Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype. If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com