What does ADHD feel like?

This article was written by a close friend of mine, at my request. I hope that it will help parents, family, adults and children with ADHD, and potential, not yet diagnosed sufferers of ADHD.

Dr Carmel O’Toole

What does ADHD feel like?

Having been asked what it’s like to have ADHD is a difficult and painful question to answer.
Does the person asking the question really care, or are they an ADHD sceptic and I’ll have to justify, argue, defend, or get angry. Here is my attempt to explain what if feels like to have ADHD.

Just over three years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was given a prescription of Ritalin, told to take a tablet the next morning and see what happens…..

If I go back about 8 year earlier, my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD and was prescribed Ritalin. His Doctor advised “ you will know within 30 minutes if the medication has worked”
My son took the tablet. I waited; we went outside and played cricket, and for first time my son didn’t take a swing at the first ball, and run off.
We played for twenty minutes. We had a conversation that lasted longer than one minute. None of that had never happened before in his entire life.

I take the tablet and wait…(with little hope, having seen psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors for years and nothing has worked)….45 minutes and now I know what it’s like to have ADHD.
That because I now know what it’s like to not have ADHD.

The voices stop for the first time (and I cry).
I have one thought at a time.
I can sit, I can type a report in one sitting, I can do one task from beginning to end, I can sit in a cafe and have a coffee.
I can eat in a restaurant and not have to leave as soon as I have finished, I can wait quietly in a queue, I can listen to boring things, I don’t blurt out things impulsively, and regret it later.
I can now concentrate and remember so many things, for example, to pick up all the things I need when I leave a room; if I am making appointments, I remember to write down the name and the telephone number and other details so I will actually remember appointments and how to get to them; I can now remember what I have entered the room to get…..

These are all new to me; it feels like I was blind for 51 years, and now I can see. When my eldest son took Ritalin he could talk to me.
I take a tablet .
60 minutes later, as I am walking my youngest son to school, I ask him
“What are you doing at school today?”
He replies: “Today we have sport and we are seeing how many repetitions of exercises we can do in a minute, push ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, last week I got to 49 sit-ups this week I want to get to 60, we have got music and we are doing a play but this play will be harder because I have to learn the lines……”

I listen intently for 15 minutes with no other thoughts entering my head.

My son takes a tablet and he can talk to me for the first time , eight years later I take a tablet and I can listen to my son for the first time.
What does ADHD feel like? You really don’t want to know.


Mental Health Week Victoria

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