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What does living with ADHD feel like?

Published on 14th Sep 2016
Encompass Blog and Updates

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a specific form of psychiatric disorder encompassing a number of symptoms which affect a person’s behaviour.

Typically, the condition becomes apparent before the age of seven. However, it can be difficult to diagnose ADHD at this age as some unaffected children can also display similar behavioural characteristics.

So what is it like to live with ADHD?

In many cases, ADHD can cause children to act in a much different way to their peers and is not the result of simply ‘misbehaving’ (although it can be perceived in this way).

This can make it difficult for children as they may be disciplined by parents and teachers or look down on by the people around them who are unaware if of the condition they have.

Some of the main issues children living with ADHD encounter are:

  • Organisational skills
  • Listening to teachers and parents
  • Socialising
  • Sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Whilst there is considerable coverage on how ADHD affects children, it can also become a prominent part of an adult’s life too.

Adults often experience the condition in different ways than younger generations do.

For instance adults with ADHD may find it very hard to focus at work yet, conversely, they may also find themselves seemingly over engrossed in certain tasks which they find stimulating.

Furthermore, ADHD can also cause people to regularly interrupt others during conversation, succumb to addictive predispositions and act recklessly.

As with children, this type of behaviour can make it hard for others to relate and can create separation between people with ADHD and their peers.

Further Problems

When ADHD is taken into the adult world, it can cause a number of serious financial and relationship based-problems.

For instance, adults living with this condition can be more susceptible a range of physical and mental health problems such as over eating and drug abuse.

Many are also known to suffer from problems such as excessive stress and low self-confidence.

This can require some people to take medication in order to ease their symptoms, however, poor organisational skills and troubles with following instructions can sometimes prevent the effectiveness of these prescription drugs.

The behavioural characteristics of ADHD can also cause issues for a person’s relationships.

Parents, friends and partners may feel alienated as a result of behaviour which can be perceived as irresponsible and reckless, despite being uncontrollable.

This can make it difficult for people with ADHD to maintain long term relationships and can cause disturbances in the quality of their family life.

What are the Causes?

Currently, the exact causes of ADHD are unknown, despite being the most heavily researched and commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder.

One area which has shown some success, however, is identifying the fact that ADHD frequently runs through families.

In addition, research has found some correlation between the development of ADHD and:

  • Premature child birth
  • Markedly low weight at birth
  • Excessive use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs during pregnancy


ADHD currently has no definitive cure but there are a number of different treatments available which can help to alleviate a person’s symptoms and increase their quality of life with the condition.


Because ADHD can also cause people to suffer from additional problems such as anxiety disorders, therapies can be a great way to target multiple conditions at once.

These can include:

  • Psychoeducation
  • Behaviour therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Training and education programmers (for parents)

Psychoeducation focuses on discussing the condition and how it affects either the person with ADHD or other people in their life such as friends and family.

This can make it easier for the affected person to come to terms with the disorder as well as encouraging people in their life to understand and sympathise with their symptoms.

A more unique style of therapy is social skills training. Here, people with ADHD take part in role play scenarios which help to teach them appropriate conduct in specific situations in order to promote positive behaviour outside of the classes.

Finally, CBT is a therapy which can be carried out either in groups or on a one-to-one basis.

CBT involves speaking with a therapist about hypothetical situations in order to identify potentially problematic reactions to events.

When a challenge scenario has been found, therapists work to reinforce positive ways of dealing with these.


There are also five main types of medication which can be prescribed for ADHD:

  • Methylphenidate
  • Dexamfetamine
  • Lisdexamfetamine
  • Atomoxetine
  • Guanfacine

Encompass is a registered charity which works to improve the quality of life for people living with mental health illnesses and learning disabilities on a daily basis.